I got an e-mail from a BSD reader last week asking me about part 3 of my Panama trip. Thank you for the gentle reminder about my missing blog post. This one is for you :).
It rained in buckets that Sunday afternoon as I anxiously waited for my dad, his wife, and siblings to pick me up. I remember feeling anxious about the unknown days ahead of me. Would I be able to be my true self with them in the short amount of time? Is it possible to get to know my family better in less than a week’s timeframe? How would I feel staying in their home for the first time ever? All of these questions invaded my brain and yet I was ready to see them and get going with the second half of my trip.
I didn’t know what activities my dad had planned for my visit. He wanted it to remain a surprise, but I knew I was in for something fun and a cultural learning experience. The last time I saw my dad was six years prior and it was also the first time I had seen him in twenty years. In those short days we spent together in 2010, he jam- packed them with prideful facts and historical details about my homeland as we made stops around the city. I was sure he’d work in more of that this time around.
They pulled up the road and backed the car in as close to me as possible as to avoid the torrential rain. I was already outside under the covered porch enjoying the rain with all my senses. I had just finished interrogating my maternal grandmother on our family medical history. I plan on typing it up and gifting it to my siblings (they’ll probably look at me and wonder why they have such a weird sister but will thank me for it one day).
My dad and sister jumped out the car and gave me a big hug and helped me with my bags. We scurried back in the vehicle and gave each other less hurried greetings free from the rain. My dad grinned from ear to ear; he was excited about the surprise ahead and all the fun he had in store for all of us.
There is this lump in my throat as I type these words on my screen and as I recall the special days with my family. I got to know them all just a little more during my trip. I got to appreciate the normal-ness that is my family, the historian and dreamer that is my dad, the respectful relationship my dad and his wife share, the sweetness my brother shows, and the kindness my sister possesses.
Our first stop was the Black Ethnic Festival in my hometown. Approximately 41% of the Panamanian population is of African decent known as Afro-Panamanians and the culture and customs are celebrated during the month of May. My dad probably rolled that statistic off his tongue that day, but I had to look it up for this article. Panama is a melting pot of people from all over the world. The canal, the trade, and its history are what make Panama so rich in culture and colorful in its diverseness. Sunday was the last day of the annual festival. We ate lunch there and admired the costumes and drum led tunes playing in the background.
We left soon after to head to the Pacific coast to spend a couple of days at an all- inclusive resort. We ate all the food and drank all the drinks poolside and beachside the next two days as a family. We talked and got to know each other, relaxed, ate, and drank on a loop. IT WAS PERFECT!
My brother is attentive. My sister is social. My dad is a true provider, and his wife is laid back and humble.
“Let’s go to the discotheque!” my dad said on night one. And so we went…..……together……..as a family (definitely a first for me)! My brother, sister, and I drank our cocktails at the corner table of the resort nightclub as we watched the two careless older adults we were with dance in the smoke fog with all the twenty-somethings. It was one of the cutest things I’ve ever witnessed.
On night 2 we went to the resort’s beach party as a family with matching Panama hats. I didn’t want to be that “party pooper, too cool to let loose” person like I was on night 1 at the club with my family. And so I kicked off my flip-flops and danced on the sand with cocktail in hand on the beach. It was just like Zumba with sand in my toes. I had a blast and got my cardio on!
After those two amazing days, dad and my siblings, and I headed to the Anton Valley. We were awoken by the valley roosters, hiked the valley, walked across the rope bridge in the rain, dipped our feet in the cold earth pool, admired a waterfall, did natural earth mud masks, and bathed in the hot springs.
We ate our way through each stop and got to learn more about each other and the beautiful country.
We conversed about our dreams and goals. We talked about what to do to get to where we want to be. We took pictures together and no one complained about all the shots we each snapped along the way; in fact, we all enjoyed taking lots of pictures together. We don’t get to see each other often. We couldn’t take any single moment for granted.
After a couple days at Anton Valley, we headed back to the city. Once back in the city, we met up with our other brother and got to spend a little time with him.
My vacation was drawing to a near end. With only two days left, the thought of not knowing when I’d get to see my family again was beginning to bounce around in my head. It felt like I was just really getting to know them and I found myself to be 100% comfortable which only made my departure more difficult. That night after settling in at their home, my dad and I stayed up talking for hours after everyone in the home was sound asleep- our first one on one talk in over two decades. That was one special conversation!
On my last full day in Panama, dad took us to his job at the canal where he cheerfully introduced his daughters to his co-workers and proudly showed off and described his day to day work to us. Later that night, his wife hosted a get together at home. She invited her family members and my siblings invited their friends. We got to meet and get to know each other. This gesture meant and still means so much to me.
I wish I could teleport. I would flash back to Panama on random afternoons and pop in on my family. I’d go to the mall with my sister, stop and see my dad at his job, cook a meal with his wife, and check out a movie with my brothers. How I wish we lived a little closer. I miss them all so much!