When traveling to a new place, you look at the map and it's a great mystery. It is filled with foreign sounding place names, and borders with unknown countries. Then slowly, once you're there, the map comes to life. The strange sounding pronunciations become familiar. The distance from one location to another grows or shrinks depending on the quality of the road and the geography in between. Vague impressions of a culture are clarified or dispelled, replaced with something more intimate.
It's crossed our minds to keep on going. The mysterious map of South America is only a boat ride away. Just like it was hard to imagine what it would be like to be traveling before we left, it's now hard to imagine being home.
But Portland, Oregon draws us back to our lives-- to our house, friends, family, garden, work and the Pacific Northwest woods. We're so lucky to have such a great place to come back to. Even if it's raining.
The Buses (painted, with boat horns, bus callers, bus vendors) Rice and beans for breakfast Having to speak Spanish Chikyblak Furniture that swings Coke with real sugar Fresh tortillas Monkeys Being off the map The old men Tropical fruit People who like to repeat Lucas' name Fishing for dinner Heat Chaos New currencies Latino radio Casada People from Holland Moon like a smile Dollar beer in a bottle Learning people's stories Unregulated modes of transport Being out of touch with the world Help from random strangers Not knowing what we're in for Spending so much time together
Our small wooden boat reeled in the five foot swells, slamming down time after time as we motored against the wind. We were soaked through -- cold to the bone, eyes stinging from the salt water, and only one hour into the trip. Maybe we were hunting some gargantuan beast of the depths -- but if we were, the two Israeli girls screaming behind us were going to be of no help; maybe we were sole survivors from a sinking ship, in which case those same girls were going overboard the minute we needed to start rationing water. I looked over at Jina as she continued to bail water. What a way to finish the honeymoon. The Kuna are an indigenous people, living on several hundred small islands on the Northeast coast of Panama. They settled there only about four hundred years ago, but have completely staved off any colonization or westernization since then, maintaining their own government and regional control separate yet part of Panama as a whole. Theirs is a matriarchal society; when a girl comes of age, she receives her real name in a great ceremony (until then she is known only by a nickname). Then, when she marries, her hair is cut short and wears the traditional septum ring and face painting. And while the men have, on the whole, assumed western-style clothes, the women still wear traditional "monas" and complex beadwork along their arms and legs. With only a handful of days left of our honeymoon, we decided to visit the Kuna, not only to learn more about this unique culture, but also to enjoy their pristine paradise islands and relax on the beach. A river-fjording jeep trip and a harrowing boat ride later, and we arrived cold and wet at Pelican Island, our home for the next four days. And while the weather careened wildly from sudden squalls to tropical sun, the pace of being stuck on an island the size of four tennis courts suited us just fine. We lounged in the hammock, went snorkeling, read books, and became wonderfully bored. The same stormy weather we faced on the way out had stymied any supply boat from setting out from the mainland, so while water was running out, we still enjoyed our meals of rice and whatever the cook could find. Jina, channeling her Madagascar days, caught a good-sized fish and found two spiny lobsters, which fed everyone on the island. After a much more pleasant trip home, we're now back in Panama City, refreshed and a little sunburnt.