Panama Day 5: Birthday Cake

Sorry to be out of order on events, but I’m trying to cycle back to some of the things I’ve found interesting and didn’t yet have time to write about. You might call this “bakery stop on the way out of town.” 🙂


Part of the Sunday family gathering at Minga’s was the celebration of her grand daughter Jennisbel’s 31st birthday. There is a small bakery in the village, but one gets bread there, not large sheet cakes. Before leaving Panama City on Saturday, we stopped at a large bakery to pick up Jennisbel’s cake.

These pics are interesting to me for a lot of reasons. The bottom one, in which the round bakery building is set against more modern skyscrapers, shows the contrast readily evident in every part of Panama City between the old and the new. The bakery itself is amazing — a steady stream of people picking up large pre-ordered cakes — almost like an assembly line. The design of the cake is pre-ordained, but they don’t put the writing on until you’re actually there. Our cake had Happy Birthday Jennisbel, but it also had a Welcome to Tia Pamela, Tia Lynn, Tia Sally and Tio Miguel.

As I’ve said before, they address us as “Aunt” or “Uncle” because calling a person of our age by first name is considered rude. Even Ana, who is only about ten years younger than I am, calls me “Tia”.

The cake was about $40, which I suspect is a little less than we’d pay here for a cake of this size.

In the bottom pic you’ll see an older man in a yellow vest in the parking lot. He guides you into a space, and you give him a dollar. Could we have found a space on our own? Of course. But then this man would have no means of support. The boys who work at the Super 99 and who carry your grocery bags out and put them in you vehicle work on a similar principle. They aren’t on the payroll — they work for tips. Could I put our groceries in the car myself? Of course; I do it at home all the time. But here, efficiency is prized less than giving everyone a little bit of the action and a little money. In a country where there is no safety net, the practice allows a lot of people to get by.


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