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Panama

108--Panama: Santa Comes to San Blas
@ CherieSpotting     Dec 24 2002 - 12:56 PST
Greg with the Santa "Mola" mask and his reindeer finger-puppet.  (Whenever Greg darned this mask the Kuna children would scream: "Santa! Santa!")

Greg with the Santa "Mola" mask and his reindeer finger-puppet. (Whenever Greg darned this mask the Kuna children would scream: "Santa! Santa!")

cherie writes: I heard the children screaming first. What was the matter? What were they squealing about?
Then I saw him. We were anchored off Sugtupu (part of the Carti Islands.) It was a Kuna in a Santa-suit. In the balmy tropical heat, Santa--complete with signature hat, red suit and white beard--appeared in canoe. All the children ran to the water’s edge—“Santa! Santa!” the native children yelled. Santa, minus the reindeer, circled the island in his canoe-sled.
The Kuna Santa waved and the Kuna kids cheered. Santa’s “bag full of toys” was another Kuna acting as a lump of presents under a sheet. The Kuna’s Christmas presents would be simple ones. The ones that count. Long hugs and tender kisses. Maybe a new hammock for the wife? Did the kids need a new pair of underwear?
Like most of the world, the Kuna Yala natives start celebrating Christmas weeks before the actual day. The women make Christmas-themed “molas,” the men hang Santa posters and the chief puts a fake pine-tree in his hut.
continued...

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107--Panama: Life in the San Blas Islands
@ CherieSpotting     Dec 20 2002 - 10:00 PST
Another way to keep in shape!  Greg pulls me behind the dinghy on my wakeboard.  (Mac got me a great deal on it!)

Another way to keep in shape! Greg pulls me behind the dinghy on my wakeboard. (Mac got me a great deal on it!)

cherie writes: Many people ask me: "What is your favorite country?" I have an new answer now. Panama.

When you look at these pictures, you will see why.
more photos...

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106--Panama: A Ship Wreck and a Blue Shark
@ CherieSpotting     Dec 18 2002 - 09:03 PST
I wouldn't be smiling if that was my yacht.

I wouldn't be smiling if that was my yacht.

cherie writes: I saw something out in the distance. And it wasn’t the same boring old white sand beaches, swaying palm trees and crystal blue water. It was something else, a strange speck on the horizon. I wasn’t sure what it was. I picked up the binoculars (Rennie, you left them on the boat.) Looking through those lenses, I couldn’t believe my eyes.
“Greg! It’s a boat!” I screeched.
“Big deal. We see boats everyday. Look over there! Oh my gosh, it’s the sun!”
“Okay. I see how it is going to be. I guess I just have to check out the ship wreck by myself. See you later!” I yelled, clamoring into the dinghy.
“Ship wreck?” Greg perked up. (You mention any form of destruction to a guy and you instantly have their attention. Bonus points if there is a boat, plane, train or automobile involved in the disaster.)
continued...

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100--Panama: What´s a Kuna Yala?
@ CherieSpotting     Dec 06 2002 - 05:27 PST
What do you do when life keeps exceeding your expectations?
(You´ve never seen this beach because no one can pronounce it.  The island is named "Uchutupu Dumat," one of the San Blas Islands.)

What do you do when life keeps exceeding your expectations? (You´ve never seen this beach because no one can pronounce it. The island is named "Uchutupu Dumat," one of the San Blas Islands.)

cherie writes: The Kuna Yala are the colorful and friendly people of the San Blas Islands. The men spend their days fishing and hacking down coconuts and the women sew "molas." Molas can take up to three months to create and bring the Kuna Yala the majority of their income. (That means it is a female dominated society, so when the men get married, they move into the woman´s hut.)
We spent our days diving, buying molas, eating $2 lobsters, drinking beer with the locals, and giving candy to the kids. (Who would show up at Scirocco with a mouth stained with choclate their tongue brown as bark and say that they didn't get any. Could they please have some more candy for their five sisters at home, who couldn´t fit in the canoe?)
The Kuna Yala have lots of kids. They are probably trying to repopulate since the Spanish almost killed them off (The Kuna used to number almost 750,000 but only about 10% remain today.) Since they rarely mix with other ethnicities, the Kuna people have the highest rate of albinism of anywhere in the world. It was so strange to see blonde-haired little native girls, running around with their tanned brothers and sisters. The albino children are always revered by other Kuna and taught that they are special "children of the moon."
more photos...

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99--Panama: Welcome to Fantasy Island
@ CherieSpotting     Nov 30 2002 - 09:54 PST
Cherie trying to decide which "mola" to buy from the Kuna Yala women (of the San Blas Islands.)  
*Photo taken by Rennie Waxlax.

Cherie trying to decide which "mola" to buy from the Kuna Yala women (of the San Blas Islands.) *Photo taken by Rennie Waxlax.

cherie writes: Have you ever thought about sailing away from it all? What would it be like to actually go to Fantasy Island? Some island with a cool breeze and warm water. Some island where the native people haven't changed their traditions in hundreds of years. Some island where the locals paint their faces and wrap themselves in colorful hand-sewn clothing. I found all this (and more) in Panama. Welcome to my fantasy come true. Welcome to the San Blas Islands.
more photos...

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98--Panama: Cannon Ball Run
@ CherieSpotting     Nov 29 2002 - 06:32 PST
Scirocco's version of "Cannon Ball Run".  Nick, Greg, Cherie, Anne and Rennie.

Scirocco's version of "Cannon Ball Run". Nick, Greg, Cherie, Anne and Rennie.

cherie writes: Just call us explorers! Following in the steps of Christopher Coloumbus (again) we came to Portobelo exactly 500 years after the famous explorer founded it (in November 1502.)
We came here to see the ruins of four forts (and to see if we could find a cold beer.) Luckily, we found everything we were looking for.
Portobelo has a rich history of being raided and plundered by all the best (including Francis Drake and Henry Morgan.) In addition to a rich history of violence, the island also has a interesting religious past. The people of Portobelo worship a black Christ (which has made them known around the world.) Every October a huge festival is held in the black Christ's honor.
So with lots of cannons and a black prophet, it is quite a charming place to be. Our first glimpse of Portobelo was the children. They line up on the dock so they can show you how strong they are. (They ask for a dollar to watch your dinghy while you explore the old forts.)
more photos...

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97--Panama: Crossing the Panama Canal
@ CherieSpotting     Nov 25 2002 - 09:22 PST
Team Scirocco taking the 41-foot Morgan Out Island through the Panama Canal: Greg, Cherie, Rennie, Anne and Nick.

Team Scirocco taking the 41-foot Morgan Out Island through the Panama Canal: Greg, Cherie, Rennie, Anne and Nick.

cherie writes: On November 6, 2002 Scirocco left the Pacific Ocean, traveled 48 miles across the Panama Canal and entered the Atlantic. Six people were crew. Greg, the Captain, and Cherie, the First Mate, were joined by three friends who flew in from Southern California to help us with the transit. (Friends like that are hard to come by!)
Rennie and Anne (owners of Cassiopeia) and Nick (the former owner of Scirocco) joined us for the crossing. When I picked them up at the airport they were all wearing the same shirts--Anne and Rennie had made "Scirocco" crew shirts for everyone.
The day was incredible. Anne was at the helm for half of the locks, and I steered us through the other half. Rennie, Nick and Greg were line handlers. Rod (our Canal guide) was our Canal guide.
We made it through the Canal in one day and spent the night drinking champagne, remembering a day that none of us will ever forget.
more photos...

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