Cell Phones

May 31, 2011

Panamanians are always on their cell phones; the young ones at least. It’s taken some getting used to, and I still don’t like it, but they always have their Blackberrys out texting, calling or googling things. It’s apparently just gotten to be the fashion. I don’t know whether it’s worse than in the United States or not, but I think I just don’t notice it as much because they people I hang out with at home tend to be quasi-luddites. I just don’t understand what they all have to say to each other all the time. It seems like you’d run out of things to talk about, but I guess not. Or maybe they just all have that many friends. Who knows. Even at parties or clubs people are on their phones constantly. Two or more people will inevitably be standing around “talking” to each other, and at least one of them will be on the phone, texting or otherwise. I have noticed that since I have been here, in the last week in particular, I’ve gotten slightly more dependent on mine as well. I am the only person in our group however, that didn’t play the video game on the phones. Everyone else was constantly on the phones playing Jewel Quest, or whatever the name of it is. It’ll be interesting to see if I continue to be as attached to it as I have been here. I hope not, but the need to be in constant contact because of the lack of strict planning may be something that continues to play a significant role in my life.

San Blas

May 31, 2011

A small group of us went to San Blas this past weekend to visit the Kuna in Kuna Yala. We had a great time, despite the serious sunburn I managed to get. I’m still in awe of the fact that there are 365 islands in the archipelago. It seems impossible, even with as small as they all are. That’s a lot of islands. I’ve never been any place like that before. Tiny communities exist on many of the islands, all of which interact with one another by boat, constantly traveling back and forth from island to island in order to go about their daily routines. The hotel where we were staying was previously a Smithsonian research site for marine biology. It’s a tiny man-made island owned by Juan, a Kuna that we met during our stay. The Smithsonian used his island and built various structures on it for their researchers, and once they had finished with their project returned the island with all of the new structures to Juan and his wife Tina (and their mean parrot Flammy). Fabio explained to us how they create these man-made islands, planting palms in the shallows and waiting for them to slowly push the sand up from the sea, a very long process. It was very interesting to spend time with the Kuna, observing how they interact not only with one another, but also with tourists and with their environment.  I have to say the tiny sailboats on the open ocean make me a bit nervous, and I don’t think I could handle having to travel that way all the time. We watched a couple of them get caught in storms also, which I found pretty nerve wracking. The men sailing them didn’t seem too phased though.

Their ability to keep track of which island is which is incredible to me. With 365 islands scattered throughout the Caribbean Sea along the coast, it would seem almost impossible to remember exactly where they all were. Some of them obviously don’t know where all of them are, but many of the older Kuna are extremely knowledgeable about the geography of their comarca.