Hello everyone! It’s Ben, Hope and Sarah Stockdale from group Phoenix, here to update you on our adventures in Panama! Monday morning we kicked off the day at Buena Vida Language School, where we learned about traditional Panamanian dance and festival attire. After class, we spent some time exploring the town and many people bought souvenirs for family
and friends. By the time we had finished, it was too hot to do much else than cool off on the patio of a local bakery. Sara, Liam and Sarah decided to hail a taxi and head to Playa Arenal for a nice, cool-down swim. In the evening, everyone headed home and spent a nice night with their host families.
The next morning, we all woke up early to head to the tropical dry forest with Jairo and Vincente from el Proyecto Ecológico Azuero to learn more about the native plants and climate and to see spider monkeys! After a nice morning hike, we headed back to the project’s headquarters for a presentation from Ruth, the program’s director. We ate more duros and learned about the environmental and social impacts of reforestation, with a focus on the local relationships between environmental workers and farmers. We also talked about environmental policies in Panama, especially in relation to the Azuero, and how they affect the efforts of environmental workers in Panama. After an exciting and busy morning, we headed to class where we got to try traditional Panamanian crafts! The girls learned how to make “tembleques” which are beaded flowers to either decorate hats or adorn hair for festivals and dance. The boys watched a local artisan make a motete basket, and then had the opportunity to try the weaving technique themselves. After, everyone headed home to spend a last night with our host families. 🙁
Wednesday morning we headed to school where we were were given traditional Panamanian hair, makeup, and dress. From there we headed to the gazebo in the center of town to take some photos with our new looks! The process for the girls was very lengthy, nearly three hours of doing hair, makeup, and putting on layers of clothing and jewelry. The amount of detail in each garment was amazing – many of the blouses were embroidered by hand, and all of the tembleques and some of the jewelry were also crafted by our teachers and other local artisans. After we took off the clothes and started to look more like our usual selves, we recapped on the different cultural lessons and our fulfilling experience at Buena Vida. We then returned to our homestays for the last time and finished packing before heading back to school to greet the Gryphon group! We said our last goodbyes to our homestay families and teachers, and then boarded the bus for Achotines. We settled into our apartments at the beautiful Achotines Laboratory, and caught the last bit of light for a refreshing swim under the sunset. We then headed off to bed early in preparation for an early morning hike.
This morning we woke up early and set off exploring the trails around the compound of the lab. Along the hike we began observing our surroundings and generating questions for our upcoming field research. After a beautiful walk we returned for breakfast and then went on a tour of the tuna research facilities here. Did you know that yellow fish tuna are cannibals?!?! We’re excited for an afternoon siesta and the possibility of night hike tonight ! Hasta Luego!
— Sarah, Hope, and Ben