Enter Into the World of National Geographic via Panama

So today is probably, but hopefully not, the only day that I will ever get to experience anything similar to what a National Geographic reporter would. Naked children walking around, babies carrying babies, people lounging in their huts, cooking Iguana for dinner, and children everywhere. Did I already state that there were children EVERYWHERE?

It started off with a 45 minute boat ride in a rinky dinky boat to another remote village, the most remote yet, across the lake a few miles down shore. The captain of the boat, a subchief, had to scoop out the water from the bottom of the boat before we all climbed in using only an empty butter container. During the ride, the boat barely held all of our weight and sunk so low that the spray from the speed of the boat went all over everybody. Luckily, our camera equipment remained dry. We were able to protect them using our nifty ponchos (thanks to Erika’s awesome idea). Oh, and did I mention that one of the actual chiefs actually rode in the boat with us?! He wore a bright button-up shirt and a sweet fedora hat, topped with multiple feathers, which he ended up taking off midway through the ride. Fortunately, I was the lucky one who was able to assist him in  holding his bag as he got out a coverup for him and Erika to use during the wet ride.

the chief & I

When we finally got to the coast, we had to hop onto a handwoven canoe and walk across it to shore. There, we were met by 30 tribal chiefs and what they called “security” to determine whether or not we were okay (dressed appropriately, etc.) and allowed in the village. Luckily, they admitted us with no question and allowed us to immediately begin video taping. We were at first escorted into the main hut and asked to sit on wooden benches while a different chief spoke to us about his village. Come to find out, the chief in the boat was one of the main chiefs that resided over all the individual villages of that region (and I got to hold his bag!), while this chief was just chief of that specific village.

After the chief welcomed us and we conducted a small interview, he asked for comments on what he had just told us. Considering I am the project manager of the group, everyone looked at me. Talk about PRESSURE. I had almost the entire village and my team looking at me in anticipation of a response. I attempted to answer his question and Randy followed up and helped me out (thank god).

After our responses, he let us walk around the village and visit a few of the families that had children with disabilities. We interviewed two of them and then focused mostly on taking video of the foundation leaders interacting with the community. Mollie took over audio for me and I was finally able to take pictures *HOORAY*. I started taking pictures of all the children in the village and had so much fun. They were posing for me, doing hand stands and running wild. It made for some fantastic shots.

As a group, before leaving, we decided to donate $130 to their cause. It was a good feeling handing over money to the chief so that they could buy enough food for all the children. According to the first interview with the head chief, he stated that in the particular village we were in, many of their people from around the area had gathered here as a safe haven from the floods, therefore causing them to have a shortage of food. With our money alone, they were able to purchase food for everyone (which was around 1,000 people) for about a week. Isn’t that insane?! It made me further realize how far just a small donation could really do to help these people.

After getting the boat engine to finally start up (I thought I would be swimming back to dock), we pushed off from the shore and headed back to the first village that we had departed from. During the ride, I had the chance to really sit down and talk to the foundation leaders and learn about their culture. For instance, I learned that albinism is common in the tribal communities and that there is an old myth that involves their help when eclipses take place. Supposedly, during an eclipse, a dragon eats the moon, and therefore the albinos are the only ones allowed out after dark to protect the community during these nights. CRAZZZZY stuff.

The entire day felt like something out of a movie. Witnessing four year old girls carrying around babies on their hips and women, dressed in vibrant clothing, breast feeding their children on the side of a hut made me realize just how different the culture I grew up is to theirs. I couldn’t even imagine being responsible enough at 4 to carry around a baby sibling.

It’s ironic. Often times, many think of primitive life negatively and with a pretentious attitude as if we’re so better than them. But in all actuality, there are some things about their way of life that are more advanced. For example, if their children can care for their younger sibling at that age, then they must learn to mature earlier than most. Whether or not this is necessarily good or bad, I am not one to judge. I can say, however, that learning to take care of their family early on is an admiring quality.


1 Comment

Filed under Hayley Miller

One response to “Enter Into the World of National Geographic via Panama

  1. Ceferino Smith

    I think you made a very mature analysis about the Indian reality. Thank you for your words.

    Pepe (Ceferino Smith)

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