Sunday, August 29, 2010

La Vida Panameña

Well folks, despite my recent extended silence, it has actually been an action packed couple of months full of slightly absurd adventures. For teh most part I spend my time traipsing about in the jungle getting covered in mud and downpoured-upon. Then I sit around in a hammock strumming away on my guitar, Diablo Rojo and eating more rice than you can shake a stick at. Well you probably COULD shake a stick at it, but then you would just be a crazy gringo shaking a stick at a bowl of, and that's just ridiculous. Anyway, teh first few months are mostly just devoted to integrating into the community. In terms of work, mostly I just tromp around flailling my machete and pretending to be badass. For this purpose I have bought a new machete - a 26 incher named El Tigre. My trusty Viuda Negra, at 16", just wasn't cutting it (that was for you Dad and Emma). She was being ruthlessly ridiculed by everyone in town for her diminutive stature. Good for opening coconuts, they tell me dissmissively. And maybe hunting shrimp, though even that is doubtful given my success rate in that department, which is also a source of mirth for my townsfolk. Anyway, with El Tigre at my side I have become quite adept at the "slashing" aspect of traditional Panamanian farming. I have yet to master the "burning" part, but all in good time Im sure. Just kidding. I haven't done any burning to date. I did eat some mysterious and endangered jungle cat though, deep fried of course. Sorry planet. And I enthusiastically slashed a hillside full of plants that put up delightfully little resistance against my blistered hands, only later realizing that I had taken out a mountainside full of cala lillies. The symbol of Peace. How's that for a twisted metaphor.

I have also started teaching english in the school, an endeavor which has not been terribly successful, but makes everyone in town think I have a purpose. I prefer teaching english to my host siblings, who I instruct in teh pronunciation of useful english phrases such as "my sisters are professional reggaetone singers" and "catch you on the flipside, homeslice." They also like to learn how to sing along with me on Diablo Rojo, phonetically of course. Their favorite songs are Jolene (which they pronounce "Chooleee") and Dirty Old Town (which is more widely known as Viejo Pueblo Sucio). I also sometimes read from a book of morally dubious fairytales that are "translated" into what cannot even be kindly described as dubious english. The tale of "The Beautiful Sleeper" describes its evil fairy as "cholic." Fortunately the kids can't understand what I'm saying, and at least I get a kick out of it. They also have an adult english instruction book which is full of useful phrases such as "my gums are bleeding," "there is a gang causing trouble next door," and "I'd like to post bail, please."

Here are a few fun wiuldlife stories for y'all: The other day we were out macheteing the mountainside and we encountered a six foot long fer de lance, which my host brother shot in the head with an old rifle, naturally. However, it neglected to die, so he beat it over the head with a stick until it complied. Then we emptied the contents of its stomach, and discovered that it had eaten ANOTHER snake that was about 3 feet long and half as fat to boot. Oh the excitement of living with large and dangerous vipers. Another time, in teh middle of a church service, a fer de lance came slithering up the aisle in the middle of the prayers. Church is about the only place people don't take their machetes, so they had to kill it with a broom. It certainly shook things up, but not enough to keep my brain engaged enough for the next six hours of the vigil. This resulted in me accidentally agreeing to attend another midnight vigil the next week...helpful hint: never say 'yo tambien' unless you know what you're 'tambien'-ing about.

I managed to avoid the second vigil by visiting Carmen in Canglon. We have a new tradition of pineapple pancakes. Its always nice to mull over life with some other gringos, but every time I go in our out its an adventure. This time is was a waist high river I had to ford on teh way out, and coming back was a whole other debacle. First the 3:00 chiva was canceled and we couldn't leave until ''5:00'' (and I use the term 5 loosely). Then the chiva had 19 people in the back, and it was raining so the vinyl siding was rolled down. Suffocation is apparently preferable to getting damp. Only 2 of the 19 were children, one an adorable Embera girl who relentlessly stomped on my blister-covered toe. ''Oh well,'' I thought to myslef, ''it's only an hour and a half.'' Oh Molly, don't be ridiculous. I can't imagine how, but somehow I'd forgotten that I was in Panama. We arrived at the first river and of course it was flooded. So we waited for two miserable hours wedge into the back of the chiva before we could cross. Finally we managed, and the rest of that unfortunate road can be described as frightening at best. Outside of Cucunati we had to wait half an hour for a boat to cross teh river into town. I finally straggled into town around 9 PM, and decided that hiking up to Candelilla alone on foot at that hour would probably be classified as a poor decission. Unfortunately I knew no one in Cucunati, and the volunteer who lives there was out of town. So I asked the people in the boat if they knew of anywhere I could spend the night, and someone took me to his sister's house, where the family fed me, gave me a bed, let me watch badly dubbed westerns with the children, and refused to accept payment. They told me that they were my family in Cucunati and their door was open any time. I thought it was pretty amazing that a dedraggled and smelly stranger could limp into town in teh middle of the night and be taken in and cared for like that.

So, there's a quick recap of what ive been up to as of late. Life is pretty good. Always full of surprises and adventures and absurdities and lots of hilarious jokes at my own expense to the delight of everyone (but hey, if nothing else, Im good entertainment for two years!) and crazy animals and amoebas, which are mostly ignorable but occasionally get rowdyand have a little fiesta in my stomach.

Hope everyone is well, and much love to you all!

Molly (or Moli, as my 14 year old host brother who wants to be my novio writes over and over again in his school notebook....)