(I have been trying to write and post this blog for a few days now, but just been busy with life in general, but I think I can finally finish while workers are installing AC in our bedroom, possibly another post later).
This past weekend was Labor Day weekend in the U.S. Whereas most countries, including Panama, celebrate Labor Day on May 1st, Labor Day in the United States is a holiday celebrated on the first Monday in September. It is a celebration of the American labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of their country. Labor Day was promoted by the Central Labor Union and the Knights of Labor, who organized the first parade in New York City. After the Haymarket Massacre, which occurred in Chicago on May 4, 1886, U.S. President Grover Cleveland feared that commemorating Labor Day on May 1 could become an opportunity to commemorate the affair. Thus, in 1887, it was established as an official holiday in September to support the Labor Day that the Knights favored. The holiday often marks the return to school, although school starting times now vary.
This year my Labor Day weekend was very busy, although it started off on a sad note. On Thursday my housekeeper, Neli’s husband, was killed in a diving accident off the Pedasí coast. The news of his death traveled quickly throughout the pueblo. My neighbors told me while I was walking back from the corner store. I went over to her home with some friends to give my condolences-hugging, crying, and praying with her as her family and many friends gathered in the small Panamanian house to comfort her. The funeral and burial was the next day; it is very traditional in Panama to bury the body within 24 hours.
Friday morning, some of the members of Animal Advocates of Pedasí joined us at our house to help organize and price the many donations of clothing, household & kitchen items, furniture, books, etc. we have been collecting and storing in our garage for the next day’s “Plaza del Mercado” event, a fundraiser for Animal Advocates. After about 5 hours of sorting and figuring out prices, about half was packed up in our friend’s pickup truck, including donated tables and chairs, and parked it in the garage for the night, ready to transport over to the event the next morning. Several of us walked over to have lunch at a nearby restaurant in the town square, passing out flyers about the Mercado as we walked and to customers in the restaurant. At 2:30pm, the keys to the enclosed la cancha (basketball court) in town where we planned to hold the event were to be available for us at the Alcalde’s (Mayor’s) office. But, not surprisingly, the Alcalde’s office did not have the keys and they could not contact the person who had the keys. (We found out later he was in Panama City.) After inquiring (in Spanish), we were informed that a women named Marta, who lived somewhere on the other side of town from the Basketball court, had an extra set. We went to my neighbor who uses the court on Mondays to teach Karate and he gave us directions to Marta’s house. Luckily she was there and we finally were able to enter the court to chalk off the various spaces for the vendors who were joining Animal Advocates for the Mercado on Saturday. Later that evening, my friend PB and I walked around the town square to pass out more flyers. (The previous week, we had posted and distributed flyers from one end of the pueblo to the other end.)
The next morning, we got up at 5:00 am (way too early for me), starting our Saturday morning with a cup of coffee and muffin. Several friends came to the house to load up the remainder of patio sale items and take everything over to the basketball court which is only about 3 blocks away from my home. Arriving at 7:00am, people were already waiting for us to open, but I told them we needed time to set up. Everyone worked together, including some Panamanian neighbors to set up and stayed to sell our goods. We had about 8-9 other vendors join us to sell their own goods: jewelry, hats, painted tiles, moringa, etc. Animal Advocates also sold raffle tickets for 10 Spanish or English lessons at Buena Vida Language School and a 2-night stay including breakfast and dinner at Casa Lajagua (a local hostel), both donated by the owners. When we finally opened, the people flooded in. Wow! What a turnout! All the work, all the preparation was worth it. Many families came from town and from other towns. We were very busy especially in the morning. The Alcalde came as well and spoke with me with translation help from a bilingual-speaking friend. The Alcalde is a very young man who apparently supports our cause to help animals and educate the people about caring for them. He made a proposal that he would like to donate land, fence and build a partial covering for stray dogs in the community, asking that Animal Advocates support the idea by providing care, sterilization, and food until adopted. He also shared he wants to make a law that all dogs must stay in homes, yards or on leashes when walked; not allowed to wander the streets. Presently there are a lot of loose and/or homeless dogs running through the streets. And he also said that he would rope off the streets around the town square if we would like to do another fundraiser. Seems we have made a good impression on our mayor. Anyway, by the end of the afternoon, we had sold most of our donations and made over $1000 for Animal Advocates which will go toward education and sterilization of cats and dogs. Amazing! And the other vendors were happy, also. Thanks to all those who donated and/or gave their time; couldn’t do it without them. All our efforts paid off and we accomplished what we wanted-not only funds, but community awareness of Animal Advocates of Pedasí. After it was all over a few of us went out to celebrate at a small new local restaurant. Mikkel and I were very tired, but very satisfied. I feel we have made a difference in this community, however little it may be, but a good one.
DINNER AFTER A LONG, BUT FANTASTIC DAY!
Sunday, a couple visiting Pedasí came over to visit us for dinner. Mikkel had met the husband on a previous visit and kept in touch by email. They have bought property and possibly want to eventually move from Virginia to Pedasí. We had a great time talking over dinner in the patio, sharing about our common past experiences and answering their many questions about living in Panama. Time flew by and we were surprised that it was 10:30pm when they left. Another enjoyable evening.
So on Monday, Labor Day, we again had to get up early to attend an expat “Labor Day” party at our friends’ home in Albino Grande, picking up our one friend Lee on the way. We knew this might be the last time we see Lee, since he and his wife are returning to the U.S. for health reasons. Had another great time over a potluck lunch, talking with many who we had originally met at a Spay Panama clinic in Las Tablas last October. Since then, we all have kept in touch and meet occasionally; adding to the group as we meet others to invite including the Embassy Warden for the Azuero, and many others, both expats and Panamanians.
Finally after saying our goodbyes, especially to Lee who left with someone else, we returned home to Pedasí to finally relax for the afternoon and evening. Mikkel went out only to buy roasted chicken for dinner from Casita Margarita, a Monday night special-the end of a very busy weekend. We have been so blessed with great friends, young and old, expat and Panamanian. More adventures to come!