Friday, March 09, 2007

Travel Update #3

Sunday, Feb. 18

Agenda: church, Paraiso, Colon, Sabanitas

Started the day with a rooftop swim at 8am. What a fantastic view! A perfect way to start the day. Managed to get some semblance of warm water in the shower. Buffet breakfast and all on the road by 10am.

Church started spot on 11am. It was nice, temperature wise, not too hot or humid, good breeze blowing through. But I still got sleepy during the service. Funny congregation though. There were something like 20 kids and about 6 adults. Odd. There was even a real Kuna Indian, in her full native wear, nose ring, wrist and ankle beads, mola, etc. How surreal to see her singing the Salvation Army songs.

Julia & I took care of lunch again. A few more than expected but we managed well enough even if a some of us ate a little lighter (not that it would do us any harm).

Left Paraiso by 1:30pm (drove over the Centennial Bridge, crossing from South to North America) and arrived at Sabanitas just as the girls were finishing lunch. On the drive to Sabanitas, I was excited and anxious to get there. I think I spent half the drive sitting on the edge of my seat.

We arrived at the home and I think I was out of the van before Keith had turned the motor off. Marlene was there in the kitchen and recognized me at once. She threw her arms around me with a great big smile and laughed. She showed me briefly the new kitchen and laundry room before taking me into the dining area to see the girls. There they all were finishing their lunch. They said hello and seem quite shy and giggly. When I asked if they remembered me, Hiam (I think) said immediately, “Doctora”! I laughed, they laughed and we were off to a good start. Several of the girls are new and naturally shy with a strange group of “gringos” around.

From there Marlene gave Catherine, Jessica, Julia and me a tour of the place. Catherine seemed very interested in how Marlene manages the home, the girls and all of it by herself. I think we all wondered the same thing. Marlene just kind of laughs it off and shrugs saying that she gets some help from the home league women and the older girls help too. Her energy and enthusiasm is addicting.

Outside the rest of the group was touring the small house where our group stayed two years ago and then outside to interact with the kids. Swinging, kicking the soccer ball, playing on the see-saw. Pretty soon all you could hear was laughter and all you could see were smiles on everyone’s faces. I think everyone in our group enjoyed seeing the home after hearing so much talk about it.

After about an hour of playing, we got all the kids together for the gifts. Each of the girls got a nice bag or box filled with goodies. The two newest girls didn’t quite know what to make of it all, but never said a word when we didn’t call their names. We had extras for that very reason so it all worked out beautifully. (Two newest are Monica, younger and Diana, older.)

Spent another hour or so with the girls going through their gifts, playing with stickers, hair accessories, eating candy and gum, etc. Yanis and Yamilka told me they’d dyed their hair a couple of times and were thrilled with my shock (ok, a little bit of pretend shock). They said they loved the colour of my hair and were very pleased when I told them that I loved their own colouring. Jaludi (Khaled) was there and looked exactly the same. Adrian showed up too and apparently told Marlene, his grandmother, that he was so happy! Man, I could’ve stayed there all day. Never mind one day, I could’ve stayed all week.

So after a couple of hours spent with the kids we had to leave. It was heartbreaking. I suddenly realized that this was all the time I was going to spend with them. Considering last time was everyday for 2 weeks, these 2 hours or so were a terrible tease for me. I tried very hard to hold back and keep my emotions under control as we left, but as we turned the van out of the driveway onto the autoroute, I couldn’t hold back any longer. It was horrifyingly embarrassing to sob like that in front of 10 strangers. Luckily, Julia was sitting beside me and put her arm around me. Really, that was all I needed. Phew – what would we do without old friends?

Anyway, as always, my high emotion was over quickly but I admit I did feel to be on the verge of tears for a good part of the rest of the day.

After Sabanitas we headed up to Colon for a drive by and walk at the park. We drove up the main drag in Colon, showed everybody the atrocious living conditions. Some of the buildings have had a new paint job and look quite nice. Others look worse than ever.

The city was gearing up for another night of Carnaval festivities. A number of groups dressed in matching t-shirts were getting ready for a concert or parade, it looked like.

Up by the park the road was closed off and there were these guys dressed up as some kind of devils, running around trying to whip people! Really whip them! And occasionally the managed to. Some of the smaller kids were really terrified by all this. I did ask a policeman what was meant by it all but all he could tell me was that “it’s normal, it’s tradition”. Some help. Must remember to look that up for more info when I get home.

After hanging out there for a bit and getting our pictures taken at the Caribbean entrance to the Canal, we piled back into the van and returned to Panama City. Had a swim before a pizza dinner on the deck with the group. That was great. Got a bit silly (must’ve been the sugar) and laughed a bunch.

Julia downloaded her pictures to Keith’s computer and also looked at Keith’s pix. I shot a few cool long exposures of the city and of Julia at the pool.

Not a bad way to end a random Sunday in the middle of February, swimming under the stars … (started and ended the day in the pool)

1 comment:

Why said...

Sounds like such a rewarding day. I'm proud of you for actually letting your emotions show.