A short trip lasting merely nine hours carries us to a different country: we’re in Panama!
We’ve been lucky, with sun shining the whole duration of the trip and friendly seas, although the wind is notable for its absence…
The only potential –averted- disaster being that big tree we didn’t see floating just below the water surface… But our propeller promptly found it and neatly chopped it in a few clean pieces!
The noise was scary, the quick vibration quite violent – a giant boat-shudder that lasted just a second; then back to our normal, quiet trip before we could even ask ourselves “what happened?”… The evidence was floating right behind us.
There IS a God that looks after fools and sailors, I can certainly attest to that! And to It I offer my sincere, heartfelt gratitude. The consequences could have been much more serious.
An hour after this, we serenely plop the anchor in one of the many beautiful coves of Isla Parida and watch our first Panamanian sunset.
We only spend two days in this secluded cove, but end up with unforgettable memories.
During our customary kayak exploration of the surroundings, Tom sees a couple of children playing on one of the beaches, their parents not far behind. Needless to say, he feels the need to go meet them and I have no choice but to follow my crazy, overfriendly husband.
Upon closer inspection we notice that there are as many as five little half-moon shaped coves, all with a small beach and a simple cabana-style dwelling. All of them are marked with the word “Finca” followed by a family name – we’ll later discover that “Finca” stands for “Farm”. So it is revealed that the whole little bay is inhabited.
As we approach the little beach, the whole family stops in its tracks. They are VERY curious about us, more than we are about them, it seems…
Anyway, Tom hollers “Hola” and pulls his kayak high up on the beach. He’s soon surrounded by the family and he’s already shaking hands and introducing himself by the time I get there.
I offer my smiling greetings and ask if it’s okay to take pictures with the camera hanging on my neck. We get a lot of blank stares. It is suddenly very clear that my Spanish here is worthless!
These people do not speak a lick of Spanish, and I have no idea what language they’re speaking… So I do what any decent Italian would do: revert to hand-signals!
It always works: big hand gestures and exaggerated face expressions are great communication tools. I strongly endorse this method…
I am granted permission to take pictures, while at the same time learning our hosts’ names. There’s Jose’ the Father, Martina the Mom, Miranda the 12 yrs old daughter, Deynar the 6 yrs old very shy middle son and Baby Daisy, whom I’m guessing must be around 18 months old.
As I work my camera, Mom Martina gestures for me to take pictures of her baby daughter and I readily agree. Miranda runs back to the house and returns within a minute carrying a stool to place Baby Daisy on. She has also changed in what I assume is her best dress! I guess Miranda has a full-blown photo shoot in mind… I’m only too happy to oblige.
In fact she places the stool on the beach right at the edge of the water, staging the whole scene. Mom positions Baby Daisy on the stool with the bay in the background; for the next ten minutes I’m busy capturing so much more than just images of this Indigenous family.
When I’m satisfied I have enough, I hand-signal that I’ll go back to the boat, do some printing and promise to return soon with a few photos. A few enthusiastic nods confirm their understanding of my strange communication.
These people are very sparse with their smiles, but that’s about to change… I’ll make sure of that.
Two hours later we’re back with a small stack of pictures carefully wrapped in tissue paper. Tom ceremoniously hands the little bundle to Jose and the family gathers around him. As they leaf through them their expressions change from serious, shy and reserved to surprised, thrilled and genuinely pleased. Oh, I wish I had brought my camera back! THESE are precious expressions… But, you’ll have to take my word for it.
Mom Martina finally cracks a delighted smile, and it’s the best reward I could ever have asked for. Miranda can’t get enough of staring at herself in her Sunday best. Dad Jose is almost in a trance, raptly admiring his baby daughter’s images… Even little Deynar regales me with a shy smile as I praise him, calling him Guapissimo (very handsome) while pointing at his picture.
I had no idea of how a few pictures could affect people so deeply! It makes me happy in a way I can’t explain.
Soon we say our “Adios!” and move back towards the kayaks, but Jose insists on giving us four huge –and I mean HUGE- avocados that he proudly explain come from high up his own tree. We show our appreciation and accept them, and with more smiling and waving we return to our boat.
I only look back once, but the whole family is still gathered around their yard, focused on those pictures.
I guess my mission here is done!
Tomorrow we leave for points further South.