Today is certainly a new day of a new year for us. Last year at this time we were visiting family in Tucson, Arizona. Upon returning to our home in Auburn, California, we hopped a plane to visit Panama for 10 days. This was our 2nd trip to this country and the beginning of our final decision to start the plans to retire and move here. So for the first 7 months of the past year, we put a lot of energy into planning for this new life. If you have been following this blog for the last 5 months, you know where this new life in Pedasí has taken us.
Once again, we decided to join many of our new friends we have made at Smiley’s to celebrate New Year’s Eve, with dinner, live music, and dancing. This time, instead of walking as we did on Christmas Eve, Mikkel wanted to drive. It had been sprinkling late that afternoon, so we weren’t sure if it would continue. As we approached Smiley’s, the restaurant was already crowded and there was not much parking space available. Mikkel pulled into at the end of the cars only to find out that it lead to a private driveway to a neighboring home. So as he pulled out and turned the car to the left to park alongside the road past the driveway, it was dark and we did not notice that there was a deep ditch. (Throughout Pedasí and Panama, there are a lot of ditches along the roadsides.) You guessed it! Our car went down into the ditch, ending with two opposite wheels in the air and leaning to the left. Mikkel could only open his door a few inches. So I and our friend Dave, who we picked up on the way, got out to survey the problem. Even with 4-wheel drive, the two wheels only spun in the air as Mikkel tried to back out. By then about 5 other people stopped to help, including a couple of employees from Super Central market across the street. With a little ingenuity, these good samaritans opened up the back door of our car and weighted it down with their bodies to bring down the back tire and lift up the front enough to get traction for the car to back out. We did not know any of these men, but this seems to be the way people are here, willing to help out when they see someone in need. Of course, we shared our appreciation to all of them. Afterwards we laughed thinking this would usually happen at the end of a party for most people when they were drinking or tired, not before the party. With another adventure in our pocket, Mikkel parked the car finally and we went on to the party, having a great time. Dinner, music, dancing, laughing, sharing stories, meeting new friends and talking to old friends, all made a very fun night to bring in the New Year. Fireworks went off a midnight as expected and the party continued, but Mikkel and I decided to leave for home soon after. As we approached our home, many neighbors were still outside their homes, blowing horns, shooting off firecrackers, partying, playing very loud music. We missed seeing the burning of the “muñecos” in the neighborhood-a Panamanian tradition of large firecracker stuffed scarecrow-like dolls that represent a past person, animal, or thing. By burning them at midnight, Panamanians feel they are putting away the bad past and bringing in good for the new year. But we had left Smiley’s about 1/2 hour too late to see this. Anyway the partying throughout the pueblo went on throughout most of the night.
So today is a new day, the first day of the new year. The neighborhood was pretty quiet this morning, although there was the occasional firecracker lit off. I understood many went off to the beach, another Panamanian tradition on New Year’s Day. We stayed home instead, watching the Rose Parade live on the computer. It was a little odd because having lived most of my life in California, the Rose Parade always started at 8am. But we are 3 hours ahead here in Panama, so it came on at 11am. This year though, we were eager to watch for the first time a high school marching band from Chitre, Panama perform in the parade. Then we decided to put up new curtains in the dining room and living room. The ones in the dining room were successfully installed, but just as Mikkel started drilling the holes to install the curtain rods in the living room, the drill bit broke. Well, I guess we will have to wait until Friday since stores are closed today. We were planning on taking a drive and doing some exploring tomorrow anyway while our housekeeper was cleaning our home, so we will just stop in Las Tablas to buy a new drill bit. I have learned to accept that things never go exactly as planned.
We are starting a new year in a new home in a new country. Looking forward to all the new experiences we will encounter. the new people we will meet, new places to explore, learning a new language and a new way of life. Some things will be the same, some things most different from what we are used to. There will be some challenges along the way this year, but there have always been challenges no matter where I have lived. I just know that God is there to see us through. And I am excited to see what this new year brings. ¡Feliz Año Nueve and Muchas Bendiciones por venir!
Got to know our new neighbor, Elvis, at Smiley’s