Thursday, July 9, 2009

Beautiful Nature at the San Blas Islands, Panama!

The nature here is beautiful! I never want to leave!

Today was a day fully dedicated to exploring our surrounding environment! First, Natalia, Pablito, Jacinto, Emilio and me hopped in a canoe and paddled off to a deserted island. It was so cool! The island was about 25 meters big, with sandy beaches and several drooping palm trees scattering along the island -- it was just like the stereotypical desert island you think of getting stranded in a movie! We snorkeled for hours around this island, watching all the beautiful fish, corals, sponges and other amazing and diverse sea life. We saw baby octopuses and sea cucumbers and explored underwater hot springs. It was glorious!

Then we languished in the shallow waters of our little island and played and talked in the sand for hours! We would have stayed all day, but we realized we were getting sunburned and a sand crab had pinched my finger hard.

After our solitary island paradise we went to the field (the name of the jungle where they harvest) to explore the average day of a Kuna man. The men’s day is very different from the women’s; usually the men wake up at 4 am and paddle four hours out across the sea, to the land and then up a river. Every family and every man has a piece of land that they visit daily and harvest food from their land. The men harvest coconut, pineapple, mangoes, yucca, plantains as well as animals like boar, guinea pig, fish and chicken for hours. Then they paddle back down the river through the rough river mouth and back to Mamitupu, where they spend the rest of the day circling the island trying to sell their goods. So we voyaged out there alongside all the other boats. We paddled around the river, which was so rich, humid and hot. We were getting eaten alive by mosquitos so we hopped into the cool refreshing river water -- only to be told by Pablo that it was swarming with crocodiles! So we scrambled back in the boat, even though our friends said no one had ever been bitten by crocs. But we would rather be safe then sorry!

Then we paddled out of the river into the ocean and found a perfect place to snorkel. We were all suited up and ready to go when the most experienced breath diver, Jacinto, said I shouldn’t go in because I was white. I was curious why that mattered, and learned that there are a lot of sharks in this one spot (far from our island, mind you), and that swimming on the surface I would look like an underbelly of a seal and I might be more tempting to the shark. The sharks had never attacked a Kuna, but they had attacked other races of people. That was enough to keep me in the boat. This made me think about why and how the Kuna achieved such equal and respectful yet coexistence with all the “dangerous” animals of the tropics, and made me respect the Kuna people even more and admire their true magic.

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