the BIG MOVE: Volume I
A surreal concept that somehow rendered itself into reality. So real in fact, that I’m writing this from my parent’s dining room-cum-my-new-office.
I set myself up for disappointment when I booked my return flight to Panama city with the measly United Air miles I had. In combination with my father’s generous ‘come back home’ stipend, I had just enough to come back home if I was willing to stop over in Houston andManagua on my way from Honolulu to Panama. Yes, it seems ridiculous to make any complaints at all when you’ve just spent a week in Honolulu. I don’t want to seem ungrateful. Scratch that, I don’t care if I seem ungrateful, I know I’m not.
In any case, after three absurd flights in absurdly narrow seats, I finally make it back to the patria, which I foolishly assumed would greet me with open arms and a bored, blank expression from a customs agent. Not. So. Much.
What I found instead when I arrived was the bitter news that my permanent residency has expired and I was only able to enter the country as a tourist. A tourist with a ticket to get the fuck out and a bank account demonstrating $500 USD solvency. Neither of which I had, as an Australian immigration reject, public law worker and generally shit with money type of woman. Rough stuff indeed.
I spent two and a half hours at the airport. Sitting excruciatingly close to the customs area, WISHING my cell phone into a travel agency all the while trying to extract enough financial information from my parents to plead my case to an immigration officer. One hundred and fifty minutes negotiating airport WIFI, roaming service, and going waaay over my data limit. All the while my parents texting me via the group Whatsapp (classic Latinx family) asking for up-to-the minute details. Hectic doesn’t even come close to describing it.
I couldn’t help but feel this was a metaphor for my arrival to Panama in general. Bloody difficult, exhausting, and sweaty as fuck. Nevertheless, I couldn’t stay in the airport forever, and I’d be damned if they shipped me to Peru, not having lived there 24years. So I made it out. A customs official rescued me from damn near pulling my hair out, took me to the little room – you know the room – and then they held on to my passport, sent me upstairs, brought me downstairs, left me waiting, I was on the verge of tears and not a soul took mercy upon me.
Poor little white girl.
Eventually she made it into the country, clad in sweatpants and a bomber jacket far too warm for the environs.