Embera visit

In Peace Corp´s speak the people in group #59 are not volunteers, we are aspirantes (applicants) until we finish PST (Pre-Service Training) and are sworn in. Last weekend all the aspirantes were given a vacation from training. We all boarded Diablo Rojos (The busses in Panama. We will definitely have a post on these guys later.) and dispersed to current volunteers sites. Group #59 has five couples, we were lucky and got to visit one of the three available couples that are serving in PC Panama.

Friday afternoon we found our selves at the bend in the river that serves as a port and paid three dollars to have a man take us up the river in his dugout canoe with small outboard motor clamped to the back.

We visited Jeff and Cynthia. They are a wonderful couple from Texas who have nearly finished with their 27 months in Peace Corps. Like most people nearing COS (close of service) they say it passed too quickly. They live in a small Embera community and as we debarked I thought, "This is what I think of when I think of PC". We wandered up through the small village and found their house, but no one was home. The Embera speak Embera and Spanish as a second language and I was able to ask where our hosts were. They said Jeff had not told any of them that visitors were coming. So we must not be expected and no one would be home for a day or two. We climbed up into their house and fortunately Jeff showed up in less than an hour. The house they have built for themselves in the Embera style is quite nice.
They have running water and a generator for electricity in the evening if there are no tourists visiting the village. Their hammocks are magnificent and we spend the rest of Friday hanging out and talking to Jeff. Over the next two days I tried my hand at their version of spear fishing. We helped harvest some primary rainforest for a new house (carrying full sized logs down steep jungle slopes in tropical humidity is immensely hard work ). Then we visited a waterfall, and swam in the river.

The Embera have a friendly open way of interacting with each other. They were a little shy around me, but I enjoyed their tonal way of speaking. Jeff says some days when he is feeling frustrated, one of them will just come and give him a hug and it really brings up his spirit. Jeff is constantly joking and telling them extravagant obviously false stories and the children love to come visiting. The only words I remember in Embera are greetings. Phonetically spelled (misspelled) they are Mana Jaba (Hello my brother) and Jaba Whaina (Hello my sister).

I hadn’t realized it however, the constant classes and general tension of PST were starting to drain me. The relaxation and fun we had at our host couple’s site was exactly what I needed. The nature of our training is changing and next Wednesday, the 13th, is site announcements. Then we travel for regional and technical training for the next two weeks.
Sadly this week we lost two fellow aspirantes. One was very homesick and choose to go, the other had to go because student loans can be beastly things. It is surprisingly hard losing these people considering we have only known them for less than a month, but in situations like these strong bonds grow quickly. God speed and g’luck my friends.

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