Central America | Panama – Thanksgiving in Panama
So there I was, all packed for a beautiful Thanksgiving on the beaches of the Bocas del Toro islands. I was really looking forward to some warmth and sun, I think I am one of the few volunteers in Panama who lives at a high enough elevation that is it cold. But at almost the last minute, I got word it was canceled, everyone was going to Los Quetzales. Well, I could have been antisocial and gone by myself, but I decided to go hang out with my fellow volunteers there.
But first! I was going to Trisha’s site, Buenos Aires de Veraguas. The nursing students in there were throwing a health fair, and we were invited to give a charla on nutrition. The chivas still weren’t coming all the way to Chami, so I started hiking downhill, and three hours later was in Oma, where I caught a chiva to San Felix, a mini bus to El Cruce, the Panama-David bus to Los Ruices, and a two and a half hour chiva to Buenos Aires. It sure is different from Chami! Buenos Aires is bigger, and the women don’t wear nakwas. There are more development organizations present, and the generator for their school actually works! The school, which is several rooms, has electricity at night. Plus, the houses in her town seemed like actual houses, with walls and everything, unlike the huts in Chami. Trisha lives in a mud-brick structure, with mud-brick walls and a concrete floor I am jealous of. And it was warm at night! Just like you would think Panama would be. We sat outside all evening planning our charla on nutrition, making posters and eating duros. I love duros! They are frozen fruit juices in plastic bags you bite a corner off and suck out the contents, and they are made from fresh fruits! Some people in Buenos Aires have freezers that run off gas. She doesn’t know how good she has it! The next day, the health fair was kicked off by a parade. There were hundreds of people in the parade. In fact, no one watched. The whole town just marched in a big circle with no one watching. The school’s marching band played. For the health fair, the nursing students set up a microphone that ran off a generator, that was so noisy it almost canceled out the voice on the microphone. We thought it would have been better to leave the generator off, and just talk loud, but no one asked the gringas. There were several other health related talks, then we gave ours on nutrition. I’m not sure if the kids who participated learned much, but they had fun playing with the props we made. Oh well, everything is a learning experience. There was cultural presentations as well as the health stuff. Some locals sang and played guitar, and some Ngabe women did a traditional dance called Mato Sapo (Kill the Frog) that involves lots of stomping. That night, some Latino teachers threw a party, Trisha thought it was because a new gringa was in town. We went and danced for a while. The next morning we took the seven o’clock chiva down to Los Ruices, a bus to Dolega, a bus to Tole, a bus to Vigui, and finally a bus to David.
We were on on our way to Thanksgiving! We were very happy to run into lots of volunteers from out training group in David-Shanna, Rebecca S and Rebecca F, Adam, and Uriah. We ate at Tamburelli’s, my favorite David restaraunt and ate way too much, then had desert of No Me Olvides! I love those!
The next day, those same people and I all traveled from David to Cerro Punta. The bus even takes you a little farther, to the adorable little town of Guadelupe, where Los Quetzales is. Yes, I’ve already been there, and am also coming back for Christmas, but it is beautiful. Everyone was so happy about how cold it was, I just grumbled. Some of us went for a hike before getting rained out, and racing back soaking wet to the lodge in time to sit down for dinner at 4pm. It was a fabulous dinner- turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, rolls, and pumpkin pie! I called my parents in the states, and got to talk to them for a while, so that was nice. Then we spent the rest of the night eating pie and cake and drinking wine, dancing and catching up with people we hadn’t seen since training, almost three months ago.
The next morning, I enjoyed a hot shower before I had to return to Chami. Trisha and I took a bus back to David, where she bought a mattress. Its actually a huge rolled up foam mat, and it was entertaining watching her trying to carry it around and on busses.
Then I headed back to Chami. I was estactic about how dry the road was! We were in Chami in a little over two hours from San Felix! I’m going to like the dry season!
That night I was awakened by a horrible loud rumbling noise, and it seemed like the roof was going to come off. Terrible wind, I thought. Then my bed was shaking! I was mad- was the cat in my room again!? Sometimes a cat sneaks in, and when it jumps on my rickety bamboo bed, the bed shakes. I turned on my headlamp, but no cat, and went back to sleep.
I spent the next morning pasearing, talking to people about a community garden and lorena stoves. I also ran into Melida, who told me her daughter would be moving back, so I couldn’t live in the vacant house. I was so disappointed! Where would I live now? I like my room fine, but the walls are made of cardboard, so when Im in my room, and someone is on the other side, its like there in the room with me. Besides, there are holes in the cardboard, and the kids peak in at me. I know they are just kids, but I like privacy. I also ran into Nika at the hospital who asked me if the terrumbe woke me last night. Yes, the wind was horrible, I agreed. No, terrumbe, she said, then I got it! That means earthquake! It had been a mild earthquake! I laughed. That explained everything! I also hung out with Balbina and her family. Her kids crack me up, and she even suggested I make a room at the Casa Artesania! Balbina to the rescue!