Sunday, February 16th, 2014
Here is my Monday post! I currently have a cold, so I spent the day in bed relaxing from a 5-day adventure I got back from at 9:30pm last night, doodling while listening to an audiobook called “Goodbye for Now” by Laurie Frankel. Half way through, it’s pretty good, bringing in some interesting thoughts about how we classify “dead” and “gone” in this new world of technology. It’s nice to just lay down in my own bed for a while, although a sore throat that morphed into a cough with a runny nose and head ache caused me to get up and go to the minisuper-chino for $1.35, 8 ounce bottle of local “Bee Queen” honey (from David, which is considered far from Changuinola by Panamanian standards, but as it’s only 3 hours by car, that’s pretty local for the U.S.), promoting “Vigor y Salud con Miel de Abejas.” It tastes like clover honey, not just sugary, plastic sweetness you get with cheap honey in the U.S. As long as the ants don’t find it, I might just keep a bottle around because it tastes 10 times better than any candy you could buy.
February 12th was my third of the country’s Mid-stay Orientation. For us three lucky ducks in Changuinola, a town only about 20-30 km from both the North and West corners of Panama, this meant another long bus ride. Let me give you an example of our lucky-ness: last month when we met in Panama City to do visa paperwork, the travel difference between us in Changuinola and those living already in Panama City? We both got on the bus around 6, but us the night before, and them the morning of.
Luckily, this orientation’s meeting point was the David Terminal, only 4 hours away. Of course, when your meeting hour was 7am, you get to take the bus at 3am, which means getting to the local terminal at 2:30am, and trying to catch a taxi by 2am, which requires setting your alarm for 1:10am so you can get the twenty minutes of snoozing between alarm reminders you can’t train yourself out of, after going to bed late because you were packing the last things at 11:30pm.
(And we were expected to take good notes on how to survive the next several months in our countries? Now, of course, we’re a lot more proficient in survival: we’ve got our routines and cultural knowledge and language skills. The first post arrival orientation, however, I did not need that overnight 12 hour bus ride in a foreign country with the lights going on every few hours. Since then, my sleeping-on-bus-skills have improved; on our bus to David, I managed two thirty minute periods that probably permanent damaged my neck between 3 and 5am. My first day in community back in September I spent sleeping because I had spent the entire night awake on the bus that left at 8pm, only half falling asleep a little after dawn around 6am, right when the rising sun turned the world into emeralds.)
Travel tip: Travel at dawn or dusk for the most spectacular views created by the light. The bus from David to Changuinola around 5pm is especially wonderful, since you go through the Fortuna Forest Reserve in the mountains around the time the sun is setting. You also pass over the continental divide!
From David, all 25? 30? of us drove an hour in a private bus to this hotel/day spot for rich tourists overlooking a canyon that reminded me of a much, much smaller Grand Canyon with a lot more greenery. We were left to take in the view and talk amongst ourselves for an hour (my companions made fun of my half-dozen hardboiled eggs and tomato I brought for breakfast, even as they starved from lack of breakfast. I offered around eggs, but only two accepted, although another U.S.-an offered to peel two of my eggs for me). Then we all hiked down to the river, where only a few brave souls got into the frigid waters. By now, I’ve learned on many expeditions with Ironwood Tree Experience that one does not ignore the call of swift water and waterfalls, no matter how cold, so I quickly found a photographer (German) and jumped in to explore the waterfall, mini-cave with 6 inch stalactites, and bruising rapids. (I am now responsible for getting over 20 selfies to my Norwegian friend took with my camera borrowed from my American friend who took over on the photographer job.)
Hopefully I will be able to include a photo with this post one day soon. Remember Travel Tip #1? Always look behind you and don’t loose anything? Well, that was prompted when I left my camera charging on an island in San Blas on a trip last month. We couldn’t go back, but one of the AFS volunteers offered to get it from a lady who was going to the mainland the next day and send it down with the next AFS trip to Bocas. That didn’t happen, so I’d been without my camera for a month when I finally got it last Tuesday in David. Unfortunately, the USB cable and USB-outlet adaptor I use to charge the camera and download photos wasn’t with it. Somehow that got lost along the way, or maybe whoever came from the island just unplugged the camera without realizing that the USB cable was a very essential part of the camera. Now, I can’t charge the battery or look at the photos on the memory, and since the camera’s out of battery, it’s useless. I’m hoping against hope that I can buy another USB cable here, or even a battery charger and photo chip reader. I do know where I can get the exact same camera in the same color here in Changuinola, but that’s an expense I’d rather not pay. So really, LOOK BEHIND YOU!
*facepalm* Why do I seem so intent on leaving things behind? *hits head lightly with fist twice before pounding begins to cause aching*
After the hike to the waterfall, fancy but cheap hot dog and burger bar lunch, similarly cheap flan, then outside for a rare sun-bath while the students were safety with tales of crazy past participants from a volunteer not much older than we were. Back inside, a presentation that mentioned a bit about the importance of bonding with our host families and countries, but mainly focused on safety during Carnival, a time for crazy parting when it’s thought all sins are forgiven at the end of the week, and are therefore acceptable. A bit more talking, and then it was time to go. I ended up staying in Nueva Swiza near Volcan with another exchange student and her family for four more days, which was a spur of the moment decision that turned into quite the adventure.
Now I’m back, and looking forward to my last week of vacations from school, espcially since this is my last week of “summer” until the summer break in college. Next Monday, I start my 15 1/2 months of senior year.