I went to Boquete at the end of November to meet Tammy, my best friend from high school. Her mother, who used to be a teacher at our school, lives there. They were organizing a Thanksgiving party for the Ngobe kids of the school in Alto Lino which is located right next to Finca Lerida Hotel. We had a lovely time playing games with the kids and teaching them about this American tradition. They had never eaten turkey, so it was a new experience for them. These indigenous kids are quite poor, so most of them saved part of their meals to share with their siblings and parents.
I drove back to Pedasi with Panchito, my new baby goat which was a present from my friends at Rancho Nuovo Mundo. I contacted my neighbor in Los Higos who has a daughter in the school nearby to ask her for the contact of the director of the Pablo Ballesteros school in Los Asientos. Emiliano was thrilled at the idea of having a Christmas party for the kids. I asked him for the list of children with ages and gender. There were 93 children in total between the ages of 5 and 13.
This school in Pedasi was founded in 1962 by the congressman Ovidio Diaz. His son, who has the same name, is the president of the Tourism Chamber of Pedasi. The Pablo Ballesteros school started in houses which were used as classrooms. Most of the first teachers had the last name Ballesteros. The school has a U shaped layout with a basketball court and some trees. I visited the school a few times before during politics and when I was taking a class with Smithsonian and Yale University which was part of a program organized by APASPE which promotes sustainable cattle-ranching practices.
I told a few friends about the Christmas party and people got excited. My friend Jose who lives in Guarare said he would help plan the party. I shared it with the Pedasi group on Whatsapp and Luna wrote wanting to help. I met Luna when she did Arab cooking classes in her home. She was born in Syria (which I would love to visit). We formed a group and other people joined. A few friends gave cash donations including Elias Serrano from Fresca Greens in Florida and Tedd Tennis from Pedasi Sovereign Realty.
We got presents for all the children through donations. Some of the cash that was given was also used for buying gifts. We went to Machetazo in Chitre in a very festive mood to get presents with Jose and my friend Anibal Fossati. We were walking up and down the supermarket aisles finding piñatas, candy, and food for lunch.
The school offered to help cook the rice with guandu, this pea is traditional in Panama’s Christmas celebrations since it is harvested at this time of the year. Luna got some donations for potatoes and milk to cook the mashed potatoes and I got four hams from the city which were cooked by John the owner of Smileys restaurant.
People came to drop off gifts and we drove to pick others up. Machetazo gave us about 18 rolls of gift wrapping paper. Thankfully, Sandra, my guest said she would help me wrap presents and she was a pro since she had done it as a job when she was younger to make extra money to travel! We spend a few hours listening to Christmas music and wrapping presents.
The party was quite a success! Local band Sax Appeal came to play music for the kids and we even had Miguel Batista, the mayor of Pedasi, dress up as Santa Claus. He showed up to surprise the kids with the Santa outfit he had worn for the town’s Christmas parade the previous day. Kids danced, played and ate a lot.