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     Trip to Farfan


On our arrival to Farfan as we drove by we noticed that the swimming pool was filled in. We kept going on around to the bombproof and we noticed that the second deck had been enclosed. We also noticed that there were butterflies painted on all of the buildings. One of the buildings says 'Fundacion Nueva Vida' on the outside, which means Foundation for New Life. We parked in the empty parking lot at the bombproof, not knowing if there was anyone inside at all. We went up the ladder to the second deck and looked in the door and saw a room full of beds in there. We could hear voices coming from inside. My daughter called through the screen door to see if anyone was inside. A nice man named Rene came to the door and let us in. We explained to him that I had been stationed there 42 years ago ands asked if we could look around. He was more than happy to help as long as we didn't take pictures of the residents. He took us inside the second deck where there were beds for assisted living senior citizens. Going on back there were bathrooms and private rooms. In the back half there was a sitting area with a galley. In the sitting room we met about 15 seniors who were all very excited about our visit. Rene stated that the bottom half was used for storage. We didn't go down there. Rene also asked what that space had been used for ' they always believed it was to store ammunition, and they called it 'el bunker.' We explained that it was a communications station. He was very excited to hear about what it had been.

Rene explained that the Foundation was created by a nun after the 1989 invasion for senior citizens who had been displaced. The Panamanian government gave them Farfan in 1990 to be a permanent home for the foundation. The bombproof is the most assisted living part, where they have a large room with hospital-like beds, a communal kitchen, and nurses.

Then we drove over to the lower barracks where there was an elderly woman sweeping and watering her two plants outside on her little patio. She was very friendly and said we could look around and take pictures. The area below the barracks has been converted into apartments with patios. We weren't able to take pictures because of the residents' privacy. I was excited to see that the laundry room is still a laundry room! While we were looking in the laundry room two employees of the foundation came by and were as excited to talk to us about Farfan's past, as we were to talk to them about what's going on today. A very nice man named Victor who is one of the administrators accompanied us up to the upper barracks. He showed us the new chapel and crypt they have build outside. On they rear they had build a new dining room and kitchen. As we proceeded through the new dining room and made a left hand turn, there was the bar. My daughter said she could tell I got a tear in my eye as I shouted out, 'I don't believe it, and it's the real, original bar!' I looked for me and Ed Endee's bell button under that bar that we had put there over 40 years ago. The bell wasn't there, but the bar was, even though it's now used for religious icons (Jesus and the Virgin Mary). The bar room has mostly been converted into an air-conditioned medical clinic. There was a sitting area between the bar and the clinic. No jukebox! The recreation room was still there, and even still had a pool table. Now it's mostly used for physical therapies and a sitting room to look at the scenery out the window, toward the bohio.

We couldn't go up stairs due to patient privacy, but Victor told us that upstairs were dorm-style living quarters for the seniors.

We went outside and the bohio is still there. I even found the place where the old flagpole was. The bohio now has a tin roof instead of a thatched one. The softball field is still off to the left, but grown up. The tennis courts are also still there, and there were kids playing soccer on them. The theater is gone. The five houses that were at the entrance to Farfan are still there and are used as dormitories for students in the Panamanian naval air force. One of the houses is used for an abused women's refuge.

One of the funniest things is that the Panamanians all call this area 'Howard' now.


For pictures of the Bombproof and
Continuing Reflections of my 2010 Visit to Panama
Click Here

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