Panama February 2016: People are People by Cherylyn Pizza Oss
One great aspect of mission work is that I am able to meet people who live lives far removed, both in distance and culture, from mine. It is wonderful and fun to connect with different people, despite a language barrier. I am continuously reminded of my humanity and that essentially people are people, despite our differences. People are happy, funny, love and are very proud of their children. People everywhere work hard to obtain a better life for themselves and their children. I am grateful to have a skill that allows me to help people be more healthy. In addition to general medical screenings and medication distribution, I can teach people how to better manage their daily personal and family healthcare needs and to lead healthier lives.
One fun aspect of travel for me is simply talking to people. I am an avid cook and a Colorado Master Gardener. I like to learn about what people eat, how foods are cooked, and what plants grow locally. I continuously ask questions about these two subjects. People tend to respond well to my many questions because it is clear that I am genuinely interested, and also share things about what I like to eat and the plants I raise in my own garden.
In La Pintada one morning I asked several women how to say grapefruit and star fruit and a few other vegetables in Spanish. I promptly forgot their answers and therefore had to return with a notebook and ask again. We all laughed about my short term memory ‘issue’. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the next morning the same four women were waiting for me to quiz me. (I almost remembered my lessons!) I was delighted to learn they had brought me a gift of some mandarin oranges (mandarinas) and another locally grown tropical fruit, chirimoya. Although cherimoya was not new to me, I almost never get to eat any because it is a tropical fruit that does not travel well. It is unique, delicious, and rare in US supermarkets.
Another woman took me by the hand and walked me up the street to show me a cashew nut tree. I had never seen cashews growing before. The trees are very large and the fruit different that I would have imagined.
Encounters like these are extremely fun and satisfying for me. Women everywhere cook and garden. It is great fun to learn from each other about the different foods we cook and how to cook them. We usually discover that we eat many of the same things. We also can commiserate that with teenagers at home it seems that we are never done cooking!