Although not quite the way I expected to leave Panama City for the first time, I have finally made it out. Brett has also made it out, but only because he is back in Canada for a brief contract. I have begun volunteering at Mamallena’s EcoLodge near El Valle in the mean time.
The setting of the EcoLodge is absolutely magical. There is a breeze (A BREEZE!) and the nights are so chilly I have to put on a sweater. Within my first 2 days I have seen a grasshopper the size of my face, a really grumpy toad living in my cupboard and multiple sneaky praying mantises.
Not to mention the birds which everyone keeps telling me on skype about how beautiful it all sounds. The grounds are huge, and dotted with small trails leading between groves of fruit trees. Most notably the mangos, which I’m betting only about 10% of them manage to be eaten right now. Bonus features, there is a small river to cool off in, and a nearby mountain to climb.
The volunteer program is exactly what I had in mind, because unlike some places that slap “Eco” on to their name, this Ecolodge actually takes the word to heart. They recycle (first place I have seen in all Panama), compost everything, serve only pescatarian meals, use as much of the bounty from their lands as possible, raise chickens, and overall respect the earth.Volunteers are expected to put in 20 hours of work a week in return for a free place to stay and free pancake breakfast. The work is also catered to what you want to do: build, create, cook, garden, etc.
I’ve spent most of my time digging through the dreaded “Vinegar cupboard” which looks like a science experiment gone wrong. However, I understand vinegar creation so its pretty freaking exciting. I’ve also canned a spicy mango salsa, where literally all ingredients were foraged or harvested off the lands by yours truly. Serious this is a dream come true for a nerd like me!
Best of all, there is nothing else around. No highways, cities, stores or pollution. Tranquility! I think everyone must be beginning to see a trend here, I really have a thing for the quiet places. The rest of my time has been full of inner reflections, and maybe a game or two of Cards Against Humanity. Of course I’ve still be plugging away on export paperwork, and re-budgeting based on a blown head gasket….but now it seems so much less pressing. We will make it work, whatever the outcome.
Oh, and the other evening we climbed a hill. It was surreal. And these are just the photos from my phone, just wait for the good stuff from the Sony A7!