Tuesday, April 12, 2016


When we first moved to the island I was convinced that we'd no longer require vacations. We frequent the beach a few times a week, we lay by the pool every Sunday, and we watch the sunset every Friday during Happy Hour. Why would we need a vacation? The reality is: while I'm laying by the pool, I'm running back in to fold the laundry, our beach departures vary on the time at which Evan has completed a call with a client, and happy hour, although very satisfying, is often spent lamenting about this one time when a kiddo pooped his pants in speech therapy. So, even when you live in a vacation destination, one still needs to leave the island and vacation somewhere different. Vacations are all about seeing something new and leaving the "real world" behind. We're just incredibly fortunate that our "real world" is such a vacationy place. To get to my point: We needed a vacation. And we got one - a super fun, chill, and exciting vacation. Added bonus: We got to vacation with some of our favourite people in the whole wide world - the Hunters.

Darren and Allicia Hunter and Evan and I became instant friends about 6 years ago. Darren was a nurse on level 5, where I worked as a Speech-Language Pathologist. Darren was this outgoing guy with an intriguing "shark fin" hair style, who administered medication with his little boom box blaring from his med cart. Everyone loved Darren and I thought he seemed like a good dude. At that time, wakesurfing was a relatively new and unheard sport and Evan and I had just purchased a boat to learn how to master the sport. I underestimated and questioned Darren's knowledge of wake surfing boats, but when he showed me a video of him and his wife ripping it up behind their super cool surf boat (way better than ours!), my grade 9 self took over and I longed to be friends with these cool kids. It didn't hurt that after our first "couple's date," it was evident we had tons in common. Evan and Allicia love to analyze numbers and determine new and interesting ways to make money - Darren and I spend hours planning how we will spend the money. A perfect match!

Since we've moved to the island, I've really missed hanging out with Darren and Allicia. They are the kind of friends with whom you can surprise for a random Wednesday after work visit and laugh about the events of the week. Easy friends. We've also taken epic vacations together over the years: Cozumel, Honduras, and Bali. There was also that Little Cayman trip in the Fall, but you know, if you read my blog, you'll see that Derrek* had a little issue that resulted in an early departure. No biggie.

This year we decided to meet in Panama. Panama City was nothing like I expected it to be. On one hand, you have the "Manhattan-esque" skyline - huge skyscrapers, including Trump Towers, malls, and intense traffic (just keep beeping your horn, that will definitely move traffic along faster) -Yet on the other side of Panama City, you experience the old quarter, with the Spanish colonial buildings and quaint shops and boutiques. And it's all surrounded by tropical jungles. We spend a few days exploring the city, including a trip to the Panama Canal, which was actually super interesting (Allicia kept reminding us it was the 8th wonder of the world). We also found some amazing rooftop bars overlooking the massive city (one rooftop bar even had a prostitute! Hours of viewing pleasure for the boys!) I also did some shopping, which was challenging due to the fact that no one spoke English. Typical polite Canadian that I am, I profusely apologized to every saleslady, "No Espanol! Sorry!" haha. After a few days in the city, we hopped on a Panama Air flight and headed to a group of tiny islands called Bocas Del Toro. Bocas are a group of islands (or archipelago if you're into fancy words) in the Caribbean ocean, just off the northwest coast of Panama. I've never seen a place quite like Bocas before! Bocas is unique and has it's own cool surfer/hippie vibe.

The Panama Canal!
rooftop bar in "old" Panama City

Group shot in Panama City


The Hilton knew we were coming and prepared the Barbie Room for us

Vacation Barbie and Unimpressed Ken with a sore back

Air Panama Motto: "Despite what your itinerary says, our flights are never actually Direct"

Our deck for the week!
 We rented a house on the main island called "Colon." Our house was great. We had a huge deck, complete with hammock and our own pool to cool off in the hot afternoons.  We spent hours sipping coffee in the mornings, watching the sugar frenzied hummingbirds battle for our feeders. From there, we took water taxis to each of the other islands and explored beaches, jungles, islands inhabited by sloths and topless women (Evan and Darren never looked), bays teeming with wild dolphins, and cool little bars perched on stilts in the middle of ocean (Throw back a margarita, throw on a snorkel, and explore the marine life under the bar!). One day we rented a golf cart, loaded up the cooler with beer, turned on our cell phone stereo and traversed the Panama jungles to Justin Bieber. We had a blast! Honestly the best part of the vacay was just spending time together, laughing and enjoying each other's company again. Knowing and living Derrek's* history of aggressive vacationing, we contemplated wrapping him in bubble wrap; however, all went relatively smoothly with no hospital visits. Bonus! (plus we never saw any blowholes or dived deeper than 40 ft - no chance of decompression sickness!)

The most beautiful deserted white sand island (tops optional)
I'm not gonna lie, I was a little nervous about my joints prior to this trip. It looks like my elbow now has loose cartilage floating around in it (but elbows are stupid anyway) and my right knee (the first cartilage transplant 3 years ago) has been…well…inconsistent. Like sometimes it just doesn't work inconsistent. Ugh. Unfortunately I'm starting to feel like there's an expiration date on my transplanted cartilage, and worry that it could be fast approaching. I've come to the realization that I can't live my life waiting for my cartilage to disintegrate, I gotta live and do what I want to do, but I also have to treat my joints well and show them love (ice, elevation, inspirational music) on a daily basis. I know I'll never run or jump again - I've come to terms with that (by telling myself that running and jumping is stupid anyway). But, there are still some activities that I save up and challenge the knees with for special occasions. One of the things I've really missed since my knee surgeries is surfing. I'm still only a beginner, but I caught on quickly, have pretty stellar balance, and I just feel awesome when I'm doing it. I knew that I really wanted to try surfing again in Panama, but was really nervous that it would put my knee over the edge, and into the "no longer working" zone. So I practiced ways of standing up on my surfboard that didn't involve lunging or "popping up," as one is supposed to do, and found a method that seemed to work (in theory, on the floor at the gym).

The surf break in Bocas was interesting, in that it was out in the middle of the ocean - not off the beach like most. A little boat took us to the break and you simply paddle in and catch the waves. There's a channel that you exit into once you've caught the wave so that you can paddle back into the break without getting slammed by waves. On our past travels, we've rode waves in Costa Rica, Sayulita, and Bali that were about 3-5 feet high. Baby waves. I didn't realize until I was paddling into my first wave in Bocas that I was dealing with 8-10 foot waves. That's like North Shore pipeline in my Saskatchewan prairie mind! The first wave was an epic failure. All four of us got slammed. Hard. When I finally surfaced, my rash guard was around my ears, my bikini bottoms were hanging at my knees, and my hair was completely wrapped around my face. I swept my hair aside just in time to get slammed by another 8 foot wave..and then another…and then another. Good times.

The four of us met back at the boat, in an attempt to regroup. Darren was nauseous from vertigo, Allicia was ralphing off the side of the boat after being slammed in the head with her board, Ev's freckles had been redistributed to new places, and I was in shock after exposing my naked bottom to the Bocas' surf community. Isn't surfing fun? I decided to go back out and give it another shot. This time, I caught a wave and tested out my new adaptive "pop up" method. It worked! It was the most sloth-like, most geriatric form of surfing one could imagine. At one point I was actually doing a downward facing dog on my board (thank god my bikini bottoms were firmly in place!). Gingerly, I stood up in slow motion, my joints producing a loud, "CREAK!" as I straightened up on the board. It was ugly. It was no Kate Bosworth in "Blue Crush." But….I stood up and I surfed that wave. Four times! Boo ya! I forgot all about my joint issues and rode my 10 foot beginner foam surf board like a boss. A boss I tell you! Total awesomeness. I couldn't actually walk the next day, but, hey, you can't have it all.

Countdown to Summer!
Overall, the trip was a huge success. I miss my buddies so much and it was so hard to say goodbye in Panama City. We sacrificed a lot to move our life to Cayman. It was a good decision and I don't regret it. But, the biggest sacrifice by far as been living so far away from the people we love. Maintaining strong friendships in a long distance situation can be challenging. I'm so grateful that we were able to meet up with the Hunters and pick up right where we left off. Such good times. I'm looking forward to be reunited with all our Canadian friends a family - the countdown is on - summer starts in 82 days!
Kirstie and Allicia = recipe for FUN
Just chillin' in our hammocks

Bocas Hummingbirds: we watched these for hours from our deck!
Scuba Steve says, "don't pee in the ocean!"
Golf cart Justin Beiber Jungle Tour

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