It has been just over one week since I left all things Kalu Yala. I guess it doesn’t feel completely over yet since I’ve been traveling and meeting up with so many Kalu Yalans along the way, but six days from today, I’ll be waking up in my own bed for the first time since the beginning of September in my little Michigan town. It’ll definitely be feeling pretty official by then, I’m sure.
On Sunday morning, I left with two others to go to a small surf town on the Pacific, about six hours southwest of Panama City, called Playa Venao, near Las Tablas/Pedasi. I stayed at a nicer hostel, enjoying luxuries of soft beds, hot showers, and air conditioning for probably the third time since arriving in Panama last September. It was pretty wonderful. With how crazy things were at Kalu Yala in the last week, everyone putting final touches on projects and presentations and Josh and I preparing for our launch party in Panama City for our project, a mental health moment was definitely in need. I got up around 6:30am every morning, waking up with the sun and hanging around in a hammock on the beach until breakfast.
I loved so much that suddenly I didn’t have a schedule and I could do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. Traveling with no set plan is actually a lot more relaxing than one would think. Lots of beaching, reading (I’ve finished two books since leaving the valley… oops), and beautiful scenery. Playa Venao is kind of a bit of a cove, I suppose, a bit of a crescent moon type shape in the landscape of the Panamanian coast. There were beautiful little islands and places to hike all over, but walking on the beach was just as nice. Tons of different types of crabs were running around, and the stones that washed up on the shore were every color imaginable. On Wednesday, I tried out surfing for the first time! As a beginner, I wasn’t too hot at it, but I did manage to stand up a couple times, so I was proud of that. Honestly though, the best part about surfing for me wasn’t standing up and riding the wave; it was definitely the moment when you catch the wave and can feel it carrying you forward. That was my ish.
On Thursday morning, Thanksgiving, we set out super early to get to the northern mountain town of Boquete. Ten hours and five buses later, we finally rolled up to the main town square and headed straight to the grocer to grab our contributions to dinner that night. The reason why we were so determined to get to Boquete was because a number of us from Kalu Yala had planned to all meet back up there to celebrate Thanksgiving together since we couldn’t be with our families back home. The hostel that we were all staying at was owned by this really sweet American couple, too, so it was all quite the ordeal. Dinner had all of the fixings, save the turkey; we had a ham instead since turkey isn’t really a thing here in Panama. We even had grandpa ron there to start things off, if ya know what I mean! It was a wonderful night and a much-needed reunion, even though we had only been out of the jungle and apart for five days.
Everything has been very smooth sailing since. On Friday, we went on a coffee farm and small-batch roastery tour and tasting, which was absolutely amazing. I got to pick the brain of the guy who owns it, and we had a great conversation about the global marketplace for coffee, sustainable farming, and international trade and exports. It was so cool and interesting. The farm was gorgeous and roasting the coffee was really good fun. We toasted our finished coffee with a Panama Lager and sat down to have our tasting of both medium and dark roasts. The flavor notes were very pronounced and the aroma was lovely, as the coffee snob inside of me noticed. I was so impressed, and I’m bringing home a bit of each roast to brew at home; I couldn’t help myself. I’ve gone on a few hikes and went cliff jumping this morning and will most likely be hiking the waterfall trail tomorrow. We were going to hike Volcan Baru and we’re so stoked to, but because of the recent rain, mudslides have been happening and it’s not safe to currently hike… Whatever, just an excuse to come back! Preferably in the dry season, though.
Anwho. It’s been so nice to just relax and do whatever without deadlines and copious amounts of work to do. I’ve applied to a few internships for next summer and updated my resume, but that’s basically it, I swear! Life is good here in Panama, but I only have five days left now. Five days until I leave my home in Latin America. Five days. That’s so crazy to me.
Can you believe that I’ve been here since September and still have not seen the Panama Canal? Maybe I’ll try to fit that in this week…