Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Dinner at Tracy's House in La Chorrera, Panama

On Saturday I drove to La Chorrera, a town of about 50,000 a half hour's drive from Panama. I had been invited to dinner at Tracy's house, sort of a Christmas dinner, but I think the "Christmas" part was really just an excuse to get together. I took some photos, but I forgot my camera at Tracy's house, so here's an older photo of Tracy with his Panamanian girlfriend Ella, though apparently they are now officially broken up, as I just learned on Saturday.

I first met Tracy at the Hotel Las Vegas when I had been in Panama only about a month. He too was new here and I met him in the hotel lobby the day I was moving out of hotel and into my rented apartment in El Dorado.

Tracy is in his mid-fifties, a former hippie, hobby pilot, and a retired drug and alcohol counselor with a disability, namely that he is mostly blind. An affable fellow, easy to talk to. He was married for many years to a Cuban-American woman, but they had trouble conceiving a child. They came to Panama to visit a fertility clinic here, since that sort of thing is much less costly in Panama. They loved Panama and decided to stay, but then they had some sort of falling out - I'm not clear on this - and she returned to Florida. After that they had many protracted phone conversations, but in the end they remained apart.

Tracy ended up renting an apartment not far from mine in El Dorado, so I used to drop by frequently. He's an easy going guy, though he does have a tendency to rant when the subject of George Bush comes up (he's vehemently anti-Bush). He began dating a 30-something Panamanian woman, but I always had my doubts about this relationship. Tracy calls himself an atheist. His family have been farmers in the midwest for many generations, and he says even his grandparents only believed "in the weather." Ella, on the other hand, is a staunch Catholic. In fact, though Panama is a majority Catholic country, Ella's family were evangelical Protestants, and Ella converted to Catholicism. She attends mass and church every week and on all holidays.

Ella also speaks very little English, and Tracy very little Spanish.

But ended the relationship was much more prosaic. Ella, like many Panamanians, works three jobs to make ends meet, and she simply had very little free time. Tracy felt neglected and broke up with her.

So apparently Tracy is now seeing someone new, a young woman named Moa who lives in La Chorrera. She was supposed to come over Saturday but had not shown up yet by the time I left at 10pm or so. Hmm... another person with limited free time? We'll see.

When I arrived at Tracy's house on Saturday - he just bought this new house in a very rural area of La Chorrera, some distance from the town itself, and has been working hard to make it comfortable - I finally got the chance to meet an old friend of his, Brooke. I've heard about her many times. She is a Canadian from Toronto who came to Panama on vaction a few years ago and met a Panamanian man at the Decameron resort. I think he was her taxi driver, in fact. Brooke fell in love and later returned to Panama to be with him. She and Nelson are now married. He continues to drive the taxi, and she teaches English in Panama.

Brooke and Nelson, if you're reading this and I got any of the details wrong, forgive me, or just comment.

Brooke had made the entire Thanksgiving dinner, even though she is five months pregnant. We three guys did not do much except sit around and every now and then call out, "Can we help you with anything?"

After dinner I was putting together a small plate of leftovers to take home. Tracy had gone over to the neighbors' house, a rural Panamanian family, to ask them if they wanted any leftovers. There was quite a bit of turkey left over, and much of everything else. The neighbors replied that they were not planning to have any Thanksgiving dinner this year because they had no money, so yes, they would be very happy to take the leftovers.

When I heard that I quietly returned to the platter what little I was planning to take home. I forget how much I have, how rich I am, and how blessed, not because I am worthy or deserving, but only as a test of character.

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