February 21, 2010

Mudslide Anyone? Another Natural Distaster Hits Panama

Nothing stops a Panama parade.  Not even a mudslide.

After last year's devastating floods,  near hurricane winds that left us barricaded by felled trees, and the whopping 6.2 earthquake that shook us out of our sleep, I was thinking "Hey. What could possibly happen next?"

Oh, yeah. Mudslides. That's what.

November is a patriotic, parade-filled  month in Panama. The collective anticipation building up to the festivities beats out on steady drums all during October, when every single school sends their marching bands out into the streets for practice, seemingly at random.

It's not uncommon to run smack into a marching band heading straight for your car as you head home from the market. This is when you immediately change course and grab your cell to alert your friends -- "Heads up!  Marching band heading west at the hardware store."  Otherwise, you'll be stuck.

The first parade, on November 3,  celebrates Panama's liberation from Columbia, and is followed by three more parades during the month. This November 3rd was also the day  a force that later became Hurricane Ida came to visit Boquete.

By the night before a parade, our little pueblo was bursting with all the bustle and excitement a small town can muster. 

By mid morning the day of, the village is spilling over with  vendors and banners, flags and ribbons. People arrives in droves, four deep on the sidewalks.   Alleyways become curb-to-curb cars.  When cars get blocked in, folks just set up grills on the backs of their pick-ups and cook.

The children are decked out in extravagant costumes and uniforms, which will inevitably end up drenched because November is still rainy season.  But they march on, dripping, soaked to the bone, cold and shivering.

Early in the morning of the parade,  William and three neighboring boys prepared themselves for the long day ahead.  I dropped them off by the firehouse at 7:00 a.m. where they waited, bored, hungry until their drums began to beat until about 10:00. It's grueling, carrying those drums in the rain for hours and hour.  It was drizzling and I crossed my fingers, trying to will the hard rain to hold off until after 1:00.  No such luck.

Naturally the clouds broke earlier than usual that day.  I had stayed for the entire parade so I could give the boys, now drenched past their skin, a ride home and a hot meal.  Practically every single citizen, including all our officials, was downtown for the parade and probably unaware of the havoc that was about to break loose on us all.

At  that time, we were living  in the modest apartment attached to the main house, still under renovation.  The other boys had stopped home to change, but as the rains grew heavier, I knew they wouldn't make it back for lunch, even though they live only a few houses away.

Rain on a metal roof is loud. But this rain was so hard I commented to Larry that it sounded almost scary.  I decided to take a look outside to check and see if it was coming into our porch.  "Aw Don't worry about it" protested Larry.  But I did worry, because our house sits at the low point of an steep, unpaved mountain road frequented by farmers and native Ngobe-Bugle.

The noise was overpowering as I poked my head out to take a look-see. Our so-called road had become a flowing river of muddy water, a the river that flowed to my gate  and ended at the front door to the main house.  About two or three gallons of rain water had already made their way into our newly finished  living room, so I ran to the front gate and tried, frantically (and a little ridiculously) to shore up the flow with a shovel, or a broom, or my hands. I can't quite recall.

I do, however,  recall Larry's glancing at my pitiful efforts with near disgust.  "Aw Quit it!" he shouted.  "I have it covered!" and off he ran,  returning shortly with some cement blocks that he quickly implemented to successfully re-direct the flow of water in his adept, manly fashion.

Of course at times like these, we Slagles go from happy threesome to the dysfunctional Jerry Springer Show family in three seconds flat.  Larry began shouting at me to get out of his way; William started grabbing at brooms and shovels, underfoot. I started yelling at William "You're not helping!". William was yelling back "I am too helping!". Then Larry yelled at me to "stop yelling at William."

Meanwhile, the Panamanian families up the road are working quietly  to re-direct the small river up the road.

When we get our house squared away, we look up and realize that a piece of the mountain is missing. Where there once was green lush mountainside, the re is now a wide strip of bare land, looking like a big BandAid slapped against the mountain side.

All around us, slices of our valley's mountain walls have let loose and hurled down onto homes, driveways, and roads, carrying with them rocks, banana trees, water, mud and more rocks.  The popular gated community of Valle Escondido was a mess and later evacuated.  The damage to roads and homes was extensive.

As the next day dawned and  the rains continued, our town held it's collective breath waiting to see if more of it's valley would collapse. 

"Well" I thought to myself.  "At least these poor tired kids won't have to march in the Flag Day Parade today."

And how wrong I was.  The parade was on, the children marched, the people watched,and  the hills continued to crumble.

Panama loves a parade.


Don Ray said...

Nicely done blog. I have added your blog to my link list.

Don Ray said...

Nicely don blog. I have added your blog to my link list.

News About The Boys

Mrs. Bliss told us there is a caterpillar here that is pink and fuzzy, and, if you touch it, its fur will stick in your skin and sting you! This happened to her daughter, Aylana. It was very painful and they had to pull the fibers out using tape! There are also scorpions and snakes, but I think there are more poisonous snakes in Florida.

William is busy, busy. In the morning he does his home schooling (Dad is his teacher!). Then, around 9:00 he rushes happily off to the local, Catholic, Spanish-only school where he audits the 4th grade! He's been doing some skim boarding but we are seriously missing the skating. Surfing looms in the near future. For a change we finally have kids on our street to play with, (not to mention dogs and roosters, snakes, toads, etc.) and it is wonderful making new friends. Still, William really misses his friends and family back in Sarasota. It's wonderful to get messages from the folks back home.

We send a special "Hello How Are Ya?" back to Nolen, Max, Connor, Emily W. and Teah!

Larry is Mr. Handy! Between homeschooling and making repairs on the house, he is never without something to do. And we have gone from never seeing him, to having him around all the time. Hmmmmmm.....

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