The Old Fashion Way

by John White

Early on in my Darien rainforest adventures Jeanie cook, a missionary I worked with suggested I bring trading materials along with money when I came to the rainforest to buy baskets. She explained that it was difficult for the women to travel to the city to buy the things they need. Of course my next question was what do they need. Jeanie said bras, panties, powdered milk, cooking oil, bug spray, and on and on. I thought...I don't know anything about bras and panties.

Before the next trip to the Darien I went down to Central Avenue and found a store named Saks. No, it isn't the store you are thinking about, it is a knockoff. Well, at least the name is a knockoff. I think Jeanie recommended it. I found the ladies department where they had these big boxes of bras and panties. That is where the fun began. "I'll take 25 of these C cups, 50 of the D's and 100 or more of various sized panties. Mix up the colors". The two sales girls just looked at me. "Come on, look alive, Chop, Chop"! That didn't work either. This guy with a tie comes over. The tie suggests authority so I was impressed. "May I help you", he said in English. You know what I told him and I showed him cash. He instructed the girls to help me and off we went. I laughed to myself thinking wouldn't it be funny if I got mugged on the way back to the truck.

Jeanie took me to a village alongside the road to buy baskets. We went in to a community hut and set up. C cups here, D cups there...you know the routine. When everything was organized and the dogs were run off, I explained how I would buy. I was ready to go but Jeanie said wait up. She had this fellow explain what I had said in Spanish in Wounaan or Embera. Smiles came on all around.

I had a pocketful of money as well so a deal might be one bra, three panties, and a can of OFF plus $40. This went on until I was out of trading materials and money. Everyone was happy except a few who came late and found me down to bus fare.

When it was obvious the trading was over the kids grabbed all the baskets and took off. "Jeanie, what's happening?" She laughed and told me they are carrying the baskets to the vehicle. We walked along and sure enough, they were all next to the SUV. I gave the tallest some money and told him to buy all the kids a soft drink. I wonder if he did.


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