April and Kevin in Kuna Yala, the northeast coast of Panamá

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Baseball Diplomacy - The Ambassador and the All-Star Game

After the Gulf of Montijo Health Fair, April left to be a facilitator at the Project Management and Leadership conference for PCVs and community members from the latest group. Kevin spent the week on the island, following up with folks about the fair. On Thursday, he came out, picked up April and they headed to Panama City. Friday was a day in the office working on the paperwork and receipts for the health fair, and Saturday was spent buying health-related books with grant funds (see the Health Fair post).

We also got invited to go to a baseball game on Sunday. With the US Ambassador to Panama, Barbara Stephenson. Back in Santiago - a four hour bus ride from Panama. But one of the PC staff was going, and offered us a ride, so we took it.

(April, Ambassador Stephenson, and Kevin in the Presidential Box at the new Stadium in Santiago)

The afternoon game, the one we went for, featured the US Southern Command baseball team (we aren't sure if the players also have tours of duty or how that worked, but it sounded like a pretty nice deal) against a local team. The nightcap was the Panama All Star Game, but our ride needed to head back to Panama, so we missed that one.

(April and Madame Ambassador tossing baseballs from our perch in the Box Seats behind home plate to the crowd below)

The game was a pitcher's duel, and although we had a runner thrown out at home, it was the local team that finally scored one in extra innings to finish the game. But we didn't mind, as we spent much of the time talking with the Ambassador, who was interested in how we made our VW Beetle run on used veggie oil and talking about The Not So Big House, both environmental issues we enjoy.

Other fun parts to the game, besides chatting with the Ambassador and helping her throw out balls, hats, and such, included the food...

(Not the Great American Ballpark frank, but a lot cheaper ;)

The hot dogs (salchichas here) were sliced in half lengthwise to cover the entire loaf of bread (bread, not bun), and the relish, well, I didn't relish it.

Here is April (miming) eating a salchicha so you can see our view of the game from the Presidential Box (okay view, but I think the stadium isn't quite finished yet, and the box was a little raw, with unpainted concrete counters, etc).

(April, a salchicha, and the Veraguas team batting against the Southern Command All Stars)
The other highlight was the visit of Margarita, the Panamanian winner of Latin American Idol last year, to our box to talk to Ambassador Stephenson. They are big fans of each other apparently. I'm sure many folks both on Peace Corps Panama staff and in our community would be jealous of us for being so close to Margarita, but without TV, we hadn't seen too much of the competition. We did happen to be in a restuarant for dinner when she sang the Panamanian national anthem (with all the verses, a bit longer than the American, so it was a heck of an effort), and it was quite beautiful; she won for a reason.

(Madam Ambassador with Señorita Margarita)
After the game, we were invited to the hotel where the Ambassador was staying for a bar-b-que, but our ride was returning to Panama City, so we headed out. Baseball is huge in Panama (bigger than soccer, which most folks probably associate with Latin American countries), and we had wanted to catch a game in the new stadium before we left. Now we can check that off on our list. Thank you Madam Ambassador.

1 comment:

Ginna said...

Wow! This sounds like an exciting opportunity. I'm so glad you were able to combine meeting and talking to the ambassador with a fun ball game. Thanks again for sharing the details of the wide range of activities you are experiencing in Panama.