My ankle is sprained, there is no doubt about it. Badly sprained. I haven’t had a sprained ankle in years. So I am doing what there is to be done for it – wrap, elevate, rest, ice and light exercise, moving it, moving it, moving it. And so it goes. Or doesn’t go, which is more like it right now. I’ve just returned from a small walk around this small village of La Villa de Los Santos – most of the town is in the Catholic Church which I stepped into for a few minutes as I strolled. Or more like it, I moved very, very slowly. I’m trying not to limp which will then put undue pressure on my ‘good’ side. So walking slowly, soooo slowly, taking infinitesimally small steps, then I can walk normally, so to speak, or at least without a limp. I am truly in walking meditation state.
I’m still here at Hostal Voyager, where I will stay through the rest of Semana Santa. Shockingly, I’ve begun to feel more comfortable due completely to Guadalupe’s sweet friendliness. We spoke for a while over a simple breakfast of scrambled eggs and toast which she prepared for me, accompanied by the earl grey tea I had the good sense to bring with me. (I am so tired of having the choice of almost always only Lipton tea out here in the world, so I planned ahead.) I’ve come to realize as we talked together that this place is indeed very ‘tipico’ after all. She was proud to tell me about the repairs she will soon be doing on the place and how this hundred+ year old building is one of the few such old ones in the village and it takes a lot of upkeep (uh, yeah, and you might consider getting right to it, I think, but I curb my tongue). So yes, nothing has changed – it’s still cluttered and musty and dank and damp and grungy. And I got a big laugh out of an issue of Architectural Digest sitting amongst the clutter. Okay, so at least my humor is intact in the middle of the bum ankle and the less-than ideal accommodation. Yes, with humor intact, just about anything is possible, yes?! And Guadalupe’s warmth, gracious hospitality and concern for my ankle have also made a big difference. So I’ll go with that.
As she scurries around cleaning and mopping and scrubbing, I realize that the clutter is just the way she lives. The way so many people live. What gives me the heebie-jeebies and makes me feel like I want to either start straightening up, take a shower or get the hell out of wherever I am. But for now, I’m staying put and adjusting my attitude, since that’s all I really can do.
The rain hardly let up last night, and the Procession of the Men who paraded through town, some with umbrellas, others getting soaked as they walked. It was nothing on the scale of what I’ve seen in Spain or what’s happening in Antigua, Guatemala right about now, as this is a small village and it’s scale is similar. No matter. I enjoyed it as I sat and watched them walk and then head into the Catholic Church. My mother would tell me that I was being sacrereligious right now, but I couldn’t help from this song resounding through my head:
They carried Jesus on a float sort of thing covered in flowers and he was blindfolded. (I won’t begin to speak what came to me with the blindfold business.) I joined the Procession in the Church where they had actual figurines and the Last Supper set up in front of the altar, complete with name placards in front of each man, in Spanish of course. I stayed for awhile – it was after 10:30 at night and surely, it was the first Holy Thursday I had ever been in a Catholic Church!
SEGUE: Now, backing up to my trip to San Blas and El Valle—don’t want to miss the opportunity to reflect on both of them.
A shuttle picked me up at my Panama City Hostal early, early in the morning – 5:30 am for the 3+ hour ride in a 4-wheel drive vehicle to the river where I would pick up a boat to take me to Isla Iguana. It was not an island I had planned to visit, but after talking with a woman at the transfer company, she suggested it to me and I decided to surrender and go with it. I had packed everything up the night before, of course, and left some things behind that I’d pick up later – no sense schlepping everything out to an island where I would need little. When the shuttle arrived, though, I couldn’t find my small wallet, the one that I use for my daily excursions, the one that only on the day prior, I had taken out my license, credit card and ATM card, figuring I didn’t need to carry those with me daily. It was nowhere to be found. I got in the shuttle but even had him turn around and go back to the Hostal to have one more look in my room – no luck. Damn! I had about $100 in there in anticipation of paying him and the place on the island. Not a big deal, not nearly as huge a deal as it would have been had my cards been in there, but still, for much of the ride, I was distracted with thoughts of having lost it and how unusual it was for me to have done so. I’ve never lost a wallet in my life … well, except for that time on Maui recently, but I didn’t even know I had lost it and it was quickly recovered. Anyway, enough about that for now. The ride went through the mountains with beautiful vistas and I kept envisioning the beauty of the Caribbean and that helped me to let go of the wallet.
The Kuna Yala people live on over 400 of these islands which make up the Archipelago de San Blas. They are the indigenous people of Columbia who moved up through the Darien Gap and settled here. They are not subject to the laws of Panama or any others, for that matter. They make their own and everyone who comes through does so only with their approval (along with paying a small “entrance” fee).
It took a while for the boat to Isla Iguana to arrive but after the wait, I climbed on with four other (young) people and we were off. A fifteen-minute ride and we were delivered to a teeny tiny island covered with palm trees and several palm-frond-roofed huts and that was it. No town, no businesses, no buildings, no nothing. Really it was just a sand bar fringed in palm trees and surrounded with warm, Caribbean turquoise waters. Woo-Hoo, I was HOME!
There was simply nothing to do, nowhere to go – it was a place to simply hang out, read, nap, walk around the island (which took all of about three minutes!) and eat. Nothing else. The guys that worked there caught fish every day and that’s what we ate. Langostinos are plentiful in the surrounding waters, so we ate lobster almost every day. When not lobster, it was fish of other kinds and that was fine, too. There were no, I repeat no mosquitoes, and that was one of the biggest blessings of all!
So I lounged, took photos (as you can see!) and felt grateful to have this introduction to my trip. Almost all the other people were young (early 20’s) European couples. I met a lovely ex-pat couple who had lived in Guatemala City for 17 years and were now in Panama City – they were my age and we enjoyed ‘talking story’ over a few meals. I especially enjoyed the company of a mother/daughter team. The daughter, Hannah, 23, was working for an NGO with the local Kuna people on sustainable agriculture projects. Her mother, Mary, was a nurse practitioner from Houston and around my age. We hit if off instantly and were obviously kindred spirits in values and outlooks. There was a sweet young couple from Buenos Aries with whom I enjoyed some sweet times, too. And now, with the wonders of the internet, we get to stay in touch via Facebook! Otherwise, it was just the sounds of the soft sea lapping the shores and swimming and reading that had my attention.
Oh and by the way, when I arrived and unpacked my bag, much to my surprise, there was my wallet buried deep in the bottom of my pack – yippeee! What a relief.
We are just on the cusp of the rainy season, so we had some light rain at night, which was fine. After three nights, it was beginning to feel like it was time to move on, lest I lay around on this island for the rest of my life. I was torn about going, but it ended up being the right decision because the morning of our departure looked like an all-day rain and I was glad to say Adios Isla Iguana!
I must say this was one of the most beautiful and romantic tropical places I had ever seen. Even alone, I was smitten with the romance of the place and the imaginings of some hot tryst with a certain someone back in the Bay Area (more to come about him, for sure, but that’s definitely for another time!).
I made it back to my Hostal in Panama City, took a loooooong shower (the facilities on the island were primitive at best and not a whole lot of shower opportunities!) and then thought about whether to spend the night or head onto El Valle, my next planned stop. It was mid-afternoon and I really wasn’t so interested in any more time in the city and when the skies opened up, that was my clue to head on out! I found yet another cab (yikes, I’m getting used to this cab business!) to take me to the bus station and the bus to El Valle was about to depart in five minutes! I got the last seat on the little mini-van and we headed to the higher elevation and hopefully cooler temps of El Valle.
I arrived just as the rains did and got off the bus downtown, but again, had no idea where the Hostal was, although I did have a reservation. A woman on the street offered to help and she introduced me to someone who made the call and got the info about where the Orchid Farm was. One more taxi and I was delivered to the door! Just as I arrived, the power went out in the entire valley. No power, no stores open, no restaurants open. The woman working at the Hostal gave me a flashlight (woop-de-doo!) but there was no food to be had and this was after only having had breakfast a long time ago. Hungry and tired, and I could only satisfy the tiredness, so I found my way to an early sleep and figured I’d just take care of the food issue in the morning.
El Valle is an extinct volcano and surrounded with beautiful hills, green and flowers-flowers-flowers everywhere. I took the local Chicken bus around town for all of 25 cents, walked my fool feet off, sat in the local Catholic Church for awhile and that was when the man running the museum introduced himself and welcomed me to visit the museum. It was small, but had an impressive array of Pre-Columbian pottery than had been found in the surrounding area which fascinated me. Mr. Museum Man was putting the moves on me, chatting me up about how pretty I was (muy linda, senora!) and offered to take me to the local hot springs. I politely declined, but enjoyed the attention anyway and again, was so glad to come out from under the Invisibility Cloak under which I have felt for way too long.
So that’s the story from the front at this moment. My ankle’s had another good rest and icing and it’s time to hit the fiesta in the center of the park for Good Friday night and to see the Procession of the Women tonight!
I’m in remarkably good spirits, having rested for most of the day, done this writing and opened in acceptance to my current digs. My almost 3-hour Skype call with my very new Bay Area sweetie didn’t hurt one bit either. You’ll just have to stay tuned if you want to hear more about him!