I remember March 15, 2011, like it was yesterday.
The tears. The nerves. The trip to the pharmacy because I had an UTI.
I remember sitting on the circle benches in the international wing of the airport and sending one final text message to everyone. I just wanted to say goodbye. And, to be perfectly honest, I wanted everyone to tell me goodbye one last time.
I remember. All of it.
I think the part I remember the most clearly is being dropped off at the hotel. Our flight had left hours late, and then, upon arrival, we had to get through customs and baggage claim. We'd barely gotten the first breath-stealing shock of tropical air in the lungs when we'd found our driver and piled in his minivan. We drove in the blackness to the activity of the heart of the city. The driver dropped us off at the hotel. The gorgeous .Hotel Riu. Tony, me, the kids, 12 checked bags, 6 carry-on bags, 6 personal items, and 2 carseats
It's pretty much the picture of a luxury Ellis Island.
Ok. Maybe not. But, it was day one as an ex-pat.
I had no idea the twists and turns we were going to experience over the next 2 years. Sure, I knew the language barrier and the traffic congestion would be difficult. I was right that loneliness was going to hit.
But, it's been so much more than that.
I've learned that the 6 of us can count on each other. There were days that watching Coralynn learn to crawl was the only thing that kept us going. Or times when a wisecrack from Carson gave us the much-needed comic relief to relax for a minute. I remember shedding tears with Chloe and giving myself permission to feel the same hurt in my own heart. Or the peace that comes from Camilla's total confidence that snuggling really does make it all better.
I watched Tony throw himself into starting CAT shared service operations here. And, I saw him fall sound asleep the moment he allowed himself a deep breath. I saw him take charge of getting our life here going- buying 2 vehicles, getting a bank account, organizing phone, internet, TV. I'll never forget him, just one week after we arrived here, taking a very sick Coralynn Mae to the Emergency Room. He barely knew the way, and the language was a still a total mystery. But, she was too sick to wait.
We had one cell phone. He left it with me. I'm not sure why. I stood at our dining room window for 2 hours watching, waiting for him to return with her. They returned with bags of medicine to help her fight the pneumonia. I don't think I've ever loved Tony more than I did in those hours. He was taking care of us. We were going to get through this.
Now, 2 years later, I've been to that ER multiple times with multiple people. I've driven to that hospital too many times to count. And I'm driving there in the van that Tony bought me. What a story that was! Waiting hours to get the credit card machine to work only to find out that Mastercard had refused the purchase. Him having to call my mom in the US to get her to convince Mastercard to unlock the account.
The first few months of the first year felt like a painful parade through the sludge of Panama. Now, they are just fun stories that we laugh at with our ex-pat friends. Oh, yah. Did I mention? We have friends. The fact is we aren't alone here. I'm so thankful for my Panama friends. So thankful. But they're nothing compared to the 6 of us.
10 months, 4.5 years, 7 years and 2 days, 8 years.
Now, they're almost 3, almost 6.5, just turned 9, and almost 11.
I just shake my head in disbelief at how much time has passed. More amazing is how deep the relationships have grown.
When our friends from Georgia came last month, we were talking about our life here. What we expected. What was different. My bff asked me about the friendships I'd made. I thought for a moment. "Without a doubt, I have no girlfriend that I enjoy hanging out with as much as I enjoy hanging out with Chloe." I have amazing friends here. But none of them compare to my family.
The 6 of us.
In two years, I've gone from having 4 great kids and amazing husband to becoming completely confident that my family team of 6, through Jesus, can conquer anything this world throws at us.
Happy Anniversary to Us!!
(And thanks to y'all for taking the ride with us!)