“Mi Casa es Su Casa”

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“Mi Casa es Su Casa”

Plantains, a cousin to the banana, are a staple in the Panamanian diet.

Plantains, a cousin to the banana, are a staple in the Panamanian diet.

Sara Freitag

Plantains, a cousin to the banana, are a staple in the Panamanian diet.

Sara Freitag

Sara Freitag

Plantains, a cousin to the banana, are a staple in the Panamanian diet.

Sara Freitag, Staff Writer/Photographer

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Picture this. You’re a photographer. It’s the last week of holiday break, and you’re on the final leg of a three-week travel marathon. Setting: Panama. Plot: to photograph a friend’s Panamanian wedding (insert all the cutest happy emoji’s here)!

In case you’ve ever wondered…when someone says, “Mi casa es su casa,” he/she may mean it literally (at least in Panama). The first morning, over a glass of orange juice, I conversed with my friend’s grandma.  While I spoke in broken Spanish, she interjected with bits of English, and though the conversation was simple, I wondered how I had not known her for years.  She had a way of making me feel as if I were part of her family.

Panamanians will not let you leave the house without food (literally).  One night, I mentioned an errand that I planned to do the next morning before breakfast, and my dear friend convinced me to leave later, because she could not let me go anywhere without eating.  She didn’t want me to faint!

Whenever I travel to Panama, those around me are sure to hear one word rolling off my tongue with ease.  Plantains, plantains, plantains.  This fruit is a less-sweet variation of bananas and, being a traditional Panamanian food, the local people have become incredibly creative with it.  One can cook plantains into a dish, fry them like french fries, eat them as chips from a bag, and even bake them into a dessert with cinnamon and sugar.

I spent most of my week revisiting old stomping grounds in Panama City (having lived there for three months of 2014).  One such destination was Casco Viejo, meaning Old Town. This part of Panama City used to be the poorest of all, yet it has been reinvented and now boasts of incredibly beautiful hotels and restaurants.

My favorite aspect of the trip was my weekend spent in El Valle de Antón, where the wedding was held. This small town sits approximately two hours away from the city and is within 30 minutes of some of the most sought-after beaches. Surfers and hikers would think they had died and gone to heaven, if they had the chance to visit.

Of course, at all weddings one must be aware of potential matchmakers (a very sweet woman attempted to set me up with her eligible family member).  Being from the United States, I was a bit of a phenomenon.  I must say that it was incredibly rewarding to practice my Spanish and receive encouragement, as well as instruction, from the many individuals I interacted with.

If you get the chance to visit Panama, I highly recommend it.  The hearts of these people are some of the sweetest and most generous.  The hospitality is out of this world.  Your taste buds will thank you (though, maybe not the scale).  And you will form friendships which will stand the test of time.

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