Our Culture week was at the Embera Village of Parara Puru. Coincidentally, this community is only about 20 minutes down the Chagres River from Embera Drua, the site where I will soon be moving! I can’t tell you how hard it was to spend the entire week, at just a short canoe’s distance away from my future home. Numerous times I considered bribing someone to take me upriver to check it out :)
Myself and two other aspirants spent the week with a current Community and Economic Development (CED) volunteer, Deborah, who is working in tourism development. There we spent the entire week learning and exploring all aspects of Embera Culture. We learned traditional dances, basket weaving, coco bolo carving and even how to prepare a traditional Embera meal of fish and plantains. And each day we also had four hours of Embera language training. I’m still finding Embera rather difficult. Correct pronunciation is quite nasal, and my being such a visual learner, I’m finding it rather difficult to a mostly spoken (not written) language.
I absolutely loved my experience in the Embera community. Admittedly, when I was first introduced to the Embera culture, I was incredibly hesitant as to if I could adapt into a culture so distinct from Western cultures: palm thatched huts, traditional (and often scarce) clothing, and a new dialect entirely different from a Romance language. But the Embera are such warm, fun-loving people that I'm slowly finding myself feeling right at home amongst them. And after spending culture week in an Embera village, I'm completelymesmorized by their art, music and way of life. It's truly reminiscent of a time when people just lived a lot simpler.
Below are pictures from the Parara Puru: Deborah's (tree) house, and myself and 2 other PCVs learning all things Embera: from traditional dances and music instruments to coco bolo carvings and fish scaling.
Our technical week was spent at Isla Canas, an island off the Pacific coast of Panama’s Azuero peninsula. There we visited a volunteer who is working in ecotourism surrounding the many species of sea turtles who visit the island’s beaches. During the week we put on a tourism workshop (taller) for all community members involved in tourism endeavors. This included everyone from families willing to rent rooms in their houses to sea turtle tour guides. By the end of the workshop, we were able to put together a basic, but comprehensive, brochure of tourism information pertaining to her island. I think the community was very impressed by their finished product, and I think this project really served as a good learning example for our group.
Below are some pictures from the week: the workshops, teaching in the schools, and even the beach and sea turtles!
Also below are some shots from our Cross Sectorial training (translation: TEA does Agriculture and Environental Health training!) Here's some shots of me swinging a machete, gardening and playing on an acqeduct:
It was also my 25th birthday just last week! After our morning tech session, the TEA group surprised me with a cake and piñata (in traditional Panamanian fashion). It was so thoughtful of them, and it really made it feel like my birthday even away from home. At night, the kids who live next door to my host family made me a cake (complete with icing spelling out "Feliz Cumpleanos Eimi, which is how they spell my name). They then proceeded to organize a "tipico" dance party on their porch. As you can see from the pictures below, these kids know how to have a good time :)
After my second cake (and tipico warm-up), I went to our town’s baile to hear a tipico band called Las Plumas Negras with some other PCV aspirantes. It was a blast! As of yet, I still haven’t really taken to traditional Panamanian "tipico" music. I find it a bit redundant and circus-esque. But who knows, I felt the same way about reggaeton when I moved to Puerto Rico, so perhaps there’s still hope!