How special to be celebrating our "first Christmas on the Isthmus" here in Panama. In case you're not familiar with the word "isthmus," it's a land bridge. Since Panama is a long but small country it forms a land bridge between Columbia and Costa Rica which makes it an isthmus.
Our little neighborhood is all decked out with holiday cheer. Many of our neighbors have painted the outside of their homes which turns out is a common holiday tradition for Panamanians. It's common here for locals to paint the "front" of their houses to make them look nice when guests come over for the holidays. But like everything they do here, this too is a bit "half-assed" in that they do paint only the front of the house and maybe some of the side, but never the whole thing. Take our neighbors for instance who have a pastel green house. On Mother's Day which was December 8th, the kids came over to visit Mom on her special day and one of the daughters began painting the front of the house bright red. She made it around the corner and her Dad did the rest of that side and painted some of the front off white too. Even from a distance I can see where the paint didn't cover fully and it needs another coat, but I'm sure they'll just leave it, since that's how they do things here.
Across the street is a green house that they started to paint bright orange, but stopped half way across the front of the house. Now that will be pleasant when "Abuela" (grandma) comes over for Christmas Eve, don't you think?
So in keeping up with the neighbors we decided to paint the front our house green and red stripes and leave the sides purple. Just kidding, let's see if our land lady is reading the blog and hope that she doesn't pass out seeing that line. Relax Betsy, we didn't paint the house....enjoy your time in Switzerland and we'll see you when you get back.
Apparently Christmas Eve is the time when locals get together with family for dinner, then they go to church and at midnight they exchange presents. Immediately after midnight the sound of fireworks permeates the air and goes on throughout the night. How can Santa deliver presents if the children stay up all night long? And doesn't the sound of fireworks startle the reindeer? The merriment continues into Christmas Day as they eat, drink and spend more time celebrating. Just like in the Mexican culture, tamales are a special holiday treat with Panamanians too. They also eat turkey with all the fixins and serve up some Ron Ponche or rum punch which is similar to eggnog. Last year when we were here on vacation this old gal stumbled onto some Ron Ponche in a grocery store and picked up a bottle. Since I enjoy the occasional glass of Kahlua and milk or Bailey's Irish Cream I thought this would be similar. It was thick like eggnog and full of calories, but packed a heavy kick that kept me "happy" for the night.
The sound of "fuegos de artificiales" or fireworks kept us from falling into a deep sleep last night. As we drove through the town of Capira last night, there were food stands setup and people everywhere as if they were waiting for something to happen. Any fireworks displays I've seen in the states were over within a few minutes. Here they seem to be ongoing and random with no end in sight. In the U.S. I remember dogs freaking out or hiding with the sound of fireworks but not in Panama. Dogs here seem very comfortable around loud noises since fireworks are used for every occasion here and can be bought cheaply.
It's dark and rainy here today with the sound of thunder off in the distance. A good day to crawl back into bed and hide under the covers. No outdoor adventures for these gringo's today, at least not for right now. Let's see what today brings... along the gringo trail.