Greetings, friends! It’s been a wild week, in the best way possible (in stark contrast to my unfortunate beginning of this week’s adventure). After spending the night in Almirante, I was ready to go. I wasn’t sure if the bed that I was sleeping in had bed bugs or not, so I had curled up on top of the covers in as many layers of clothing as I could to protect myself from any possible bites. I was clean when I woke up, so I took that as a good sign! I grabbed my backpack and took to the water taxi port.
Might I just note—Yes, I said “backpack”, for anyone laughing to themselves at home. There is no way that Destiny just took a backpack on a week-long trip. Actually, my friends, that’s exactly what I did. I have realized after being out here for so long with so little that I really don’t need a whole of stuff. My 35L pack has done me just fine all week! I took a couple pairs of shorts, a few shirts, a swim suit, and a sweater, along with my shower stuff and my laptop for the whole week. It all fits quite comfortably. Be amazed.
Also, may I note that this is my week off! I have been on vacation all this week and it has been glorious. Kalu Yala calls it “Inspiration Week”, which is fitting because the idea is to go out and see a bunch places you’ve never seen and do things you haven’t done, but we couldn’t help but look at each other every now and then and, out nowhere, ask one another if they felt inspired. Yes, I know, we are turds.
The water taxi took me to Bocas del Toro (Isla Colón, to be exact), and I arrived around 8am. Things were already looking up. The place was gorgeous, with palm trees and brightly painted buildings right on the water. Exactly what you’d imagine upon hearing the words “tropical island town”. I headed over to Selina’s Hostel, where I was supposed to have slept the previous night, explained my situation, and the girl helped me out with my reservation to change the dates, which was really nice of her. I headed over to have breakfast, and I ran into a bunch of other Kalu Yala interns; it was so nice to see people that I knew. We all talked plans for the day while we ate. A few of the guys in the business program made the executive decision to go to Red Frog Beach, apparently a nice place on a different island, so we all agreed on that one. After about an hour of settling in and changing, we set out on a water taxi to the beach on that beautiful Sunday morning. Right as we were pulling into the dock, I looked over the edge and saw a fleet of jellyfish just floating around, doing the whole water living thing. I kind of freaked out, since I had never seen a jellyfish before and was a little too excited about it. They were so cute!! The driver warned us not to touch the water, and someone offered to pee on anyone who did touch the water; that apparently reverses the sting of a jellyfish. How thoughtful of them to offer their urine.
It was a short hike to the water, and when we saw it, we all picked up the pace pretty quickly. By the time we reached the water, we had kind of just flung our things randomly and were sprinting toward the ocean. The waves were enormous. It felt like jumping into salty bath water, it was amazing. Jumping in and out of the waves was a ridiculous amount of fun for someone who only really knows the frigid mass of ice water that is Lake Michigan. After a good amount of time, we got out, put on some tunes, and got a game of beach volleyball going. Naturally, I was terrible, but I was having too good of a time to care; I think we all were at that point. The afternoon played out like a ridiculously cheesy island movie with no plot and no antagonist; just the ocean, volleyball, excellent food, and delicious drinks on a white beach. After a while, we went back to the hostel and split up into a few different groups for dinner, followed by a long night of drinks and dancing. A perfect way to start off the week.
The following day, we set up an afternoon on a boat. Those who were divers went diving (naturally), and the rest of us went snorkeling and hung out on the roof of our boat. It had a nice sound system, so we switched off the position of DJ periodically. At some point, my glasses fell off the boat and into the water, and one of the divers found them before I even knew that they were gone, which was bizarrely lucky. It was a solid four hours of chilling out, having a few beers, and swimming. Working in a climate that is always 80˚F or hotter year round turns out to be a good thing when you want to do cool things but can’t afford, or don’t have the time, to travel very far.
The next day, a few of us were eating breakfast and talking about what we were all doing for the rest of the week when I was invited to jump on someone’s trip to Costa Rica after I said that I didn’t have anything planned. I said yes, of course, because Costa Rica, and kind of surprised myself by it. I have never been the one to make last minute travel decisions, especially when it comes to going to different countries, and yet there I was, suddenly packing and making sure I had my travel documents for the next day. You find out a lot about yourself when abroad, I guess. Later that day, we went to Starfish Beach (or Playa Estrella, as the signs say), which was just beautiful. I also got to drink a piña colada out of an actual pineapple, so I think I might be able to die happy now. And, yes, there were plenty of starfish.
The next morning, three other girls and I left Bocas for the famous beaches of Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica. The town was really cute, and it was an incredibly relaxing few days we spent there. On the second day, we rented bikes and biked a little over twenty miles and just beach-hopped. I must say that the most beautiful beach was definitely Punta Uva; if you ever go to the area, you must go to this beach! It was an actual postcard photo. Honestly, most of my life has been a postcard photo since I arrived in Panama, but this was especially! There’s really not a whole lot to say, just a lot of relaxing. Oh, I also got the first sunburn that I have received since arriving in Panama (hashtag rainy season life), so that was exciting, and now I’m extremely tan. I will not fit in when I come back to Michigan in December, I’m tellin’ ya.
On Friday morning, we made our way back over the border to Panama for one more night in Bocas. We physically walked over the Costa Rica-Panama border, which we all thought was kinda cool. The bus ride went by quickly and before we knew it, we were on our water taxi again. Probably the roughest water taxi of all of them, for some reason, because the waves were brutal, and I’m pretty sure my tailbone is bruised now. But it’s fine. I met up with some people at Selina’s, had a couple beers at Happy Hour, ate dinner, and hung out with the ladies I went to Costa Rica with a little longer. The island’s power kept going in and out, which was bizarre, but also funny, because even though the room at Selina’s had no power, their bar bringing the island’s open-mic talent definitely was not out of power. No electricity to play our own music and no way to block out the strange noises coming from the bar downstairs. After a while, I essentially retired for the night, knowing that I had to get up early for the bus back to Panama City.
Which brings us here! Yep, still on the bus, though much more enjoyable this time, and I’m not solo riding. We got on the bus around 8am and it’s about 1:30pm now, so I reckon we still have four or five hours left. Inspiration Week was so good and I’m eternally grateful that I had time to decompress my head from all the work we’re doing. I did do a little work and started typing up the business plan for my personal project to kill some time, but that’s all, I swear! It was a crazy relaxing week and I think we definitely all needed it. I’m sad to leave my sandy white beaches, but I’ll be happy to be back in the valley and with my Kalu Yala fam once more.