We joined our good friends Christian, Jess, and some caring locals for a beach cleanup a few weeks back and left Bluff Beach in much better shape.
The Nuances of Living in the Jungle 2 of 5 Rain and Mud
The jungle and its vast forest of trees, plants, and flowers exist because of a few key factors one being RAIN. Without constant rain a rainforest would be nothing more than a forest. A by-product of rain of course is mud, which could be an entirely separate post for us being that we work in the mud everyday. This leads to the discussion of how to cope with living in a place where rain is inevitable everyday and accepting this truth is the only answer.
Rain: Rain is an everyday occurrence here in Bocas del Toro. Unlike other areas of Central America and the Caribbean rain in Bocas is unpredictable and frequent. Weather is always changing from sun to rain and our best/only option is to learn to love it.
*We are never dry and our clothes/shoes are in a constant state of being damp.
*Between the rain and the humidity our hair is a permanent state of musty greasiness. Much like that one kid in elementary school whose hair always looks like it got a hold of a bottle of hair gel to do a slick back. Everyone can remember the greasy kid from school.
*Bailing the boat is required multiple times of the day because it rains on and off. This requires Jak to multitask between bailing and driving the boat between our project(s) and home. It also doesn’t help that our boat has a hole in the bow.
*Its one thing to feel torrential downpours while walking or standing, but when your flying through the ocean and bouncing up and down the rainwater is constantly blasting us in the face. This is not therapeutic in the slightest.
*Inevitable rain means you must prepare for it. This means you make use of those ugly rain panchos or trash bag (whichever one you think is most fashionable) and cover your belongings regularly.
*Taking refuge under uncomfortably close quarters with a slew of Panamanians during a downpour.
Mud Problems: We are surrounded by mud throughout our days in particular in our current project of building a playground.
*Slipping, sliding, and falling are big problems for us. As a victim this is not fun, but as an observer it can be very humorous to witness a good wipeout.
*Walking through mud in flip flops is inevitable and you will get splashes/splatters all over the back of your clothes, sometimes resembling a stain in the wrong place.
*In addition, flip fops get stuck in mud, also causing a humorous situation to witness when you come close to again falling on your face, or plopping your foot in a juicy puddle. Your foot/sandal can feel mud oozing through each on of your toes and attempting to lift that foot again will leave a stranded flop in the mud requiring a speedy often tumultuous recovery.
*Stay inside: Our schedule does not allow this, but if yours does bring a good book or two to stay inside and read.
*Always pack a raincoat and make sure it’s big enough to cover your backpack or other carried items
*Wear a bathing suit as often as possible
*If you are around mud and wearing flip-flops, do what our Ngobe friends do and rock it shoeless.
*Purchase a quick-dry towel, otherwise your towel will smell soon after you wash it.
*Utilize the sunny hours to dry your clothes.
*Love the rain.
The Nuances of living in Panama 1 of 5: Insects
Never believe that living in tropical paradise is complete heaven. For as many great advantages it has, there can be at times just as many disadvantages (especially in an island community in Panama like Bocas). Below is a look into the hassle of deaing with insects on a daily basis. Anyone should consider the insect issues below before quitting their cubicle job in the states to live in the jungle or for a vacation.
Insects: this issue/problem should not be overlooked on any permanent move or vacation. There is no insect repellent that works 100% and no treatment or remedy that will prevent any of the following from having a feast with their friends on your skin: mosquitos, ants, horseflies, chitras (sandflies i.e. the worst, most difficult insect bite to prevent), and the unfortunate occurrence of a more serious bite from a malaria or dengue fever carrying mosquito. Fortunately for us malaria is not an issue here, unfortunately dengue fever is and locals will tell you its only a matter of time before you come down with a seven day 104 fever that is followed with a rash. We are just buying time until then. An interesting scary fact is that there have been cases in Bocas del Toro of sandflies carrying a flesh eating disease transmitted through sloths. A personal fact with regards to Jaime is there is not a person in this world that is liked by insects more than her. People all say, “Oh mosquitos love me. I get bitten more than anyone else” These claims are not true because Jaime has more mosquito bites living in the jungle than anyone else.
Insect repellent will help the cause but is not a cure all.
Locals will tell you coconut oil works, but unless you want smell like a coconut for the day it does not function as an insect repellent. It can also have reverse effects and you can wake up to ants feasting on your skin because they enjoy the taste of coconut oil.
Mosquito nets are just that, they prevent mosquitos only. As I write these words a family of chitras (sandflies) are perusing my computer screen and enjoying my blog post.
Dos Tigres fragrant spirals: prior to sleeping, light a spiral and place it on top of a bottle for the night. It will help fend off mosquitos.
Anti-itching cream works for the anti-itch, but not the anti-bite.
If you wish to stay clear of insects locate yourself away from the jungle, swampy areas especially during morning hours 6-9 and dawn 4-7 and stay out of the mangroves in islands of Panama.
Also it helps to be located closer to the ocean for the breeze.
If you cannot stand insects and don’t want experience bites, find the most densely populated area in which there is no vegetation and mostly buildings. For us in Panama this place is Bocas Town. This may be the only place in the immediate area that we don’t come across a plethora of critters. As we can tell nothing works for chitras (NOTHING!), they will become the most annoying creature of the jungle if you wish to follow in our footsteps.
Life living in the jungle is a once in a lifetime opportunity for most. The wild life cannot be beat (except for maybe in Africa, we’ll keep you posted), The sights sounds and even scents are like no other and its a joy for us to be here amongst not only the local Ngobe Indians, but also insects abound.
Until next nuance, stay in your air conditioned house or apartment and you should be safe from catching malaria.