Wanted to share a day in the life:
On Friday our dear neighbor, Carlos, came by and asked if we wanted to go get some pineapple to plant in the garden. Lynn was excited about the idea, so we said yes. I understood ( or misunderstood) that we were going to Cerro Punta, about 8 miles north of Volcan. We made plans to go the next morning. He said another neighbor (vecino) would be going with us because he worked with the pineapples in this place.
The first clue we should have had was when Carlos commented that Lynn was not dressed for the trip. Lynn had on work pants that were dirty at the knees from earlier work. I asked if he should change but Carlos replied "When you have money you can wear whatever you like". We just laughed, and headed out. We stopped at the neighbor´s house, and Don Antonio got into the front seat. We had not ever met him, I am guessing because he works all the time, so we had not met him on ther road. Don Antonio is 75 years old, very friendly and a very hard worker.
We headed south instead of north (second clue). I did not ask because Carlos and Antonio were chatting continually. We continued to head south. When two Panamanians talk to one another I can only catch a word here and there. I caught a few. We went through Bugaba (18 miles from volcan) then turned toward Costa Rica. We continued on west for about 30 minutes before I finally could stand the suspense no longer and asked if we were headed to Costa Rica - now only about 5 miles away. Carlos and Antonio laughed and said no, but almost. Nothing more was said about our direction. WE finally turned back north toward Gomez and San Andreas. On a previous trip to Panana´we had considered living in San Andreas, so were alittle familiar with the area.
We dropped Don Antonio off, but did not know why, at a dirt road and continued on. After traveling about an hour and a half we finally turned off onto a trail / driveway. We went to the end of it and stopped. A beautiful lady came out of a small ´house´ and greeted us. Carlos asked after her husband, but he was not there. There was a 7 to 8 year old boy hiding behind his mom´s skirt. He peeked around and finally grinned at Lynn. Carlos explained that we were looking for baby papaya trees. We had discussed this the week before, but Lynn and I had forgotten all about it. She did not know of any for sale, but said she had maracuya, and could we wait a moment fpr her to harvest it. Carlos said yes, and that we would go visit with the neighbor for a moment. The neighbor was a woman about 40 years old with a teenage daughter and a 4 month old baby, with at least two young boys in between, perhaps more. She had a big patch of guanabana and Carlos asked if she had any ripe that she would sell us. She looked throughout the patch but could not find one that was ripe. It was not time for them yet. She was very friendly and also very sorry that she did not have the fruit for us. We thanked her and went back to the beautiful lady´s house. She had a 5 gallong bucket of maracuya and insisted that we take it without charge. We tried several times to pay, but she would have none of it.
As we left she also gve us a handful of bananas, again free of charge. When we were passing the house of the neighbor she waved us to stop and gave us two huge bags of aguacates (avocados). We tried to pay her but she would not take the money either. I told Carlos that we must pay for them so he took $2 from me and gave it to one of the children. At this point the baby was having a bath in the yard; naked and giggling. What a beautiful family, joyful, giving, and absolutely penniless. Neither family we visited had anything by our American standards. We really have not seen poverty compared to them. Yet they gave all that they had and would have been hurt had we not accepted or insisted on paying. When Carlos gave the little boy the $2 he specifically said, " this is a gift for you".
I think it is important to note that Carlos did not know these people. He had met the husband of the beautiful lady, but never her. They were strangers to us all, but very kind, giving strangers.
We moved on up toward San Andreas until Carlos pulled into a driveway and ask an old man if he knew where we could buy papaya trees. The man said he did not know but hte man across the street had some papayas. We went across the street and met Wilfred, a man in his late 40´s who owned a papaya plantation. He gave us a tour of his 2500 papaya trees, and loaded our arms with 10-12 pound papayas. He chse each from his trees with care, and told us which to use for seeds, and which to eat. After a nice visit and tour, we loaded back into the car with 12 papayas. When we offered to pay for the papayas Wilfred told us that he was a Christian man, and he knew that all he had was only a loan from God. He had been blessed and was happy to share. He told us that each Wednesday he loaded a semi truck with the fruit and sent it to Panama City, where it would sell for about $2,000. That is a fortune here! His trees were only 10 months old, and would produce until they were 3 years old, 3 times a year.
From there we went back to where we had dropped off Don Antonio. We went down the dirt road he had walked down and found him working his pinapple patches. He had about 1800 pineapples planted and worked the patches by himself every 8 days. We watched and helped as he cut both pineapples and babies for planting. It was hot, sweaty, sticky work, as it was down near sea level, where there is little breeze and no altitude to cool the air. Moist becasue the Pacific is not far from there. Aftrer about 1 1/2 hours of work we loaded the car with all the pineapples he had cut, along with about 100 babies. Then we headed to his mango trees. He siçaid he wanted us to have some mangos, but we were having trouble fining ripe ones. I said " actually I like the green ones better" Which is ture, on one of our first trips into the interior I was offered a green mango salad, and I absolutely love it. Well, I could not have said anything better. Don Antonio was so happy with my response, his whole demeanor changed. He had been friendly before, but not tried to engage in conversation. Now he was asking questions and sharing freely. He loaded the car with more green mangos than we could eat in two months.
Finally we headed home. There was little room for us, as we now had gifts of maracuya, aguacates, piña, mangos and papaya. the little Jimmy was riding low with the weight of it all.
We stopped in Bugaba and bought lunch for everyone, our tiny contribution, then filled Carlos´ gas tank and headed back up to cooler ground. When we got back to our neighborhood we could not get Don Antonio to accept pay for the pineapple he gave us, or the babies we had asked him to harvest for us. I know that there are jerks all over the world, but these people here, who have little of nothing, are so generous and loving. We are continually amazed and awed by God´s ways, and His people. We are also grateful to be here, learning from them.
This has become a book. I will close for now. We are headed for Santa Marta this weekend to worship with the family there. Can´t wait to be blessed even more!
Love you all,