Tag Archives: Bocas del Toro Panama

Fringe Benefits: The side of missionary life that doesn’t make newsletters


A couple years ago I had a Facebook friend that I had to “hide” because her posts were making me so jealous.  Her husband has his own business and she spends her life shopping and lounging on tropical beaches.  But the weird thing was that it wasn’t so much that I envied her life of luxury and leisure- it was that I envied her freedom to share those cool things without being condemned by others.  I figured, my life is just as cool as her life (in different ways) but I don’t feel the same freedom to talk about it like she does.  She doesn’t have supporters back home reading newsletters, I reasoned.  So rather than deal with my own jealousy, I just hid her so I didn’t have to look at her beautiful pictures anymore.

The beach where we spent our best day ever.The truth is that although often times I write about how difficult missionary life can be, most days I wake up and feel like the Luckiest Girl in the World!  Most days I still can’t believe that I GET to live here and to do what I do (When I’m not flying around in a cape saving the world, I’m a mild mannered English teacher).  I feel so blessed and spoiled by my Father God.  I live in a tropical country where the beach is just a 2 hour drive away.  Parrots fly over my head every morning.  I pass palm trees and people selling tropical flowers and street vendors with trucks full of mangos and Jeeps with surf boards strapped to the roof every day in my commute.  I shiver when the temps drop to 60 degrees Farrenheit.  And my “cup runneth over” with the best coffee in the world!  I live in Costa Rica.  I am a Blessed Girl!

So today I am going to be THAT girl who revels in her wonderful life.  I’m going to write about the best visa trip we ever took.  We used to have to leave the country every 90 days to renew our visas (now we’re in the process of getting our residency- so no more visa trips).  Here in Costa Rica we are bordered by Nicaragua to the North and Panama to the South.  This particular year our visas were coming due in December.  We didn’t have the money to go all the way to Minnesota for Christmas, so we scheduled a trip to Panama during our kids’ Christmas break.  Christmas overseas is not as exciting as Christmas in America.  Tamales and Bull Fights just don’t say “Christmas” to this Minnesota girl.

So since we were feeling “blah” about Christmas we decided to spend a bit of our Christmas money and stay somewhere nice with some of our friends while in Panama.  We chose Bocas del Toro, a string of islands on the Caribbean side of Panama.  On the map it looked like we could take a boat from the last port in Costa Rica directly to the island.  In reality the trip down was more like the deleted scenes from “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles”.  Ports were closed, water taxis were hired, busses and taxi vans meant crowding in shared transportation without air conditioning.  Basically the trip down was horrific.  But once we arrived… it was all forgotten.  We found paradise!

We stayed on Playa Tortuga.  With our friends we were two of about 5 other families in the entire hotel.  The rooms were nothing special, but the ocean was literally right at our toes.  I love looking for shells on the beach.  I’ve always dreamed of finding a perfect conch shell.  On this trip I found several small ones right on the beach.  I was thrilled!

Lucy finds Patrick StarOne day we decided to hire a taxi to go to the other end of the island.  From there we hired a water taxi to take us to another island that was famous for it’s giant starfish.  I couldn’t believe my eyes when we arrived at the beach!  There were starfish every few feet!  It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever experienced.

Unfortunately about 10 minutes into our stay at Starfish Beach, the children started crying.  There was something sharp and pokey floating around in the water.  It was like fiberglass strands!  They got between our toes and in our swim suits.  We started picking out the slivers (and didn’t stop for the next 2 days).  After about 10 more minutes we couldn’t stand it any more.  We hailed another boat and asked to be taken back to our island.  For the rest of the afternoon we snorkeled and swam and built sand castles on the most perfect secluded beach.  We had the whole place to ourselves.  It was my best day ever!!

That night as we wandered into town to find something to eat we were surprised to find that the town was preparing for a parade, complete with fireworks and “floats” made from pickup trucks and delivery vans, Caribbean music and firefighters tossing candy to the children.  It was fantastic and carefree!  We had so much fun.  What a perfect end to the perfect day, not a bad way to spend Christmas.  Back at home, I have a conch shell that I keep as a reminder of what a Blessed life I lead.  I really am the Luckiest Girl in the World, but that’s a story you’ll never read in our newsletters.