Bocas del Toro is this small cluster of Islands just off the Panamanian coast. I was staying on the main Island, Isla Colon, in a hostel called Gran-Kahuna. The Island is populated with about seven thousand people, quite a lot for such a small Island; it is very likely that at least a thousand of those are tourists. Main Street is filled with dive shops, jewellery stalls and shops selling overpriced hammocks and beach wear. This was truly gringo-party central.
Carrianna and I checked into the hostel, got changed and went for a glass of wine and something to eat, l had a literally amazing pesto pasta salad. Good times! That night we met a few other guys in our hostel, two surfer guys from California, (whom names I cannot remember for the life of me) Web and Borris. We brought some cheap local vodka-rum-probably-methanol-spirit stuff (for $1.65) and joined the guys drinking on the balcony. After a while we headed to a club called Iguana and then to Barco Hundido, Barco is really cool, it’s a bar on the bay with a big dock that you can sit out in and drink, also it was ladies night so I didn’t spend anything on drink. AMAZING!!!
Sunday morning brought rain which resulted in us curled up on the sofa and watching ‘The Holiday.’ By about two o’clock the sun had completely come out, so the three of us (we recruited a newbie to the hostel, Dave) decided to head over to one of the other beaches, Red Frog. We caught a water taxi over, and getting to know each other more, we explored the Island. Dave already knew it quite well as he has been to Bocas a few times, he showed us all the cool spots and led us on a walk through the jungle on the beach. It was amazing! That is one of my favourite things about Central America, the fact that wild jungles come up to the sea front, I honestly felt like I was on Lost or something. After our walk, we chilled at the beach for about an hour, before heading to a small beach bar, one of the only other things, besides a hostel, on Red Frog. As the sun started to set we headed back to Bocas.
We walked around the city in the dark, past bars, fast food restaurants and ‘hombre’s hollering at us’. Then out of nowhere popped a guy offering us a taxi to Dominical for only £20, without a second thought we jumped in, anything to get us out of the grubby city and to the beach. He sped around the mountains and down the highway, not going to lie I was a little scared; I genuinely think he was a worse driver then me. However we got there none the less, and in the record time of half an hour. Our taxi pulled up at our Hostel, we could not have asked for a better timing. As we walked in our friends Rachel and Kendy were already there, ready and raring to go. ‘Let’s go out’ they called as they shoved the flyers for a neon reggae night under our noses. We were up for anything, we were just so excited to be there and not stuck in some random city for the night. We got dressed up and headed out.
Well we didn’t end up heading to the reggae night as the atmosphere looked dull and they were charging ridiculous prices to get in. Come on, it’s Costa Rica not New York! So whilst we were walking around trying to find somewhere else to go, we stumbled upon a bar playing salsa music; a few drinks and a bit of dancing was exactly what we needed. Although, I did find out that despite my best efforts I was hopeless at Salsa, I think lessons are in order. This was the night we first met ‘Princessa’, well what can I say, I think the pictures explain it all… He was a drugged up man who walked the few bars in Dominical every night looking for a party; did I mention he wears the same fairy costume every night…? And I though the lady in Copey who dresses her dog in a jumper was about as bizarre as they got in these parts, apparently not.
The next day we woke early and headed down to Domincalita, a small beach a little further down. Before our arrival we had been told about this hidden waterfall, one in which only few people knew about, the trees hid it away from the tourist eye. We went in search of the secret falls and after climbing hills and crossing bridges we discovered it deep in the woods. The water cascaded from large rocks about 100ft high and as I dipped my feet in the crystal clear water, fish surrounded them and nibbled at my toes. Even the group of guys mucking around swinging from the rope swing failed to ruin its hypnotising tranquillity.
We couldn’t wait to emerge ourselves; we stripped down straight away and dived in. Hayley was the first of us to take the plunge from the rope swing into the water. It’s a good job she is teaching children and is not a diver, haha! I can’t judge though, my swings were no way near what one would class as graceful. I think one of them can be described as nothing less than a spectacular belly flop. We stayed for a couple of hours than headed to the beach. Wow, I don’t think I had ever seen a beach more deserted. At the top stood a single ice cream vender and on the sand, a single group of what seemed like friends; this was very different to the overcrowded stony beaches of the British coast line that I was so accustomed to. Even when I had visited the beautiful sands of Limon, it had been over populated.
The cloud shielded the scorching sun, but somehow we all still managed to burn, damn it! After sufficiently baking for a few hours, we walked around the local market, chatting to a variety of people and trying to make them deals on their beautiful, however overpriced merchandise. One lady who was selling a selection of homemade cakes told us about how she made her living solely going from place to place selling cakes; could you imagine her in the UK, more so, London.
After resting at the hostel for a few hours we got ready and made the finest cuisine money could buy accompanied by a local drink delicacy; After our cuisine of Ramin noodles and $2 white rum we headed for the local club, luckily we were accompanied by two of the guys who worked at the hostel because we had to walk down the side of a highway to get to it. However when we arrived it was well worth it, the music, the atmosphere and ‘Princesser’ were buzzing. What a brilliant night!
The next morning, after both Alka-Seltzer and Resolve we had breakfast and headed for the bus home. Wow, what a killer trip! Let’s hope it can be replicated again soon.
This week was my first week of teaching and believe me I was so happy to start, that’s why I’m here for after all. After three weeks of not doing anything I was suddenly rushed with a million and one things to do. I have been asking for the syllabus since I arrived and every time I was told that it was on the way. However, through no direct fault of anyone in particular, I was told that it still wasn’t ready two days prior to me beginning classes. I told the board that I would make one myself which they agreed to. So everyone who doubts my organisational skills, please note it is fate for me not to be organised, even when I try to be, something gets in the way. I began to plan the syllabus but as I had no idea what the children had done before it was very difficult. In the end I decided to use the first week eliciting what they already knew.
Although my classes have been small I have found them to be very difficult to teach, due to both the size and the range of ability. All of my classes seem to have one or two children who have never studied English before. With a want not to segregate them solely from the rest of the class I have been trying to include them; however this is just not possible. I have to figure a way to teach them the basics such as numbers and colours whilst I teach the rest of the class how to join sentences and conjugate verbs. I don’t particularly want to leave children sitting there for half an hour while I am explaining the task to the other children.
As the learning centre is very limited on resources, I am trying to make lots of resources that they can reuse. So instead of attempting to learn Spanish or reading in the sun, like most normal people would do, I have been sitting in what has felt like a prison this week, the learning centre, cutting out ABC’s and days of the week. WOOHOO! The joys of teaching…who am I kidding, I actually love it!
After finishing my ‘alphabet’ on Wednesday, I returned to my house really late (don’t laugh, 10.00pm is like 4am here) to find the doors locked and everyone in bed. Crap! I could see Paulina and Violetta asleep in bed. Ironically, about an hour before, I had had a conversation with Angela about how her friend had gotten locked out of their host family’s house so ended up sleeping on the lawn with a bunch of laundry to keep her warm. You have no idea how much I didn’t want to wake them but as I stood on the door step in shorts and a t-shirt shivering, I knew I couldn’t do the same thing. The back door I though… but I had no such luck, it was locked. I tried the front door again…Nope. After pacing up and down outside my host families windows for a few minutes, it began to rain. I decided I would have to wake them. I ran around to the back to put my laptop and carefully cut out letters under shelter, I would be damned if they got ruined. All of a sudden, next to the shelter, I spotted a small open window. BINGO! I pushed it further open and tried to climb in, it was literally the smallest space ever but I was determined to get through it. One leg at a time and then my arms. The whole episode would have been hilarious to watch, I would pay to see it on video.
After about five minutes of struggling, a bruised knee and a scrapped arm, I was in. Who knew stealth training was part of the Copey experience?! I opened the door and grabbed my stuff. As I tried to creep into bed, the phone began ringing. All my hard work to not wake the house was about to be undone. I grabbed the phone quickly and in my best Spanglish (a mix between Spanish and English) answered it. ‘Hola….’ No answer. ‘Hola….’ No reply. I hung up. No one around here would call and not say anything at that time of night; I am convinced it was a neighbour calling to check that we were not being burgled. As far as I know, I managed to get away with it and my host family do not know, although just because I haven’t heard anything does not mean that the whole town doesn’t know about the embarrassing affair. Maybe I should just stick to my ‘colour by numbers’ day job and leave the MI5 antics to the professionals.
(Paulina, Jose and I)