Friday, February 27, 2009

Family Night

Sunday night was family night. The sweet family we are staying with, invited us to join them. At the end we sung primary songs and danced. Ronoldo (the little boy) was adorable. I just wanted to squeeze him. Too bad I had to bribe him with candy in order to get him to come over to me.

Just to warn you it is freaking long...but we do look adorable trying to sing head-shoulders-knees-and toes.


This week the other students and I went to an animal refuge for animals that are injured or illegally domesticated. It was so fun!! It was like the Disney Wildlife (see the sign) Ernesto, our school administrator, took us on the grand tour and taught us about the flora and fauna.

This tree is the Black Chechen. Its sap if wet, will give a person 2nd degree burns and blind them if it gets in their eyes. The tree is drained of its sap and its wood is used to make crafts. Always close to the Black Chechen is its antidote (I don`t remember the name). If anyone is unfortunate to get burned the sap from the tree nearby (seen here) will sooth the burn. I don`t think it works on blindness.

These spider monkeys were domesticated from birth and cannot be returned to the wild. They seemed really happy, and put on a show for us. They loved us because we fed them bananas

Loni and Jacki

The employee let us in to see the tigrilla. The tigrilla was captured when it was young and domesticated. As a result it cannot be reintroduced into the wild :( I really wanted to take it home with me, but I knew that was the reason why it was there in the first place

We were also able to go in the cages with the macaws and other birds. The Macaws did not like us, I think they wanted our figners for dinner. Todd was sure to stay a safe distance from them.

With a macaw feather in his hat, Cush took us safely home.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

This is a video of Cush playing the harmonica and singing for us. He is so awesome!

Monday, February 23, 2009


This weekend was amazing. Sasha and I, with four other students (Todd, Molly, Loni, and Jacki) spent the weekend in Tikal. The Mayan ruins are only an hour and a half from San Andres, so we decided to make a weekend trip of it. On Friday night we headed up to Tikal and camped out in hammocks, in a campground outside the park. We wanted to be in the park first thing in the morning to watch the sunrise over the temples.

The evening was perfect, sandwiches by the campfire, star gazing, and of course studying Spanish. The night however, was freezing, and the hammocks were less than ideal beds. I dont think any of us got much sleep. We were all a little relieved when the alarm clock went off. It was fortunate that we wanted to get up, because I dont think we could have slept much longer once the howler monkeys began yelling.

Sasha and I watch the sunrise from Temple IV. The view was breath taking, and it was fun to listen to the sounds in of the jungle. After the sunrise, Loni and Jackie left to go see the park on their own. The rest of us proceed to explore the Disney World of archeology. It kind of reminded me of working at Disney World and my experience ¨merchantaining¨ (yes, that was my official job title)

First we chased after howler coming soon

Next we climbed a temple

and then another....

and another....


then climbed another....

We werent alowed to climb Temple I, so Sasha and I thought would try jumping to the top.

and finally, we climbed another...

The ruins were amazing. I loved explored all the the nooks and cranies.

While exploring the park, we took a detour and discovered ¨new¨ ruins. The ruins weren´t on the park map. At these ruins we saw spider monkeys playing in the trees.

The trip home was complete crowding into a chicken bus, with only enough room to stand on one foot. By the time we got home we were exhausted.

Monday, February 16, 2009


Saturday was my first full day off. Since Sasha and I have school four hours a day (I know, poor us) our activities are a bit limited. On Saturday, we decided to borrow a boat and take it out on Lake PetĂȘn Itza for the afternoon. The locals were all convinced that the gringo girls were loco, but we were not deterred. We loaded up on snacks and water and went hunting for a boat. Thanks to our friend Selvin, we found the perfect ¨launchita.¨

We rowed on the lake for about forty-five minutes until we reached a small island on the center. Once there, we parked our boat in the reeds, layed out, studied, and sugared it up. A local, who was fishing nearby, decided to come over to see what in the hell we were doing. He spoke to us too fast in Spanish, and I think between the two of us, we caught about half of what he was saying. Before leaving, he kindly posed for a picture with me, insisting that I hold one of his catches of the day. He told me that it was dead, but it most certainly was moving in my hands...eww.

We rowed around the island to another island in the lake, where we were told there was a musuem with Mayan artifacts. The musuem was only a small room, but the director of took us on a tour, explaining the artifacts to us (in Spanish), demonstrating what some of them were used for (fortunately, not the arrowheads), and allowing us to touch and hold several of the artifacts. It was amazing! According to the sign in book, we were the first visitors in several days. With so many ruins nearby, I think the musuem must often be overlooked.

On the way back we stopped in the middle of the lake and went for a swim. The water was so clear, we could see the sand at the bottom. We attempted to pull the boat back to San Andres, but didn¨t make it very far.

The return trip was a bit more difficult than the way out. After the sun started to set, the current became stronger and we had a difficult time getting back to shore. As we got closer, we noticed a small crowd gathering around watching us struggle. San Andres has few gringos (four to be exact), and we must have been quite the sight.

We were exhausted when climbed back onto shore. Although Sasha was up for dancing, all I could think about was sleep.

It was an amazing day.

Friday, February 13, 2009


My day on Friday: On Friday the other students, Sasha, and I went to the nearby forest and spent the afternoon cleaning a trail.

Ernesto, the director the school showed us the tree that gum comes from.

At the end of our cleaning, we went serching for howler monkeys, we only found one :) I am glad we didn´t find any other monkeys, because the kind of monkeys we were looking for LOVE to throw poop and pee on gringos...

Thursday, February 12, 2009

It was the best of days...

What are the significance of bad days, if not to improve on them.

Since Sunday felt like the worst day...ever, things could only get better. Monday I flew into Guatemala City and met up with Sasha. I was so happy to see her! Traveling alone had been so much fun, but I was excited to have a good friend with me. That night we took an 8 hour bus ride to Flores, Guatemala. We arrived at 5:30 in the morning. Dazed and exhausted from the night bus ride, we sat for breakfast and watched the sunrise. It was beautiful. Flores is on a lake, and at that hour the world felt still. At 6:30 we walked towards the dock, where we were suppose to meet ¨Cush,¨ who would take us to San Andres. As we approached the dock, a man in his mid-sixties walked towards us. He was wearing cut off jean shorts, that were too big for him, had on a dirty tshirt, and was not wearing shoes. He smiled a toothless grin and looked at Sasha and I expectantly. It took me a moment to realize, that this was Cush. The director of the school was with Cush but stood a little closer to the dock, and I didn¨t see him immediately. After we
introduced ourselves, we climbed onto a small boat and road across the glassy lake, while the sun rose behind us. During the trip I couldn¨t help but look back and Cush, and wonder a little about his life. I assumed that he was probably destitude and perhaps a little crazy. On the way, the director asked Sasha and I all sorts of questions, including if we were religous, to which Sasha and I responded yes, we were Mormon. The director informed us that Cush¨s wife was also Mormon, and then proceeded to ask Cush if Sasha and I could stay with him, because we had planned a home stay. He graciously said yes, and smiled at us. Needless to say, I was a little

Once we arranged everything at the school, Cush, Sasha and I walked down towards Cush¨s house. Upon arriving we met his beautiful 14 year old daughter and we shown his home. He proudly showed Sasha and I photos of his family and then took us to our room. Both of us were anxious to sleep, because we slept so poorly on the bus. No sooner had we layed down, Dalia,
Cush¨s wife got home and was interested in talking to Sasha and me. We stumbled through introductions and questions in Spanish. I was surpirsed how much both of us could communicate. We sat and looked at photos, and listened to stories of other students that had stayed with Cush and Dalia. They have hosted students for the last 13 years. Dalia and Cush were excited to show us photos of all their children. Dalia and Cush are so wonderful and gracious. It is interesting to see how assumptions change.

With little energy left, Sasha and I went to our room to try to sleep. We were out in a matter of minutes. At 1 we awoke for the most fantastic lunch and headed to school for an evening of studying. Again, I was surprised at how much I could communicate with my teacher, Helga.

In the evening we walked to Cush and Dalia¨s casita, an outdoor kitchen right on the lake. The air was cooling off, and the night was absolutely beautiful. I am so glad to be here!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

It was the worst of days

Leaving Panama was a bitter-sweet experience. In order to fully capture the feelings I had, I´ll review the day for you in full.

Today actually began...around one am. I was preparing myself to leave my new friends, life, and the routine that I had adopted in Panama. To the outsider, it may look similar to the summer vacation of a ten year old. But, I had serious questions to ask, and answer...all on my own (occasionally with the help of Jessica and Ian, my vacation family). I had questions plauging me daily like, ¨what should I do today¨ and ¨where is the meat-on-a-stick guy¨ (for the record, that question went unanswered).


1am: I began the packing process. I could have started earlier, but I really need to cut my fingernails and my toe nails, before anything else was done. The packing lasted an hour, as I enjoyed looking through my guidebook and contemplating why it is that I have so much stuff.

2am: Bed
6am: I woke up to my alarm clock. I loaned it to the girl staying in the next bedroom over, so she could get up for her flight in the am. It didn´t wake her up. Instead, I tip toed into her room, and woke her up.
8am: My neighbor returned my clock, and I fell back asleep dreaming of running untrained marathons and using an old printing press
9:30 am: Get up to go surfing
10:30 am: Actually leave to go surfing, and hustled by a bunch of boat drivers
11 am: Surf at high tide, with big swells (yes, I do know what all those words mean...check out the surfer girl)
11:48 am: Get pounded by a series of 6-8 waves, while praying for my life
12:30 pm: Had the most awesome warm shower ever.
1:30 pm: Visited the most beautiful farm and saw the most disguistingly huge banana spiders
2:30 pm: Ran from my hostel to the airport to catch a plan to Costa Rica. On the way to the airport I thought ¨wouldn´t it be great if I stayed.¨ Apparently, the woman who needed to stamp my passport to leave the country can read minds and thought that I REALLY, REALLY wanted to stay.
3:00 pm: Immigration woman wouldn´t stamp my passport to leave the country, because the immigration man forgot to stamp it when I came into Panama. The immigration woman felt like it would be most appropriate for me to go the border and get it stamped there...that is when the border bridge was no longer under a meter of water.
3:10 pm: Hop in a taxi to see where in the hell I put my tourist card, to prove I crossed the border. I could find my reciept for my luggage for the plane ride to Costa Rica in January, but I couldn´t find my tourist card. Had the taxi driver take me eveywhere I could possible think of.
3:15 pm: Cry
3:18 pm: The taxi man took me to the police to see if they would help me. It is weird, plus awesome that my tears although totally, totally genuine, actually helped me
3:25 pm: Beg the pilots to hold the plane, until I figured out if the immigration woman would stamp passport. It was suppose to leave at 3:30
3:28 pm: Watched as the pilots, the baggage handlers, and the police officer tried to negotiate my case with the immigration woman3:40 pm: The immigration woman calls her boss, to see what can be done
3:44 pm: Told the plane was leaving without me
3:47 pm: Told the plane would wait to see what the immigration boss would say
3:49 pm: Talked to the immigration boss, and informed that I was illegal and had to pay a fine
4:00 pm: Got on the plan to Costa Rica...what a relief
6pm: Arrive in Costa Rica
10pm: Fall asleep, at least the day was over!

Saturday, February 7, 2009


Although my plan prior to arriving in Panama was to learn how to surf, I hadn´t tried surfing until this week. Too many other things to do. It is a busy life in Bocas.

This week, I went surfing twice. Both times with my new friends, Jessica and Ian. (I love them!) I have successfully learned how to paddle and sit up on the board. I am well on my way!

These photos do not give these bruises justice

I do not even know how you get bruises there when surfing. Mad paddling I suppose.

Garden of Awesome

That is the title of my new blogger template. How great is that?

Panama is closed

For nearly the last week, Boca del Toro and northern Panama has experienced a constant torrential down pour. In this time, I have studied, surfed, played dominos with my new friends, and remained soaking wet. I thought it was all fun, until I realized that Panama is closed. According the locals the border is under a meter of water. I´m trapped in on an Island. I sort of feel like Kate on Lost, except I still have to shave my legs.

So being trapped, no big deal right? Right. Well, the crisis came yesterday when I realized that it the border will still be under water on Sunday...the day I need to head to Costa Rica to catch a flight to Guatemala. Lucky for me, there is a small airport on the island with 3 flights to Costa Rica a week.

Right outside my shoes are never dry

Right outside my school, when it is pouring rain. The school has discovered it now has a new lake in the front of the property

I suppose I am not really ¨trapped.¨ But, it makes for a good story

Two nights ago, was a totally different story...I was trapped. I woke up in the middle of the night to the sheets of rain falling the metal roof next door. I decided to document the moment. I stepped outside my room, with my camera, into the open air hallway (it was covered fortunately). Just then, a gust of wind came and blew my door shut. Sure enough, I hadn´t unlocked it before I left my room. Locked out. I tried timidly, and then not so timidly to awaken the owner of the hostel.

It was hopeless. I thought I might go for a walk, before I remembered that the outside gate was locked at night and my key was in my room. I curled up on a wooden bench and tossed and turned for the rest of the night. What else could I do at 3 in the morning?

pretty funny!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

¿What is wrong with my face?

For the last few days I have been having some funky face stuff. I noticed on Thursday that part of my tongue was numb. I attributed it to having licked some DEET mosquito spray off my lips. Yummy! Then, I noticed on Friday that my right lower lip looked swollen or something. I assumed it was because I had some reaction to a fruit I had eaten. Although my taste buds love all fruit, my lips are a bit more picky. On Sunday, I felt like my left eye wasn´t as open as my right eye. I again thought, it was nothing. Finally on Monday, I noticed that now my top upper lip was swollen as well. Near the end of my Spanish class, I took a bathroom break to check myself out in the mirror and realized, that I had a weakness on the right side of my face...referred to by medical professionals as a facial palsy. I refer to it as freakish looking. I left class early and went to call my brother, who is a neurologist. I kept thinking on the way, I hope this doesn´t get worse or last forever.

When I sat down, I finally started to cry. What was wrong with me?? Mik was just getting off work, and was great at helping me calm down. I described my symptoms, he consulted with some other neurologists and then recommended a treatment. Warning me that if I had any other symptoms, I should call him. I suppose meningitis worse than a asymetrical face (or an assymetrical face).



It is kind of hard to tell the difference between the sides of my face. But trust me, if stare at these photos long enough, and go a little cross eyed, you can see it.

Since everything is over the counter here, I got the medicines I needed and am on my way to recovery. As soon as I can, I´ll post some photos. The palsy isn´t super noticable, but pretty awesome nonetheless!

I am off to attempt surfing...