Tuesday was the pinnacle of our time here in Panama. We woke early and met 20 other people at Nueva Gorgona for a tour to the Embera Village deep in the jungle northeast of Panama City. Our group was led by a volunteer from the church where we have been visiting. She makes the arrangements and all the money collected goes directly to the Embera. The Embera are the most welcoming and gracious people that you can imagine. They live completely off the grid, surviving by living off the land, fishing and selling a few crafts to their visitors. By the way, their crafts are incredible.
We journeyed by caravan in 4 cars to the dock where we were met by a few men from the Embera Village. They took us in 3 dugout canoes (motorized) on the 1 hour trip up the river into the jungle to their village. We were met by a welcoming committee who were playing small instruments made by the tribe. We gathered for an informal question and answer presentation to educate us on the life and customs of the tribe. The tribe has their own indigenous language and only a couple of the members have learned Spanish so that they can communicate with their visitors and government. The government here respects the tribe, however they do require the children to attend school. The Village has a schoolhouse and two teachers who come from the city on Monday returning on Friday. They spend the week there in their own huts with one teaching the younger children and one teaching the older children. The children are required to wear uniforms to school, as are all children in Panama. We learned a bunch of great information about the culture. We had at least 2 people in our group who spoke fluent Spanish so getting answers to our questions was really easy.
Following our discussion we were invited to a wonderful lunch of fish and patacones. Patacones are slices of fried banana. Lunch was delicious. We were about the only visitors from outside on that day so we were welcome to move about and observe the daily life in the village. Shortly after lunch we were invited to see and take part in indigenous dance.
Once the dance presentation ended we were invited by the father of the chief to take a walk through the jungle where he showed us native plants and explained their medicinal uses. The Embera maintain their personal health naturally and have a similar lifespan to the rest of the world. What he shared with us could put big pharma out of business. Our journey through the jungle ended at the school.
We visited the classrooms and interacted with the children. We had a family in our group with children 2 and 4 years old. The children were blue eyed with blond hair and the Embera children were in awe of them. We suspect that not many groups to the village have young children in them. We learned that the USO was there 6 years ago and installed a solar panel to provide lights in the classrooms. The chief told us that the lights stopped working a few days ago. A couple of the guys in our group did a diagnosis and believe that the batteries may have come to the end of their useful life. Some people from our group are raising funds to replace the batteries. This is the only electricity in the village.
We walked from there back to where we had started. We had the opportunity to look at and purchase their craft items, swim in the river with the Embera children, and have tattoos made from the natural dye in an indigenous plant. We boarded our boats for the journey back to the dock in late afternoon. The journey back was down stream so it took only 45 minutes.
We hope that you will all have an experience like this some day. We have not put a lot of written detail here in the post; but we are allowing the pictures to tell the story. We want to have the opportunity to return to the Embera Village soon to purchase some of the wonderful crafts to decorate our Panama home.
We will be leaving soon to return to the States. It is and has been crazy busy the last few days here. We appreciate that you all have continued to follow along. We are dedicated to keeping the information flowing as we prepare to move and settle in Panama. Our next post will be a recap once we get back to Michigan.
Greg and Jen