I like the Hotel Milan, which is where I’m staying in Panama City. Clean, quiet, well equipped and at a very reasonable price for jubilados. But the restaurant has to set some sort of new low for food, even for Panama. One of the problems we’ve always had with the quality of food here is that almost everything tastes old, for whatever reason. This morning, the hotel restaurant somehow managed to ruin toast with that flavor. I think it was what passed for butter. Whatever it was, the toast was inedible, the eggs barely so, the “ham” unspeakable. I think that Life is saying to me, “Joyce, you made a really good choice and here’s the reason why you’re moving to Italy.”
Long day today. I’ve arranged with a taxi driver to pick me up here at the hotel, take me to the US Embassy, and then to Tocumen. I can’t check in for my KLM flight until 4:30, so I’ll be hours in the airport section outside security, which every airport in Panama seems to have made as uncomfortable as possible. Last time, with the kind of luck that strikes once in a lifetime, I just happened to be sitting next to a man from–Rome! Of all places! He was waiting for a flight to Spain that left about an hour earlier than mine, so we chatted for hours–in Spanish. Neither his English nor my Italian was up to any extended conversation so we wound up speaking Spanish!
But we did talk a little in Italian. Each region of the country, as you might expect, has an accent. Milanese are famous for their slurred “rs”; I have yet to meet someone from that area so I can’t say what that sounds like. But after a while, I thought I picked up a softening of some consonant diphthongs that I’ve never heard before.
Sicilians speak Italian with what I’ve read as being a lilting accent. What I did notice is that they lower significantly the range of the last two syllables in a sentence, which is utterly lovely. Fo instance, if you say “Vado a Roma” (I’m going to Rome) “Vado a” is spoken at one pitch and then you drop the last two syllables, Roma, about an octave. I found myself doing it after about a week.
Of course, I’ve forgotten any Italian I’ve ever known by this time, but I know I’ll pick it up again. Everything else aside, one of the main reasons we want to live in an all-Sicilian neighborhood is to do the immersion thing: speak only Italian, learn to fit in as best as we can as fast as we can. We’ll never blend in totally–that’s impossible at our age. But we sure can mix well.
So far, I seem to be avoiding Mary’s cold, which is almost miraculous. We’ll see what happens later on today when I finally sit down at the airport, and relax for the next two days. Nothing much I can do inside an aluminum tube traveling 6 miles above the planet except watch the flight tracker, which I really enjoy. Goes to show you how sensory deprived I’ve been.
There are two boxes with Mary, a small one of mostly US Civil War books that I can’t replace on Kindle (as well as an out-of-print hard cover edition of the diaries of Gideon Welles, Lincoln’s Secretary of the Navy), and a larger box of things I can’t bear to give up: a frog candelabra that I’ve had for over 20 years, two “boys” singing away as they hold uyp candles, a Hopi kachina doll that I bought in AZ on a visit to my brother, two Met Museum of Art reprints of beautiful Japanese watercolor paintings of cats, and a few other things. With me are two suitcases: one large, but not really large and one that can be carried on board. Together, both weigh 22 kg. The large one contains mostly winter clothes that I kept when we moved to Panama and that will come n handy during winter in Ragusa or wherever we are. And that is the sum total of my belongings after 76 years of life that I’m taking with me. Well, I’ve always secretly wanted to be a Buddhist monk (as well as a Formula I race car driver), so it seems fitting.
OK, so next stop is Ragusa.