I am writing this post on Monday morning about 6:40am Panama time. Panama is one hour behind Atlanta, the time difference is only during the daylight savings period in US. The city is awake, lively, I can hear birds singing and cars honking on the Via Espana, which is the main street that leads up to Roger and Mari's neighborhood, La Cresta.
We did not have any 4th of July activity at the house of the American Ambassador across the street. In years past when I've been here they usually have a BBQ which generates lots of traffic, security detail, the large lawn in front of the house always set up with party tents, etc. This year it was quiet, perhaps the Ambassador and his family are traveling, visiting family or maybe even at the World Cup.
We had a wonderful weekend. Saturday, Roger IV, participated in the Debutants 2014 at the Union Club and it was a great event. The first one was in 1955 and it has been going strong ever since. The organization that hosts the event, The Damas Guadalupanas, (The Ladies of Guadalupe) raises money via this event for all of the charity work they do throughout the year. The debutants is their biggest fundraiser, each young lady that participates, their family donates a $1500 fee, the group also raises funds via the advertisement in the program that they have for the event.
Roger's debutant partner on Saturday, Maria Lucia, was the 36 young lady in the program out of 55. It takes about 2 and 1/2 minutes for each young lady to come out, walk down the terrace stage, out to the main area, then take their place on the stage until all of them have been presented. It rained in Panama City most of the day, heavy, heavy, rains. The weather cleared up just in time for the event which is held outside on the large expansive terraces of the Union Club which is right next to the Pacific Ocean in Punta Paitilla. There were probably 1200 people in attendance, even the newly elected President of Panama, Juan Carlos Varela, who took office on July 1st was there. His son was also a "caballero, the President and his wife, actually sat at the table next to the group that Roger and Mari were with. Mari's Mother, Julita, is a long time member of the Guadalupanas, she is a key participant in the planning, logistics and all the goes on the evening of the event.
This is the 2nd Debutantes I've attended. The first one a few years ago when JoAnn participated. I knew what to expect, I knew the order of the activities, how long the event would last, all of that. I had several moments of reflection, thinking that if we had not moved from Panama to the US and if our Mother, JoAnn had not died, I would probably have attended this event many times. On Saturday night several of the young ladies that participated were grand children of the original ladies that were debutants in 1955. In those reflective moments, I observed all that was taking place, the cultural norms, the fancy social energy of the evening, all the ladies in beautiful cocktail dresses, all the men in suit and ties. In Panama everyone kisses on the cheek when they greet each other, people are very lively and very social, it was interesting to be a part of this, knowing that this is a life that I left when we moved to the States.
I thought several times about my MOM, how a person raised in a tiny farming community in rural Iowa, came to be so comfortable and so loved in this latin, spanish speaking, very warm, very social way of life. Our Mom loved Panama. It would have been great to be able to talk to her in the later years of her life about when they moved to Panama from Rochester Minnesota and how she managed in a world so different from what she knew and how she grew up.
Certainly moving from Minnesota to the then Panama Canal Zone, I am sure helped with the transition. 99% of the people that lived in the Canal Zone and worked at Gorgas Hospital were Americans. And yes my Mother was also an amazing, exceptional person, full of life and wonder and energy. She would have done well in most any country she moved to or lived in. And also my parents truly loved each other, If there is love, you can make a home anywhere.
The evening was beautiful, since the club is next to the ocean, a cool evening breeze kept the humidity at bay. Since so many people were there seating in close proximity, tables of ten, it was a bit warm. The music selected for all the choreographed numbers from Broadway shows, I heard songs from Chorus Line, they included New York, New York. Of course there were a few Salsa songs that the debutants and the caballeros danced to. The tradition when the event is over, which was about midnight, most everyone leaves the club and the group that participates, dances the night away until 3 and 4 in the morning. The club then serves them all a traditional soup called Sancocho and the kids head home, I think I heard Rogelio IV got to the house about 4:30am. Juan Carlos will be participating next year, the young lady that he will escort will be 18 next year and a senior in high school which is the prerequisite for the girls to be part of the event.
Roger did share with us that sometime during the early hours of the evening, he and Maria Lucia went to the snack bar area of the club and had grilled cheese and french fries. When I get a copy of the official photos taken at the event with Roger IV and Maria Lucia, I will be sure to post, they were indeed such a handsome couple. Maria Lucia's dress was beautiful and Roger IV in his James Bond tuxedo.
Sunday I had a coffee date with JoAnn and then we went to Casco Viejo to photograph the area. We made the date on Sunday because there is less traffic and if you go early to Casco Viejo, you almost have the place to yourself. Casco Viejo is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The area was founded in 1673 and became the center of Panama life well into the 1930. Eventually the growing population of Panama moved to the outskirts of the city and the area was not frequented. Casco means helmet, viejo means old. The area was in major decay when I lived in Panama, over the years it has been revitalized. There are now hotels, restaurants, cafes, bars. There are many old buildings, ruins, many of the streets are narrow. The National Theatre I went to on Thursday is there, the famous Iglesia San Jose is there, home of the golden altar. The Panama Canal museum is there, art galleries, shops. Certainly the area is not completely revitalized, it will take a few years. The Presidential Palace as it is called is also in Casco Viejo, not where the president lives, but where he works and where he hosts foreign dignitaries. We saw lots of police presence because of that and also because it is frequented by most visitors who come to Panama.
JoAnn and I spent two hours walking around taking photos, I will put together a slide show of these photos when I get home and post. I was wonderful. JoAnn is an excellent photographer, she took an old fashioned camera with film so I will not see her photos until roll is developed. I reviewed all my photos with JoAnn, I have a few good ones. Prior to getting to Casco Viejo we went to Cafe Unidos, I had one of the best cappuccinos ever. JoAnn knows the owner of the cafe, we are going back this afternoon to buy some of the beans of the blend used to make the cap. He is roasting them today. I am going to have another cap when I am there, I will make detailed notes so I can describe for you in words the taste of capuccino. I really enjoy coffee and when I took the first sip of the coffee I was delighted.
Sunday we came back to the house, Roger and Mari had prepared a wonderful chicken Fajita lunch for all and then we watched more of the JoAnn and Roger video's when they were babies. It was fun.
Of course everyone was disappointed at the outcome of the Colombia and Costa Rica soccer matches. The semifinals will be interesting, many people commenting or suggesting that the finals will be between Argentina and Germany.
Last night I took Juan Carlos, Roger IV and JoAnn for pizza at Roger's favorite place, Pizza Brava. It is a cool hip place, not too big, the shape of a football. On one side of the restaurant there is a wall (which we sat next to) that has 6 or 7 consecutive large big screens and they had a digital art show doing on the entire time we were there. It was very cool. And the pizza was great. Rogelin loves loves loves pizza. Anything that remotely resembles cheese and bread he loves. And TRIX cereal.
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