I guess I’ve just realized that this is true and if I want visitors here I need to make it interesting. Some people say that I’ve had an interesting life and one may like to read my stories. I’ll try, but most of my ‘interesting’ life happened over 6 years many years ago, and my memory for detail is not good. I’m hoping that as I think back I’ll remember more and more.
I was one of the first PeaceCorps Volunteers (PCV) 1964 to Panama, it seems like a different lifetime. I suppose it was. I wasn’t a successful volunteer as I fell in love and at that time if you married a national you were out of the corps. However, I did remain on my ‘site’ for 6 more years.
They were difficult years for me.
I have touched on life in Darien before but only the interesting and different aspects to amuse, not the lonely days that lasted forever with the sound of cantinas until midnight.
When I arrived via avioneta (tiny airplane) at my townsite, El Real, Darien Panama I lived in the hospital with intent to assist there. Honestly, the nurses that ran the hospital didn’t need any help from me. The MD was there periodically but the nurses managed the hospital. My Spanish was negligible I was so bad that when our PCV group arrived in Panama and we went around to introduce ourselves I said ‘soy enferma’ instead of enfermera. I’m sick instead of I am a nurse!
So I walked around town with kids following behind me every day stopping here and there and trying to talk with the residents sitting on doorsteps hanging out at the Chinese stores trying to communicate, teaching English to a band of kids.
One Peace Corps suggestion to get to know the people in your town, was to do a census. That was the worse idea and I never even tried to do it. Can you imagine? We were already suspected by some to be CIA operatives rather than volunteers, just the stupidest idea! Can you imagine answering census type questions to total strangers coming to your door!, Ugly American stuff! Unbelievable I hope no volunteers did census taking.
I had just arrived in November before Thanksgiving, when we heard on the radio, Voice of America, the death of President Kennedy. My friend (future husband) had a shortwave radio so I heard about it when everyone else did. There were some grievances between Panama and the US that caused some problems for some PCV’s but I just was advised to remain in the hospital just in case but I never felt threatened. There was always something political going on in Panama and my husband’s family was political. By that, I mean that my husband’s father had been the diputado for the province for many years (congressman) He lost his last election and some said he lost it because of his son marrying a gringa. (that’s me)