01 February 2010

The Prior-Grosch expedition in Panama

The New Year began with quite a bang as the Prior-Grosch gang arrived in Panama. I whisked my parents and Zoe up to Cocobolo on New Year's Eve and we celebrated by meeting people in La Zahina and going to bed early. We packed into six days everything possible so they got the real flavor of campo life. Between visiting the village and neighbors we hiked to a water fall and into the forest to see some 'big trees'. I almost pushed them over the edge when we hiked to the village of San Jose for lunch, 10 mi there and 10 mi back. But they all made it back in one piece and can now laugh about it. I think Zoe enjoyed hammock time the most, Bob the big trees, and Steph meeting all of the villagers and getting a sense of where I've lived for the past year.
After leaving Cocobolo, we spent a few days in the city sight seeing and then my friend Sabine joined up with us to go to Bocas del Toro (islands in the Caribbean). We spent my birthday weekend at the beach, visiting the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute where I had done research in 2007 and snorkeling on the reefs. Zoe got in some good beach time and we met up with the family I lived with on the island. We came back to Panama City for another day of sightseeing and a final farewell dinner before they had to fly back to the barren tundra.
After the family left I busied myself in the city for 2 weeks making final preparations for the Marvelwood School group who is visiting now. I went out shopping for TONS of food and organized our sightseeing and transport around the country. I spent two days at the Smithsonian in Panama City for a conference on Reforesting with Native Species. There was some interesting material presented but all in all I was a bit disappointed with the simplicity of people's presentations (ex: Trees are really important....duh!). Last week I went up to Cocobolo to take up the food and make sure all the buildings are ready for high school kids. On Saturday the group arrived, 14 high school kids with 3 chaperones. On Sunday we went to Gamboa in search of monkeys and visited the Canal locks in the afternoon. Today we visited an Embera tribe, arriving up river in dug out canoes. We spent the day learning about their culture, going on a hike with the village medicine man, and enjoying a lunch of fried fish and plantains. Tomorrow (Tuesday) we head up to Cocobolo for a week of bird banding, stream macroinvertebrates research, and insect trapping. Photos are starting to go up: http://picasaweb.google.com/ariadne.panama/MarvelwoodVisit

When they leave on Feb 10, I have a few days to prepare myself for Carnival which starts the 13th. I got convinced into going to Las Tablas (party central) again for the four days of mayhem. Afterwards I'll go up to Cocobolo for a few days to install solar panels on the village school and set up their laptop. Saying good bye is going to be a challenge in La Zahina and then I'll have a day or two in the city to organize my life before flying home.

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