Monday, October 26, 2009

 Hulkum, the friendly Golden Retriever

What I love the most about traveling is experiencing new cultures in traditions, food, entertainment, language. It’s all interesting and fun for me to learn. However, in doing so, I have found a stronger sense of patriotism in my home country as well as felt more holiday spirit in my own traditions when abroad. For example, I’ve never felt more Christmas spirit as I did when living in Israel and having the only Christmas tree on the block. People wished me “Happy Christmas” all the time. I think this may be due to forcing your tradition instead of it being forced on you by Wal-Mart, Hall-Mark, etc. Even to find simple decorations you have to hunt them down and travel across town to the ‘foreign market’ to find some of what you were looking for.

So this brings me to the latest holiday that is approaching, Halloween. Traditionally Halloween is not celebrated in Panama like it is in The States.
 I mean, the girls still dress up in sexy costumes and go to clubs to party but that’s not what Halloween traditionally entails for the majority who celebrate it in The States. Panama has this area formally known as “The Canal Zone” which in the past was controlled fully by The U.S. until 1979 and not at all from 1999 (Thank you, Mr. Thompson, the greatest history teacher I had, RIP). Currently the only presence that the U.S. has in Panama is their embassy and many former military bases that are now very nice gated communities, or universities, or shopping centers, or public offices. The empty guard shacks randomly scattered in the middle of streets hints that you are leaving or entering a former base. During the Canal Zone era there were many American families who lived and worked in Panama and some stayed as residents of Panama after the U.S. turned over control of the canal to the local government. These people are loosely referred to as “Zonies.” Because of this influence you will find some communities in the Canal Zone that continue with Halloween traditions of trick or treating and costume parties but this is not common outside of this zone.

For Halloween, I really wanted to find a pumpkin to carve. I was less interested in actually doing the carving as I was to just have the tradition in my home. I knew The Husband would be ecstatic to carve a pumpkin. It would’ve been a nice surprise for him. One of my friends jokingly said “good luck finding a pumpkin… they’re like $1,000 dollars here.” I didn’t get my hopes up but I was out of vegetables and needed to hit the Chinese Market. The Chinese market is another ‘foreign market’ in another foreign country. In Israel, I went to the Russian market and in Panama it’s the Chinese market. With $20 I can stock the kitchen full of vegetables, which is good for me as an unfaithful vegetarian. I walked in as usual and scanned what they had to offer. It’s different every time based on what they have harvested. Over on the far left shelves were rounded yellow/orangish pumpkin like gourds. I checked it out and sifted through all 6 of the pumpkins they had, looking for the one that looked the most like a pumpkin in The States. There was only one sort-of-orange, rounded pumpkin and I took it at $0.30/lb. It was 14 lbs so I saved $995.80 on the previously projected price.

The Husband was as predicted very excited! He spent all day planning, designing, and carving his perfect pumpkin. I took the seeds and separated them from the slimy guts. So while he worked on his design we munched on roasted pumpkin seeds and watched Harry Met Sally. A movie neither one of us had seen and felt un-American to have missed it… ha! Meanwhile, it was sunny and 80 degrees outside. We cranked up the air conditioning and browsed pictures on facebook of our friends in New York and New England where, in my opinion, have the most beautiful Autumns. And that's how you do it. This will definitely be a rememberable first Halloween together.

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Halloween is this weekend and of course we have a fun couple’s costume prepared. Photos to come… CHEERS!
Skull Pumpkin


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