April and Kevin in Kuna Yala, the northeast coast of Panamá

Monday, October 1, 2007

A Walk I´d Never Take in Maryland or Virginia

We knew for a while that we had to come to the city this Sunday because we had an informe due Monday and a meeting on Tuesday. And we had asked around for a boat going out and had secured a ride with the dad from our first host house, currently our nearest neighbor, who was leaving at 4am to pick up a political party official for an event that day. Then on Saturday, as we were packing, it turned out the official didn’t want to come because he thought the higher-than-normal tide caused by the full moon would be dangerous (it isn’t), so our ride vanished. Though our experience is limited thus far, it seems like transportation difficulties will be a recurrent theme to our time on the island.

But luckily, my guia, Efrain, came over to visit shortly afterward and said his brother was going off island at 4am too, but leaving from where they live, about an hour’s walk away through cow pastures and muddy trails. So we finished packing, finished transplanting some habichuela (green beans or string beans) into the small garden we’d spent a hot day building for our current host family, and hiked over to the northwest side of the island, luckily without any rain hitting us.

And as we were walking the muddy paths in Tevas and Chacos through waist-high grass carrying a backpack (full of clothes, our laptop, and some books) and our salvavidas (life jackets, or literally, life savers, which Peace Corps requires us to wear while riding in a boat), we both realized that we would never make such a hike so freely in Maryland or Virginia.

For all the worries about deadly bugs and poisonous plants and such here in Panamá, frankly, I was much less concerned here than I would be in a meadow along the AT. Here, there is no poison ivy. Here, there are no Lyme-disease carrying ticks, and there are significantly fewer ticks in general. Here, there are fewer thorny plants, and those few are obvious and avoidable. Here, the ants are only a problem if you stop and stand on them. So the long grass brushing past my bare legs didn’t scare me. (Yes, I do think about venomous snakes, but they behave the same here as rattlers, copperheads, and cottonmouths back home, so I feel the level of danger while walking through the grass is no higher here than in the States.)

Which is good, because I have a feeling we’ll be making such hikes frequently over the next two years. Who knows if it will build up my nerves enough to hike so freely in Maryland. :)

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