It didn’t take me very long to experience the beautiful yet frustrating transportation situation that faces many of the Darien volunteers- boats, and unreliable ones at that. On our first day we knew we needed to take a ~2 hour boat ride to Taimati and were told that the boat, which leaves only once per week, would likely leave around 8 am. Shortly after 9 am, we set off… only to purposefully beach ourselves about 30 minutes from our destination so that we could wait for high tide to roll in. A 2 hour mid-trip delay isn’t exactly convenient, but when you spend that delay stuck at a beach exploring mangroves and drinking fresh coconut water with friends, it doesn’t seem too terribly bad.
Shortly before 2 pm we arrived in Taimati and the massive food onslaught began. Having spent my first few months in site going hungry most days and losing 15 pounds from not getting fed, getting this type of treatment from host families and locals was great. Austin even told me that sometimes he gets two lunches a day!
After exploring the beaches of Taimati and getting to know some of the neighbors, we spent the next day visiting Matt in Cemaco. Even though the two towns are only a 30 minute walk apart, they’re really different. Whereas Taimati is a mostly latino town that’s slightly more developed with cement houses, electricity, and parks, Cemaco is a Wounan village that reminded me a lot of what mine might look like if all of the houses were centrally located.
Before we knew it, it was December 8- Mother’s Day. Mother’s Day is arguably one of the biggest holidays in Panama and many towns celebrate with communal dinners, dances, and gift giving. I was a little sad to be missing out on my own site’s Mother’s Day festivities, but most of that sadness went away when Austin’s host sister brought us back a plate of food from the party- fried rice with beef, potato salad, apples, and cake. And that was on top of the already large lunch and dinner that had already been cooked for us! The locals gave us a good excuse for eating all that food though- we were going to need the energy for our big hike coming up the next day!