Before I arrived in Panama I took lessons on line with Yaira through Habla Ya. After spending an hour a day for weeks and months, we became good friends. I knew her before, and during her difficult pregnancy, and was filled with joy at the news of the birth of her son. Since coming to Panama we have been able to get together in person, and I have been invited to some of her family events and have also come to know many of her family. So, when she invited me to the party to celebrate her son’s first birthday I was definitely going to this event!
The party was held in a large hall filled with at least 100 people there, and she told me that they were all family! Panamanians value family above all else, and I knew this includes extended family but this is definitely a huge extended family.
They say a picture is worth 1000 words, so let me tell a bit more of the story with pictures.
It was such an honor to be included in this event. We also had a lot of time to people watch which is always interesting. There was plenty of beer. If your bottle looked empty another was put in front of you but, there was no hint of conflict or problems. Everyone mingled and chatted and seemed genuinely happy to be together. I have worked with countless families in the US over the years and a peaceful family like this is the exception, not the norm. Not so in Panama though. This was a demonstration of what we have been told by every Panamanian – there is nothing more important than family.
It was very interesting to watch the kids. They also play together peacefully. The bigger kids help the smaller ones. No one grabbed toys away from each other. Instead, I saw bigger kids making an effort to help the small ones participate in the play activities. There was almost no crying, only a couple small episodes where a smaller child fell down and needed a moment of comforting. Babies and toddlers were happy to be passed from lap to lap, and men were holding babies at much as women. Even the birthday boy was calm and happy through many hours of partying.
As for the party itself, it was Panamanian hospitality all the way. Snacks and drinks were brought to every table as guests arrived. Mom and Dad both made the rounds and personally greeted everyone. Later on, food was served to everyone (prepared by family members, I learned), and more drinks were offered at regular intervals. If things got busy children were pressed into service delivering plates and drinks, which they did without a moments hesitation. There was a DJ for music, balloons and decorations everywhere, drinks, food, birthday cake, gift bags for the kids, the piñata, games, photo ops, and dancing later (which we didn’t see because we didn’t stay late). It felt like every details was attended to so the guests would all enjoy themselves.
If you ever get an invitation to go to a Panamanian party or get together, by all means go! It will definitely be a good time.
I thank Yaira every day for her professionalism and patience in pounding a bit of Spanish into my thick head. My Spanish will never be wonderful but it is good enough to communicate, and that has so enhanced my experience of living here. What a pleasure to celebrate the birthday of her beautiful baby with all those good people.
I will leave you with a video of some of the party scenes…