Sunday, February 21, 2010

Airport security

General Wesley Clark at security, no special treatment.  Remove your coat, belt and shoes and raise your arms for a full body search.

Musings by Dale

Feeling pretty small compared to the bamboo

General Clark at security

General Wesley Clark

     Today we flew home and met a good and humble man.  Do you recall General Wesley Clark, a former candidate for the Democratic nomination for President?  We stood behind him and his wife Gertrude in the security line at the Panama airport.  This man was a four star general, Supreme Allied Commander of all NATO forces in Europe. Valedictorian of his West Point class of 1966, a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, seriously wounded in Viet Nam, recipient of the Silver Star and many high honors and awards.  He is a frequent guest on the nations TV talk shows about politics and war.
     The security in Panama was very strict.  We went through the metal detector and then each had a full body pat down search, the hands were uncomfortably close to all my private parts and then a hand search of each piece of carry on baggage.  General Clark was standing two feet in front of me and they patted him down just like the rest of us.  He took off his shoes and his belt and his coat and waited patiently while the young security guard decided he was not a terrorist. As he raised both arms he must have dislodged his ear piece, for a minute later he said to his wife:  "I've lost my ear piece."
     She gave him a look and said:  "How could you do that?" and they proceeded down the walkway towards the airplane. We had to take a bus to the plane, it was very full of passengers and carry on bags.  It was hot and people were in a hurry.  General Clark and his wife each had an additional piece of luggage and they were rolling them along on wheels.  As they boarded the bus he stepped on her toe and she cried out:  "ouch, that was my toe."  He looked very sorry and hung his head as he asked her forgiveness.
     After a five minute bus ride we reached the airplane on the tarmac.  We had to climb up an outdoor stairway and he gallently took both suitcases and his own carryon and lugged them up the steps after his wife.  I followed close behind, thinking "this man once commanded over a million US soldiers, he was Supreme Commander of all NATO troops, he ran for President of the United States, and now he is huffing and puffing his own bags up the steps."
     We took our seats and watched the General and his wife move to the back of the plane.  Just before takeoff the steward came back and said there was one First Class upgrade seat available, would the General like to have it?  He deferred to his wife and she came up to take seat 1A, leaving him with a wan smile, knees jammed into the seat ahead, ready to fly home to the USA.
     The steward came back to hand out newspapers.  I took La Prensa and the lead story is about another General, Manuel Antonio Noriega.  The former dictator of Panama has just asked the US Supreme Court to review his sentance for drug dealing, money laundering and mahem.  I think of Noriega sitting in a beige prison cell in Florida, playing dominoes with his buddies. My thoughts turn back to the time when Noriega was in power.  My father and I were on a trip to Egypt then.  Mom had died very unexpectedly.  A premature death in every way.  Dad was suffering a serious depression and Gail suggested I take him on a trip and try to help him out of his malaise.  We were in a hot, crowded bus, crossing the desert south of Luxor.  Egypt, the home of ancient civilizations, the birth place of large scale government, military power, agriculture and art.  The ancient Egyptians had much to be proud of.  Theirs was the greatest civilization known to man, the acme of human achievement. My father was a scholar, he loved Israel and Egypt and the cultures that flowed from that part of the world.  His depression faded as he taught me lessons in that dusty bus tour.
     Suddenly we saw a large stone structure off in the distance.  Compared to the surrounding sand it was stark and as we came closer it loomed large.  The bus driver stopped so we could climb out and take pictures.  It was at least 50 feet tall to the shoulder.  But the head had toppled off and lay sideways on the sand.  This was a self portrait of Rameses the Great, also called Ozymandias, the Ruler of the World.  He built the gigantic statute to comemorate his military triumphs and the inscription at the base was full of self confidence:  "Look on my works Ye Mighty and despair."
     The English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, in 1818, reflecting on this superman and this statue, wrote a sonnet :
     "I met a traveler from an antique land who said:
     Two vast and trunkless legs of stone stand in the desert.  Near them, on the sand, half sunk
     a shattered visage lies, whose frown, and wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command, tell that its sculptor well those passions read
     which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things, the hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed; 
     And on the pedestal these words appear:  "My name is Ozymandias, king of kings;  look on my works ye Mighty, and despair!"
     Nothing beside remains.  Round the decay of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare the lone and level sands stretch faraway."
     Now as I sit in the airplane, thinking of the fallen statue in Egypt, I weep for this world.  I recall the gigantic statue of Saddam Hussein being pulled down by US soldiers.  A few years earlier I recall the statues of Stalin being pulled down all across eastern Europe. I remember seeing in 1965 in Haiti the people pulling down a statue of their dictator Papa Doc Duvalier. I remember reading about statues of Mussolini and Hitler and Franco all pulled down by their own citizens.  Hubris.  Destroyer of men and nations.  We need more men and women of humility in positions of power.  Men who carry their own bags up crowded stairs and do not expect to be seated at the right hand of power.  Ride home safely General Clark.  Thank you for your service. Duty, Honor, Country

Friday, February 19, 2010

The tour of Monkey Island

Panama Canal

Just be careful and stay out of his way.  Our small boat was faster and more nimble.

Monkey in the boat

What is more dangerous than smoking in bed?  Having a wild Capuchin monkey jump in your boat.

Monkey Business

  Our last full day in the jungle was the best.  Early in the morning we took a boat tour down the Chagres River, through the Panama Canal, into Lake Gatun and around the many small islands that are home to monkeys, iguanas and a variety of birds.  The canal was busy, several large freighters steaming through and we sped by dwarfed by their gigantic sides. Our guide Liz was great and all ten tourists "oohed" and "ahhed" as she told us about the canal and the wildlife.
  The Capuchine monkeys are the most gregarious, one jumped right into our small boat and grabbed at the guide.  She warned us that they might try to grab our cameras but we kept taking pictures.  The family of six monkeys live on a particular island and do not like to swim as there are caimen (small alligators) and large fish that enjoy monkey for dinner.  On a different island we saw an old Capuchine male who lives alone, either too sick to be with or banished by the larger group. At another island we saw three large howler monkeys in the tree tops.  At a fourth island we saw two huge iguanas, one with a large orange belly who the guide said was pregnant. We even saw a sloth hanging upside down in a tree. It was a wonderful tour and we highly recommend it to anyone to ventures into the jungle.  This has been a great visit.  The weather perfect, the food delicious and the scenery magnificent. 

Diving sea hawk with fish

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Gamboa pool

Mama warned me about these guys

Musings from Gail

BUGS: My mom always tucked me in when I was a little girl and said, "Don't let the bed bugs bite". Well mom, last night they did bite. Dale had a restful slumber bite free. I am blaming this bug attack on the same scented lotion that the huge black flies enjoyed feasting on in Argentina. Panama is home to 216 types of reptiles, 940 bird species and more than 10,000 plant species. I am not sure how many insect species exist, but I know there must have been plenty in my room last night. None visible of course. (Admittedly, they were probably mosquitoes not bed bugs. Afterall, this is a five star resort!). LESSON LEARNED: No more BED BATH AND BEYOND products for me in the tropics.
SPANISH: I have limited Spanish skills. It is always easier for me to practice speaking with children. Today, as I was basking in the sun poolside, I opened my eyes and there was a small four or five year old child peering at me six inches from my face. "Oh good" I thought to myself, "I can practice my Spanish". He was charming and we exchanged the old are you, where do you live etc. Then he wanted to explore my new iPOD shuffle earpiece that I was using. So, I let him play with it and listen to my music for awhile. Then I took the earpiece away. He was not happy with me. Of course I could not understand his childish rapid fire Spanish and he could not understand my English explanation of why our play time had ended. So, the kid stood over my bathing suit cover up that was on the deck beside my lounge chaIr, screwed up his face and urinated all over my garment. LESSON LEARNED: Not all kids are as adorable as my grandchildren.
PIRATES: I love the movie and music from "Pirates of the Caribbean". We enjoyed a Pirate's Buffet here at our resort the other night with delicious tropical flavors. It was a feast for the eyes. Dale may like the jungle ride at Disneyland, but Pirates of the Caribbean is my personal favorite. But have you ever really thought about the way Hollywood has romanticized these guys? The English pirates Frances Drake and Henry Morgan were both active pirates in Panama were really wicked men. They pillaged and plundered. Henry Morgan's men even used the Jesuit priests as human shields during the seige of Panama City. LESSON LEARNED: Next time someone tries to tell me a pirate is cute, I will not believe them. I don't think bugs are cute either, especially today as I am covered with bites.
SPECIAL MOMENTS IN PANAMA: My first cup of Panamanian coffee each morning....yummm. The sounds of the jungle. A tropical fruit plate. My new iPOD is so tiny, yet can store over 1,000 songs. A swim and soak in the beautiful pool at Gamboa. To see and hear a spider monkey when on my morning walk with Dale. The time to enjoy the solitude and beauty of God's creation. LESSON LEARNED: Be Still and Know that He is God this 2010 Lenten season.

Gamboa Rainforest Resort

Bird color coordinated with lamp

Sunrise at Gamboa

  Every morning before dawn a multitude of birds herald the coming and then, suddenly,  at 6:22 am the sun rises over the jungle at Colon, flooding the sky with light and warmth.  Every afternoon at about 6:10 pm the golden ball disappears over the western side of the jungle and falls into the Pacific.  The creatures have the night to themselves and the sounds are a tantalizing invitation to join them if you dare.  The evening nature walk is the best time to catch them.  We are close to the equator.  Near the middle of the earth at this land bridge between North and South America.  Strange and wonderful things happen here. The daily miracle of rebirth. Faith put into action. Lent giving way to Easter morning.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


  Every day the local men go fishing for a variety of fresh water fish.  We have been eating a lot of seafood in the restaurants and it has always been fresh and delicious.  Today a tropical rain storm blew through the jungle and it poured for about an hour, then the sun came back out and blasted us with 95 degree heat.  It was wonderful, hot, humid and just like the jungle should be.  Later in the evening we went for a walk and saw a lot of birds and animals coming out to enjoy the fresh air and cool evening breezes. I think the large rodent in the photo is a canejo.  It was a lot bigger than the ajouti we saw yesterday.  Today is the first day of Lent and most of the hotel guests have gone back to Panama City.  We are here with some folks from France, Colombia, Canada and a few Americans.  It is a great jungle hotel and now that there are fewer people here it is even more magical.  Tonight we ate at the River Chagres Restaurant and the food was superb.  Mahi mahi, scallops, shrimp, hearts of palm salad.  Nice. We both read a lot today and I have been thinking about politics and "One Term Presidents" like James Buchanan, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush and Barack Obama.  That will be a good blog for you political junkies but I am still working on it so you will have to wait for another day. 


Watch where you are walking, the iguanas are big and like to hide in the bushes.  Although sometimes they come walking right down the street. There are two in the picture of the street, can you see them both?

Conejo pintado ?

This guy is as big as a dog, lurking around our hotel.  Looks like another species of unusually large rodent to me.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

One of God's Creatures: Egret

Nature path

Our mid-day nature walk

Dale and I both dislike rain and snow in the cold winter months in Wenatchee. So we take a winter vacation and seek out sunny destinations. Today we actually wished for rain and that is not like us at all! We thought we had a good plan for the day. A late breakfast, followed by a nature walk on the groomed jungle trails in the National Park where we are staying. Dale saw two iguanas over five feet long on his solo walk yesterday that he wanted to show me. The problem was the iguanas were having a noon time siesta and we should have been too. I have never been so hot and sweaty in my life. (I know my son will laugh at me as he endured two unbearable summers in Iraq.)  Thank goodness we had a swimming pool, air conditioned room and cold Perrier upon our return.
There is no doubt that the Lord was working overtime when he created Panama. The ecosystem is complex, thousands of different birds, animals, trees and flowers and that does not begin to mention the sea creatures, both salt and fresh water.  How endlessly  interesting. The sounds in the rain forest are fascinating. I always thought it would be fun to go on a safari. Honestly, I am beginning to realize that I wouldn't do very well in a place without amenities.  Panama has the most accessible rain forest anywhere in the world. In fact, over 25 percent of the land mass in the country is protected national forest. While there is an ever increasing American retirement population in Panama, it doesn't take long to leave the city. We didn't have to access this place by safari or bush plane. It took a thirty minute cab ride and a $30 fare on a paved road, Now we relax on a hammock on our personal lanai overlooking the grandeur of nature in the wild. I really do want to see that big iguana. Maybe tomorrow before breakfast? Gail

Embera native village

Hummingbird hiding

The aerial tram from Switzerland

Our excellent guide

Jungle Tour

  When we were young going to Disneyland was our favorite vacation.  I recall taking the Jungle boat cruise in Anaheim in 1960 with Clyde and thinking it was the best place in the world.  It certainly was the happiest. We could hardly wait to take our own children to Disneyland in the early 1990's.  We are looking forward to taking our grandchildren there as soon as they are a little older.  But...  as we took the tram through the jungles of Panama the sounds, smells and sights of a real jungle contrasted with the pale version of our youth. This is not a slam on Disneyland, we still love it.  But this is real.
  The giant ant nests, bee hives, birds of all kinds, trees, vines, bugs, swamps, shreiking monkeys, slithering snakes, lizards and butterflies. They are right there, in your face, real and spectacular. There was an orchid nursery, a serpentarium, and an acquarium. We visited an ancient indian village, saw a woman weaving and climbed high into the trees. One of the best tours was of the Mariposas, a butterfly house where we were surrounded by the delicate creatures. Let us show you some pictures. 


Monday, February 15, 2010

Room 342 balcony

We have a good collection of novels, travel books and economic texts,  Something for everyone and a perfect place to read.

An ajouti is...

Unusually large and fearless rodent

Welcome to my world

Half way through the canal

The Panama Canal is 80 kilometers long, it has 3 locks.  This giant ship is heading towards the Caribbean side and is at the 40 K marker, half way across the isthmus.

The Incredible Gamboa Rainforest Resort

A picture is worth a thousand words. Today we arrived at the beautiful Gamboa Rainforest Resort located 40 minutes west of Panama City, in the middle of Soberania National Park near the junction of the Panama Canal and the Rio Chagres River. Our photos show that the views from the main resort lobby are stunning. This resort is surrounded by jungle and water and is incredibly picturesque! We have decided to extend our stay here to take advantage of numerous day trips and tours. Gail

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Snow in Rome

Tears and Prayers in Haiti

Sunset in Panama

La Prensa-El Diario Libre de Panama

The major newspaper of Panama is La Prensa  whose motto is: El Diario Libre which does not mean it is free, but that it is FREE as in not subsidized or censored by the government.  I love a truly free press and I love reading newspapers, have done it daily for nearly 50 years.  Sitting here by the pool in sunny Panama I wanted to enjoy the day and practice my Spanish.  Here are the lead stories on February 13, 2010:
"Intensa nevada atrae a turistas en Roma" (it snowed in Rome last night for the first major snow storm since 1986) the photos show tourists sliding around the Coloseum. " Arrestan al gobernador de Brasilia" (They arrest the governor of Brasilia, the national capital of Brazil...on corruption charges of course)
"Bill Clinton se recupera ya en su casa tras la intervencion" (Bill is recovering from his heart stent intervention) " Argentina obstaculiza proyecto en Las Malvinas" (Argentina is trying to prevent the British from developing the undersea oil and gas near the Falkland Islands...the war they fought with the British over the Malvinas was also in the 1980's and yet the conflict continues.) 
  The second page tells of a Venezuelan journalist who disappeared on January 8 was found dead in a cemetary 425 kilometers southwest of Caracas and in a separate story Hugo Chavez is suspending the law and acting more like a dictator.  Yesterday he ordered the cable TV channel who criticized him to shut down. No connection to the dead reporter, of course.  The president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, a friend of Chavez, had a successful surgery done in Cuba. (One of the dangers of being a populist president who is anti American is that you have to have your surgery done in Cuba rather than Houston or NYC.) While he was away protesters filled the streets in Guayaquil claiming he is a "dictadura"   And Cristina de Kirchner of Argentina is reported to have won her battle to fire the President of the Central Bank and appointed a new banker who will do what she wants.  So much for an independant central bank.
  By the time we get to the third page we read " Pakistan e India hablaran de paz" (thank goodness for some good news) and  " La TV, nuevo campo de batalla de la religion" (it looks like in Indonesia the Muslim majority is cracking down on Christian TV broadcasts and will force them off the air.  Is there a pattern here?
  The most significant article, buried on page three, "Se enfrian relaciones de EU y China" tells of the fact that China now holds $700 Billion in US Treasury Bonds and China is angry that Obama is going to meet with the Dalai Lama this week. I wonder what China will do with all those bonds? China hates free speech, especially Google and Facebook and our government has always stood up for free speech, right?  And do you recall how Justice Alito shook his  and said "NO" at Obama during the State of the Union when our President was criticizing the Supreme Court for their decision on campaign finance?  The court held 5-4 that "Free Speech" actually includes political speech. And our President cannot handle the truth.  Stunning. Or is this too much legalspeak.  The themes are the same in every language .Power corrupts.  Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
  War and religion.  Dictators and censorship.  Corruption in high places.  Wars over undersea oil reserves. Global warming and snow in Rome. Financial threats and bullying.  And, to end it all "Entre llanto y oraciones, Haiti despide sus muertos" yes there is enough for all of us to cry over and to pray for.  Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose.  And thats all the news that is fit to print in Lake Woebegone.  Good night dear readers, the sun is setting over Panama and tomorrow the sun will rise again. The newspaper here is still free to print the truth. 

Panama City

Miraflores Locks built 1913

Welcome to Panama

Today we took a city tour of Panama often called "Crossroads of the World". The other tourists were from Colombia. We were the only Americans. The Panama Canal is truly one of the engineering wonders of the world. It was awesome to stand on the observation deck at the Miraflores Locks and watch a massive container ship glide by. Panama is an Indian word that means "an abundance of fish". One of my favorite exhibits at the Visitors' Center was a trio of fish tanks. One contained a sampling of Atlantic ocean fish, one the fresh water fish that live in the canal and one the Pacific coast species. The ships pass through three giant locks in their journey across the isthmus. We all know that building the canal was a hideous struggle for workers with the jungle and disease claiming many thousands of lives. The size of the cockraches and bees on display today were enough to send shivers down my spine and I am not kidding!
We also toured both the ruins of Old Panama and Casco Viejo or "Colonial Panama" which is currently crammed with restoration projects. We saw ancient buildings, balconied streets, plazas, and sidewalk cafes. . We stopped at San Jose church, built in 1675, that contained a huge Golden Altar that was thought to have been made in Ecuador. It was hidden from the English pirate, Henry Morgan when he captured and destroyed much of the city and then moved to it's current location in a more defendable part of the city behind an ancient city wall.
The Hotel Radisson Decapolis is ultra modern with it's blue lighting, loud music, fancy pool and huge attached casino and shopping mall (the largest in Central America). We do have a lovely suite with a magnificent view of the Pacific ocean and a skyline of shimmering glass and steel towers that reminds me of New York City. This city is very rich and has become a financial hub for all of Latin America.  Locals call the skyscrapers the "coke towers" and they do not mean Coca Cola.
Good thing our room is sound proof because Carnival begins tonight. Didn't stop to think that the four days before Ash Wednesday represents some serious merriment in Panama. The whole country shuts down for a party. No worries....the Foremans are safely tucked in bed by 9 or 10 PM every night. It has been good to experience the city, but I am ready to move on to view the mountains, rain forest and beaches that I have read so much about. We have one more day in the city.....guess I'd better visit the mall today  :) Gail

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Blessings of Family

As Willie Nelson would sing, "On the road again". Tomorrow Dale and I leave for Panama. We hope to see the canal, experience the jungle, take pictures of monkeys and of course soak up some rays. It was wonderful to come home to Wenatchee and reconnect with our family. We miss our grandchildren so much when we travel, but oh how we love getting away from grey skies in the winter months.  Stay tuned for more Foreman adventures....... we are off and running!

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Casa Rosada

The President of Argentina, Cristina de Kirchner, lives in the Casa Rosada, the pink house. During our entire trip she has been feuding with the President of the Central Bank and with her own Vice President. She is very unpopular with the people we have talked to and on the way to the airport our driver told us a joke in Spanish that roughly translated is: " Do you know why Cristina cannot drive? She shifts the gears first and then pushes in the clutch." Then we checked the news on line and see that today she made international headlines, even the Seattle Times, for her story on how eating more pork can improve a man's sexual performance. Can you imagine, meat prices have increased here 40% since December and in the meat eating capital of the world, the President is encouraging her people to eat less red meat and more pork. Inflation, political instability and protesters in the street. What a great country. If you are interested read on.

Argentina 2010

  This blog tells the tale of our three week trip to Argentina in January 2010.  If you are interested in wine, pears, apples, tango or trout fishing, architecture, art ,politics, economics, trekking or just people watching and love life there is something in it for you.  You can either begin at the beginning, January 8 in Mendoza, or at the end, January 29 in Buenos Aires.  Or you can jump into the middle in Neuquen or Bariloche or Villa La Angostura.  Wheverever you start, we hope you do not end until you come down here to experience it for yourself.  Enjoy.  Dale and Gail Foreman

In the City of Angels

City of Angels

It is our last morning in Argentina, we return to the City of Angels, the cemetary in Recoleta, to better understand the mystery of poor Rufina Cambaceres. Rufina was the 19 year old daughter of a very rich family when she died suddenly in 1902. After a few days the cemetary staff called the family to report the coffin had been disturbed and when they opened it to check the corpse was covered in scratches. The legend began to be told that Rufina was a ghost and she wanders the narrow lanes of the cemetary looking for her betrothed. They also say that her own mother was having an affair with Rufina's fiance and gave her daughter a potion to make her sleep. Sadly the potion was too strong and it killed the girl. The distraught fiance later killed himself outside the Cafe Tortoni. The family constucted a crypt complete with a statue of Rufina holding the door of her own crypt, trying to open it to escape her fate.
Like Lady Diana and Eva Peron, the world loves a story of a beautiful young girl coming into her prime. We yearn for Cinderella to win the Prince. We cheer when Princess Grace is crowned and cry when her sports car goes off the cliff and smashes on the winding road. Everyone fears the unhappy ending. We tremble to think that although blessed with youth, beauty and riches, all is dust. This cemetary gives us a "momento mori", a time to reflect on life and death. Life is good Life is too short. This trip to Argentina has been great. Seize each moment. And know that there is more to come for those who believe in Jesus Christ.

Thursday, January 28, 2010