By the time we reached Boquete, we were done. There had been many legs to this journey from Costa Rica, but at least now we had arrived into the eternal springtime that is Boquete. It was February 2004, our third month of overland travel as we rolled into Boquete in Panama’s Green Mountain Highlands, the nearest city being David.After a few tries, we found a wonderful hostel. We had our own room and bathroom and it was just down the hall from a large, organized, cook-your-own-food kinda set up. There was also a dining room with square tables and brightly-coloured red and green checked oil cloths. The whole place was, clean, organized and well run and the owners were diminutive. They weren’t in our faces, but they made it all happen from behind the scenes.
Across the street there was a large dusty open field where several children would play pick-up soccer matches. Leo, who was four years old, was in heaven. He just wanted to run around and play with the children. We went to the field and played frisbee, a game they had never seen before. My husband Dean and I enjoyed teaching the local children about frisbee. They caught on quickly – very coordinated and fit but, not a word of English. Ricardo and Eddie proudly showed us two tarantulas. They poked at these shy creatures with a piece of hay until their hairy mandibles grasped the hay. Then the children would swing the spider side to side showing us how the tarantula would hold on. Next the boys showed us the spiders’ casas, pointing and saying to us, ‘Casa! Casa!’, which was a hole in the dry ground. The play continued with Leo getting soaked by the water “pistoles”, kicking the soccer ball and throwing the frisbee.
A few easy days passed which saw us walk lazily all over the town of Boquete and explore its various parks and markets. I bought a huge bag of fruit and vegetables, plus pasta, butter, milk, cheese and eggs, all for less than $20.
One day we stopped into a small place to have some supper. It was a couple of hours after eating there that Leo began to vomit. He could keep nothing down, not even little sips of water. The night hours passed in somewhat of a blurr because we were up with him for hours and hours and praying and worrying for him to improve. At one point he was hot to the touch and he began to moan loudly and said’ please help my belly.’ He also screamed with the cramps, burped, vomited and then fell back to sleep. Then he would begin to vomit or wretch again. I began to get pretty worried. In the morning he became listless and I screamed at Dean to get a taxi…NOW! Destination, the medical clinic.
We walked into the clinic, Dean carrying a listless Leo, and within about five minutes, Leo was hooked up to an IV for re-hydration. The local doctor spoke perfect English because he had been away to the States for a work term. He answered all of our questions and re-assured us that Leo would be fine once he was re-hydrated. The nurse came into the room and tucked a hand-stitched quilt tenderly around Leo. I was left wondering if we would have received this level of care in Halifax. Wait, first we would have had to shovel the driveway, drive the 20 minutes to the children’s hospital and then find parking. Then we’d wait in emerg. It would have likely been hours, depending on the triaging at the time of our arrival. Here, it was minutes and we were the only folks in the clinic and they were totally and completely sweet to us. The fee was so small it was negligible. Leo rested and slept with the IV in his arm. When he was awake, we read to him and told him stories. Later that day, we all walked out of there.
Unfortunately, the vomiting continued shortly after we got back to our hostel, so we had a repeat performance at the clinic. Then we took Leo out to a restaurant and ordered him a bowl of soup. He promptly threw up into the soup bowl. After that, we were super careful. He directed what his tummy could handle. It was in Boquete that Leo had his first ever can of pop. Canada Dry Ginger Ale, of course. And, it stayed down. Boquete was also the place where Leo learned to tie his shoes. Add playing with the tarantula and having an IV re-hydration and it was the place of firsts. We will fondly remember Boquete, even though we had a bit of a scare there.