Last winter I hit a rough patch. Nothing huge, just a few disappointments compounded by dark days and cold nights. At that time my friend Jenna was scheming her annual getaway adventure where she hardly plans and just packs up and goes (Peace Corps volunteers tend to do this, I’ve noticed). Last year, she had tackled surfing in Costa Rica.
“Where should I go this year?” she had asked me. My big wave surfer friend, Rick, had mentioned that Panama was the next up-and-coming destination for surfers. “Panama,” I said to Jenna. In hindsight, this is hilarious because she is still just learning how to surf. But that didn’t stop me from getting online and “researching” places to surf in Panama, after all, I had one surf lesson under my belt myself. This lead to researching flights and within 12 hours I announced, “I’m coming with you.”
To this day, I have no idea how she felt about this. Three days before we left we were reading Panama travel books in the bookstore and she glanced up, studied my face for a moment before saying, “I want you to know I don’t usually plan this far in advance.” Ahem, noted.
My habit of excessive preparation, however, did get us a ride from the airport, the knowledge that dollars are accepted in Panama, and somewhere to stay when we were grounded by weather in Atlanta on our return flight.
But Jenna’s “Eat, Pray, Love” approach got us out of the rain and to a private island, and dining on ceviche along the way. It turned out, we needed both strategies.
Travel does give one the space to listen and pray – especially under an inky sky filled with stars and a midnight sea that glows with bioluminescent plankton. It seemed as if the Milky Way had fallen between our toes. Pondering infinity like this can make present setbacks seem not so big. Relief.
Ceviche seems to be “in” this summer. I tried Mark Bittman’s recipe for plum-and-scallop ceviche, a dish that “cooks” seafood in citrus juice. And even though it was more than half a year ago since that spontaneous trip to Panama the memories still sparkled for me when I dug in.
You can read more about our ceviche adventure here, from the Aug. 16 & 23 issue of The Christian Science Monitor. Or you can simply feast on these photos. Or both.
Spirit of adventure
Serves 4 as an appetizer, 2 as a main dish.
1 lb. white saltwater fish, cubed
1 cup lime juice, freshly squeezed (10 to 12 limes)
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup Roma tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup red onion, finely diced
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, finely diced
Hot sauce to taste
In a glass bowl or dish combine fish, lime juice, and salt. Make sure the fish is fully submerged in the lime juice. Refrigerate covered, and allow fish to marinate for at least 8 hours, stirring occasionally. Before serving, add the tomatoes, onion, and cilantro and let sit for an additional 30 minutes. Dish out with a slotted spoon. Serve with hot sauce and crackers. You can put a dab of mayonnaise on the cracker, too.