Aw man I love Panama. I’m so glad we’ve spent quality time here. Tomorrow morning another nice wake up call at 4 something am and then flying to Miami to fly to Peru. I’m confused about the Miami airport part, however, I plan on double fisting Starbucks while I’m there! Heyoo! and their specialty holiday blends…I’m still so American.
Thanksgiving was really cool, we had like 50 people eating a ton of food! We started cooking early in the morning, I peeled like eight thousand potatoes and sweet potatoes and cut up tons of apples and mashed huge tubs of potatoes by hand. It was weird to be dripping sweat and in a tank and skirt on Thanksgiving, but we had the Indian headdresses on and played Sublime, so that was fun. As was trying to explain to Europeans the meaning of Thanksgiving. I think its simple enough…one would think its inherent in the name, and we’d explained there doesnt need to be any science behind it, just family, friends, food, football, but they remained confused in an adorable, accented sort of way. Everyone filled out the thanksfulness leaves for my tree, the overall themes being thanksful for traveling, friends, new experiences, love, and beer. Very hostel. And we played guitar and card games and people drank too much wine and got in fights and cried and hugged it out. Just like being at home! hahaha. It was great.
After turkey day, it was still raining all over Panama City, but we decided to go for it and booked a trip to San Blas islands, which involved a seven hour day of travel in a pick up truck, over non existent roads and and pothole dodging and mud slides in the pouring rain. Not the most fun, and definitely not fun to hear that everyone else’s trips were only three hours long…. but we stopped at an amazing roadside breakfast joint, and after a short boat ride we finally reached paaaaradiiiiiiseeee!!!!!
the Islands were amazing, one of the most beautiful places in the world. They are about 400 islands, mostly uninhabited, stretched out along the coast of Panama and run by the indigenous community of the Kuna, about 42,000 strong. They have their own language, religion, President and laws and congress. Its pretty cool. According to Aaron, a Kuna who acted as a bit of a historian and guide while we were there staying at his family’s cabana, told us that the Kuna gained their independence by inviting the Panamanian govt people out to the islands, getting them drunk on Rum, and having them sign over the islands back into the rightful hands of the Kuna. Having seen how Panama and really all of Central America loves their party, I find this well within the realm of possibility.
The islands that have people on them and are like villages have no yards and few trees, just paths winding through the crammed together houses that are constructed from cane reeds and dried palm leaves. “Bathrooms” and “showers” are decks with sheets hung up between, no roofs, slats over the ocean, and you literally squat over a whole and do your business right into the water, watching the fish swim around underneath you. For showers you pour a bucket of hopefully fresh but still somewhat orange water over your head. We also saw our host family fishing right by these bathrooms….I stopped eating the fish after that. We had our own one room cane hut with a sand floor and two beds and a hammock, the sunrise streaming into the hut every morning, so beautiful. We were right on the water and heard the waves all night, and the family cooked us three meals a day, rice and fish and some cabbage, pretty basic. We brought pringles con limon and seco so we were alright!
The men wear Western clothing, and the women, once its been five years after their first menstruation, wear these beautiful clothes with bright clashing patterns, head scarves, gold nose rings and short hair. They rock these awesome anklets that are more like leg warmer size that are bright orange and yellow and black beaded patterns. They are beeeeautiful. Aaron said that the men wear traditional clothing only if they “possess knowledge of the Kuna,” like medicine or culture or can do the traditional dancing. Our host family arranged for the teen dance troupe to do a performance for us that was really cool, ages 9 to 15 or so, hopping from one foot to the other and weaving in and out, the boys playing flutes the whole time and just dripping sweat, the ground vibrating beneath our feet with their movements. It was really cool, it felt so tribal and National Geographic. They did dances that represented winning their independence and also one that represented a girl’s first menstruation, which is a huge deal that involves the whole community celebrating, because women are numero uno in the Kuna. Heck yeah!
We took boats out to remote islands, literally the islands they make postcards out of, one was only about the size of two basketball courts end to end, with the brightest white sand, the clearest turquoise waters, bright green palm trees, coral, pelicans diving all around. It was insanely beautiful. There was also an island with a ship wreck which we tried to snorkel to, and were stopped by the presence of three too many jelly fish to make me feel comfortable…didnt want to have to ask anyone to pee on me.
The sunsets were all kinds of gorgeous, and the stars at night were more than I’ve ever seen, being no electricity on the islands and out in the middle of the sea, the galaxies felt so close and we saw so many shooting stars and fireflies and everything smelled good and the waves crashing right at our door. I was so glad we went, I feel so lucky to have been there.
There was even MORE fun on the way back, as there was no one to pick us up after the boat ride to take us back to Panama City! Luckily our hostess had come with us and arranged for her friend, a nice 20 year old named Jonathan who sometimes brings out bananas to the Kuna and has something that resembles a pickup truck, to take us back with him. Only problem being there are three of us, and him, crowded in his truck, which was a stick, Natasha on my lap the entire time, in something approaching 90 degree weather. We were all sticking to each other with sweat, my head out the window, Natasha’s banging on the ceiling, Dana’s legs suspended in the air to stay out of the way of the stick, and Jonathan passing out cold beers that did me more good to just hold against my forehead. Our clothes were soaked with sweat, it rained part of the time, I thought we would fall off the cliffs into the jungle at any moment. But. It was pretty hilarious. The roads were insane, the truck doors were missing their insides, and I lost all feeling in my legs and feet, but we were able to bump the ipod and have some mad Rihanna singalongs. I also spent part of the journey sitting in the bed of the truck, wind whipping my hair into my face and watching the chicken buses and SUVs approach us from behind at alarming rates, soaking in the banana slash trash smell. He was a really funny guy, though. We were all just cracking up, “Only in CenAm….just another thing our parents wouldn’t want us to do! yiiiikes….” But it was pretty fun.
Now we’re back in Panama City, where we’ve checked out the lovely Causeway for a nice evening out and went to the mall to get some stuff for Peru. I bought a highly impractical but very awesome fringed Indian vest that I now wear with everything, since after three and a half months of wearing the same four wife beaters and one Road Trip tshirt, I am a bit sick of my clothes. I also finally found sweat pants for Peru, since its to be rainy and cold while we’re there, and then promptly left my bag in the taxi when we got back to the hostel! I think if my head wasn’t attached, I would have left it somewhere a long time and a long way ago. Like in Belize.
My new camera is amazing and I’ve uploaded some new pics of Panama City and San Blas! We’ve been packing and trying to figure out how we ended up with so much stuff, trying to gather the mental strength for a 17+ hours day of travel tomorrow, getting ready to get back on American soil for five hours, long enough to hear some English, grab some magazines and Starbizzle, and then onto Nazca lines, Macchu Piccu, Miraflores, lost and sacred cities, lakes, indigenous tribes, flamingoes and penguins, waterfalls and beaches in Peru!
Love you miss you wish you were here,