Sunday, April 8, 2012

To Bocas and Back

I can't believe my spring break is already coming to an end!  It was something I had been looking forward to for so long!  Bethany and I had been planning on going on a fun vacation trip in Panama during it.  We went to Bocas (on the Caribbean side of Panama) for 4 days with our fellow student teacher Kayla.  It was such a nice time.  It had been a while since I had just been able to slow down, not worry about what to do the next day or have a check list of things to cross off.  I got all my lesson plans for the week after break done the week before so that I could really just relax and enjoy the time with the girls.  It was a week of first time experiences and many memories:

Day 1:  We left Panama City on Saturday night.  We were able to 'enjoy' a 10 hour bus trip to get to the mainland.  Sunday morning we took a water taxi over to the island of Bocas where we stayed in the main strip that was filled with hostels, hotels, restaurants and shops.  For our first day there we decided to stay and explore the main street there.  We went to many different shops looking at souvenirs and hand crafted bags and jewelry. 

We then went over to a beach that was on the same island.  It was not a super popular beach, but I thought it was beautiful!  We just laid out on the beach and read books.  I had started "The Hunger Games" on my plane flight here, and read the second and third books while on this vacation.  We went to dinner at a place called "Le Pirate" when we got back and crashed at the hostel we stayed at for that first night.

 Day 2:  The hostel was not our favorite.  That was one of those first experiences where we didn't know what to expect and it was good to be able to experience it, but we decided not to stay.  The place was very dirty and very open.  We checked into a hotel for a night (it was booked for the rest of the nights, but we were thankful to have one night to ourselves). 

 Then we went on to have an amazing day taking a boat tour.  The boat brought us to a place called "Dolphin Cove".  We saw a lot of dolphins swimming by, which was a very cool experience!  We then got to go snorkeling at two different spots.  By the time we got to the second one it had gotten a bit chilly out and I was in my sweatshirt debating whether I should go in.  Kayla and Bethany both told me I had to and I'm thankful they did!  The fish and coral were different in both spots.  I told Bethany and Kayla that I was thinking the whole time about how much of God's creation I haven't seen, and seeing this underwater world has just deepened my awe of how big and creative God is.  I had gone snorkeling before in St. Thomas and even compared to that time the fish and life I saw this time was completely different!  We had lunch on the boat, got pretty burned up, and went back to Bocas for the night.

 We ate at a very cool restaurant that had sand for a floor and was open air.  It had a big screen set up too where they played surf videos.  Some nights they had different entertainment like fire blowers or dancing.  We enjoyed our time there and then went back to our hotel room. 

 We had a tiny tv in the hotel room where Kayla and I were so excited to find the Kentucky championship game on as well as Harry Potter (The Half Blood Prince).  Both were in Spanish but who needs to know what commentators were saying, and we knew the story of Harry Potter well enough to still appreciate it.

Day 3:  We slept in!  That was a great feeling!  Then we got ready to go to the beach for the day.  We went over to another island to a beach called Red Frog Beach.  We just enjoyed being quiet and reading on the beach again.

 Kayla and I went for a short hike in the jungle and decided we wanted to go real hiking for our last day.  After staying at the beach for a while we took a water taxi back to Bocas.  We had to move into a third place to stay and this time it was another hostel.  This hostel was much nicer, cleaner, and had our own bathroom! 

As we were getting ready to go out the power went out all over the island.  We were hungry and wondered where we would find a place to eat.  There was a boat docked as a restaurant that had power, though, so we had a great dinner there while waiting for the power to come back on.  As we finished up our meal it did!  We then spent the night sharing a hostel room with a girl from Germany and two girls from Canada.  New experiences continued.

Day 4:  This was our hiking day.  We were so excited about it as we started off.  The sun was shining, we got sandwiches to take and got all ready to go.  The plan was to walk along Red Frog Beach until the shoreline disappeared.  We were told that at that point we could walk up into the jungle and there would be an unmarked trail.  We were warned it might be a little muddy but as it hadn't started raining much it wouldn't be too bad.  Well.... a little muddy was exactly opposite of what it was.  By the time we finished hiking through it had started pouring, our shoes, legs, shorts and shirts were soaked and caked with mud.  It was quite the adventure!  Kayla and I thought it was so funny, but poor Bethany who was trying to do it in flip flops didn't find it as funny until much later.  =) 

 When we got through the jungle to the next beach we sat in the pouring rain, eating soggy sandwiches and laughing at the turn of events.  We decided not to continue on, but to start going back to Red Frog Beach.  We went back and headed back to the main island since it was still pouring.  Once back we napped and read more in our room. We then went back to our favorite pizza place in the sand.  We had a good dinner, and enjoyed our last night in Bocas together. 

God has been continuing to grow me, as I have to slow myself down.  The culture here is so much less task oriented.  Whereas I am list focused and on-the-go, this time off was good for me to slow down, spend time in the Word and just settle my heart.  It has been testing to rely on people around me and to go with their schedules, waiting to get things done that I need to.  I know that through this test of patience God is using it to build Christ-likeness in me.  I am thankful for the time He is spending on my life, teaching me these new things and allowing me these new learning (and sight-seeing) experiences!