The Two Panama City’s

Following my trip to Oxford, I had another short turnaround in San Jose. It was now mid-August of 2012 and I had trips lined up to the two Panama City’s. Yes, it can get confusing, and I have many times been trying to get to one of them only to find my booking to the wrong one. Anyone flying to Panama City needs to check their tickets carefully.

What are the two Panama City’s? There is Panama City in Panama and there is Panama City in Florida. Ensure your booking agent knows the right one! For me in 2012, I was headed first to Panama City, Panama. This was in August for a four day RDMT workshop, similar to the one in Nepal a year earlier.

Summer 2012 Re-cap

The summer of 2012 started following my trip to Kenya. I was working from the Cost Rica office prior to the two Panama’s. In June, I had met my lovely wife, Paula who is from Colombia. We started dating just after my birthday and had our first real date at the Monastery Restaurant in San Jose.

After this first date, I had flown up to Canada for a week, courtesy of World Vision. My oldest son, Kaithan, was graduating from high school. Being the proud father, it was wonderful to see my son graduate and start his path in life.

Sadly, this would also be the last time I would fly to Canada until 2013 and the final time I would have with my grandmother. She would pass away two weeks before ending my deployment in Syria. This is the last photo of us together, my grandfather at 93 is still alive today.

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When I had returned from Canada, I had closed the sale on my new boat. A 32 foot Cobia that I decided to name after my new girlfriend, Paula. The boat became “Paula’s Choice”, which I felt was a fitting name. Paula and I had a few fun adventures that summer taking the boat to Isla Tortuga several times. I had envisioned chartering the boat to tourists, but then realized the expense of running her that way was too much.

As in my previous post, Oxford followed in early August for the debriefs of the HARD and Sahel responses, which brings us now to the two Panama’s.

Panama City, Panama

This would be my first trip to Panama City, Panama. On August 20 I made the 45 minute flight from San Jose to Panama City. This would be a four day workshop/RDMT where I would get my first opportunity to work directly with Sean. Doug and Gerardo Calix would also be with us in Panama City.

The goal of the security team during this trip was to help finalize World Vision’s HEA Emergency Management System. This manual, still in use today, has become the cornerstone of emergency responses. Several members of the development team were on hand to see this document finalized here in Panama.

Panama Downtime

During our week in Panama City, we had a chance to explore the Panama lock system. This is truly an engineering marvel. We watched a few ships pass through the entrance lock from the Pacific. At the same time, there was construction going on to build a parallel lock system to increase traffic flow.

The following video shows one such ship passing through.

One evening, we all had a pizza and beer dinner at the home of Sean with is lovely family. At that time, Sean and his family lived in the penthouse of one of Panama’s many skyscrapers. The view from up here was quite impressive. But, the elevator run up was long and personally, I am not a fan of tall buildings!

Sean also saw complications in this location, and within the year, he and his family would move closer to the World Vision office in a house.

Potential Emergency

Before this trip, we had been monitoring two systems developing in the Caribbean. Only two days in to this workshop, a deployment order was issued for Haiti. Chris, our Senior Relief Coordinator, was immediately deployed to Haiti with a few other members of the team that were in Panama. Tropical Storm Isaac was bearing down on the Caribbean Island.

Isaac

I was put on standby and remained back in Panama City providing remote support. Fortunately, the RDMT we were running was a hurricane response, to the team was fully prepared. Tropical Storm Isaac in the end only brushed the western part of the island without so much as a tree falling.

On August 24, I returned to Costa Rica and began preparations for the SRMT and HEAT course in Panama City, Florida.

Panama City, Florida

Leading up to the trainings in Panama City, Florida, my new partner, Vincent Milioti Sr. was preparing for his official entrance to World Vision. I was not originally slotted for this training event, but Andries thought it would be best. I think it was good as this would be the first time I would meet Vincent.

Vincent and I had exchanged several emails prior to the training and I was trying to answer all of his questions. He was preparing for his move from Florida to Cyprus at the same time. Vince would be based in Cyprus initially for the next couple of years.

On September 17, I began the journey north from San Jose to Panama City, Florida. In an earlier post, I had mentioned that this is not the easiest routing. From Costa Rica, one needs to fly further north to Atlanta before flying south to Panama City.

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I met Vince the following day at the hotel. Prior to this trip, the training team had put out a challenge to all the trainers. We all had to grow “Chops”. There would be no prizes, and sadly, only two of us participated in the challenge.

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The Training

The training was the same as any other SRMT and HEAT that we had delivered in the past. The only difference, was trying to get Vince de-militarized. Vince has extensive military experience and at times had a difficult time during the HEAT portion. His leadership is second to none, but at times, we had to enjoy a laugh when he would refer to the beneficiaries as the “enemy”.

During this time, Vince and I became hit and miss in our relationship. It was a rocky start that would iron itself out the following year during the Syrian response. However, the next few months would be getting to learn each other’s styles.

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Florida Fishing

After the training was completed, the training team took a day to unwind before heading home. Andries and team had charted a boat to take us fishing offshore. This was an amazing trip and time with the team.

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I remember we had caught many red snapper, which at that time were out of season, so we had to release them. All but a couple, which we did cook on board the boat. The skipper cooked them in the microwave and they were delicious. All evidence naturally thrown overboard.

On September 27 I returned to San Jose via Atlanta and started preparing for a sub team meeting in Mombasa, Kenya.

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