Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Other Side of the Jungle

Before I moved to Panamá to become a Peace Corps volunteer, I never would have guessed how incredibly diverse such a small country can be.  Panama possesses a wealth of both ecological and cultural aspects that could keep you busy for years just trying to get to know.  I’ve loved being able to take advantage of any opportunity to see the many different sides of Panama during my past year and a half year, and this past week got to experience one of my favorite regions so far- the Darien. 

Darien is the province that borders Columbia and is notorious for being one of the only countries in the world without a (legally) passable land border.  The roads literally just end, and if you want to explore the vast jungle on the eastern side of the country, you’ll have to go by boat, foot, or plane. 

The Darien also contains two Comarcas- Panama’s indigenous reservations.  While they technically are not a part of the Darien, since the Comarca Emberá-Wounan regions 1 and 2 are surrounded on all sides by the province and can be referred to as being “in the Darien.” 

Having spent much of my time in Panamá getting to know the language, history, and culture of the Ngäbe people in the west, I was especially excited to finally meet the notoriously outgoing indigenous people of the east- the Embera and the Wounan.  Though I do love my sweet Ngäbes, I was blown away by the hospitality and friendliness of my new eastern friends. 

From great hosts (both volunteers and locals!) to productive work days and the most food I’ve ever eaten in Panama, the time I spent in the Darien might just make up one of my favorite trips so far.  After all, how could it not be- just look at the week! 

Friday: Bus to Meteti to stay at the Peace Corps Regional Leader’s house
Saturday: Boat out to Taimati, a latino town overlooking a beautiful bay
Sunday: Visit Cemaco, a neighboring Wounan site
Monday: Mother’s Day celebrations in Taimati
Tuesday: Hike to the Embera town of La Chunga
Wednesday: Boat to Rio Indio and hike to Daipuru to give a seminar on chocolate
Thursday: Hike to Bayamon to give a personal finance seminar
Friday: Spend time with a women’s artisan group & get painted in Rio Indio
Saturday: Begin the 29 hour journey back to Bocas with a 3 am boat ride…

So maybe that last day wasn’t so great, but other than that I had great trip that I can’t wait to share!  Tons of thanks to the volunteers out there who helped me all along the way: Austin, Matt, Nick, Charlie, and Sam- you guys are awesome!

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