Saturday, August 09, 2008

Nada es eterno.

Driving the streets of Panama isn’t as bad as my mom and brother originally made it out to be. We got our biggest taste of the Central American road yesterday, when we drove about eight total hours during the day and night to get to a little island the locals call Isla Grande. It wasn’t all that huge, but we took a boat to get there, the popsicles were as tasty as they were cheap and the blue waters were plenty clear for the snorkeling and goggling. Spence even kicked up a sand dollar I’m only halfway jealous of, though I scored some almost translucent clam shells of my own that resemble rainbow colored butterfly wings. Ah, bliss. There was even some kinda weird irony having most of your immediate family crowded together on a boat with the words Nada es Eterno (or “Nothing is Eternal”) on the side of it. Someone care to explain that one to me?

Back to the driving though. That was probably the real adventure of the day. Consider the crazy traffic and drivers that drive wildly fast into oncoming traffic like it’s the most normal thing in the rush hour world and the semi trucks and busses trying to run you clean over and the fact most have little regard for speed limits. Consider that cops stop you “just because” and dogs try to bite your tires as you drive past and, well? You have yourself a real live game of bumper cars. I won’t lie here; I thought it would freak me out. Right out of my skin. And the one or two times the semis really acted their part as self-proclaimed kings of the road and attempted to bump me off it weren’t my favorite times to be behind the wheel of a lowly rented Nissan Sentra, but, all in all, it was really rather fun. I doubt any in my family would call it the same, but now you have the opinion of one.

The day before was spent rubbing shoulders with the Embera tribe (they who wear loincloths and little else), learning of their fascinatingly simple way of life. We took a boat ride with them to a waterfall we were able to climb halfway up, leaning back into its force and gaining a back massage in the process. Tradition says that bathing in its waters will promise you twins the next time you’re able to get pregnant, which is the very reason my sister jumped in fully clothed. She shivered for hours after, but if she gets herself a double the next time around, I venture she’ll forget about the wet denim shorts entirely.

Tradition also tends to keep women off the falls. Our guide was fine with my brothers and others of the male persuasion gambling with our lives by clambering all over them but, once my cousin Kim took them on, he and his loinclothed friends started making a lot of noise about how it was just too dangerous for the likes of her. Her or any woman. See? Chivalry isn’t dead. It just lives in the jungles of Panama.

Those in the tribe live in raised huts and make beaded and carved crafts for visiting tourists like us. They catch fish in the river and avoid the Cayman alligators. We ate one of the staples of their diet (breaded tilapia and plantains and fresh pineapple, served, respectively, in and on banana leaves) and danced along with them after they performed for us via flutes and drums and dancing. I think we only scratched the surface of their way of life. Living there for a good month or two would really allow us to grasp the beauty we only caught glimpses of. If they were taking on volunteers for that sort of thing, I’d be first in line. I’m completely serious. Maybe I should look into that.

(I am taking photos, too. Lots of pretty ones. I just can’t be bothered to share more than words at this time. They’ll come at some point, but just not now. Lo siento.)


frog said...

I know you don't know me but I wish I was there. This sounds like a dream trip. Do you think girls not climbing the waterfall... is that really chivalry or is it sexism? Cause I can climb better than most the boys. I say way to go kim. I would have made sure I went higher than all the boys just to make a point probably.haha I can't wait to see photos....... drive safe.

Dainon. said...

Guess it could be viewed that way if you didn't see it take place, sure ... but it was actually just kinda tender and old-fashioned, really. It was a way of protecting, not forbidding. She eventually came down, too ... but only when she was good and ready.

frog said...

Oh nice. It was an honest question. It's good for girls to climb. If they are not allowed, then they wont learn how strong they are.

TRIBU said...

Hi! Here is another one for the secret vault of non posted comments. I was thinking about chivalry and machismo on the plane to Mexico...and I must admit I was judging old ideas and feeling the need to liberate women from a patriarchal world. Then I exited the plane and immediately noticed how the men let me pass first, opened doors for me, etc. No extravagant actions, but I must admit it made me feel so feminine and I like feeling that way. I think men get how special we are and certain cultures feel the need to care for that which is of great value. I am not saying that the oppression of women does not exist..unfortunately it is a plague. I just think that sometimes in our mad world carino (kindness) can be misunderstood.

frog said...

I totally know what you are saying. In Telum Mexico I felt the same say. They made me feel beautiful and safe. Then back in Canun at the resort with the white males I felt so creaped out at one pool I had to leave. Still words like "allowed"..... and if it's a spiritual place then woman should be for sure "allowed." I'm glad to hear it was chivalry though. Smiles, em

frog said...

Oh boy. I just reread this. It doesn't even say "allowed".haha Obviously at some point in my past I wasn't "allowed". I think I'm a little defensive. Sorry Dainon. Still... you just taught me something about myself. That's a good thing.

Christina said...

Hi Danion. Thanks so much for posting while you're in Panama. It makes me feel like I'm there, even though I'm not (because of MY 6 wk. old new twins...not b/c I jumped into a waterfall though...). It's fun to vicariously enjoy the family trip!