Sarah King | Bocas del Toro, Panama | Post 3

Sarah King | Bocas del Toro, Panama | Post 3

There is no word for “thank you” in Ngobe.

There is no word to express earnestly the appreciation you have for another’s action. No word to give praise to what you have. No word to whisper in the ear of someone close to you who hugged you when you were alone.

There is no word to hope for when you do something nice for another. No word to toss at someone or hold away as punishment. No word to drag from someone’s teeth to validate your worth. 

The things we have and the things we give

are not extraordinary




to be burdened




as overwhelmingly



The Ngobe language sees their community as a community

of connected individuals

who work and live and give

out of a pattern of life

                             not out of a need for approval

                             not out of a drive of fear


There is no fear

only comfort

in the face of a language that asks you to trust.

Trust that your actions are appreciated in me;

trust that my actions are appreciated in you;

trust in the silent unknowing that you are right

even in your wrongness

that you need not seek so much in others.

we are already there

and you are already here.


The Bocas del Toro region of Panama is, as I said in an earlier post, at a constant flux. There is no mixing pot of culture, just layers of peoples separately put together on six islands. This strange dynamic makes for a good place to study abroad and “find yourself,” for the whole region is participating in that same struggle with you. As ridiculous as it sounds, most people do approach studying abroad as a time to truly test yourself, being alone in a new place helps you learn to rely on yourself. Bocas del Toro is a region attempting to work out the same issues of self-reliance. How does one rely on themselves to construct their own personal wants while also being tied to a community, both the larger community of a country and the immediate culture of a home?

But these are not the only things we have to hold and ponder: studying here has given me more to ponder than myself for sure. I am getting closer and closer to finding something really beautiful and new to my approach of studying environmental studies and international politics. A summer internship on a farm combined with the work in the jungle I have been doing have helped me realize a love for the earth. I am seeing a new future involving collecting insects, examining soil, and hiking long trails to discover the community of life that is nature. As much as humans are nature, we often forget to include the trees and the birds in our international politics. We get stifled easily in a language of thought that confines our thinking to an objective experience, leaving no room for much in the way including differences of culture or ecology.

And so as I discover new passions for study, I am realizing that all my self-reflections and work with art, sociology, politics, biology, etc. are intimately related. Though they come in such diverse forms, all these systems are working towards the same struggle of finding oneself in a system, being engaged in that system while still being one’s own system. It’s nothing any of us will ever accomplish fully, but the process is the reward.

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