Going Bananas in Panama

In the 1990s the Americans moved to the steamy land of Panama, far away from their former home in the ice and snows off the Great Lakes.

To share one car, Fred had his wife drive him to work in the morning and home again--jiggity jig--after work in the early evening. The couple often found themselves stuck in traffic or paused at traffic lights. Like the locals, Fred and his wife would watch as vendors used the pause in the street to hawk everything from bottled water, sodas and bath towels; auto parts, balloons and whatever cheap Made in China tat had been unloaded at the port yesterday. The vendors also sold local fruits and vegetables, usually for the going rate of about one US dollar per bag no matter what the food was.

Driving the same route the Americans always drove past the same overflowing banana stand every morning. It was Panama after all, where bananas grew in even the most untended of gardens.

On an unremarkable Monday morning the couple drove by the banana stand in silence.

By Tuesday Fred noticed the bananas.

On Wednesday he commented to how good the bananas looked, so nice and ripe.

By Thursday he asked his wife, "Do we have any bananas at home? Because I really want some on my cereal tomorrow morning."

No, she responded as she watched the traffic.

"A banana split would really taste great today," Fred almost drooled. Anything with ice cream would taste great to him, she thought.

By Friday morning when Fred said the word bananas, she went bananas before they even pulled out of the driveway.

"Okay, Fred. Enough already about those damned bananas. If...and that is only if the light is red when we get to the banana stand..then you can get some damned bananas," she announced through gritted teeth.

As they approached the banana stand corner, Fred pulled out a single dollar bill and rolled his car window down in anticipation. When the light magically turned to red requiring them to STOP the car miraculously in front of the banana stand, he shouted out of the window that he wanted a dollar's worth of bananas!

At this the banana man scooped up an armload of bananas to dump on a scale followed by his assistant who tilted the scale's basket into a waiting plastic bag. Another armload was given the same fate and yet another. The couple tried to yell STOP to the vendor, but either the vendor didn't hear or he didn't listen. Those crazy gringos wanted a dollar's worth of bananas, well a dollar's worth of bananas they would get!

Before Fred knew it the dollar bill was whisked out of his hand and three large plastic bags of bananas were plunked on his lap. The traffic light changed and off they went.

Arriving home Fred and his wife realized they'd just bought over 10 pounds of ripe and ever-ripening bananas. The only question now what, what the hell to do with them!

Fred knew how to start, a banana split.

Hours later Fred's wife wrote an email to me. "HELP! Send banana recipes, quick!"

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    Candace Drimmer

    I was an accidental expatriate; love and marriage led me to it. One day I was a bandy-legged kid sitting atop my dogwood tree looking out of my small backyard world in 1950s New Jersey, wanting to move somewhere--anywhere, different. Next thing I knew my father had accepted a job in Houston TX. I was ecstatic, it was a foreign land in 1961 America. After high school graduation, my parents’ gave me a matched set of fawn-colored hardsided American Tourister luggage. Taking the hint, I went to college; well four colleges in five years--it was the 60s after all. Meeting a young hirsute anti-war, soon-to-be-Peace Corps volunteer, I fell in love. After finishing up college coursework for my degree, but before I even walking a graduation stage, I grabbed the paper airline ticket my boyfriend had sent me, my brand-new passport, and was off to the airport and Lima, Peru.

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