Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas In Panama......

This will be our third Christmas in Panama and the first time we've really taken notice of a local tradition called "nacimientos." The word in Spanish means "birth" or in this case a Nativity scene. Children in nearby homes construct simple crèche's out of twigs tied together and a roof made of palm leaves.  Figures of people and animals are placed inside and on Christmas Eve they put a doll inside to represent the baby Jesus.  At the stroke of midnight they announce the birth of Jesus with fireworks that light up the night sky into the early hours of the morning.  In many homes children are sent to bed early and woken at midnight to open presents from under the tree.  Not all homes display Christmas trees here, but in our neighborhood we see many including lights on the outside of the houses. Live Christmas trees are shipped in from Canada and sold here for $30-$50.  From what our Canadian friends tell us that's more than they sell for in Canada, due to shipping fees.

Saturday night we enjoyed dancing the night away in Coronado, for CASA's Annual Christmas Party.  CASA (Coronado Area Social Association) is a social group of expats living in the beach communities along the Pacific Coast.  Once a year they party in style in a ballroom at the Coronado Golf Resort Complex.  Inside the large ballroom we were treated to air conditioning all night long as we dined on a luxurious buffet, sipped cocktails and boogied to the musical sounds of Poco Loco's Rock & Roll Band. We kicked up our heels with nearly 200 other expats getting the chance to chat with many old friends and make new ones too.  Looking around the room at this vivacious group of attractive people dressed to impress, I realized retirement is not what I expected.  Women in stiletto heels, short dresses, long gowns with prominent cleavage on athletic, fit bodies is something that no one expects from grandmas. 

View of the event
POCO LOCOS
A great Rock and Roll Band!

Yes, We danced
 


Yesterday our adventures took us to an open air church in the little of village of Rodeo Viejo for a Panamanian style fiesta.  Our young Panamanian Spanish teacher Jasmine has become a valuable source of information of all things local, besides helping us to improve our language skills. A while back she asked us if we'd like to attend a party at her church and pickup a few gifts for local kids from poor families. We agreed to buy for four children, two girls and two boys and said we'd be delighted to attend the fiesta.  After all it would be a good way to give back a little something to the community and give us the opportunity to practice our Spanish too.  I was a little reluctant to attend since I thought it would only be Clyde and I among a bunch of local kids, but I was wrong. Jasmine said about 30 of her gringo students will attend the celebration too. 


Church in Rodeo Viejo
Since we had time to kill before making our way to the fiesta Clyde stopped to fill up the car with gas in the town of San Carlos.  A friend told us about a gas station that typically sells gas for 3 cents less per liter, which comes to about 12 cents less per gallon. So whenever we're nearby we stop and take advantage of the savings.  But we noticed the attendant eating and since it was 12:30 we guessed he was on his lunch break. A security guard came over to us and said, "el esta almorsando," which confirmed he was eating lunch.  Apparently, when the clerk goes to lunch cars can just line up for gas and wait. There was another car that arrived before us for gas and was waiting, but we decided to give up and get gas another time.  By the way in case you're wondering about the price of gas in Panama, the price is around $3.80 a gallon now, but prices are posted in liters.  Remember, all gasoline is imported.



Meanwhile back at the fiesta, we arrived to find a group of expats standing around and a table full of presents.  Jasmine greeted us with a hug and we soon found seats and watched as the party began.  A group of 100 or more children sang songs for us before taking a swing at two piñata's.  The girls had one that looked like a little girl, dressed in pink with blond hair.  The boys had one that looked like a car, both were packed full of candy that splashed out once broken.

piñatas ready to be "beat"

Ready for the piñata!

The girls getting their goodies!


Jasmine came out dressed in a clown costume with two balloons in her backside to create a round rump.  She and another women also donned in a clown costume entertained the kids with skits and humor before handing out the gifts.  As Jasmine called up each child us gringo's picked up our gifts to give to them.  We were thanked with a kiss on the cheek or hug from each grateful child who will enjoy a little something more for the holidays because of us.  Clyde and I picked up gifts for two girls both 14 years old, and two boys ages 4 and 5.


Our Spanish teacher
Jasmine

Never realized how
"shapely" Jasmine is!


After the gift giving we were served a lunch of boiled yucca and beef along with sweet iced tea.  The kids prepared the simple meal with love as their way of giving thanks for our time and money spent to make their holidays a little brighter. Jasmine prepared home-made, sugar free ice cream in coconut and passion fruit for her gringo friends as her Christmas gift to her students.

Young lady getting her present
mostly costume jewelry

What a cutie!

You mean I have to kiss her to
get my present?

Santa's helper with her
Carne and Yucca
 


Perhaps these special times with local kids are a replacement for the lost moments not spent with our own grandchildren back in the US or Canada? Or maybe just a way to leave a footprint in the sand of this beautiful country called Panama that we chose as our home......along the gringo trail.



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