So Laetitita and I arrived in Panama City ready to get settled in and prepared for our first day of sampling the following day. However, it was not to be… we didn’t get out of the airport without problems. As soon as the customs folks saw the petri dishes/tubes/extractions kits etc they freaked out. Off we went into a little room filled with piles of contraband (the women ahead of us appeared to be arguing that there was a perfectly good reason for her suitcase to contain 13 empty new purses). We argued and pleaded with several different people (almost all in Spanish… and ours isn’t very good). Not only did they make us leave all the research gear, we weren’t allowed to use our cell phones to get assistance from the Smithsonian. So away we went, checked into our STRI lodging, and went to get food. From which we got picked up by Bill Wcislo, the deputy director of STRI, and back to the airport. To get back to the contraband area we had to get employee access badges (in exchange for passports) and go through employee security. However, they weren’t budging and his uniform and business card weren’t enough to relinquish our suitcases of microbiology stuff.