THE EMBERA EXPERIENCE!

Catalyst log 1-28-13

THE EMBERA EXPERIENCE!

Dear Friends and Family,

We are missing Peg and Vic but are busy helping out another boater family.  I have mentioned Laeto Loco several times.  They are a family of 5 and really delightful.  Laura’s sister and her husband came in yesterday for a short week visit.  The sister is 7 months pregnant.  They were going to have them take the 10 mile trip by launcha to meet their boat.  The trip was against the waves and wind and both have gotten higher since our return from Panama City when we did the same thing.  I could not see a pregnant woman going through that pounding.  Laeto Loco has been having engine problems caused by fuel tank issues and they hesitated to pick them up for fear they couldn’t get out of the place by sail in case they lost the engines.  We took Laura with us and went over night to pick them up at 9 a.m. the next morning.  It was indeed rough and we were all glad we made the effort.  Going back should be calmer and dryer with the waves from the back.

Now we are shadowing them for the week to help out with extra dinghy space and we have the extra luggage aboard to give them more room for the 7 they are housing.  We offered a spare bed but they love being together too much to take us up on that.  Perhaps after a few days!  The guests go home on Saturday and the family will turn their bows toward the north to Providencia and Honduras as their next adventure.  We will miss them a lot.  They have become very popular here.  They are such a close loving family and the whole group of them have had to really work together and are obviously thriving from doing so.

Well, that is what we will be up to this week.  I want to go back in time again and tell you about our experience in Panama City.

We went back with Peg and Vic with 6 in the van and lots of luggage.  We got to Deb’s place by about noon.  After going out for lunch, Rob went shopping with Deb for parts and Peg and I went to the grocery store to get things for our pantry and refrigerator.  Again, I had a bunch of stuff.  I will write more about Deb’s place in the next log as I will have more room to do so.

The second day we were there, Peg had asked Deb to arrange a trip to visit the Embera tribe that lives along the river and in the jungle between the canal and Colombia.  The tribe we visited was set up for tourists.  We took a 2 ½ hour ride with a driver who brought his daughter with him as school is out.  November to February is vacation time here.

At the end of the drive was the river and there were boats waiting to pick us up and take us to the village.

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There were more than one choice of village but you make a reservation for a specific one.  The boats are very long and we sit only one person to a bench seat.  You can bring the front of the boat to land and still have the engine in deep water.  They make us wear life jackets, as do the Kuna as it is Panama law.  Notice Peg way in the back of the boat as Vic gets in.

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We went up the river to the village first but then got back in the boat and went further up river to a tributary that leads to a water fall.

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We had to leave the boats and walk over rocks again to the falls.  This was not such a difficult hike as our other water fall experience. We had a patient guide with us slower ladies.

P1070808We didn’t bring our swim suits as we didn’t realize this was going to happen but I borrowed one from Peg and Rob didn’t swim.  Climbing in was much more our style than jumping from a cliff!   P1070810

We got to the falls and it was comfortable water.  We swam against the current to where the falls cascaded down on us.

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We all swam to a rock toward the middle of the pool and posed as would be mer-people.

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As we got back to the village we had locals welcoming us.  The men were playing instruments and the women greeted us and shook our hands, though I doubt that is local custom.

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Unlike the Kuna, they had no trouble letting us take their pictures.  The dress they have on is not a put on for us.  This is the way they all dress every day.  We mostly saw young people.  They do the tourist business.  The young children and older people were in their homes out of sight.  This is a real village though the large roofed area was built for the tourist business.  They have 20 families there and they have to provide their own school.  When they go to high school and beyond, they have to leave the village.  The 20 homes in the village looked very Polynesian as did the people.

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We were served lunch.  We had brought our own fruit but they cut it and displayed it beautifully.  We saw the tourist kitchen.

P1070844Each house has their own kitchen so this is used for the larger meals prepared.  They prepared talapia and plantains fried and served them in a folded banana leaf. P1070839 P1070840P1070836P1070860 That and the fruit and the drinks we brought was a delicious lunch.  Left over fruit was eaten by the locals.  We had stopped at a road side fruit stand and got about 8 oranges, lots of bananas, a cantaloupe and 2 pineapples for $4.

They had a very nice restroom including a shower.

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We then had one of the women explain about how they make the baskets and what they use for dye and materials.  It is a very long process just to get ready to weave.  The baskets are intricate and some cost in the hundreds of dollars.  They told us that the baskets there were priced according to how many days it takes to make one.  It is one dollar per day of labor.  They didn’t say how many hours a day they wove though.

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The men are carvers and make beautiful things from rose wood and also from what is called jungle ivory.  It is actually a palm nut that hardens and looks white like ivory.

They also described their clothes.

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The materials for the wrap skirts comes from the city as do the beads, but the beaded part of their clothes are put together by hand.  The women have beaded tops that just cover but not support their bosom.  They use U.S. and Panama coins for decoration.  They wear a lot of jewelry including necklaces, large dangle earrings and bracelets on each wrist.

The men wear what is like a loin cloth that starts in the back, comes between the legs and comes over the “belt” in the front and hangs to the knees.  Then around the back and bare sides they wear the beading.  For dress, they wear the beaded long necklaces crossed across their chests.

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I have a picture of a younger boy who just wears the piece of cloth and not the beading.

P1070900Young, undeveloped girls just wear a wrap skirt.  Dressing as these people do makes good sense because they don’t need more clothes to keep warm and this is inexpensive, and doesn’t require much laundry time.  With everyone pretty much dressed the same, there is no envy either.  The Panama government does require them to wear western dress when they go to town though.

They also performed some traditional dances for us.  The women danced and the men played drums and flutes and maracas.

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Then we were shown a couples dance.  They called it a Rumba but it was really just walking in a circle hand in hand.  They said that if we didn’t get up and dance, we would have to stay there for a week.  Even though that thought was appealing, we did get up and dance.

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We saw something that looked like the early American stocks that were used for punishment.

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They said that yes, if there was someone who had been bad, they might have to sit in the stocks for a week or as long as a month.  That sounded pretty harsh but they also said that they are not used because the intimidation is enough to keep people from testing this punishment.

We were very lucky that we had some good translation and mostly that Vic was with us when there was no formal translator.  We each bought some items.  It is hard to chose as things are so beautiful.  The only problem with the baskets is that it is all natural dyes and so they don’t hold color as well.  You need to keep the baskets out of the sun light.  In addition to the baskets, they make woven masks.  You can find these items all over.  We saw them in Bocas Del Toro as well as Panama City.

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We had left the apartment about 7 a.m. And got home about 2:00.  We will discuss the afternoon in the next log as I am already on the edge of sending out too many pictures.  The blog master will not be pleased!

Wishing the weather would clear!

Sue and Rob

Aboard Catalyst

At the Hot Tub, Kuna Yala

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