Girlesa [in heavily accented English]: This is your first Christmas in Panama?
Colleen [nodding]: Yes
Girlesa: I´m so, so sorry.
It´s hard to get into the Christmas spirit here in the humid tropics, but we did our best. In the city, the long-time American presence has left cultural impositions such as Santa Claus, and even the inflatable snow man is not unheard of, but we decided to test our fare as far away as possible.
Accepting an invitation to the end of the road, Yaviza, for a conference and dinner for indigenous church leaders, we navigated the recently paved and recently destroyed interamerican highway… yet another victory for incompetence and corruption. In addition, Yaviza has a new $17 million water system… and although there was reliable water previously, now there is not. But it was totally worth it for the harmonica hoe-down show-down that erupted during the evening worship service.
On Christmas Eve, we invited our closest neighbors over for dinner, to see a slide-show and movie of Jesus´ birth, and to read scripture and sing together. We also couldn´t help ourselves and bought a bunch of junk at our local Chinese owned store for Chinese Christmas. It took a while for folks to warm up and get the idea, but before it was over, farmers were stealing flashlights, and the pastor stole a box of Cornflakes, pronounced ¨con-flay¨ here. Lots of good laughs. We also took advantage of a bank of sand that the flooding river deposited and introduced the game of ¨horseshoes.¨
Christmas Day was lonely. We missed family a lot and could do little to distract ourselves. We ate leftover rice and chicken and lots of oranges. Kalea got a plastic kitchen with plastic food that some friends in the city gave to us. She really enjoy it, but right now she seems more into the plastic farm animals that Colleen stole from the pastor that allowed him to steal the Cornflakes. I gave Colleen some candle holders that I made with wood and paint can lids, and Colleen gave me massage coupons and candy. I´m glad we could share a Christmas with our neighbors, but I sure hope we can be at home with family next year.
Happy New Year,