I was a senior in high school.
In Panamá the Ocean-To-Ocean Cayuco Race (used to be a Boy Scouts of America event) was/is a HUGE deal. It’s what we Atlantic-siders lived for. The chance to show up the big Pacific side with our natural athletic abilities, meet cute boys people from other towns, a huge party at the end, what’s not to love?
Let me explain.
A cayuco is a hollowed out log canoe. Most of the ones that were used then (not sure about now) were handed down from many years before and changed and perfected each year. They held several people (think it was 5 or 6) and you sat on your knees or little rods and had to paddle simultaneously or the boat would totally flip. Much more sensitive than a canoe, not as fancy as a crew boat.
You practice forever, then race from one ocean, through the locks and lake to the other ocean. A major deal.
I REALLY wanted to race.
I was really athletic then. I’d swim, play raquetball or tennis (badly,) body surf, lift weights, and run usually every day if I could.
My on-again/off-again boyfriend at the time had a crew and a boat, but they of course wanted an all-boys boat. They asked me to be their queen and I said “yes.” The queen brought snacks, looked cute, got sponsorships etc. for the team. Boy, was I dumb. (But hey, they all looked like Jacob from “Twilight” and I was 17, so cut me some slack.)
Then, another friend asked me to be on her all-girl crew. I wanted to say “yes”but I’d already accepted the throne (ha) so I agreed to be an alternate. I practiced with them and with another co-ed crew when they needed an alternate for practice. I LOVED it. Of course, as Irish as my skin is I burned even with Zinc Oxide smeared on me. I didn’t care. Mom covered me in vinegar to heal the sunburn. I smelled like a red pickle but it was okay.
Then, my guy dumped me and picked another queen.
I was now officially just an alternate.
Much worse burn.
Hey, the practice was fun. The party wasn’t, but that’s okay… Lesson WAS Learned.
Thinking about going back to really race this time. Think I could practice in the Arkansas River? Anyone for a team?
I have been really struggling inside since I saw this video a friend posted on facebook. It is a video of people living in Coco Solo, the town I consider to be my childhood home. I’ll post it last, you’ll understand why in a minute.
Me and My brother with our pups
Growing up we moved quite a bit, and Coco Solo was the longest I’d ever lived anywhere until my adulthood. We lived there from my 2nd grade year until they closed the neighborhood to Americans, when I was going into 7th grade. I graduated from Coco Solo elementary, went to junior high there and returned my senior year to graduate from Cristobal High
(which is in Coco Solo.)
Coco Solo Elementary
It was a magical place to be a kid.
The entire peninsula had been built on coral reefs long ago (in the 1920’s I think) and jutted out into the bay with water so deep you could see schools of tuna swimming by you if you stood on the breaker wall. The flat fields were perfectly manicured. Wonderful for flying kites. Mango trees and almond trees waited for kids to climb up into. Parrots flocked to them and ate heartily on the fat juicy fruit.
We lived across the street from the elementary school, the last house before the ocean.
I moved back to Panama my senior year of college. (I was a Latin American studies major in Arkansas and realized how dumb that was since my family was in Latin America.) While finishing college there I saw the changes. All the American neighborhoods that had been Pan Canal Commission had long since been turned over. Only two military bases on the Atlantic side remained. Many people were unemployed and the drug culture/gangs was taking a firm hold on the people. People shunned Atlantic- siders when they would apply for jobs on the Pacific Side, because of their skin color or just because they were from Colón, I don’t know.
It’s been 17 years since I left and obviously things have only gotten worse.
Emily loves pineapple and talked me into buying one at Sam’s on Friday. I noticed it looked pretty ripe this morning so I decided to cut it up and make chicha de Arroz con Piña while I was at it. This is a frothy, yummy, sweet, drink that instantly brings back memories of shopping on Avenida Central with mom and Meme. They would have big jugs of this for sale in little stores and it tasted so good when you were hot and sweaty from shopping with two shopaholics all morning! I learned how to make this by watching one of my babysitters, Delia. She was a wonderful cook and an even better person!
Recipe for Chicha de Arroz y Piña
1. First cut top and bottom off of pineapple (piña.)
2. Continue by cutting rind off. (Do not throw away!)
3. Cut into quarters. Then cut down edge to get rid of center core. (SAVE.) 4. This is what you will have. A bowl of the cut up fruit, a top piece (to plant,) and a pot with all the end pieces, core, seedy pieces etc.
5. Cover the scraps in the pot with water. Add about 1-2 cups of rice, cinnamon to taste (or cinnamon sticks,) a little dash of cloves, sugar to taste (I like raw or turbinado about a cup,) and boil until the rinds are soft and rice is done. You can substitute the sugar with a can of condensed milk at the end if you like that taste, but I was trying to keep it lower calorie and this tastes as good. When it’s done take out scraps and toss them in your compost. Put what’s left in the blender and puree. Then pour into a pitcher over some ice to cool. To serve I like to get a glass of ice, pour glass about half full of milk, then the rest with the chicha. Sprinkle with cinnamon. You can add vanilla if you like and more pineapple juice if you like. (Also, if you didn’t add sugar you can add the condensed milk to the pitcher and add a bit more water.)