Day 30

Trip Start Sep 02, 2007
Trip End Dec 25, 2007

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Flag of Panama  ,
Friday, October 5, 2007

I woke up just in time to see an incredible sunset fading out my window. By the time I got my shoes on and looked for my camera, didn't find it, gave up, and went outside, all the colors had faded completely. Well, by that point I was up so I sat outside for a few minutes and listened to the "kissers" hanging around in the ceiling beams - little lizards that make kissing noises; Gabriel said they were Iguanas but I never got close enough to any of them to tell - and watched the last of the sunset fade away. By the time I went back inside Gabriel and Vanessa were already up. Breakfast was at Sirena del Mar again, and we had a few minutes between eating and meeting the sandal makers so we went down to the beach to help gather firewood for the bonfire we'd be having that evening.

We met Tano and San Martín at Bonnie's house and my group, because we were going downtown to find computers to work on the brochure the other group had started the day before, got to go first. On the beach that morning we had noticed quite a few coconuts scattered around the beach, sometimes open, and it was really tempting to pick one up, they looked so good. Heather asked Bonnie about it and she said she'd see what she could do. While we waited our turn for the cutaras, Bonnie and Eric brought over a huge bag full of coconuts and Eric cut them up with his machete for us to try. I think I have a new favorite snack. We passed the coconut milk around, and Ivy had tray after tray of the meat and the "esponja" (sponge) all cut up for us. Ivy was also cutting open almonds from one of Bonnie's trees; these were really good too and didn't taste much like what I think of when I think of almonds. Ivy's explanation was "well those things are processed. These are better." And of course, they were.

Finally it was my turn to get my cutaras. I stepped onto the piece of leather and San Martin cut around my foot to get the shape for the sole. Then he punched holes in both sides before putting my foot back in the shoe to finish the rest of the straps. Everything was very wet, and that's how he made it malleable so he could work with it easily. He wove the single strap around my foot and through the holes in the sole and back around my foot. That one single strap made the whole shoe, and since my feet are so small he even had room for wrapping a circular design with the tail end of the strap. There was no need for a tie; the leather dried and hardened on my feet and with the tight weave and the stiffness of the straps the tail ends weren't going anywhere. Since they were built and hardened right onto our feet, it would be next to impossible to get them made for anyone else. Sorry Mandy, I know that would have been the perfect souvenir. The good news is nobody can borrow these shoes and never give them back because they won't fit anyone else! People wear cutaras now particularly for dancing; they aren't especially good walking shoes or even day-to-day shoes now that there are other options, but they make great loud slapping sounds on hard flat floors and they're a perfect counterpart to castanets.

Getting the cutaras fitted took much longer than we thought, so we only had a few minutes to work on the brochure. I went with Kymber to work on a project of hers since I had some pictures she needed, while Briana and Sascha and Mariam worked on the text and pictures for a brochure of the festival. Kymber and I had some technical difficulties with the café computers and it took us, again, a lot longer than we'd thought, so we were very late for lunch in Chitré. Lunch was at a nice little restaurant called Guayacanes Rest, where we had soup and a nice meal and dessert for $4.00. The soup was something I didn't expect; it was chicken soup, and that's exactly what it was - soup made from the leftover parts of the chicken that don't get served to anybody. The part that surprised me was that the bones were still in there and we had to fish them out as we went. I didn't mind it so much but it was a little strange compared to soup that I'm used to, but it was better than a lot of the soup I'm used to, too.

After that we were off to the potter's ceramics studio. We were late but everyone adjusted; they were expecting us, as everyone else had been, and once again Bonnie had done a flawless job of organization. I really wanted to sneak her back on the ship with us; we could use some of that. We had a tour of the studio and like always Gabriel translated what was going on. After the tour the potter threw a pot for us so we could see what he was working on, and after making his pot (in just a few minutes, of course), he offered the wheel to us to try. At first I had no desire to get my hands all muddy but after watching several other people get up to their elbows in clay I just had to try it. I took several good pictures - while my hands were clean of course - and found myself drawn to pictures of the workers' hands. Maybe that's my own fascination or maybe that's back to the Portuguese photographer; I don't know. But I got some pretty great pictures of people's hands covered in gooey potter's clay.

Some people in our group did some shopping at the studio; I sort of wish I had but I was the last one to make a pot and by then everybody was bored but me and nobody stayed to watch me make my pot except Briana who was taking pictures. And Eli and Ivy 'cause they're the best. The group was looking at masks when I got washed up and out to the shop - not the devil masks but human faces, faces that would certainly pass as the masks of comedy and tragedy I'm so familiar with. I had found one in the studio that was shaped like those masks, shield-shaped instead of round, and was formed in a sad face. They had others outside, happy faces that were round, and dark instead of light like the one in my hand. Eli and I both showed some interest in them and the potter gave each of us one as a gift. I expressed a desire to buy another one so that I could have both comedy and drama, and he gave me that one too. I felt bad that I hadn't bought anything from him but the group was long past ready to go and hustled me into the van. I got the potter's card and we thanked him, well Gabriel thanked him for us, and then we were back in the air-conditioned van and off to the mask maker's.

We stopped on the way for some more shopping; Ivy always seems to know when our pockets are getting heavy and our backpacks are too light. I didn't buy anything; I was looking for a phone to call my parents but the one I finally found didn't work. I'm not into the trinkety purchases anyway. I have a hard time buying them for gifts now, too, because I know how much trouble they are.

When we arrived at the mask shop, people were already out on the porch working. Actually they probably work outside all the time. I would. They explained all about the process of the mask making and the many steps involved, the sculpting of the mold, the paper maché, cutting the paper mache to get the mold out, more paper maché, and then finally the painting. We learned about the other parts too: eyes are made of Christmas balls or ping-pong balls; teeth are made of wood (if the mask is a dragon or an animal) and out of real animal teeth (if the mask is a devil); hair for the wolves' masks was made out of twisted toilet paper. We also got to watch every step of the way; there were people painting and sculpting and doing paper maché and the had even saved a mold with the paper maché on it to cut for us while we were there so we could see how it was done. It was really cool to watch and a lot of people bought masks to take home; once again I was distracted taking pictures until all the really cool masks were taken. That's probably good though; I don't know what I would do with one or even how I would get it home.

We had still more plans after that. Mara had opened up her home for us; her father raises iguanas and they had agreed to show us around a little. We walked around her property and saw the iguanas hanging out in the trees and even petted the little ones they had in a small enclosure on their porch. Then we went around to the side of the house where Mara's mother had prepared a snack for us - I'm telling you these people spoiled us to death! - and we sat in her outdoor kitchen and ate and chatted with them for a while and drank some of the best juice I have ever tasted. She'd made some sort of cake too, and sandwiches. It was really amazing. I was so sad when we had to go.

After that it was already getting dark, I'd missed another sunset, and we were late for dinner at Sirena del Mar and the bonfire. When we got there the other students from Guararé were already there waiting for us but they hadn't started the bonfire yet. We walked from Bonnie's house to the restaurant on the beach this time instead of the road, which was great for me but turned out to be a bad idea for Briana and Sascha, who are both apparently terrified of crabs. They were everywhere. Even hermit crabs made them scream. Let's just say it was a long walk in the dark with only one light between the three of us. It was a huge relief when we got to the restaurant, the other girls headed straight up the hill to the shelter of the building and Heather and I stayed down on the beach and went for a walk down by the beach to look at the crabs. There were literally thousands of them, maybe tens of thousands. I wish I could have taken a picture. We watched them for a long time until they had started to light the bonfire and everybody was coming down to the beach.

It was hard to get started because we were all a little shy and those of us who would have been okay otherwise didn't know enough Spanish to feel comfortable starting a conversation. Eventually Bonnie got us all paired up and set us to introducing ourselves. I met Marlen, another student from Guararé who goes to school in Chitré, and got to know her fairly well in that short amount of time. She is 20 years old, has one brother and two sisters, she likes dancing and listens to rock music. We talked a lot but it took a long time for us to get information across. I wish I was more comfortable with my Spanish; I kept speaking in broken sentences even though I knew the words for the rest and my conjugation and tenses are so bad that she must have thought I knew much less Spanish than I actually do. At one point I'm pretty sure I told her she lived in a boat and for the life of me I couldn't remember how to say 'nineteen,' so for a while I had a sister who was ninety years old. Sorry, Heather. I must have sounded ridiculous. It had the potential to be really embarrassing, but Marlen was really nice and understanding and somehow I managed not to be too embarrassed. She asked if I had a boyfriend and asked about my family and my home and what I liked to do. Then she told me a secret. She pulled out her phone and showed me pictures of her friends and I wished I had pictures to show her. Then we introduced each other to the group and met everyone else in the same way.

It took a long time to light the fire, so dinner was delayed, and we played games down on the beach all evening instead. Vanessa and some of the other people in our group were still getting cutaras made; San Martin had come all the way back just to finish everyone's shoes. He's amazing. But the rest of us played all sorts of games, mostly really active games that involved singing and silly dances and lots of running around. They were the sort of games I love but most people won't play; most of my friends think the games are beneath them. We played the human knot game where you all take hands randomly and then try and sort yourselves into a proper circle, and a game called earthquake where some people form "houses" and some people are the tenants and depending on what was called certain people have to scramble and try to find new partners and the person who was left out had to draw numbers in the air with their butt. I had to draw a nine. Relatively simple. Ricky, the boy we met the night before, was orchestrating all the games and kept the group all together and having a great time. It was hugely entertaining and a great way to get to know people, and I noticed immediately that no one seemed to have a problem with the close proximity or the touching or the fact that half of us could barely communicate with the other half with words because of the language barrier. It was a fantastic experience, and one that I have only ever had with young children and with these students. It made me sad that people my age in the United States didn't seem to have an interest in these experiences. What was it about them that was so repulsive to everyone? They're not really that childish, honestly people.

Unfortunately then it started to rain, and we all had to move inside. Somehow we got segregated again after that, sitting at mostly separate tables and talking amongst ourselves. The party did sort of fall apart after that; we ate and sat for a while and then it all broke up relatively quickly. I went in to hang out with Vanessa and Gabriel, who were finishing up with the cutaras, and Ricky and his family were there and we had a chance to talk to them about what we were doing and show them pictures of the ship and the places we'd been. Thank goodness Vanessa's camera was still functioning. With my rechargeable batteries, I might add. But she hadn't been using her camera much at all that week; I was definitely the one doing most of the photographing - actually it would be more accurate to say my camera was doing most of the photographing, since it wasn't always in my hands.

We were going to sing for this group too, but there really wasn't much opportunity and it would have been pretty forced. So we just said goodbye the best we could, and went home to bed. We sat out on our porch for a little while, and perhaps I shouldn't have been in the hammock because it wasn't long before I was sleeping, even in the middle of conversations. I'm getting really bad at staying awake. I don't know if it's the early sunsets or the long active days or what it is. But it's driving me nuts. Maybe it's the altitude? Clearly I'm running out of excuses. Anyway the next thing I know Gabriel is bringing me a blanket and I gave up on going inside to bed.
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