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NO MUERTO February 21, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — amb33 @ 2:58 am
Let me start by saying I have made it to Bocas Del Toro ( the island of Bastimentos to be exact) safe and sound! It is lovely here and this is the view from my private deck.
 Seriously, I am so blessed. The place is run by a lovely Canadian woman named Marlies. I don’t think I am ever going to want to leave. Especially since getting here was kind of a ridiculous escapade!
To recap:

Before leaving Panama City I went shopping and ended up buying WAY MORE than I intended to but was very excited to have found a stick blender randomly at the grocery store Riba Smith. This grocery store is just one more reason to stay at Mamallena since the store is within walking distance and is a haven for raw foodies selling natural products like raw agave, flax and lots of great fruits and veggies as well as a the blender.

So there I was struggling with four bags plus my enormous pack through the bus station. Pretty ridiculous! Pouring sweat and rushing to try to make it to my bus on time. I must have been quite a sight. Anyway, I made the bus and was happy as a clam to have some yummy food to eat when I finally settled into my seat. I was surprised that the bus was mostly Panamanians. I had heard that Bocas was very touristy so this was a happy surprise.

Anyway, the bus ride was uneventful and calm up until about 3:30 am when I heard some branches hitting the bus.  Hmmmm…. Probably just some low hanging trees. And then all of a sudden the guy next to me started saying “heeeeeeey. Heeeeeeeeey!!!” getting progressively louder and then other voices chimed in as the sound of branches hitting the bus continued. Soon, almost everyone including me was awake and yelling as we realized that the bus driver had driven off the road.

When the bus came to a stop we were on an embankment as the woman next to me was pretty much in my lap. We all sat calmly looking at eachother  waiting for an answer to the unspoken question of “now what.” We all waited. A few people joked about breaking the windows to get off the Everyone was speaking Spanish which of course meant that I had no idea what was  being said and could only guess at what was going on.  

Then the elderly man who had been seated across the aisle from me started to get very agitated and yelling what I can only assume was open the door. His getting so upset was strange because he was very calm and mild mannered- he had even helped me untangle my ipod headphones with his handy flashlight. So, I was surprised that he was getting so angry. Over the next few minutes, others joined him everyone started to get upset.   I was not at all interested in being stuck on a bus with an angry mob at three am.  I still didn’t understand what was going on and my thoughts were pretty much “what‘s the big deal we can all just sleep and wait for another bus.” It took the words “muerto” and that mild mannered gentleman motioning the international hand gesture for “bus tumbling down the hill” for the gears to start clicking. I looked behind me and saw that everyone was on my side of the bus. I realized I was not in the states anymore. We were traveling in the land without guardrails to keep us out of ravines. At this angle were in grave danger of this bus tipping and rolling who knows how far into the ravine. It was a blessing that it hadn’t already happened.

So we waited. The door would not open as the bus had stopped just so that the door was pressed against a tree. Eventually, the bus driver broke the driver side window and we slowly began to move to the front of the bus. It was the most beautiful and terrifying thing how calm everyone was like this happened all the time. We milled to the front of the bus and jumped out the window and into the arms of the men who had initiated the escape. The getting off the bus was the worst part because as people got up out of their seats to move toward the front we could feel the bus shifting under us. When it was my turn to jump out of the window I looked back and said a little prayer for those left on the bus that they would make it off safely. It was no joke my friends.

When I got to the window the man across the aisle from me was there he was clearly the leader of this operation. There were many directions being yelled to me to which I could only respond “No habla!!!” and then that same man said “ok baby sit there and jump to me.” Which I did and I was off. Then the rest of us waited holding our breath and looking on as the last people were able to safely get off the bus. Then the poor drivers assistant was directed to get all of the bags people left. He was understandably upset to be the one left to do this job. The bus was tipped completely to one side the wheels weren’t even touching the ground. Eventually, all of the people and the luggage made it off the bus safely and we were happy to be out in the cold on the side of a highway rather than in a ravine.

There was a tiny boy about one or two years old next to me and all he kept saying for the next hour was “ no muerto” which was very funny AFTER  everyone got off the bus.

We waited for three hours. The sun was coming up when the empty buses arrived and it felt as though we had been through a war together. So, I have about 100 war buddies out here on the islands getting some much needed rest and relaxation.

The most amazing part was when we were driving away from the bus and in the light of day it was clear that had the bus driver not stopped exactly where he did, if he had gone even 100 yards further we would not have been so lucky (keep in mind that when a bus is traveling 60-70 mph 100 yards might as well be a few feet.) The embankment had worn away and the earth made a steep decline into the ravine. There is no doubt that if we had gone off the side of the road here we would have rolled down the mountain. 

So when I say I am truly blessed to be here it is ABSOLUTELY NOT a figure of speech.


IMMORTAL BELOVED (part1 of 2) February 13, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — amb33 @ 7:51 pm
I am on my way to bocas first stop panama city! I loved Cerro Azul but I must admit it is nice to be back to the comforts of city living ie easy access to anything you could possibly want. Due to some unexpected events (that I won’t dwell on here) I am in the city with 11 hours to kill until I leave for Bocas tonight.
Thank goodness for the Immmortal miss Tanya (more on her below) who turned me on to a cute little hostel called Mamallena (mamallena.com). I stopped by there after storing my enormous bag at the bus station to see if they would let me chill  for the day. I spoke with Victor who was super nice and said I could absolutely hang out here and use their internet and kitchen. THAT WAS HUGE!  Those of you who are raw know that it can be difficult to travel without access to a kitchen. Muy bueno!! So I grabbed up some fruit from a street vendor and returned to the hostel to chow down. I met some very cool people including an English woman who is traveling from Mexico city to Argentina by bicycle. She’s done many long distance bike trips including one from the UK to Singapore. ….. incredible –maybe next year. I also met a lovely couple from the states who had just gotten back from San Blas islands and said they had a fantastic time although they seemed to be very agitated with each other… they were having the hardest time deciding when to do their laundry ahhhh the perils of coupledom.
At Mamallena, I have overcome a significant personal obstacle. I have NEVER been capable of falling asleep in public places. Yes, sometimes a bus or a plane but no parks or subways, beaches or airports etc.  Here I am, sitting on the couch of the hostel snoozing hard between sentences. There are people coming in and out and lots going on, the fact that I can sleep here in the midst of it all truly speaks to the relaxed vibe of the hostel. It is VERY calm despite the fact that there are lots of people around.  There is none of the usual hostel chaos. The  mellow tone is set by the staff who are very calm and exude an air of peaceful steadiness. Unfortunately, I won’t be staying the night but this place is truly fantastic. Needless to say, when I come back through Panama City I’ll be staying here at Mamallena. It is a cute place with a relaxed vibe.
So as I said, Mamallena was suggested to me by this amazing woman I met at the retreat in Cerro Azul. Tanya and her partner Selby are two incredibly wise beings and really helped me to develop a better understanding of this wacky universe and our place within it.

Relaje como un Inmortal en Los Altos de Cerro Azul

They run a program called Immortal Kindergarten and it is really an amazing way of working on self for the benefit of all beings. Check out their website www.immortalkindergarten.net . It is an incredibly transformative method of managing our spiritual selves using the four elements. Their philosophy is based on teachings of Leonard Orr. They believe that we are all immortal…. Right now we are immortal.  Some say to live as though you were dying, but what would it look like if we lived as though we were immortal?  It is definitely something to think about.  It  is pretty powerful.  

If you are able to maintain an open mind, these practices hold incredible possibilities for self rejuvenation and spiritual development. The practices utilize the four elements water, air, fire and earth. It is believed across cultures that these elements of existence hold great importance to the human spirit. Selby and Tanya are sharing some specific practices to cleanse our spiritual selves from blockages that are created from birth. I have read their book “the script” it is amazing the ideas are simple but overlooked by our culture. So, check out their site, opt into their blog and if you are interested in learning more I STRONGLY suggest the book you won’t be disappointed.  In case you haven’t noticed I fell in love with these two and their practices.  It just made sense to me.  Let me know what you think!
Ok, I am off to do some grocery shopping to get some staples before I head to the islands. So thrilled that I have the opportunity to explore a little more of this great city before my bus tonight!!



PIE FOR BREAKFAST February 5, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — amb33 @ 5:00 pm

I am sitting in a beautiful window seat overlooking lush green jungle eating paradise pie for breakfast -how blessed am I?! My first paradise pie creation: papaya guava pie with plum jam these pies are SERIOUSLY DELICIOUS. The beauty of these pies is that they are completely natural no artificial anything, no excess fat or sugar, no flour, nothing but goodness!!!! When I get home you’ll have to come over and get you some!

Yesterday, Aris and I went to Panama City. It has been a while since I’ve even left the jungle so it was nice to get “off the island” so to speak. It was a bit over stimulating at first especially with the change in air pressure and the smog but so worth it. I fell in love with the city. We were in the neighborhood that guide books warn you against but I was in heaven! The music, the beautiful people milling about with no particular place to go, the ambiguous shops selling everything from thermoses to saddles.

I bought a $6 swimsuit and a $16 machete. Oh yes friends that’s right I am now the proud owner of a machete. It is mostly for cutting open coconuts and of course bushwhacking if the opportunity arises. I got to watch the shopkeeper sharpen it and everything! BLISS seriously this place is fantastic!

Aris and I got on the bus to Cerro Azul after a long day in the city. It was hot and sweaty and immediately I cursed the fact that I didn’t bring my ipod. I needed to escape…..I then remembered my teachings at the Shambhala Center in Burlington and realized that rather than escape I could remain fully present in the moment even if somewhat uncomfortable. I decided to experiment with tonglin meditation. Inspired partly by the lovely Ashonda (one of three true angels I’ve met here at sunfire) and by the Tibetan book of living and dying. So I expanded the feelings I was experiencing and breathed in all of my discomfort and agitation. I then breathed out a blessing. This turned to my blessing every person on the van and picturing a beautiful rosy light pouring all over each of us and out the windows to the houses we passed. I breathed in and breathed out a wish that everyone on the bus would experience a little magic in their lives and for beautiful things to happen to them. So I’ll never know if that meditation practice had any affect but I am pretty sure that I for one was glowing when we finally reached our destination and began the walk home.

A couple links for info on tonglin: http://www.innerself.com/Meditation/weiss_andrew_60604.htm) http://www.whitecranejournal.com/wc01065.htm

Last and definitely least…. I decided it was time to do something about my hair. It has been severely damaged, knotted and borderline matted out here. I thought of just cutting it all off for a few moments but my commitment issues prevented that impulse. So, also inspired by aforementioned beautiful one, Ashonda, I spent four hours braiding my hair the other day. No it isn’t boderek-esque and I don’t love it but hopefully it’ll grow on me. It is MUCH MUCH easier! So braids it is probably for the rest of my trip.

As for today, Aris and I will do some work on the theories behind Sunfired cuisine as well as healing properties of raw foods. There is a beautiful woman here working on an organic garden and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to learn with her and get my hands dirty. I‘ll bring my machete out just in case !!!