A Boatload of Laughter
25 January 2014 | Isla Tigre, Guna Yala, Panama
We have started to head east towards the more remote areas of Guna Yala, Panama. After a windy ride with significant waves we arrived at our first stop – Isla Tigre. This is a traditional Guna Village of about 700 people. The island is only a few miles from the mainland rainforest which provides most of the fruits and vegetables for this village. The men and boys take daily trips in their “ulu” (dugout canoes) to the rainforest to gather food for their families. They also fish and hunt for crabs, octopus and lobsters. The women make bread and non-fermented “chichi,” corn-based drinks, as well as the beautiful “mola” shirts and beaded jewelry.
Yesterday we walked around the village. Everywhere we turned we were joined by large groups of happy smiling children wanting to hold our hands or do cartwheels for us. Later we learned that the President of Panama’s wife had promised all of the children of the island a Christmas present. The boat with the presents had just arrived an hour earlier so the children were joyously awaiting their presents. Inside a small building at the dock were piles of nurse dolls, soccer balls and assorted children’s toys.
Later we watched as more than 100 excited children lined themselves up to receive their prizes.
Today we had a visit from two ulus filled with teens and twenty-somethings, perhaps 13 or 14 in all who are having a three-month school vacation. We invited them to come onboard, which thoroughly pleased them, and giggles were heard all around. All of them spoke Guna and were from the local village, many spoke Spanish and a few were on break from a University in Panama City and also spoke a small bit of English.
Once on board the questions began and the giggles continued. I asked each one in Guna for their name and to tell me what they liked. The answers varied from music to dancing, reading to art, and many said they liked living in beautiful Isla Tigre; the village, the beach, the sea and the wind. They also asked us questions too. The first question was, are we married. We tried to answer in Spanish, “mi esposo” and I pointed to Dennis and said “mucho bueno esposo” and “mi amor.” They all liked that answer. Next they asked if we had children, their ages, where they lived and what they studied. Later when they looked at photos one lovely young woman pointed to Ethan and asked if he had “una esposa?” When Dennis told her “no esposa” she pointed to herself and replied “mi” indicating that she would like to be the one to marry him.
It was a lovely afternoon to have such a happy group of people visit Centime. I find the Guna smiles irresistible. We are both constantly amazed at how little material wealth these people have and yet how content and happy they appear to be.