Archive for February, 2010

Panama Panama Panama Panama

is completely amaising. its beautiful eveywhere we go, im loving the simpler way of life that the people of el cope live. they all seem so friendly in their brightly painted house with their hurds of dogs. i guess im probably in the honeymoon phase of my studyabroad cycle, but i cant see myself truely resenting this place. i love how beautiful ever where we go is, even when were in cities they seem beautiful to me because theyre so different than what i´m used to.  we walked through a market earlier today, and las frutas y venduras looked and smelled so incredible. this trip is definitely making me wish i knew spanish though, its almost impossible for me to have a conversation with anyone i meet… most people are understanding however, if you start off with solo hablo poco espanol

excited in panama

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O. My. Goodness!!!

Wow! Its so amazing here! Not much internet time so just going to jump into it. Yesterday we went to see the park where we are going to do research, its much colder than El Cope. We walked in a cloud, got rained on in a rain forest, saw a sloth and her baby, and hiked everywhere! Im going to be so in shape!
The food is pretty good here, much different but i like it! We live in a hut in the middle of the rain forest, its so unreal! I did homework last night as I sat on a deck in the middle of the forest! The breeze here is so amazing, its like a fan is on all the time. The mountains are beautiful! And the people are so nice! They try really hard to talk to you if you try and talk in Spanish with them, and they are really patient with you. But my Spanish is so bad! I want to be bilingual! Not much internet time left so I have to ration it, hope to update better later!
Loving it here!


La Mica

Unloading the bus at La Mica

Unloading the bus at La Mica

We arrived at La Mica in El Cope toward nightfall on Tuesday. A group of local guys were waiting to carry our packs the 15 minutes over a rough and rocky road to the site for the biological research station. The station itself is rather simple, with rough-hewn wooden dorms, pit toilets, and showers that are open to the sky. We have no electricity or Internet, which is going to be a pain for me if I am to get any of my own work done. We have a loud smelly generator that we run a couple hours each nite. Right now I’m in an Internet cafe in Penonome, and in the 2 days since we left Panama city I have more than 300 new email messages. Worse, the Internet here is so slow that it is taking forever for them to download so I don’t even know yet whether I have anything urgent or important that needs my attention.

Yesterday morning we went by the police station in El Cope, and in the afternoon we went up to visit the national park. The park is a cloud forest and then it started to rain, we we got rather wet and muddy. Today we came to Penonome (which is the local “big city,” the Kirksville of northeast Missouri, if you will) to go to the local museum, do some shopping, and use the Internet.

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Honeymoon Stage

We made it to panama and so far I love it, the weather and scenery is beautiful and everyone here has been so nice and helpful. I’m already exhausted, but in a good way. Yesterday we toured El Cope and the park, it was a lot of hiking after traveling and the 48 hour day. It’s hard to concentrate on school work when the weather’s so nice and we can go swimming instead, a big change from the snow and cold in Kirksville. I saw my first non-US wildlife yesterday, a sloth carrying a baby sloth. It was so cute, and they do move. Tomorrow we’re going back to the park to check out where we will be collecting our data from, we went briefly yesterday but were all pretty tired. Everyone’s packing their stuff up to go so I better get going, I’ll try to post pictures next time.

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Look! We have arrived :) I miss my family!

We have just arrived in one of the most beautiful places on the planet, I am certain! We travelled about 3 hours outside of Panama City (where we landed) and arrived in El Cope about 5 pm on Tuesday. From there, we had our first taste of what living here will be like. The hike to get to our station takes about 15 minutes and goes along the river twice, up several steep banks, and you have no idea what else! I hope by the end of the two months I will be so familiar with the path that I can video tape it just so everyone can see the path we take daily! It’s a beautiful trip 🙂

But the paths get better! The jungle is so thick in places that when we were walking I wanted to scream out, “Is this really the trail?!” We were trekking through the thickest patches of forest imaginable!

Yesterday, we saw a Momma sloth with a baby just hanging out in a tree above the jungle canopy. They were both so adorable! We all tried to get pictures, but the zoom on the cameras made it challenging to get clear photos.

Today, we are in Penonome where there is an internet cafe- the reason I’m able to blog today!

I’ve already had a few experiences with using my spanish speaking skills, but its much harder than I thought it would be! I have so much I want to say and can’t always firgure out how to get it out! Hopefully I just continue to become a better speaker!

Lot’s to do in the next few days and I’m not sure when we’ll be able to get internet next, but I’ll be sure to blog as soon I do!

Miss you Ben 🙂 You’re my favorite!



We are in PANAMA!! It is beautiful here and warm, I love it. We have been very busy so far and lots of hiking/walking. La Mica Biological Station is about a quarter mile hike in from the road and El Cope is probably farther than that all uphill. I have a feeling I am going to be in pretty good shape when this is done. The shorts I put on this morning already don’t fit, I had to borrow Angie’s belt. Everywhere I go I want to take pictures because it’s so pretty and different than any place I’ve ever been but the pictures don’t capture how awesome it really is. I’m going to attempt to put some on facebook when I’m done writing this.
Our cabin is a tight fit, lots of mismatched bunks butted up against each other and we have a tarp separating the boy’s side from the girl’s side. We are contemplating moving the tarp farther over because the boys have way more room than us right now. Underneath our rooms is our kitchen/classroom. It looks like a porch with a very long table across it. It is in the open air and look out toward the river. Next to the cabin are 2 sinks and 2 showers. We were having a little problem with the water at first because the pipes kept bursting unless we left the water running at all times but now its fixed. The profs have their own cabin we call the “honeymoon suite” across from the showers. And down the hill there are 2 pit toilets. When we first arrived there were no trails to get from one place to another so it was a little hard to get around without sliding down the hill but yesterday the workers dug out some dirt so that we have “stairs”. We have a generator for electricity but we only use it after dinner when it gets dark and we turn it off when we go to bed.
It may seem like a rough living situation, but I actually feel very spoiled. A few of the locals have been hired to cook us food for every meal. They hike our meals to the station for us and then hike it back out along with our dirty dishes. The food is delicious! I am so grateful for this because I was a little nervous of how my stomach was going to react to it. The breakfast makes me laugh because it is not what I’m used to eating for breakfast. Yesterday I had beef with these fried corn thingys and today they had chicken and some other corn thing. We also have eaten lots of rice and wonderful fresh fruit. They make us fried plantains which are very sugary so of course I love them. We also had these sandwiches when they picked us up from the airport, they we tomatoes, cheese, and mustard… seemed like a weird combo but it may be my new favorite thing.
Our activities so far have consisted of a tour of El Cope where we met to police and checked out the chino mart. Everything is really cheap here. I’m currently sitting in an internet café in Penome and they have snacks for sale, a bag of chips is 35 cents and ice cream is 40 cents. After our tour of El Cope we got a ride in Cheevas to the National Park. It was about a 40 minute drive there and when we got to the top of the mountain we were in a cloud… I guess that’s why it’s considered a cloud forest. We saw a mommy sloth and a baby sloth up in one of the trees! Then we hiked around the manicured trail and then some of us took a harder trail down to the river (which looks more like a creek to me). This is where most of us will be doing our biology research projects. On our hike back it started to rain harder than it had been before and we were all unprepared. We got soaked. Once we got to the cabin I started to change clothes and realized how bad I smelled. So a group of us when down to the river by our cabin and took a swim and a bath (I have yet to use the shower). It was very refreshing, the water feels great.
Even though I haven’t officially started my research project we have already caught quite a few katydids just around the cabin. Last night Kelly and I were sitting in our beds under our mosquito nets and she said “what’s that green thing?” It was a katydid which made me laugh. It was my first catch. I think our project will be pretty easy to carry out since they are everywhere and very easy to catch.
Right now we took a bus ride to Penome which is a larger town outside of El Cope. We are using the internet café and buying a few things. I’m going to buy a cell phone and some minutes so I can call home every now and then. That’s all I have to say now! I’ll write again the next time I get a chance to!


We made it!

I can´t believe we are finally here and it is even more beautiful than I had imagined. Yesterday morning we took a tour of El Cope. After lunch at Julie´s we went to OTNP for a few exploratory hikes. The scenery there is amazing! We were literally up in the clouds. I think it is the most amazing place I´ve ever been.


Life as the Morale Enforcer

I have recently taken up the moniker “Boss Salisbury” as recognition of my role as the group’s peacekeeper.  Insubordination is dealt with harshly, as Will discovered this morning.

Tuesday we flew out of Lambert at 6am.  It was the 2nd night out of the last three in which I had gotten less than 1 hour of sleep, so the day was a bit of a struggle.  But we got to Panama City nonetheless.  It was super cool seeing the hundreds of ships sitting outside the entrance to the canal from the plane.

That night we arrived at LaMica, where we ate dinner and hit the sack as soon as possible.  Amenities are sparse, but we do have the benefit of running water and electricity from a generator.  Nights are hot and humid, and sleeping has been difficult, as the mosquito nets prevent any sort of breeze from reaching my face.

Yesterday we walked through the town of El Cope and got to spend a few hours in Omar Torrijos National Park.  Definitely different from anything I’ve encountered before… even in the “dry” season it is sopping wet.  Saw a two-toed sloth hanging from a tree with its baby wrapped around its body.  Not in Kansas anymore.

The male contingent of our group has made a beard pledge, but I sometimes question their commitment to the cause.  I guess we’ll see in a few weeks how devoted everyone is to not shaving.  On a similar note, Ethan and I are playing a game, in which the first person who showers loses.  So far it’s a tie.

The mountains here are weird… similar in height to the Appalachians but much steeper and greener.  Weird shapes too.  Expansive vistas have been limited, since the mountains are enclosed in clouds much of the time.

Chad Montgomery is a Diet Coke consuming machine.  I had no idea.

Recently learned Spanish phrases:

“My beard is good” (me barba es bueno)

“Shut up and kiss me” (caiete, da me un beso)

I’m hoping to use these in tandem.

Til next time,

The Boss



Weren't you supposed to read that book last week?

Weren't you supposed to read that book last week?

We arrived in Panama last nite, and American Airlines was actually a bit early. Carnaval is in full swing, so we headed out to Via Espana to see what was happening. I’ve never been in a Rio-style carnaval, and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. A homecoming parade (like I saw in Santiago de Cuba once)? When we arrived at Via Espana there was a long line to get in thru a gate where police were patting everyone down and checking their IDs. So, I thought it might be like Freakfest, when the Madison police gate off state street for Halloween. But no one was dressed up in silly costumes. It took us an hour to get thru the line, and once inside I thought it was more like the Mifflin Street Block Party. A lot of loud music, and people walking around drinking beer. Boring. But then someone threw something at Ashlee, and then more stuff started flying around–confetti, streamers, etc. And then I remembered Carnaval in Ecuador, where people play with water and everyone gets wet. So, that was more what it was like, although last nite it was paper rather than water. I think paper is still coming out of our hair.

I don’t have any pictures, partly because I didn’t want to hassle with a camera and partly cuz I wasn’t sure what it would be like and I didn’t want to risk losing my camera. All in all, it was pretty calm. One of my original ideas for the Panama trip was that we would be here from Carnaval through Semana Santa, and that the 2 Catholic holidays would provide interesting bookmarks for the experience. So, I’m glad we had a chance to do that last nite.

I’m just here right now with 5 people from Kansas City. Chad is bringing the rest from St Louis, and their plane is late into Miami so I’m not sure they are going to make their connection. I did make all of my connections yesterday–even being booted ahead to the flights that the students were on, but no thanks to the people at the check-in counter at MCI who were pretty unhelpful. The DFW-MIA was oversold, but someone (I’m not sure who because I had talked to so many people about it, but I am really thankful for that one person) pulled me to the top of the standby list and I got on the flight, even if that meant sitting in a middle seat surrounded by big, loud Texans. The connection was so tight in Miami that I’m not sure I would have made the Panama flight otherwise.

Skipping ahead to an earlier flight to Miami also meant that I got to see Cheryl for an hour before we both headed our separate ways. In my statement for my promotion portfolio at TSU, I described myself as a teacher/scholar/activist. The reality, however, is that given a choice I would privilege the activism over the others. I wish I were on my way to Haiti; that’s where I really belong right now. Carnaval can wait for next year.

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we leave soooo soon

and i still dont think its hit me yet…probably because I just finished packing (2hrs before I have to leave for the airport)

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