Sunday, September 19, 2010

Santa Clara

So we took our first "on our own" trip this weekend and it was great! We took a bus from the Albrook terminal to Santa Clara (2.5 hours, $3.25). We then hiked/walked along a road a kilometer or two and found the beach. It was raining during this hike, but we didn't care. Two gringas wandering along the road in the quiet town in the rain. We got a few looks :) By the time we got to the beach, we looked like wet rats. Happy wet rats, but still wet rats. We spend our first night camping on the beach. It was great, until some local teens with their loud music and beer also showed up to camp on the beach.
Ok, so some explanation of the next three pictures. Carolyn has apparently never seen a toad bigger than a fist. There were large toads hopping everywhere around the little restaurant we were playing cards it. She was very entertained and I took pictures of this. Someday I'll take her over to my house and go searching for one of the giant leopard frogs that calls our fishpond home.
In the morning, I found a guy roaming around the beach with a horse. I asked him if I could rent the horse for an hour, and he said sure, $10. Well, ten is high for here, but I didn't really care because I wanted to ride a horse on the beach. I rode for 30, then gave Carolyn a turn, then rode for another 10. He was a sweet horse. Only 5 years old. He was a bit reluctant to stop his nice slow walk and get up to a canter for me, but he eventually gave in with a good smack on the butt.
A bit down the beach, we ran into a pack of angry dogs. They were biting at the horse, and jumping trying to get to me. I bumped the horse up to a gallop (really smooth, and really fun on the beach) thinking that when we got out of their "territory" they would stop chasing. Well, I was wrong. After about 15 seconds at a gallop with the dogs still barking chasing and biting, I stopped him and turned him around to face them. I gave a good yell like I just caught Memo with his paws on the counter, and they all turned around and cowered off. We then trotted away without any problems. I was really glad he was such a good horse and didn't spook with the dogs. When I turned the horse over to Carolyn, I warned her to avoid that far end of the beach.
Then we walked to ta different place to set up camp for the next night. We were in search of a nap at this point.
We ended up at what I had planned as our backup campsite, and it was ten zillion times better than camping on the beach. It was 2-3 kilometers away from the beach, but the amenities and people made up for it. It was run by a couple from Las Vegas who had RV'd down the Transamerican highway, then opened an RV park/campground/budget lodging place with a restaurant and bar in this big walled off area. They were super nice and SPOKE ENGLISH!!!!! That's refreshing every now and then. Anyway, they really like parrots, and had about 10 of them including an African Grey and three Toucans. There were also three monkeys that roamed about the area, coming "home" to get fed every day. They used to be caged, but they kept finding ways to unlock their cages and escape, so they just let them run free. Here's the pics!
That's "Big Red". He was a rescue parrot (actually all of them were) and he's about 50 something right now. He gets to come out during the day, then voluntarily goes back into his cage where it's safe for night. Very beautiful and friendly bird.
I don't know his name, but he really wanted me to come give him a snack/to bite my finger off. I kept my distance... I've been bitten by a parrot before. 
This was the prettiest Toucan (in my opinion). His name is Frick. There is a toucan next door to him named Frack (you can actually see him in the background). 

There were many more birds, but you can only post so many bird pictures. We had such a great time and loved the people at that RV park so much that we definitely plan on going back. There were no RVs or other tents there while we were there, just a couple in one of the guest rooms and some regulars that came by for dinner. Everyone was really friendly and gave us recommendations for future trips.
Much Love,

Thursday, September 16, 2010


So, it seems every time I talk to my mom I'm cooking. She's a bit surprised by this and I got to thinking. I really am cooking a lot more than I used to. Raw foods are cheap here, processed foods or already made food however is very expensive. Consequently, I make my own food. Here are some pictures I took while making Patacones (smashed plantains).
So you start with a plantain. This one was picture worthy because it was two grown together. It was, however, not fun to peel.
Then you peel it (easier said than done) and chop it into pieces.
Next you toss the plantain pieces into a pan with hot oil
Next you take them out of the pan, and squish them one by one. I find that a coffee cup works well for this.
Then you fry them again (healthy, huh?)
When you take them out, you can heavily salt them (the popular option) or you can smother them in cinnamon and sugar (my favorite). Very yummy, very cheap, but pretty time consuming.

That same night I also made fried yucca (a future post) and tortillas (way more complicated than you would think). Fun night :)

      ~ Miss you all!!!!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Kuna Yala

It all started with waking up at 3:50 am for a bus that would arrive at 4:15 and leave at 4:30 for the airport. Ask anyone who knows me; me at 4:00 am = grumpy Lauren. I tried to just shut up until the sun at least woke up.
The plane was rather tiny. It had 20 seats squished together. All of us didn't even fit on one, we had to take two for everyone to fit. The airport we left from was sortof a joke. I walked through security with my phone, keys, and wallet in my pocket and no one noticed. It was all laid back, which was good, since it was 4am in the stinken morning.
Our landing strip. I have never been in a plane that stopped so fast upon touchdown. It was rough and loud. 
Neat landing though.
Yes, there are mountains in Panama. This was as we approached the coast there were some nice hills and a couple I would call mountains. I wish I could go hike there, but I couldn't see a single road so logistics may be a little difficult.
This is a Kuna community. Kuna Yala is an autonomous territory within Panama, sortof like the Indian Reservations in the states. The Kuna people speak their own language, although many also speak Spanish. They live in paradise in a way similar to how they did several hundred years ago. We as a group visited a Kuna villiage. I don't have any pictures from that as I I have a moral delimma with treating a culture as a tourist attraction. You can do a quick google search of Kuna Yala and see pictures of the beautiful dress characteristic of the culture.
A picture I took on the way from the airport to the island we would be staying. The Kuna Yala province is a popular destination for sailors. It is cheap, beautiful, and pristine. The only drawback is that the Kuna do not allow SCUBA diving in their waters. They survive off the ocean and they have always viewed it as a struggle between man and nature. To SCUBA would essentially be to cheat. This isn't so much in reference to fishing as crab and lobster hunting. Everynowandthen out here, you will see a dugout boat with one guy in it. If you look around the boat, you'll likely see a guy with a snorkel. They go out in pairs and dive for lobster using only a snorkel.

Up and coming are lots of pictures of the Island we were staying on. I'm not going to comment on them all because I think they speak for themselves. It was absolutely gorgeous.

 There's a storm brewing out there (above 3 pictures), but we didn't have a single day of rain. That's rare in the "rainy season". Lucky for us though, kept visibility high for snorkeling and kept humidity low.
 MY HAMMOCK!!!! I am so bringing a hammock back from Panama. I haven't found one for sale yet, but someone told me about a craft market where I could find them.
The view from my hammock
Our wonderful resident assistant Gary. Just for the record, Gary is much cooler than Eduardo, who went on vacation for the first 3 weeks we've been here.
A self portrait of me in my hammock.
Carolyn and I after snorkeling. Photo credit to Toe.
Carolyn acting like a monkey.
WHEEEE!!!! This swing was deceptively hard to get on. It's like 4 feet off the ground and spins in circles like crazy while you're trying to hop on the fat wet and slimy piece of wood. It was a good challenge
Some of my fellow study abroaders. These are mostly FYA (first year abroad) students. Quick input of my opinion: Take a bunch of 18 year olds who have never been away from home, send them to a country where a) the drinking age is 18 and b) there is really really really cheap alcohol, what do you think you'll end up with? Case in point, lets play Eye Spy. I spy with my little eye an empty bottle of vodka and an empty bottle of cranberry juice. The Island had little electricity (3 solar panels), but it did have an excellently stocked bar. I stuck to the Coca Cola :-)
 Me and a coconut tree aka palm tree
An island we went to to snorkel. There is a sunken boat out there (you can see it sticking up). It wasn't the best snorkeling spot in the world because there is a narrow channel between the island I'm on and the island you see. That results in a very strong current. The fish like it, but to stay near the boat, you have to be kicking hard with flippers on non-stop. This results in scared fish, which results in not great snorkeling. It was still very pretty though.
Looking up a Palm Tree. It was so bright this day that I just took random pictures like this and hoped some turned out. I couldn't see the picture on the camera screen for the life of me.
Waiting for the plane at the airport/landing strip. It was another 4 am morning, so I was just a little tired. I don't know why FSU likes these 6 am flights so much.
The radio control tower, powered by three solar panels.
The Bridge of the Americas  back in Panama City.

I hope you all enjoyed the post. There are more pictures Here on photobucket. I can only upload so many to a blog. Leave me comments! I would love to hear from all of you!!!

Thursday, September 2, 2010


Just wanted to let ya'll know that I am in fact still alive and having FUN. For example, I saw inception last night for $2.25. Good movie, you should go see it.