Panama and other thoughts

So much going on.  I’m still writing.  But I needed to stop and think about Kiko and Maggie Perez and their next adventure after writing three books with them out saving the world. And I had to decide whether I wanted to go a completely new direction with new characters. I can come back to Kiko and Maggie. They’ll stay busy in the interim. 
My husband Martin and I tossed around ideas, and in the meantime I finished a children’s book I started a long time ago.  So Little Mouse on the Prairie is now available on Kindle for $.99 (by Karen Hopkins).  

Since the funeral I’ve been sorting my mother-in-law’s papers.  I think she kept everything she ever made a note on, every newspaper clipping, every piece of mail.  I know that’s not possible because we periodically sorted and tossed papers for her over the last forty years.  But, luckily some things escaped us. Fortunately among her papers I found a letter Martin wrote to his mom on July 29, 1965 from Fort Ord, California where he was stationed for advanced training.  That takes us back a ways!  

And I found two letters we wrote to her from Panama, mailed from Balboa, Canal Zone, May 23, 1976. Discovering these old letters and notes is like finding hidden treasure.  Details we’d forgotten pop up and our life thirty-seven years ago comes back into focus a little bit.

So here is some of what was in the envelope from Panama: First letter: 25 April 1976  (Annotations added in parenthesis.)

. . . .First Item: We are expecting another Hopkins sometime around December.  That’s quite a ways off still but it’s kind of exciting. (This was our second daughter, born in mid November)

Second Item”  We’re waiting to hear from everyone–when are you coming to visit?  We are having a fantastic time.  We’ve been out to the Caribbean twice.  Once we went to the San Blas Islands for three days.  It’s like a movie set–white sand, blue ocean, palm trees and grass shacks.  Meggie slept in a hammock, Mike went diving and I walked around the island and bought molas.  We stayed in grass shacks and ate in the communal dining room.  We forgot our camera!!  

(The Kuna Indians loved us because we brought our six month old daughter out to the islands.  They rarely saw tourists with kids, especially not babies.  They called here Sipu pipi–little white one–and she took us into every home on the islands.  Women would snatch her up and run off to show her to their friends.  I found her taking a bath in a 50 gallon drum that had been cut in half.  I found her sitting by a cold firepit eating ash cakes out of the ashes.  She had her own little mola shirt and a balsa wood doll.  And we had friends in every house!)

The second trip was out to San Lorenzo by car–an old sixteenth century Spanish fort, where the gold from Peru was brought and shipped to Spain.  It’s on a point of land with cannons aiming out in all directions.  The old well is still there with water in it.  But the fort hasn’t been kept up and the walls disappear off into the jungle.  We’ll send pictures as soon as we have them developed.  (Remember those days, before digital cameras and internet??)

Yesterday we went to a little zoo with native animals out in the Canal Zone.  We’ve been to a few locks at the Canal and hear you can book passage through the canal for $10.00.  (Why didn’t we do it?)

This first letter was short, but it brought back lots of memories.  I think our next novel will be set in Panama.  It is a relatively undiscovered tourist paradise compared to its neighbor Costa Rica–which we just visited again last February.  But we loved Panama.  We loved the city, Panama Viejo, Colon, the Canal Zone, the jungles, the mountains, the oceans and the islands.

For Matin the Canal Zone and the jungle took him back a little to Vietnam where he has spent three tours.  I didn’t know at the time how much nostalgia there was for Vietnam.  It’s funny how black and white we assume everything to do with a war is. 

But, I am ready to write about Panama.  My characters are forming and becoming friends.  We’ll see where they take me!



About Karen Hopkins

Karen Hopkins (1949-) was born in Los Angeles and raised in Martinez, California. At seventeen she moved to Talcahuano, Chile. After completing her university degree she worked in London, England for Pan American Airlines and traveled extensively throughout Europe, the Middle East, and India. For twenty-six years Karen taught Spanish and English as a Second Language in a variety of settings including a private school in Panama, the "most remote school in the United States" in Ticaboo, Utah, the Navajo Reservation, and a teacher exchange in Hermosillo, Mexico. Karen and her husband traveled extensively throughout Mexico and Central America, spending many summers in the highlands of Chiapas and Guatemala . Karen currently lives in Southern Arizona, near the Mexican border.
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