OF PANAMA ... MEMORIES OF HOME
By Lynnette E. Stokes
After five years of being
back in my beloved Panama, my time to depart to the USA had arrived. But back upon my
return in 1991, I was unprepared for the sights and changes that had transpired since my
last visit nine years earlier. After the initial shock and the adjustments of being home
were over, I reflected on the five years there, and decided to write down my thoughts on
what I miss in Panama the most.
On the top of my list is the
jungle. That lush, green, thick expansion of foliage that contains so much life. I have
always enjoyed the smell of the soil and leaves after a typical tropical rain. The shine
that gleams off the leaves with reflections of cocobolo and palm trees. The wide variety
of birds within the trees, their loud screeches and calls echoing above. Watching in
fascination, feathers of red, green, black and blue while fast in flight. The distinct
scold of a toucan, hoping from branch to branch, while you laugh at its odd beak and
strange blue feet. Like a cloud of black, a thick flock of parakeets soaring above the
trees. My overwhelming pleasure of locating a variety of wild orchids; "Espiritu
Santos" and "Lady of the Night", returning days later to see their splendid
colors in full bloom. Spotting large scaly green-brown iguanas and small, gentle
"Nikki's" near overflowing, ripe mango trees as they enjoyed a sweet treat.
My other favorite place is
of course the beach. Traveling to several places in the world, I was at many beautiful
beaches, but Panama has got the most memorable. The Atlantic Side--it's shark's fin shaped
rock at Devil's Beach. The massive waves crashing against that corner cliff on Pina Beach,
I always thought it would make a great Al Sprague collection. The Pacific Side--memorable
years spent in Las Uvas at Grandpa George's Klein's "Casita", strolling along
that white sandy shore and splashing in that aqua ocean. Gorgona Beach with its hot black
sand as we shared our "Growing-up-in-the-Zone" stories. My precious shell and
sand dollar collection acquired at Corona Beach. And of course, cruising the
Causeway at Amador with a cold Panama in my hand, crossing the Bridge of America to start
my intake of corvina with patacones at Vera Cruz Beach. Events that have made such an
immense impact in my life, that no matter where I go, or how long I've been gone, will
have special memories for me.
Last on my list, is my time
back home in the former Canal Zone. The pleasure of sharing with my children everything
about home. Sitting on that white marble and listening to the sounds of the water fountain
at Goethals' Memorial as I explain to them why this was built, while in the background,
the breathtaking view of Balboa Elementary School. Then, taking the over 200 stairs to the
Administration Building, pausing to read the inscription on the Culebra Cut Rock as my
words express the emotions I feel. My frequent visits into the Rotunda of
theAdministration Building, to view that overwhelming mural. Telling the history,
detailing the construction of the Panama Canal, focusing on the reflections of the people
and the many lives touched by this monumental project. Gorgas Hospital--standing at the
steps leading towards the center gardens facing the original hospital administration to
admire the green copper domes that cover that ancient building, while inhaling that sweet
scent from the nearby white Frangipani flowers. That drive towards the Forrest Preserve,
past the restored French cemetery, the white crosses finally uncovered for all to see.
Passing under the old Panama Railroad Overpass; honking my horn as I did when I was a
child. Arriving at Summit Gardens to visit with the macaws, peccaries, jaguars and spider
monkeys. Taking the time to explore the clumps of bamboo, track the rock-covered trails,
while entertaining my family with stories of the Abou Saad Shriners, Summit Garden picnic.
Last stop, Gamboa, clacking across that one way bridge, arriving at the old golf course
along the lake. To look for baby turtles, admire the little black ducks, only to discover
cayman eggs; completely surrounded by that beautiful jungle reflecting off that crystal
That crystal water, that
Gatun water. No where else on earth was there a sweeter taste, a more refreshing feel, a
more enjoyable time. A body of water that represented a reason for why we were here, why
we came and the directions in which we were headed. A wondrous man-made feat, a wonderful
tropical playground we called HOME.
That day, as I climbed that
Miami bird with tears in my eyes, looking at that beautiful green mountain, I knew it was
not my last time home. For I have drank from the waters of the Charges, and well ...
you know the rest .... Until then, Hasta Luego Mi Lindo Panama!
December 19, 1998