Once each trip we usually spend part of a day in El Valle, a mountain community about 45 minutes from the villa. El Valle is a big expat destination because of the cooler temps. Visiting birders also go there to hike and see a wide variety of interesting birds. El Valle has a big public market on Wednesdays, where farmers from the more distant mountain communities bring their produce, and is a major spot for craft vendors every day of the week. There’s a zip line, and a rain forest walk. We have a favorite lunch place, and the proprietor remembers us from year to year and greets us with a big welcome smile and hug.
We’d usually go with a driver from Rio Hato, but this year David and his family are in Anton, the next town up from Rio Hato, where they have a small vacation home. Everyone who can get out of Panama City while the Pope and 500,000 pilgrims are here has done so. The government is basically closed, as are all the main streets in the city. David has a government job, so he’s off and was available to drive us to El Valle. I invited his wife Arline and daughter Ghiselita to come on the paseo as well.
David is Lily’s cousin; David’s late father and Lily’s father are brothers.
I have enormous regard for David and Arline as a couple. Arline lost her sight in her 20’s, well before they had Ghiselita. She works full time as a lawyer, David helps her gently and tenderly and with just as much direction as needed, never more in a way that might threaten her independence. The trust between them seems absolute. When we arrived at this part of the adventure, I said to David that the narrow, uneven path, the slippery stone steps, the wobbly suspension bridges, the plank across the creek, might be hard for Arline. He simply smiled and said they would be fine. And they were.
The example they set for Ghiselita is, I think, remarkable.