A Caribbean Adventure

We woke up at 6:20 in ravishing Bocas Del Toro to start an awesome day of snorkeling and bird watching. Once we all had put on our bathing suits and sunscreen, we ate a delicious breakfast of pancakes (I put Nutella on mine) and polenta-meat patties. Eating on the water is magical, our hotel in literally on stilts on the shore of the island.

Island Johnny BirdsPhoto By Johnny Xu

At 8ish, boats pulled into the hotel and picked us up. We were taken to a bird sanctuary island that looked straight out of a fairy tale. If I were to be placed on any abounded island, this would be the one. Later, we traveled by boat to a beach to go snorkeling. The bar tender made really yummy banana and pineapple smoothies. In the water, there were a bunch of sea stars and poop looking piles, which I later learned were the dug up sand and mud from the sea worms. The captain of the motorboat took us to a couple exceptional snorkeling spots where a series of tropical fish were spotted.

IMG_0826

We got back to the hotel and people napped, read, played cards, and hung out. During this trip, I’ve read 5 1/2 books. We ate pasta and fish for lunch, and then embarked to the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. A scientist tour guide taught us all about the different types of sea sponges and poisonous dart frogs. Those two seemed to be his favorite things to talk about. We walked around the institute and saw many different kinds of rare and tropical birds. Some Princeton students were working on coral research, more specially categorizing and charting brittle sea stars. Finally, we went back to the hotel to collect our clean clothes and walk around town. A good end to a great day.

 

Story By Isabelle Rowe

Mark

Bitter Sweet

Today we visited the Oreba Cocoa plantation in Bocas Del Toro (The Chocolate Farm), which was also called Ngnobe . We were first on a long bus ride, which was loud and annoying. We came upon this dirt road and I was very confused at why we were here. We all got off and walked up the dirt hill, with houses on stilts built up along it. From what it looked liked, it seemed that we were in a small village, at the top I soon figured out that we were at the Cocoa Plantation.

CocoaPhoto By Jack Boyland

When we got inside, we all sat down in this cabin sort of building to eat lunch. When lunch came out, we realized we were eating the same food the locals were.  There was a purple thing that was their type of potato, which was a root named Otoe, and the green vegetable was their version of spinach, which was called Malanga. After lunch, we were then split up into two groups to go explore their plantation. We were given information on how they make chocolate. When the guy opened the fruit, there were white beans that were slimy, this was the cocoa bean. He told us to put it in our mouths and suck on them because they were sweet. The guide showed us how they roast the beans, and then crush them. The ladies roasted them, and then took a rock and mashed them up until they turned into a paste, this was the 100% chocolate. After seeing this, we went back down and were given the chance to buy the chocolate that they make, and then we left for our long journey ahead of us, Paradise.

Chris and the GirlPhoto By King Sun

We all got on a boat, and we arrived to an island, Isla Colon. This island is one of many, and all are apart of the national marine park. The waters were gorgeous blues, the houses were all bright beautiful colors. Isla Colon was the only island that cars are allowed on, and was the only one with hotel and houses. Overall, this hotel and Island truly is Paradise

Story By Gloria Feuer

maple sun 2Photo By Maple Sun

 

Bugs and Beans

Today was the 9th March 2014 and we first drove to Volcan Baru. From there we walked up a short road and enjoyed the beautiful surrounding scenery. Then we hiked the hill up and made a rest at a lovely ranger station. From there we hiked a short trail and after brief time we felt we were in the topical jungle of Panama.

Emma-Scott hikePhoto By Emma-Scott Egbert

After that we drove back to the hotel to change and then we left for our next aim. The small, but unique coffee plantation “Janson’s Family Coffee”. We first enjoyed a delicious lunch with vegetarian burritos and their famous coffee. Then we were split up in two groups depending on gender and we had a tour through the whole coffee plantation.

isabelle_beatlePhoto By Isabelle Rowe

First we saw the coffee plants and learned about different types of coffee plants and their special properties. Then we hiked a little bit and saw the highest lakes in Panama. Also we learned how to process coffee and the different ways of processing it (Honey, Water and Natural).  Then we visited the big ovens in which coffee gets roasted and why they roast their premium coffee very lightly. After that we had a last coffee rest in their café and we could buy souvenirs and coffee for our parents and friends.

JackLycke_CoffeePhtoto Photo By Jack Lycke

To summarize the whole day we hiked a beautiful trail and a mountain high and also learned] a lot about coffee, how to process, what is a great coffee and everything else that belongs to the topic of coffee.

Story By Konstantin Strobel

Kendall_CoffeePhoto By Kendall Scala

America’s Past Time

Last night I went to a baseball game with Ken, Bob, Johnny and Ivan. We were able to sit behind home plate for three dollars. Also there was only 100 fans. It was a great experience for all of us especially because it was Bob’s first baseball game, so Ivan and myself helped explain the rules and what was going throughout the game.

By Jack Boyland

“I was very happy to go to my first baseball game.  I had a good time.”  Bob

Baseball 2 baseball 1

 

Sun and snorkeling

A home away from home is how I would describe the first part of our day. It started with the boat ride to the Isle of Iguana, in which you could feel the ocean spray, the sun shining on your face and the motion as the boat hit the water. Once we got on the island we spent a few hours snorkeling, something I haven’t been able to do in a very long time. A few of us also attempted underwater photography and the only thing I can say about it is that we tried. After a few hours of swimming we had lunch along with fresh pineapples and watermelon. There was not one person who complained about spending all day on the beach though there were lots of complaints about sunburns afterward. Once we got back we all expected to have work to do but instead we went to dinner, because we spent more time than expected at the island. Dinner not only consisted of good food but after a while it also consisted of good music. We all were either dancing or singing along to the music, a great way to end the day.

Story By Jhane Gibson

IMG_2566Photo By Jhane Gibson

On the road again

The 9th day of our awesome M-Term trip to the passionate, vibrant, colorful, humid, diverse and wonderful Panama.

Mask makerPhoto By Jhane Gibson

After we left the cozy hotel in Antón, we stopped on the way to Los Santos to have lunch. It was a rather small restaurant, which was not that ready for that many of us to “attack”. Despite the shaggy front it has, the “comida” there are “muy bieno”. The chicken soup I had was terrific. The texture of the chicken meat was soft and smooth, it melts the second it arrives your mouth. The natural flavor of chicken was perfectly contained by the greasy, but delicious soup. Then you add rice in it, they absorb the essence of the dish. When they sweep through the tip of your tongue, it numbs your nerves and brings happiness to the every corner of your fatigue body. How amazing it is that some ordinary ingredients can turn to a bowl of tropical paradise.  It reminds me A LOT of Chinese food, just saying.

isabelleblog3Photo By Isabelle Rowe

We arrived the hotel Cubitá before we even noticed. A sad sad news hits us the second we stopped the bus—– Chris is leaving us. The talented kitty-like yoga-teacher-to-be photographer Chris had to stop the journey with us right now to go back to the cold depressing crowded New York City for yoga class. Put away the sorrowful feelings we have inside of our hearts, we had to put ourselves together and continue the trip. Farewell and good luck Chris!!! Best wishes for you.

Gloria14Photo By Gloria Feuer

As the culture and tradition center of Panamá, we visited several local artists and learned many stuff from them. We visited a bakery factory where they make pastry with hands and bake them in the most traditional way possible—In a special dome-like oven, which is made of cement. Then we went to a ceramics artists’ workshop, experienced how difficult it is and how patient you have to be to make a fine work. Cats were lying everywhere enjoying the warm sunshine while those pots-makers sweat like rain. Right after that, we arrived a traditional mask maker’s shop and observed how a mask is made can be terrifying and beautiful at the same time. The shop owner looks just surprisingly similar with the masks he makes……the final stop we made is the drum maker’s home. We witnessed the long and hard process you have to go through if you want to make a fine drum. The sound coming out of the drum is inspiring and heartening.

Kendall_LadyPhoto By Kendall Scala

We had the best dinner since we have been in this country. The dishes were delicate and lovely. The swimming pool next to our tables is spreading the mysterious also charming lights in different shades. The sound ice in our drinks clicking the glass sings along the sound that out forks and knives scratching the plates, composed a symphony of happiness. Just like the lyrics “ now we live beside the pool where everything is good.”

We did some work after and this is the 9th day of our life-altering memorable trip to Panamá.

Story By Jingyi (Big Kitty) Xue

Top of the World

maple sun Photo By Maple Sun

Awesome. We tend to use the word for things that are not awe inspiring, but I can say with confidence that today was an awesome day. We woke up and the group was told that we have a mountain hike followed by moans and groans and lots of “I don’t want to.” After a bus ride we arrive at the beginning of the trail and are informed that a small child along with Nicolas will be our guide. Now this child was about 4’5” but he climbed up the mountain trail like none of us could. We had many stops and rests along the way, but we eventually made it to the top of the mountain. This mountain was called “India Dormida” and it was approx. 800 meters high. It is called “India Dormida” because it resembled a sleeping Indian woman. It was well worth the efforts because the views were amazing. You could get a grasp of the entire town which was 600 meters deep inside of the crater. A small portion of the group wanted to go down the mountain the “easy way.” The reason it was so “easy” was because it was straight and has no trees. This trail was the complete opposite of easy because after the first 90 meters or so there was a rocky vertical drop and it continued to be a hard trail the entire rest of the way down.

BOb xiao Photo By Bob Xiao

We met up and got lunch but soon after we were given an ultimatum. The choice we had to make was “Going to the Hot Spring and staying in the Hot Spring” or “Going to the Hot Spring and then going Zip-Lining.” I didn’t know that the question of “Do you want to go zip-lining?” had a negative answer but I learned today it had one. The bus dropped us off at the hot spring and we were offered to get a mud bath treatment, which is applying mud to your face and letting it dry in the heat of the sun, then you wash it off and relax in the hot spring. A brave few stepped up and got the treatment and after a short time in the hot spring the people that wanted to go zip-lining hopped on a bus and started their journey to the starting point.

Yudi Chen(Annie) Photo By Annie Chen

All nine of us were dropped off at the starting point and were outfitted in extremely uncomfortable harnesses as we entered the bus that would deliver us to the first line. The first line was a beginners line where we were supposed to learn the basics of braking with your hands. The second one was a short but sweet line with a great view. However the third line was a line that you did not have to brake but you were stopped off halfway. It was my least favorite out of the four lines as the fourth line was steep and somewhat long. We got everyone together and had some dinner. Soon after dinner we were told we had an hour and a half long work session where the entire trip got together and worked on creating great content with each other. By 9:30 everyone was tired and we headed off into our rooms where everyone eventually fell asleep because we had a truly awesome day.

Story By Jack Lycke

Mud Mask Bad asses Photo By King Sun

Saying good bye to new friends

This is the last day at the local village. Recall yesterday, the first time we arrived at this village, we did not know anything about this village, everything is new. Remember the first thing that shocked me is its location. This small local village located at a small island, so that people from outside world is very hard to reach here which make this village really traditional. People are wearing traditional clothes, playing traditional instrument, and speaking traditional language.
Isabelle_Chief Photo By Isabelle Rowe

After one day explore, we went to the waterfall where we swam. We interviewed local people and learned their own traditional knowledge. We watched and participated in their local singing and dancing activity. We played sports with local people. We tasted local fish, which are pretty fresh and tasty. We set up tends with local people. Some of us even made a lot of local friends. All these show that local people are pure and plain.

DSC01045   Photo By Johnny Xu

However, everything had to end, though we are not willing to leave this village, we have to continue our Panama tour. After playing with local children and shopping souvenirs, we left the village at noon.

Pedro Blog 1 Photo By Pedro Marcello

Time in that village is really remarkable. We had fun with local people, with their children in particular. We left their village by their boat, and then we had lunch at around one o’clock. Then we had an almost three hours drive to our next hotel. We spent the whole afternoon arriving at hotel. Pleasantly, our hotel is fantastic. We have amazing rooms and Wi-Fi.

Kendall_Kid in Water Photo By Kendall Scala

This is an unforgettable day; we left those friendly and plain local people to continue our trip. However, we do gain something like nice hotel. We are expecting tomorrow and we are really enjoying time in Panama, a fantastic country.

Story By Johnny Xu

See the intro to Mark Cheng’s documentary on his trip to Panama here!

A difference world

CaioChild copy Photo By Caio Garcia

To be honest, I didn’t really understand M-term was about till today. Today our lives changed, we got removed from our shells and put into a foreign location. None of us speak the language of the Embera tribe, In the Tusipono village about 3 hours away from Panama City; we don’t know their customs or traditions. Some of us have never even camped before. We are true outsiders, but the indigenous Embera people are more welcoming then some of our neighbors at home.

Gloria11Photo By Gloria Feuer

The tribes men greeted us at the bus via canoe; we travel to their village to be greeted by drumming and the women of the tribe in their traditional clothing. We then dropped our stuff off and went to a waterfall in which we rock climbed swam and jumped into the water.  We had lunch of fresh fish made by the tribe women ad later incredible chicken and rice for dinner. We played music, soccer, and basketball and over all attempted to communicate with the locals. Some reached out to us more then others but everyone was friendly they even gave us henna tattoos with traditional tribal patterns. We fell asleep in tents, well some us tried to fall asleep but it was hard because of Cesar’s (our tour guilds) snoring that would turn into yelps by the hour. However despite the lack of sleep I today realized that m term is about life changing experiences and this trip is one.

Story By Lindsay Lerner

Embera CousinsPhoto By Mark Cheng

A sneaky white mask and a Devilish Red

Today was a good day, for a monkey.  Today we set out on the Panama Canal in a little boat.  I thought we would sink or get eaten by zee crocodile, but we did not.  On the ride we went to a tree.  There was a white faced capuchin monkey in the tree.  A hungry monkey.  We fed the monkey.  He got stingy and greedy as I was eating my beef jerky for a little snack.  The monkey swooped down on my shoulder and reached between my legs and stole my beef jerky.  After he took my beef jerky he climbed on a branch and tried to open it.  He couldn’t open the bag and dropped it into the water.  We laughed and left in search of more animals.

http://vimeo.com/88310211

By Sam Passavia

Jhané'sbridge  Photo By Jhane Gibson

Emma-ScottcanoesPhoto By Emma-Scott Egbert

That afternoon we also went to Panama’s largest celebration, Carnival.  The celebration of life was palpable both on the participants’ faces and in the air.  We took in the music, dancing, and food while dodging sprays from squirt guns and whippings by masked devils. Our time in Carnival ended with us watching the parade on the coast as the sunset with the carnival queens displaying the beauty of Panama.

JackLycke_CarnavalPhoto By Jack Lycke