Tell a Good Story and They will come….

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)

Before I got to Panama….

1390690_10153387860780401_1544852205_nOur group went to Puerto Rico before going to Panama for basic training.  I met so many really fine people in this experience,  I wish I had kept in touch with many of them.

We did physical stuff in PR. We repelled off a dam, I really liked doing that, it was so much easier than rock climbing where my hips and legs were black and blue from falling. Going We did drown-proofing and I jumped from a really really high diving board.  I am still a nonswimmer and though they nearly had to push me off I finally jumped.  A hike during which I nearly got heat exhaustion.  I had gone from Minnesota weather to Puerto Rico weather with a short break in New York (where we grouped)  and my body had trouble keeping up. We also did an obstacle course!  I loved this time in PR even when we had to get up early for exercises, no sleeping in!. After Puerto Rico, we had some classes, Spanish of course, the culture of Panama,   diet and music and dress, in Missouri, during which I was hospitalized with back pain and fever, thought to be dengue, endemic in PR. while everyone else went for a fun special event.

A quick trip home to MN to pack up and find out who passed, I did, and on to Panama.  Did I ever use those skills learned? Nope, but it did test our strengths and weakness and not all of our group was forwarded to Panama.

It was pouring rain when we arrived,  not an unusual event, dignitaries awaited us in the airport.  We ran.  This is when in a roundtable of identifying ourselves to the dignitaries, that   I introduced myself in Spanish saying I was sick instead of I am a nurse and only realized it when I saw smiles and questionable looks from everyone. From there we were housed in a hotel, very nice and met our leaders.  I bet that they had never seen a sheet hanging from the balcony.  I had a pretty severe case of Montezuma revenge. too much information?   We were assigned our ‘towns;  I said I would like to work with the Indians and was assigned El Real of the Darién province.   And that is beginning of my story.

The Darién Gap in Panama

This article is lengthy but gives a very provocative reason for the gap to remain a gap with some photos.
 The Darién Gap is a lawless wilderness on the border of Colombia and Panama, teeming with everything from deadly snakes to anti-government guerrillas. The region also sees a flow of migrants from Cuba, Africa, and Asia, whose desperation sends them on perilous journeys to the U.S.

 For centuries the lure of the unknown has attracted explorers, scientists, criminals, and other dubious characters to the Gap, a 10,000-square-mile rectangle of swamp, mountains, and rainforest that spans both sides of the border between Colombia and Panama. Plenty of things here can kill you, from venomous snakes to murderous outlaws who want your money and equipment. We’ve come to find the most improbable travelers imaginable: migrants who, by choice, are passing through the Darién region from all over the world, in a round-about bid to reach the United States and secure refugee status.