Thursday, April 17, 2008

Cayuco Race

This morning I was digging through my dresser looking for something gold for Francis to wear to "maroon and gold" day at her school and came across my Cayuco Race Patch. For those of you who don't know, I lived in Panama from ages 11 to 15 and consider it to be the best years of my childhood. It was truly a unique and beautiful place to grow up. In so many ways, I am who I am because of that experience.

There is an annual race there called the Cayuco Race. It's a 3 day race through the Panama Canal via dug out canoes that somehow end up being a cross between a canoe and a kayak. Participants prepare months in advance; preparing the boats and training physically. I remember vividly getting up before school and going paddling.

Year after year, the same boats would be in the race with different crews and new paint jobs. Certain boats had a legacy of winning and came with extra pride and expectation. Some boats were all about having fun. I paddled in a boat called "The Short Cut" (featured at 1:36 of this video)and I'm not sure where we stood historically, but we were definitely out to win. An all girl boat, I think we came in 5th in the girl category. Not bad, but no trophy. ;) That said, every participant received a patch and although it doesn't sound like much, wearing the patch in Panama meant something. Seeing it in my drawer this morning reminded me of that feeling of pride - being apart of something so unique and challenging. It's fun to have one.

In 2000, the canal was handed back to the Panamanians and the US left. All of the bases are now prime real estate and what used to be my house is now the Nicaraguan Embassy! It's a bit emotional to go back and see so many changes. Typically, when visiting an old hometown, you can find connection and comfort in all of the things that have stayed the same and enjoy the few things that have changed. Panama is a different world. What used to be the Canal Zone is now a booming resort area. Truly bizarre and sad for many of us who grew up there. And I'm saying that as a Army brat who only lived there for only 4 years. Many of my friends spent their entire lives there - generations of their family lived there. Their grandparents built the canal and their parents worked for the canal as well.

Watching this video today and seeing the "Short Cut," I got a little teary knowing it was the same boat. There is meaning in that somehow. Legacy and history in a place that is so mixed up and lacking it due to the turnover in 2000.

I'm looking forward to the day when I can tell Francis and George about it...maybe even go stay at the "Grand Hyatt" in Gamboa (which used to be the base/neighborhood my friend lived) and see it in person.

*I'll see if I can get some pics from my race posted.


Lea Parrott said...

I got all choked up as well. Mick hung my paddles in our front room as my source of "pride" at the house....Can't even tell you how often I wish I could go back.
Ahhh those wonderful memories!

Sally said...

I forgot to add that my sister paddled in the "Pursuit."

Sally said...

For some reason, blogger isn't letting me edit my original post so I'll add some facts here. I paddled in 1988 and this video is from the 1999 race.

Lea Parrott said...

I was in the Prime Cut and I paddled in 1991. My boat was co-ed, and we came 4th, not bad for us since we were 2 guys and 2 girls, and the boats that beat us were 3 guys and one girl.