Wednesday, August 31, 2011

There and Back Again

So we've come to the end of our journey in Panama.  I hope you enjoyed the series of posts on the various themes over this past month. It was enjoyable for me to write on all these amazing things that I was able to witness in person.  As a teacher and my own student, I learn best by experiential learning.  No classroom can prepare you for the sights and sounds of a moment.  Of course, there is a lot more to write about in the garden and we'll take a break for a bit from the series and look into some helpful gardening ideas for your own home.  Plus I also have to do some record keeping from El Presidio for myself and also keep the homeowners up-to-date on what's going on around the property.  This last post was written in Gamboa where we began and ended our journey in Panama.  It's dated July 5th, 2011 on a Saturday night which was warm and tropical.  Night sounds abound from frogs, insects, and other nocturnal critters. I am in my bed reflecting on my personal journey and connecting with the people who are no longer with me. In the beginning, I had written about how personal Gamboa was for me.....well, here's the letter that I wrote.  Finally, I put one last video together for this series and I think it's my best one yet which highlights all the things we did in Panama.

"Dear Grandma and Grandpa Rohrer,

     My final days have arrived here in Panama.  This trip has been quite simply wonderful, but now it's time to end this journey.  As you know, we began our trek in Gamboa at a place called Ivans.  I didn't know why I wanted to end our trip here at first, but I think I've only now figured out why it was important for me to return. Everything about this place reminds me of you both and it makes me happy.  I'm a child again spending the weekends at your house.  The home even smells like your place and makes me wrap myself up even tighter into my blankets.  Walking around this ghost town was like playing in your magic garden in the far backyard near the creek The one that no longer exists.  The totem pole and grapevine covered trellis that invited us all into your garden is now gone....replaced with a concrete road.  When I go back to visit your home, it seems that almost all of my childhood and your green art have been erased from existance.  The apple tree.  The pear tree. The garden.  Only a stubborn patch of rhubarb still pops up to remind me where you both spent your days.
     The bing cherry ice cream is fresh here and melts just like it used to on our road trips to the Penguin during our many little adventures in that green car. Cones cost 50 cents here! You remember those trips, right? The ones where the waitress would rollerskate up to our car window and take our order. Do you remember Grandpa when I asked you what flavor I should try because there were too many to choose from?  What the heck was blue moon anyway? But you told me that I should try the bing cherry and it became one of my favorites.  I had bing cherry ice cream again in Panama and I remembered.
     Even this house has your touch wth the bird feeder, the home cooked meals, the wooden slated closets, and photos of plants and birds.  I walked the neighborhood tonight along the rain forest paths seeing the old old homes that were falling apart....remembering our walks together Grandma. Many of those homes in Manitowoc still look the same and need some fixing up.  I walked along the canal full of ships just like we did on Lake Michigan, but instead of seagulls, there were parakeets and toucans. It doesn't seem like a long time ago, but time has definitely passed.....and so have you both. Sometimes I wish I could rewind time for just a day to have one more more more scolding about fighting with my more lunch listening to WOMT radio at noon. As we eat lunch,  both of you are watching the bird feeder and getting angry at that damned squirrel.  Grandpa, you run outside and chase it off so you can see more finches. "Get out of here!!!  Get out of here!!!" I'd start laughing because you both looked so funny screaming at Mr. Squirrel.  Of course, when you weren't looking, he'd be back again.:)
     In fact, everything about Gamboa has reminded me of the simpler times.....the happy times......the best times. It's during this stay that I'm reminded how much I miss your presence in my life.  When I see potted geraniums, I think of your basement in winter where you protected your babies from the freezing temps. In summer, you would take a seemingly dead plant and bring it back to life. When I see cargo ships on the canal, I think of your work Grandpa at the Burger shipyards.  When I see the old Catholic church crumbling at the corner, I'm reminded of our Sunday mornings together......and the breakfasts afterward! Does your church even exist anymore like the one here on the corner? I walk through the bamboo groves along the Chagres river and it's like walking with you Grandma through those reeds by the little creek. That is gone as well. This city is trapped in the past.  Being here makes me think about what it was like growing up in the early 1900's for you both.  The canal was getting ready to open while you both grew up on gravel roads before cars became popular. Horses were still the main means of transportation. Malaria and yellow fever claimed many lives in Panama.  Back home it was Scarlet fever. How old were you Grandma when you lost both of your parents?  13? 14?  I can't imagine any of it.  But they were different times.  So much has changed in a century.
     As I watched the capybara playing in the fields today, I sipped my cool and sweaty glass of mojito.  I try to absorb as much as I can before I leave Panama and this magical town of Gamboa.  How many years has it been since my last stayover? 20? 30?  How is it that here in Gamboa I stumbled upon your presence?  Tonight my thoughts turn to you both as I get ready for some sleep. 

Love you much,

Your grandson"

End of paper journal.  Check out the video from our Panama Adventures.  Until tomorrow friends....


  1. I've really enjoyed reading your holiday adventures in Panama and the wonderful photographs and stories. Thanks so much for sharing.

  2. Thank you for reading!


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