Archive for November, 2012

Yes, stingray. But first, let me give you some context.


Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday in the States. It’s a holiday based entirely on sharing delicious food in the most beautiful season and spending time with people you care about. To me, there’s nothing better.  Thankfully, in Panama there is a tradition of getting all the PCVs in country together to eat some delicious turkey and traditional Thanksgiving foods. I, however, almost missed this scrumptious fiesta…


So the week before Thanksgiving my group of Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) had to get together for another training event.  We had training during the day and every night after dinner we would walk about 45 minutes down to the Pacific Ocean and just hang out. You know, drink beers, make fun of Panamanians, and talk about diarrhea.


One night, I was just minding my own business, frolicking around in the ocean with my friends and BAM. Something scraped my ankle, but I had no idea what it was. When I got out of the water my ankle was bleeding, but not too much and I thought I had probably just manslaughter-ed a very aggressive crab.


That was Thursday. On Saturday my foot swelled up the size of a grapefruit.  It started to turn red and purple and hurt so badly I couldn’t walk without limping.  So I made my way to a hospital to have it looked at on Monday. The doctor took one look at me and said, “Danielle, your foot is the 3 times it’s normal size and you have 14 infected bug bites on the same leg, you’re staying here tonight. And probably tomorrow night.” (As a side note, the bug bites were completely unrelated). Anyway, long story short, I was on IV antibiotics in the hospital and the doctor didn’t know what was wrong with my foot. By Wednesday night I was feeling better and DYING to get out of the hospital. THANKSGIVING IS TOMORROW, I AM NOT EATING PANAMANIAN HOSPITAL FOOD FOR THANKSGIVING DINNER (Panamanian hospital food was cheese and mustard sandwiches, I was desperate).


Then the most ridiculous thing happened. The doctor came in and told me that he was pretty sure that 1. The wound on my foot was in fact due to a stingray and 2. That the stingray had been carrying flesh-eating bacteria.




Despite flesh-eating bacteria, the antibiotics had been working and I was able to leave and make it to my Thanksgiving dinner just in time! I’m still on antibiotics and will have to rest for a while longer but I should be fine now.  Plus, I feel like a baller for being attacked by a stingray with flesh-eating bacteria.


On a sappier note, this Thanksgiving gave me a whole new list of reasons to be thankful. I’m especially grateful for the people that came to visit me during those 3 days in the hospital and brought me this cake. 



And I am REALLY REALLY thankful for Alexander Fleming and his accidental discovery of antibiotics. 


I have also included a list of other things I’m thankful for this year.


Reasons I’m Thankful  – Panama

  1. Panamanian Piñata (see previous post)
  2. My fellow Peace Corps Volunteers, no one else can quite relate
  3. My best friend, Emmanuel, an 11 year old boy that helped me plant passion fruit in my garden
  4. Anyone in Panama that goes to their job to do work and not just to get dressed up. (You’d be surprised)
  5. The few gems of my community that are patient with my terrible Embera and actually help me to learn it.

Reasons I’m Thankful – US

  1. Real piñatas
  2. The invention of Thanksgiving (seriously could there be a better holiday?)
  3. Trash cans,…that get used, and also emptied
  4. Toilets
  5. Beds/mattresses
  6. The inclusion of vegetables in meals


And obviously I’m thankful for anyone still reading this blog ;) 



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November 3rd is Panama’s Independence Day from Colombia. November in general is the season of holidays in Panama and they celebrate their independence a little differently than we do. In November, half the month is is a holiday. And each one is celebrated in the same manner (to be fair, not all of these days are celebrated but at least 5 of them are).

Here are the Panamanian November Holidays

Nov. 1 – Children’s Day

Nov. 2 – All Souls’s Day

Nov. 3 – Anniversary of the Separation from Colombia

Nov. 4 – Flag Day

Nov. 5 – Colon Day

Nov. 8 – Anniversary of the Establishment of the Comarca Embera – Wounaan (only where I live)

Nov. 10 – Anniversary of the First Call for Independence from Spain

Nov. 28 – Anniversary of the Independence from Spain

Panama, in general, is a very loud place. Music is played only on the highest volume, so it goes without saying that a Panamanian holiday would embrace the loudness. To do this, speakers are just not loud enough, so they give any and every small child a drum and have them all parade around the community for hours on end. What a delightful experience. Also, deafening.

Another tradition, apparently, is to have a piñata. But this is no normal piñata, (obviously – this is Panama, don’t forget).  So imagine it this way, replace a baseball bat with a machete. Replace the traditional piñata with a live chicken. Now, instead of hanging the piñata (live chicken) from a rope, you bury it in the ground so that only it’s neck and head are above ground. All other rules apply. Yes, including the blindfold.

As November is now coming to an end, there may be a day when I miss being awoken at 4am by the sound of children drumming, but at least I know there will be next year.

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