Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Nature VS Nurture

 Genetics are hard to fight and I guess the truth had to come out eventually.
 Harley's real father...
is Axl Rose!
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Monday, May 28, 2012

Toboga Island

About 8 miles from Panama City is the island of Toboga.  We took a slow, definitely not U.S. Coast Guard approved boat ride to the island one day.  The village is really adorable and houses the second oldest church in the Western Hemisphere.

It took a lot of coaxing after Atley's previous beach day disaster but he did snorkel a little with his dad by his side.
The beach was a little dirty, with lots of trash washing up from the city which you can see on the horizon.  But, besides the aluminum cans, junkies' needles, and trash bags Atley found a crab and a girlfriend who prompted him to write in his journal, "Today, I left my heart in Panama.  Saying goodbye is like losing my best friend."

Despite the sea sickness and hepatitis we loved our day in Toboga.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Panama Temple

One night Scott and I were able to leave Atley and go visit the Panama City Temple.  The city is so noisy, busy, and dirty, we found it incredible to be so close to all the hustle and bustle and yet feel so far from all of it. The temple is situated in between a few hills and it creates the illusion that you are in a tropical paradise deep in the jungle, instead of less than two minutes from the always congested streets near the Panama Canal. Our temples are truly inspired and their perfect locations only reaffirm my testimony of a living Prophet, a loving Heavenly Father, and the importance of eternal families. Although we were thousands of miles away from Washington, seeing other families of our faith coming and going from the temple made it feel like home.   

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Embera Village

What we wanted to do the most while in Panama was visit a native Embera Indian Village. Unfortunately, we didn't realize that we needed to book a tour weeks in advance.  So, there we were the night before trying to find someone to take us.  Well, we found a guy named Mario and it was quite an experience. He picked us up at the apartment and we set out for the jungle. On more than one occasion we had the impression that he was going to take us out to the jungle, rob us, and leave us for dead. Especially, when he blazed through a check point to avoid a $1 toll. He told us not to worry that he had a disguise and then proceeded to put on a different shirt and sunglasses.  We stopped and bought coconuts from these guys, who not only had coconuts but also a trusty machete and straws.  Atley slurped up the milk en route.

Deep into the jungle the road ended at the Chagres River. Mario hopped out and meet up with an Embera man who gave us life jackets-thank goodness, and helped us into a dug out canoe to head up river.

After about 10 minutes on the river, it started pouring rain.  The Embera gave Atley a bucket to scoop water out of the canoe so we didn't sink.  He was scooping as if his life depended on it. It probably did too. We felt like we were in a scene straight out of National Geographic. Every once in while you would see someone else in the river, like this little boy getting a bath, but for the most part we felt completely deserted and a million miles away from modern civilization.
An hour later we stopped and started hiking deeper into the jungle.  We were soaked from the rain and it made for a slippery and slimy climb into the mountains. As we hiked through the jungle we saw and heard all kinds of interesting things-quick sand, leaves that make great loin cloths, butterflies the size of your head, and later some boys pulling a crocodile out of the river. Of course, we didn't see those until we were finished swimming.

We played for about an hour and then  we headed back to the canoe to go to the village. The people were so excited to see us there and were such gracious hosts.  We loved it. We were greeted with song and Atley was shocked to see a lot of topless women. The people live in grass huts elevated on stilts.  We laughed when they told us that if they needed to leave their kids they just removed the ladder log so that the kids could not get out. They keep a smokey fire going at all times to ward off the snakes and mosquitoes. We learned about all of their natural remedies, how they dye their cloth using different plants, and that one of their favorite foods is WILD CHICKEN aka, Iguana. They are painted with a dye that not only keeps them hairless but also keeps the bugs away. Hello, CAN I GET THE RECIPE? It felt like we went back in time a thousand years. 

They made us a delicious lunch of fish and fried plantains wrapped in banana leaves, not to mention lots of fresh fruit-papaya, mango, passion fruit, bananas, and pineapple.

Finally, after one of the most memorable experiences of our life, they danced for us/with us and we headed home with our new friend Mario.

Friday, May 25, 2012

By Bus & Bike

One day while Scott was working Atley and I took a bus all over the city.  Above is the Amador Causeway.  Please don't get the misguided impression that all the city streets in Panama are serene and calm like this one. In fact, I think this is the only street in which I didn't fear for my life while crossing.  We hopped off at a few places throughout the day. but mostly enjoyed the air conditioning and the scenery.
Once we had to stop because Atley had a hankering for a mango and he saw a mango tree that he just had to climb.
 Then we saw a stand where they were renting bicycles. Not just any bicycles either, but bicycles that looked like cars. We absolutely had to get one, never mind that it was 95 degrees and 100% humidity outside.  It didn't take long until we realized that Atley's feet couldn't reach the pedals so I would be handling this mean machine all on my own.

We weren't quite sure where to take our bike-mobile but a strange man told us about a secluded path where we could take great photos.  Sounded great to me, until I had been pedaling for about 15 minutes and not only was I drenched in sweat but I was positive that I was having a massive heart attack. We began to notice that we were surrounded by abandoned buildings and jungle. We also began to notice that there were people living in the buildings and according to Atley they were "watching us longingly." Atley finally had the good sense to say, "I think that guy told us to come this way so he could sneak up on us and attack."  Okay, that officially freaked me out and I pedaled back as fast as I could, which wasn't very fast, and we literally ran down the street chasing the first bus that passed.
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The bus dropped us off at Hard Rock Cafe and our Coca Cola never tasted so good. Walking back to our apartment we were almost hit by a car but when we realized it was Scott, instead of giving him the finger we just climbed inside.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Santa Clara Beach, Panama

After driving for about an hour and half and questioning whether Scott really knew where he was taking us we arrived at a beach called Santa Clara.  The water was clear and warm, the sand was like sugar, the weather was perfect and besides a half dozen or so natives the beach was deserted.

What at first was disappointment that we were not completely alone, turned into gratitude very quickly when the natives had to save Atley's life.  Yes, very few days go by without serious risk of a life ending accident in our family.  We had just arrived. Scott was still unpacking the car. Atley and I had wadded into the water.  He was about 5 feet in front of me, the water lapping around his knees.  The next thing I knew he had vanished.  I looked behind me to see if he had gone back to our hut but he was no where in sight.  Then I heard something, a scream, and looked at the expanse of blue in front of me.  About 25 yards out to sea was a little blond head fighting to stay above water.  I froze in panic. I knew I was not a good enough swimmer to save him.  He seemed to disappear for minutes at a time before bobbing back up again. Each time he would resurface he was further away from me. I did the only thing I am really good at, I started screaming.  The natives who were collecting shells along the water's edge heard me and then noticed Atley who was now at least 50 yards away from the shore.  Two teenage boys dove into the water and started swimming toward him. About this time Scott noticed what was happening and came running.  The other's stopped him warning him that the rip current was too dangerous. They assured us that the boys lived on the beach and could bring him back safely. Somehow I knew that they were right.   We watched for what seemed like an eternity for them to reach him as he struggled to stay on top of the waves.  It took an even longer time for them to find a safe place to bring him back to shore while avoiding the rip current that had sneakily sucked him out to sea.
 The arrows are pointing at my two favorite people in the whole wide world, the boys who saved Atley from drowning.
Atley stayed pretty close to his dad for the rest of the day. Once in a while he would reprimand me for just standing there screaming while he was washed away. The truth is my reaction bothered me too. As soon as the natives realized that the gringos had learned their lesson, we had the beach all to ourselves.  Atley collected hundreds of seashells, and that is not an exaggeration, and since we all survived we feel it was a very successful outing.