Sarah King | Bocas del Toro, Panama | Post 2

Sarah King | Bocas del Toro, Panama | Post 2

The tide was high and the broken path of rocks attaching the dock to its broken concrete portion beyond was smothered by water. A baby sergeant fish, no larger than a dime, bumbled in the gaps, trapped in the shallow collection of stones, pacing its way about. The sun was setting but not in the traditional remarkable way; rarely is the sky a combination of reds and yellows and oranges here; instead, the sun sets amid a pile of fluffy grays and blues. Today it was an indecisive sky. To my right, the sun was setting in the dark blue of the distant mountains, to my left the sky was all pink pretending it held the sun, and above me the moon floated early before his due presentation. The aura was a comfortable awkward.

After a storm of ranging proportions, winds and rain blustering on our computer screens as we wrote of coral reproduction, mangrove growth, hermaphroditic reef fish, and the like for our first of three midterms, the day settled to a calm. Austen and Claire, the two interns for our program, ventured with me on a walk to Hospital Point, a small sand-rock beach on the island. Stepping through mangroves, avoiding crab holes, and quietly marching through the village of Solarte-Uno, we stopped to examine some joyous seed pods. Small paper leaves curled up forming a paper lantern, once opened it revealed a soft fuzzy seed pod. “Hey!”- we turned, an old man was shouting at us through his window, an expat, most likely.

“What are you doing!?!”

“Just going on a walk…”

“Come over here so I can hear you!”

“That’s okay…we are just walking…”

…and we wondered away. Back on track to the beach. Once there, we stood indecisive, which path to take. “Hey!” we turned, the old man in gray sweatpants and a walking stick with his small dog popped out of the trees. “Get off my property, what are you doing? You tourists come here for a day and just think you can do whatever you want….” He rambled on and we attempted to explain ourselves to no avail. He chased us down a path we did not know – certainly frazzled our aura and got us partially lost in the jungle.

We had been studying all day: Hymenoptera: ants, wasps and bees, Lepidoptera: moths and butterflies, Chiroptera: tent making bats, Tripiliformes: hummingbird, break. The night was quiet and warm. Julia and I sat massaging each others backs, everyone snuggled on the uncomfortable futon and “South Park” rambling over our ears. A gecko crawled across the screen and we laughed at the existence of a “Manbearpig.”

The rainy season is still a few days away, so because all the water for the house is rain water, we were down to one tank…that meant limited showering…all week. Group presentations were due on Saturday and we were melting in research and paper writing. We heard thunder, and the sky exploded in light and water – any and all laundry on the line soaked through. And us too. It was 11:00 pm, we had lost our minds to the piles of work on the table. We sped into the rain, shampoo and conditioner thrown everywhere. The rain went in and out of its intensity, offering moments of panic – will we be able to get the soap out of our hair? – attempting to play tag without slipping.

We marched through the forest behind Professor Leo, able to see nothing save the paths before our head lamps until we reached the light traps. Flashlights hung from trees were aimed at bed sheets tied to their branches, a trap for insects and biodiversity investigation. Approaching the white sheets in teams, we stole insects into jars of alcohol for microscope fun in the morning. Green grasshoppers with intimidating faces stared back, I felt guilty as I plopped them into our jar. There was excitement at the site of spiders and wasps usually feared in the daytime, now appreciated for their uniqueness and yearned for.

An awkward sky stared back at me as I sat at the dock and I dwelt there for a moment at the little fish attempting to figure it all out – then jumped up and meandered up the steep hill to the Solarte Inn and dinner.

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