Sunday, January 24, 2010
Living in rural Panama
The next part of our journey took us to the tiny village of El Naranjal (which means the orange grove), about 2.5 hours West of Panama City. We were invited by two of our good friends, Jen and Richard. Jen is Chrysa's best friend from high school (omg bff!) and was the officiant at our wedding. Richard is her husband and it was his family that we were going to visit.
There, although not directly on the beach, we were closer to the Pacific side than to the Caribbean side. We went to the beach there one afternoon and had a great time, in the still water and, for the most part, empty beach.
Heat was intense—especially when we first got there—so we appreciated the multiple fresh "chichas" (fruit juices) that Richard's folks would make with a variety of local fruits. These included known ones like pineapple and bananas, but also some kinds that were new to us like guanabana (sour sop?) and granadilla. The food was also excellent, as Richard's mother Otillia and her sister Vicky would make local dishes on a daily basis, such as fried corn tortillas for breakfast, real carne asada, (which means meat smoked/cooked over fire) for lunch, and pigeon peas and fried plantains (mmmmm, heavenly) for dinner. Chrysa will never enjoy carne asada from a restaurant again now that she has experienced the real smoky flavourful thing.
We were also treated to a visit to the family farm, where Richard's brother, Boric, raises pigs, cows, chickens, turkeys, pineapples, sugar cane, yucca (tuber shown in picture), coconuts, lemongrass and a lot of other things. Richard and Boric showed us how everything on the farm is sustained, pineapple tops put in the ground make more pineapples, coconut and yucca sprouts make more plants that can be harvested. Q's favorite was munching on freshly harvested sugar cane to get the super sweet juice out. Richard and his brother put a lot of effort into running the farm well and raising their crops and animals organically, which takes a lot of extra knowlege.
The house was also home to several dogs, a kitten, chickens, roosters, and a pig. Such a company would lead to an interesting soundtrack in the middle of the night, that Quentin had a hard time getting used to! The roosters would just systematically crow at 10 PM, 1 AM and 4:30 AM every morning...
We had a great time meeting the people, cousins, uncles and aunts, neighbors, and friends, that would stop by the house to see Richard and Jen. They all welcomed us and even added us to their family, to which we are very honored. Abelino and his wife Louisa told us that we now had parents in Panama, so we were overwhelmed. We were happy to help out with digging for the new toilet that was getting installed by Richard and his brothers+buddies, as well as with cooking food, and painting the house from pink to a fluorescent green. We were joking with Oti how now she'll have to update her directions to her house when inviting people over. After a lot of laughter the house was rebaptized "casa verde" (green house) or "la pera" (the pear)!
It was fabulous to be treated so well by the people there. They were also very patient with us and our broken Spanish, that's now a bit less broken thanks to them! For us this week was yet another illustration of the hospitality and the friendliness of Panamanians. We feel very grateful to have wonderful friends like Jen and Richard who invited us into their home and family.