One Week in Transit

When I return to my childhood home—Panama—things POP in a new way.  Back in New York: Husband, wife, and cat.

Panamanian pollera and montuno in Casco Antiguo, the old city

Panamanian pollera and montuno in Casco Antiguo, the old city



Day 1: fruit have seeds

I bite into a small red grape. No surprise when I cut a small papaya.

Day 2: ice water

Even before coffee, I pour cooled water from a jar in the refrigerator. Though I top my glass with ice, the ice melts in minutes.

Day 3: phone calls

Calls to loving family. This begins on Day 1 and continues until we leave. First, las tres tías, matriarchs who together add up to almost-300 years of living. Call brothers. Sister. Cousins. Nieces, husbands.

Day 4: thanksgiving

No absence of turkeys in a foreign city. My brother hosts a mini Thanksgiving for my children and their children who've traveled to Panama for my niece's wedding. Pool party. Slices of blue sky between buildings. Splashing kids. Fish ceviche. Turkey and stuffing. Waldorf Salad.

Day 5: broken sidewalks

Progress and chaos. Construction of new buildings in the capital city happen with no respect for regulations. Between two-story houses and new, very tall towers the sidewalks twist and pop. Careful!

Day 6: tranque

Traffic paralysis at rush hour--horas pico. We travel in small taxis from one neighborhood to another visiting family. Every street has been designated una via. You drive A to C to B to get from A to B.

Day 7: on foot

At the old colonial city, cars thread in and out of narrow streets. Shutters, moldings, interior patios, balconies. Shaved ice cones topped with maracuyá syrup and leche condensada. A welcome relief to the modern canyons in the new city. We travel on foot.

Day 8: la murga

The children practice their steps for the wedding event. The boys lead the procession into the sanctuary in tiny tuxedos and black-and-white Converse sneakers. The little girls in pink cast rose petals and the bride arrives. A sheer white mantilla trails behind, tiny pearls sewn into the lace. Tallit over the couple's heads. The violin sings. There will be a DJ. People will dance. The children will leave at midnight before la murga arrives with a Bombo--an enormous drum--one trombone, a trumpet, and two saxes. Guests will dance to the pounding rhythm of Carnaval.


Day 1: big

The Newark Airport is big compared to Tocumen in Panama City. View from the car is deep and wide. Distant buildings, highways leading to highways. Meaningless space. I like it.

Day 2: comfort

Home to my single-shot coffee machine. Re-heating tea at the microwave. At the market I load up on raspberries, blueberries, heirloom tomatoes, any olive oil you can imagine.

Day 3: hooked on FB

I cannot escape my I-Phone. My computer. Life settles in. Work. Husband, wife, and cat.