How We Spent Carnival in Panamá

From a letter to a friend.  Thought it would be interesting for others too.

Sorry, no photos.

Here we are surrounded by big and little cities with celebrations of all kinds. We’ve decided to stay put with only a short venture into Las Minas for food, beer, lunch… From the very little we’ve seen during our daytime adventures, better not go experience it at night when the real locos come out! In many cities, people gather in the center square and drink. The fire department is there with their huge trucks that spray the crowds with water. Everyone gets soaked! I assume this is to avoid heat stroke since it is very hot in some places right now and the crowds are so big. I’ve been told that once in the crowd, no getting out. I’ve also been told that going to the toilet is also impossible and, with the amount of beer consumption, people just pee on themselves!!! Maybe this is more the reason for the spraying of the water. Our Italian friend said he felt it was a time of total excess when the rules change. Everything is possible and available. No, we’ll stay in our little finca although that too is not without a price to pay.

On Friday, 100 Jehovah’s Witnesses from a little town about 30 km away showed up. The “action” started on Saturday. They set up a church in the big garge of the finca with drums, guitar, keyboard (all out of tune). We were invited to attend but Just didn’t show up. Not the way I wanted to spend my evening. Services started at 7pm (punctual even). By 9:30 or 10pm I was thanking the spirits that be that we hadn’t gone. The preaching and out of tune music and singing went on til 11!!!!!! Then they ate and chatted. I finally fell asleep, exhausted, around 12:30. Sunday and Monday the frenzy increased. Last night, we heard all kinds of screaming and moaning like the devil was being exorcised from a few people. This was after the woman preacher screamed and hollered for hours. She sounded soooo angry (and scary!). When the services were done around 11 (again punctual!) everyone came to the kitchen for a snack. I thought, “Oh, good. Now I can go to bed.” Wrong! A huge bonfire was lit and the drumming started. At first just playing around. Then, it got fast and furious and everyone was clapping, dancing, singing. From my window I could see a little bit. It really reminded me of Africa. I tried to go to bed but there was no way to sleep so I just played on the computer. I was amazed that the children and adults were all out there together. At precisely 12:30 the drumming stopped and things calmed down for a while. Then a young man started playing the guitar and singing. He was actually very good. I assume he must be the “famous member” because the teens were calling out songs and he would sing while they sang along. Too bad this didn’t take place earlier. I would have enjoyed joining the group to see this young man. Finally at around 1:30am the lights were turned out and everyone settled into bed. This morning, the day started a little later than the other days, but not much, around 7:30.

It’s 10am now. The keyboard is getting warmed up. The out of tune soloist is gearing up! They leave this afternoon. I’m sure the grand finale is coming! I’ll let you know what happens.

This group comes every year for a religious retreat during the baccanalia of carnival, to escape the sinful activities carried on during this time. I’m not sure what happens here is any better.

Having said all that, outside of church, it has been beautiful to see how the group is so family oriented. Children don’t cry. There is always someone: mom, dad, brother, sister, auntie, granny, to hold a baby or child. There have been lots of activities for the children with assistance from the teens and young adults. Everyone helps out with cooking and cleaning, mostly the women but the men are involved too. A few of the children have braved the “dangers” and come to visit us in our apartment.

This is how we are celebrating carnival/Mardi Gras this year. It will be nice to return to the peace and quite we so enjoy here at the granja. This will last until Thursday evening when a group of 30 professors will arrive for a three day Leadership workshop. We experienced this group a month ago. Lots of interesting people. We made friends with a few from the last group. All the same, can’t wait for Monday!

Let me hear how you celebrated carnival or Marci Gras!

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Blogging not my favorite thing!

As you may have noticed, blogging has not been on the forefront of my “things to do” list.  Without a computer, the iPad has not been convenient to upload photos.  I am taking photos with my phone camera (which takes fairly good quality photos, btw), having to transfer them to a photo shop type app in order to decrease the size (they won’t upload otherwise), send them to my WordPress media library and finally from there upload again to a post.  This all with the Internet speeds we have here.  Yes, my son, I know this is a first world problem.

Sooooo, I’ve decided to try something different.  I am able to take a photo and uploaded it easily to my Facebook page when I am in a wifi area.  I’ve created a page that is open to the public so no Facebook account is necessary to go there and look at photos and comments.  I’m not sure if just anyone can comment on photos without an account though.  If there is an absolute, have to say something about a photo or comment, please email me with your thoughts.

The web address for my new “bloggish” site is:

I will try to come here to post that there are new photos on the page as I haven’t seen any way to get notifications of new posts there as there is on this site.

Here’s hoping for more posts in the near future!

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Mis Hijos Llegan! My Boys are Coming!


Gio and Mic should arrive this evening at 10!  One delay in Chicago but still looking good for “On Time” arrival here in Panama’.

We should have left at 11 am for the city but are delayed til noon.  I’ve washed clothes, swept and mopped floors, dusted, visited with the señora and sewed a button that’s been off for over a year….  Yes, I’m a little antsy!

In less than 12 hours I’ll get to see my boys!

More updates as the weeks go by.

Miss everyone!  Hasta luego,  Julie



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Sancocho! Yum!

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This is a recipe I’ve wanted to try for a while.  We eat this often in tiendinas (little restaurants).  I thought it couldn’t be that difficult to make and then saw this recipe in a local magazine.  It is chicken soup with local ingredients like culantro and name.  Mine is reddish because I added cayenne, I am Cajun after all.  We have decided it takes too long to make.  Next time the envie hits us, we’ll go to a tienda.

Happy Winter from 88 degrees Panama!

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Skirts I Find Irresistible!

We have been to lots of fiestas and each time I come home with tons of photos of these beautiful skirts (las faldas)!  They’re all different.  I’ve been told each village or province has a different style.  One of my first posts was of skirts I saw in Panama City.  Who would have known I would get to admire similar skirts nearly every weekend!?  I hope you enjoy the photos.  Julie

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And my favorite photo!


Comment or like so I know someone is having a peek once in a while!  :-}

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First Congreso de Agroindustrial USMA Azuero

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A great success!  Over 160 participants to hear about the future that can be in Azuero.  Could be the beginning of Bruno’s lecture tour from all the request that he got from different people.

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Cathedral of Monagrillo

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Monagrillo is a little town/suburb of Chitre about 2km from our house.  We had been there once before for la fiesta de los compesinos (photos coming) but had not noticed this old church.  We decided to walk there on Friday because it was the feast day of Saint Miquel the Archangel, patron saint of Monagrillo.  The festivities were not going to start for a while so we walked around and found this little old church.  There is another much more modern church that is used more regularly now, photos below.

After sitting in the old church feeling the vibes of years gone by, we left and walked to Chitre that we were told was “lejito”, a little far away.  It was far but we walked slowly and were able to see a part of Chitre we hadn’t yet seen.

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Our First Fiesta de los Campesinos (Los Santos)

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The wait begins for the parade that is going to start at 5 pm or 6 pm or …..

Seeing all the excitement build was fun.  The little girls were all made up in their traditional costume ready for the big parade.

Finally at 6:30ish, the parade began.  We were sitting at the home of Eberado who works at USMA and whose house is right on the parade route.

Love these skirts!

Love these skirts!

La Pollera Traditional

La Pollera Traditional

wpid-wp-1411911836867.jpeg  Traditional Pollera and Head Piece.

More Modern Princess.

More Modern Princess.

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wpid-wp-1411911953827.jpeg  One of the bands that follows the float of their neighborhoods  young queen.  Accordions, lots of drums and other acoustic instruments making LOTS of music.  There is lots of drinking of Secco, a Panamanian liqueur.   The bands that follow the floats also include women and men passing out little bags of homemade treats.  Doctora Nuria made sure we were gifted with many of these little bags.  Sr. Eberado had to find a bag so we could bring all of our loot home!

It was a wonderful evening thanks to Manuel, Nuria, Eberado and his family and the friendly people of Los Santos.  Our first of many fiestas!

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Another Memory Spark to Africa

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This is the fruit de jour.  The papaya is from a tree outside our door which Bruno picked yesterday.  The little bananas were purchased at Rey, the nearby supermarket.

Just the smell of those little bananas took me on a memory lane trip to my time in Sierra Leone.  They are sweeter than the larger variety with a hint of citrus.  Yum!

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Ceviche Again but this Time in Chitre’

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So in Chitre’ we found Tio Caiman’s where they serve wonderful ceviche and the coldest Balboa beer!  Notice the difference in the presentation, here in a pretty little dessert glass.  Selfies getting better too!

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