Monday, July 21, 2014

If a County Fair Were Held in Panama...

Animals were brought for exhibition, prized produce was proudly displayed, fried food was sold at high prices, and awards were given for a cornucopia of reasons.  It wasn’t a county fair, but it was close enough. 

For two days this past week, people from all over our corregimiento poured into Valle de Risco, our town hub, for the annual artisanal and ecological fair.  Preparations have been in progress for the past few weeks, and many of the surrounding villages decorated small pavilions that were then filled with anything the locals decided was worth exhibiting.  What made the cut?  Tons of produce, locally grown and roasted chocolate packaged in banana leaves, a monkey, various baby trees, a pair of geese, a baby pool filled with wild crabs and fish raised in local in-ground tanks, various animals I don’t even know the words for in English, native crafts, and a sloth dressed in a custom nakwa. 

Being the only gringa in attendance made me quite the popular attendee- I was the only one not born into this culture and therefore the only one who actually still has a lot to learn about the local way of life.  All too happy to oblige, I spent nearly the entire two days hanging out with both people and communities I’m already familiar with as well as making friends and connections with people from areas I haven’t visited yet. 

Of course, what’s a fair without food?  In addition to the tried and true favorite of chicken and rice served with overly sugared coffee, I feasted on corn empanadas, sugar cane juice, a fruit that’s called an apple but is definitely not an apple, and a delicious delicacy of mashed yucca (potato type root vegetable) wrapped around beef and fried.  No doubt, these people would love funnel cakes.  

Speaking of fair-food sweets, one of the best parts of my weekend was watching one of my baking & business ladies put what we’ve been learning to use.  She woke up before sunrise to bake over two hundred cinnamon rolls and pieces of coconut cake and sold out both days.  Success (and coconut cake) is sweet.  

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