In the past few years, Panama has quickly become one of the most desired travel spots in the world. For many decades, the small nation was known mainly for the enormous canal that allows for trade, but recently businesses, travelers, writers, and photographers have begun to realize all that the intriguing country has to offer. Aside from pristine beaches, beautiful art and architecture, and the numerous advancements toward modernization the country is currently undergoing, it is still a jungle region and home to indigenous Indian tribes.
When I went to Panama to experience all I could about the country, I decided that seeing the jungle, meeting some of the tribes-people, and learning about their lifestyle was something I had to do. In order to make this happen, I drove through the Panamanian jungle and was met by a canoe at the edge of the river to reach the nearby Embera Indian village. The Embera were incredibly warm, welcoming people who were excited just to show tourists how they live.
Driving through the jungle was awesome but also a little unsettling when I reached an abandoned U.S. military base. It was completely deserted but was still completely intact and untouched; it actually reminded me a little of one of the fake neighborhoods that are built specifically for bomb testing, only this neighborhood was in the jungle, and it was once active. It filled me with a bit of nervous excitement that kept me going.
Once I reached the edge of the jungle, an Embera tribesman (wearing nothing but a loincloth) took me by canoe to the actual village. He paddled our small boat floating just inches above crocodile infested waters and then navigated a sea of gorgeous lily pads without disturbing any of the wildlife (clearly he had done this before). When we finally reached the village, I was taken on a hike through the rainforest to see the plants and animals that are native to Panama. The tribesmen that accompanied me explained all about the flora and fauna that grow in the rainforest and the different herbs they use for cooking and medicine.
Once back at the site of the village, the Embera people performed native dances and prepared me a meal of fresh fish and plantains (all very tasty). They also showed me the beautiful carvings and weavings they produce as a way of supporting and sustaining their tribe; one craft they had was a pot made from palm leaves that was so meticulously and precisely woven that it could hold water without any of it leaking.
Meeting the Embera tribe and having the chance to see how they live from day to day was a one-of-a-kind experience that was truly amazing. Within minutes from exiting my canoe, I had rejoined the bustle of civilization, as though my awesome day with the tribe had been just a dream. It was eye-opening to realize that the Embera, and numerous other tribes similar to them, live just minutes away from bustling metropolises like Panama City. The dichotomy reminded me that even though society is always racing to advance, improve, and evolve, sometimes the most joy can come from a peaceful day learning the traditions of the past, and where better to do this than Panama.