One’s senses can seem almost assaulted by strange sights, sounds and aromas in foreign markets, especially ones specializing in foods.

In Panama City, Panama, we visited an amazing fish market in 2015. The variety of freshly-caught seafood was beyond the knowledge base of this gal from the Great Plains.

A muscular man would plop down a whole fish and with one deft pass of a razor sharp knife, have a filet ready for sale. He would quickly turn over the carcass, which could be two to four feet long, and with a practiced, graceful movement, make another cut and free a second slab for sale.

Equally interesting were the diminutive older Asian women who bargained with the expert knife wielding men for the bones. On the fish skeleton, what remained might be a portion or more of flaky meat.

Now I don’t know how much money changed hands, but I’ll hazard a guess that the final product made from that fresh fish flesh (say that three times fast) was extraordinary—whether it ended up in a soup, fried patty or something else. It seemed like a great arrangement for all concerned.

Next to the odor-filled fish market were many stalls, typically defined by canvass walls and ceilings. Many, if not most of these spaces were places where food was purveyed.

The smell of cooking seafood was like a sirens’ call. Customers sat in white plastic lawn chairs outside the cooking area and awaited for their orders to be freshly prepared.

On weekends, families filled the open air area, engaged in animated conversations, punctuated with laughter and drinking beers, ice cold, costing the equivalent of one dollar US.

Now, many times I have been asked, in varying forms, “Aren’t you afraid to eat in places like that?”

I quickly respond, “No.” And depending on my mood or perception of their reason for asking, might explain that I have never gotten sick from street cooking. It takes time for the bugs to develop into food poisoning (or is it the toxins from the little dears?) and when little to no food is prepared ahead, the odds of getting sick is minimized.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, we do maintain up-to-date Hepatitis A shots, on the five-year schedule recommended by the CDC for folks not travelling, “all inclusive.”

As Jim was reading this article over my shoulder, he recalled with relish our time there.

You see, Jim loves ships and sailed as a Merchant Marine out of high school. He always made sure we were seated to have an unobstructed view of the ships from all over the world, lined and lining up, waiting their turn to traverse the Panama Canal.

Good food with a pleasant breeze and interesting views, this is the reason we travel.

We carry lots of memories home from our winter trips, but we still love livin’ in Craig.