If you were to visit my village, I’d tell you to bring a camera, your clothes, and a good pair of boots, but to please, please not get carried away with all of the newest gadgets and accessories a good outdoors store will make you feel like you need. Life here is simple, and no, you won’t get malaria, yellow fever, or rabies from visiting me in the jungle. Bocas is quite rainy and muddy though, so I’ll make no promises about mild cases of bug bites or jungle rash.
If you were to visit my village, I’d spend the week before you arrived planning out the meals we would eat so that we could buy groceries in the neighboring town where I would come to pick you up. We would pay $1 to ride the local chiva for about 20 minutes, and then the choice would be yours- $12 for a private truck to take us all the way to my town, or a 40 minute hike down a gravel road, stopping to enjoy the beautiful mountain views a long the way. The amount of stuff you’ve brought will probably make the decision for us.
If you were to visit my village, you’d probably be struck by how sparse the town center is (6 houses, 1 2-room school, and a tiny store managed out of one of the homes) and wonder where all the people are. Within a few hours though, my neighbors would hear that you’re here and would start arriving at my house to introduce themselves and offer to be our guide for a trip around the area. Would we like to see the waterfalls? Do you feel like working on the chocolate farm for a day? Could we possibly come eat dinner with them the next evening?
If you were to visit my village, you would likely love to spend the day reading in a hammock, but at some point (if it’s not raining), I’ll force you to go visit my neighbors with me. Having lived here for a while, I know that if we don’t visit them, they’ll feel insulted. So you and your boots and me and my bare feet will walk down the path to visit. Because you’re a visitor, they’ll probably make us hot chocolate and a plate of food, and even if you speak Spanish, they’ll talk through me as if you don’t. Don’t take it personally; they did it to me too. After a few minutes, the conversation will come to a lull, and you’ll probably feel like it’s time to leave. That’s just because you’re new though, and I’ll insist that we must stay for at least another half hour and sit through the silence by making faces at children and doing our best not to feel awkward (because this is how my villagers do it.) If we leave too soon, that would also be an insult.
The time you spend in my village, whether 2 days or a week, will be normal for those of us who live here, but full of wonder and excitement if this is your first visit (especially applicable to non-Peace Corps Volunteers). Yes, I always have fresh chocolate and bananas at my house, yes we do have to bathe in the creek if the water goes out, and no, the stars aren’t always that bright- sometimes it gets a little cloudy.