During our 10 week Peace Corps training we stayed with Junior and Margareta in the small town of Santa Clara in the township of Arriajan (there are several towns named Santa Clara in the country). We finally made it back here to see the lovely people we got to know in 2009.
Junior, as everyone calls him, is around 60 and worked for the Panama Canal for decades handling the lines used to secure the ships traversing the canal. He retired two years ago. They have since visited Bocas Del Toro for the first time, and in addition went to Nicaragua. They also bought a small pickup truck. He is farming a small plot and sells some of his excess produce. He has had conflicts with some of the other local producers who complain that he is selling at a low price. He says that people here are of limited means and should not have to pay such high prices.
Margareta hosts a teacher as Peace Corps has not used this community for the past two years, although they are returning next year. She continues to sew and showed us some of her creative work. There was a workshop for the locals, and they were graduating the day we were there. They’d been making small shopping bags with straps decorated.
The internet has arrived in Santa Clara using 3g dongle (usb port connection) technology. A grandson now has hundreds of Facebook friends. We’ll be able to stay in touch.
They took us to lunch. The local representative now has a small restaurant in front of his house. We sat in the shade of the 90 degree (31C) heat with 90% humidity and enjoyed a very good fish plate with rice. The fish was deep fried, of course. Panamanians deep fry almost everything, eat tons of white rice and have a both a very high sugar diet and lots of diabetes and obesity. Small wonder. Lunch for 6 cost $14.
Margareta and Junior have worked with Peace Corps for more than 10 years. They have hosted mostly couples and a few single. We are the first ones ever to return. We were very grateful for the way they treated us when we were there. Margareta is a very good cook, and knew we would not want to eat so much deep fried food, so we got a lighter diet.
We stayed a few hours then mounted the ancient school bus for the hot trip back to the capital, where we hopped on one of the new buses heading to Via España. It was nice to be in the air conditioning.