There and Back

In a previous post, I discussed how my interaction with water in Panama differed greatly from water in America. After getting home, I’d have to say that so does transportation. While my colleagues have no doubt blogged about our daily travels among the hectic Panamanian highways, it seemed like every journey we had in Panama was indicative of one theme: change takes time.

Afterall, transportation is literally about the changing of location and environment. Whether they were long distance (such as riding the airplane from from Miami to Panama City) or short (such as riding the van 1/10 of a mile to our next stop) every journey we took caused us to evaluate the context of each new place. When you first arrive in Panama, you can’t help but gawk out the window at the diversity that surrounds you. The architecture and overall quality of life changes so much with every block, that the slums are located right next to brand hew high-rise apartments.

But as the week went on, a couple journeys stood out in mind. Specifically, the boat rides. As an avid boater throughout my life (I rowed crew in high school) I was quite familiar with aquatic vehicles. So when it came to kayak on the waters of the Panama Canal, I approached the task with great excitement. This was the only time where I (and my boat buddy Mollie) were personally responsible for our own transportation. At every other point of the week, I was driven or lead by someone else. But as we kayaked into the jungle to a waterfall, I felt the sense of independence that one can only feel when they personally drive themselves along the path. While many people mention our navigation among the jungles of Panama, this was the only experience where I feel we truly entered the jungle, a place of purely natural development, unoccupied by any other human life besides our own.

On Wednesday, the group also had the opportunity to ride a boat to an indigenous reservation. By far the most primitive of the locations we visited, the journey that it took for us to reach this reservation was a long (and wet) one. But it was almost like we were transported to an entirely different world. At one point, the overcrowded motorboat ran out of gas, and I contemplated the isolation that we were in, out in the middle of the river with no sign of civilization in sight. This escape is truly what travel is all about. When we arrived at that indigenous reservation, it was quite surreal. While the thatched roofs and canoes made of trees seemed like this civilization had been untouched by outside society, the television and american clothing suggested otherwise. Change, it seems, truly does take a long time.

We’ve talked how just $20 can send a family to the city and back for health care, but if my experience this week taught me anything, its that that is just the first step. As the leaders of Fundacion Bendaked told us, these aren’t the first people in need, and they won’t be the last. But as for now, we can at least try to help as many people as we can with the next step in their journeys.


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