U. S. Servas

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Kashoff’s Panama Experience!

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During our most recent travel,

We heard the strangest sounds as we rode into the town of Ocú in Panama. As we got closer, we recognized it as an animal sound, perhaps dogs– in pain. Dave said it sounded like a cacophony of chickens. I thought it was more like yelping wolves. We stopped to listen in front of the building the sound was emanating from. Although it was unmarked, except for an old faded sign that said “Hamburguesas”, and even considering the clamor pouring out the door, we had the sense it was a bar.

Ocú is a small town, known for its hat makers. We visited one in his home, where tools lay on a table and hats hung on the wall, and he showed us the fine workmanship in the weave. His wife gave us each a plastic bag filled with frozen coconut milk and we rocked awhile on their front porch. Dave wanted to buy one of these light colored hats but I thought their round brims seemed a bit goofy looking. But they provide relief from the sun for the men who ride horseback on the cattle ranches dominating the Azuero Peninsula. The men there all wear them, including those we saw when we peaked in the door the noises were coming from. “Go on in and see what the racket is about” I coaxed Dave.

First he walked over to a teenager who was sitting on a bench across the street, and asked him what was going on in there. The boy told Dave not to go in: “barracho”, drunk, he said. But I did not understand the conversation, and therefore did not discourage Dave from going in to the bar. From the outside, where I was waiting with the bikes, I watched as Dave was immediately surrounded by 3 or 4 men. The waiting seemed longer and longer, as I became more and more nervous when more guys gathered around Dave. Closer. Soon their arms were draped around his shoulders, and the howling hadn’t stopped. And they were drunk. At least some of them were, and others were happily on their way towards some state of oblivion. One was so inebriated he didn’t even notice when the bottle he was holding slipped from his hand and shattered on the floor.

They were not just drinking: they were drinking while practicing the art of “Gritando” and had gathered around Dave because they saw him take a photo, a video actually, to capture the sound, and they were soon upon him to take more pictures, more movies. We learned this form of “communication” is called“Gritar” (pronounced greetAR), or Gritando and it is a call and response that was historically used for greeting each other in the fields. It reminded us of Swiss Yodeling, or hog calling in the American South. (Sooweeee)! I think is how it goes). So Dave captured some video of these guys, watch and listen to them here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kashoff/sets/72157630559379566/

Panama was also beautiful and interesting– green mountains, palm islands with white sand beaches, welcoming people and of course, the Panama Canal.


-Judy and Dave Kashoff


Author: United States Servas, Inc.

Servas is a worldwide cooperative cultural exchange network established in 1948 and composed of member hosts and travelers working together to foster peace, goodwill and mutual respect. Servas seeks to realize these aims by providing opportunities for person-to-person contacts between people of diverse cultures and backgrounds. Our mission includes providing approved US and international travelers with opportunities to be guests of Servas member hosts around the world.

One thought on “Kashoff’s Panama Experience!

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