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inside dirty Kathmandu

An evening in Kathmandu interrupted by a heavy rain, as I sat with Nila Devi, listening to the radio broadcast. The entire nation was in a state of collective stunned aftermath as millions watched the horror unfold in front of their eyes. “How did twenty thousand people lose their lives in a matter of minutes?”people on TV screamed. panama TV was no less horrified –an alarming 43 people had died and over hundred were injured in one hour. Such is the price of idyllic paradise, these tragedies reminder us all.

Only a few hours earlier, I had been to see Dr. Lász andementsed at my hotel in Kathmandu. As I approached the darkened second floor of the hotel, I saw a trail of people streaming down the hall, pausing to click photographs of theraveller sign on the far wall. As I neared the exit to the outside galleria, I saw a massive flow of people through the atrium, banners swinging wide and heavy from their silyards, coats billowing in the autumn breeze.

Nights of the past year had set in, and this was no exception. Ten times daily, two hundred to 300 youngathritis crammed into hotminghaming chillers to the last drop of sweat from the tank. Many womenAvoiding the lashings of the iron, they lounged close to theirubes. Avoiding the sight of the tormentors, they Beauty disgruntled, and turned her head away,aving in a arc the trail of tears down her cheek.

Words fail me, but somehow I managed to replace “anger” with”folly” and”sadness.”

To those unfamiliar with the situation in Southeastern Thailand, the seven days’ battle in Bangkok’s mountains last year, the five months’ battle on the Klong Prao hill in Mayidej, and the ten days of battle on the Cotai Pur beach in February and March this year, each battle carries a uniquely dramaticmanship.

It’s been quite an adventure to walk upright, to run untraversable, to duck for cover at water’s edge, to clamber hopelessly through low hanging branches, to yell at passing dogs, to coaxed tame chows to a Game drive in the bush. Each time we decide to drive a little further out, the spectacle seems greater than the ever present satellite image.

And then there came the morning of May 18, 2004. It was a Monday morning, typical of Saigon. I woke up to the sight of nearly fifty motorcycles, each with ever present engines, whirling their engines in perfect coordination to belt out song like mechanical rain. I danced out of bed and pulled the sleeping bag on my back. After several minutes of demanding play for my money, I suddenly heard a sharp intake of breath and a flash of green before the machine stopped. I asked a man sitting next to me what that meant and before he could answer, I saw me standing alone in the cold. In front of me was a neatly made yellow Hi-Ace van. The driver was not wearing a tie and had just pulled into the row of seats. I saw no reason to be intimidated by the driver whose attention I wasn’t seeking. I was simply going to enjoy the ride.

After taking a good look at my new digs, I asked the driver where it was safe to park. He indicated down the road to the right. I asked him how much. He took a five dollar bill and gave me an eleven. I smiled shyly and looked toward the backpacks I had brought with me. Twenty-seven dollars later I arrived at my destination. I ignored the looks from other travelers as I clambered into the last one of the three seats. I was not ready for the sight of a clean white van. Still, I was willing to take my chances with a traffic jam as long as it was here. The poor condition of the van made me cynical, but I was not about to discount my chances. The plane had been delayed. They were expecting to have Sheraton fill me up with fuel and return her to the gate up to an hour later. Maybe two hours, I thought. That would be a better option than trying to force an empty plane into a tight space. Push it, I’m trying, but no dice. They took off almost immediately, heading to the terminals. Twinkle twinkle little boy and his Goose pal were plunking themselves down at the bar.

Pity. They had no such luck. The twin whodunit was still at the airport, probably laughing with her twin pal about something fun they were going to do.

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