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Latin America Kevin Dispatch

25 Cents for a Taste of Heaven
 

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Would you like yours with or without condensed milk?
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Panama City is very large and very hot. I decided to take the first bus I could find and get off wherever things began to look interesting. I didn't even bring a map with me. Many of the public buses are school buses brightly painted.

Bus fare is fifteen cents. After only ten minutes of riding my orange, blue, and red bus, the streets began to look very lively, just the sort of action I was looking for. I hopped off right in the middle of the central market district.

By mid-day Panama City, less than ten degrees from the equator, is blazing hot. Well, I was so hot from walking that when I spotted a raspado (snow cone) cart in front of a school I just knew I would try one. A raspado is basically what we would call a snow cone or maybe an Icee in the US.

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6 flavors - all as good as they are colorful!
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The man pushing the ice cart is named Jesus. He pushes his cart from his home to the store where he buys an enormous block of solid ice. The ice block weighs over 150 pounds, but it can only last up to 5 hours in the hot sun, then it melts.

He then pushes the cart to a market where he refills the colorful containers of syrup flavorings. Jesus' flavors are lemon, orange, mint, strawberry, pineapple, and grape. He pushes the cart even further, to the schoolyard, where I found him just in time for the lunch hour.

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And one for me, please!
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For each customer paying 25 cents, Jesus inserts a paper cone into an ice shaver and then shaves the top of the ice block until the cone is packed full. Shaving the ice requires so much strength the entire cart rocks back and forth with each pass of the shaver. He tops off the raspado with sweet milk and even a squirt of honey. Sometimes the kids try to bargain him down from 25 cents but the best he'll do for them is offer them a group discount.

When I asked Jesus why he pushes this heavy cart for miles every day just to stand in the hot sun and shave ice he replied, "Just look at the smiles on the kids' faces! They love it!" For my own raspado I chose lemon flavor. It was very cold and refreshing!

Kevin

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