I really love my trips to Panama. I’m freer there, more relaxed, more outgoing. I think it’s because the Panamanians are all of those things — it’s part of their culture. They seem hardwired to look for joy in the simplest moments and about the simplest of things. They ask for information openly, without intending to pry, just out of curiosity, like “Tia Pamela, does sleeping in this big bed all alone mean you aren’t having sex?” I can only laugh before I answer, knowing that no one in the stateside part of my life would ever frame the question exactly like that.
I also like the bone-penetrating heat of dry season, and the endless sun. Having visited Panama last June during rainy season — four nice enough days followed by three days of solid monsoon rain — I know I could never live there year-round. And living in such an intensely sunny place would surely be a challenge for what my dermatologist calls “that lovely Celtic skin”. But I love every minute for the time I’m there. I also love the fact that the ocean and pools are warm without any artificial heating. I love the Jersey shore, but the barely 70 degree water — more often somewhere in the mid-60’s — chills my enthusiasm for diving into the waves.
I enjoy being surrounded by Minga and her family, and being in the company of dear visiting stateside family and friends for that experience. Seeing the village though the eyes of others is fascinating to me, and helps me put the whole Peace Corps experience and all that has gone after into perspective. Son Matt has remarked that it’s amazing that a two year stint so early in my adult life has brought riches that have lasted until now, and which grow every time I go back. He’s right. It is amazing, a precious gift.
Finally, I love being taken care of by Gloria. I don’t even get up to pour myself a fresh cup of coffee. She’s there with it, just as I take my last gulp. She cooks wonderful meals, and does all the thinking ahead of time about what they are going to be. She does the laundry. Nobody cleans much, other than to sweep out sand. But if any problems arise, she’s on the phone demanding that they be resolved. She knows who to call to get a taxi from the village, how to get a substitute driver if our plan for airport pickup falls through, and where to go for medical help. She is a marvel.
Less than two weeks away, and counting.