The Mail thief, Fruit Cake, Army Cot, & my Perico .

Getting and sending mail from El Real was an iffy proposition.  It happened that my outgoing letters to the family were held up by the person responsible for the mail. He kept the money I gave him for the stamps and was found out by my friend who to happened to see them in this person’s home. I got them all back. Things like that were not unusual for me, not everyone was kind.

I lived in a small room in the hospital and slept on an army cot, it was my only piece of furniture besides my black trunk. I’d brought from home a small tocadiscos phonograph and a couple albums to play,  living in the hospital meant I had electricity during the day with their generator, while the rest of the town only had it from 6pm until midnight. Between the Doctors quarters and my quarters and the hospital ward there was a small screened visiting room where I spent time with my  English speaking friend who helped me adjust to my new circumstances. The Doctors wife wasn’t able to be in the sun and spent her days with her son in their room, she didn’t speak English and you know my Spanish was non-existent at that time so we didn’t spend time together. I had a perico (small green bird) that stayed on my shoulder (clipped wings) as I walked around town until I sat on it.   He (?) was sitting on my cot, I didn’t see him. So Sad.

Somehow my grandmother was able to send me two huge dark fruitcakes for several years and it was a royal treat to share with friends. They were sent to the Panama City address and then sent on to El Real via the daily flights from Panama City to El Real. We were so happy to have and share them. ( I was even moved to bake fruitcake heavy on the rum myself for a few years.)

It’s funny that while I  look back on a memory, other related memories crowd in and  I have to make room for it. It’s the details that make a story spark,  I’m trying for the spark!

I admit to being guilty of not fulfilling my two-year obligation to the Peace Corps.  I mentioned this in an earlier post but as I said, I stayed in my ‘town’ for 6 years, leaving when my daughter was ready to start school.  She was thrilled to start school as a listener in her uniform with her two friends in El Real but it was time for us to go live in the big city. Love that photo!

oh yeah,

I married the English speaking friend.977820_10201361120219608_1552873028_o


Baby Diapers & My Minnesota Parents in El Real

What can you write about babies diapers?  Plenty if you live in Panama, either in the city or in the jungle.  There was a particular way I was told to wash diapers

  • rinse them out with soapy water
  • lay them in the sun
  • wash them again
  • rinse them again
  • any spotted diapers go back in the sun
  • rinse again
  • hang to dry

repeat every day. Or give them to be washed in the river by AnaJulia?


I washed my babies diapers always, though I did have to take them on horseback to wash them in a clean river when the aqueduct was broken so no good water in the pipes that day.

When my parents were visiting the aqueduct again was broken, my Mom and I took them to the river on foot this time.  Not sure what my Mom thought of all this, but she was a good sport and had a story to tell back home.

I believe those are my husband’s clothes there. ***Scan66 copy

When my parents came to visit the first time, they came to El Real on the tiny airplanes and were really good sports about everything because as luck would have it nothing worked while they were there.  The aqueduct was broken so the water in the shower and bathrooms didn’t work and we had to bring up water to the 2nd floor for showers in tubs with totumas (gourds) to splash over ourselves to bathe.  I always bathed in the afternoon when the water was warm. My father-in-law was in residence and he had men bring water up into another tank so it would flow from the shower head for them.  We had a rodeo of sorts where my Dad helped emasculate cows and inject medicine into them while we watched sipping fresh coconut milk from a palm climbed by kids and opened by machete, everyone carries one no? Dad loved it    74540_10200360875214108_1190582922_n

We made tamales while my parents were there and my mother-in-law directed the activity.  It meant we needed chickens and pork cooked, corn ground and cooked for the masa,   2 types of leaves for them to be wrapped in, inner and outer layers, no corn husks here, .pickles, onions,  and   tamales were  made with each  person’s favorite bit of meat or part of chicken, and marked  with a string or colored bit of cloth to tell whose is whose.  They are the best tamales I’ve ever tasted, have not tasted one better, but this production is not for the weak of heart, it takes all day to make and you need a team!   It was a New Years event much anticipated by those lucky enough to get one.


*****Many of my Darien photos are here though the generosity of my friend Janet Fish.