Friday, December 22, 2006

A Place of Innocence: El Valle de Anton, Panama

I went out to eat yesterday evening, December 20th, because it was Rosa´s day off. A hummingbird had gotten into the house and kept trying to fly through the loft windows, even though I climbed up into the loft and tried to wave it in the right direction. So I left the front doors of the house wide open, and turned off all the lights in the hope that it might exit on its own.

I walked down to Nina Delia in the dusk after sunset, and along the way I noticed a large crowd gathering in front of the Hong Kong market. Many wore red shirts and santa hats with flashing lights. Pickups and buses were pulling up and disgorging more holiday clad revelers as I watched. One family had a toddler sleeping in a stroller, also wearing the ubiquitous santa cap.

I continued on to Nina Delia. I ordered the corvina with garlic and french fries - always tasty - and read my Robert Ludlum novel, Apocalypse Watch, as I ate. By this time it was dark outside.

The crowd continued to grow, now lining the entire street from the school to the Hong Kong market (as far as I could see). I asked the waitress what was going on and she said in Spanish, ¨School Christmas parade.¨

They love parades in Panama. And here in El Valle, parades are all-town events, with half the town either participating or watching, and people coming in from surrounding smaller towns like Los Llanitos, Las Margaritas, Caimitillo and Mata Ahogado.

It reminds me of the Davis that I grew up in, a small town back then, with tree lined streets and everyone getting around on bicycles. When there were parades I used to climb one of the many oaks as my parents stood below. It was a place and time of innocence, before I was aware of such things as oil wars, genocides, torture, intolerance and environmental exploitation.

El Valle reminds of that time. Of course I am now aware of all the ills of the world and I have to deal with the emotional effects of that knowledge, while at the same time trying to figure out what I can do to bring something good into the world, or to make a difference in even a small way.

But in El Valle I am often able to forget all that, or to feel happy in spite of it. When the sun is shining on Cerro Gaital in the morning, when the breeze is blowing and the yard is full of birds and the odd iguana, when the frogs are sounding at night, and when the locals smile at me and ask about my wife and my baby - or when the town revels in the pleasure of its amateurish but enthusiastic parade - I feel that the world is a good place and that there is some happiness to be found here, Alhamdulillah.


Laura in Panama said...

This gives me the perspective that although I often feel differently, the world is a big, beautiful place where ugly things happen rather than a big ugly place where beautiful things happen. Salma and I miss you and look forward to sharing in these El Valle moments with you very soon. Thank you for putting yourself into type for us all to read--you are an amazing person.

Love, Laura in Northern California (for the time being:))

Wael said...

Thanks for your lovely comment. I agree with your perspective on the world.