Sunday, May 01, 2011

Nalunega, Kuna Yala

Customs and Immigration procedures in El Porvenir were uneventful and informal but relatively expensive and once again we were a little unsure of how much of the fees were actually official.   Following this we wandered around the small island and played airplane on the landing strip (there weren’t any flights coming in).  Apart from the run down landing strip and a very basic group of huts calling itself a hotel, there was little to see on El Porvenir.    

Shortly after we returned to the Pjotter an ulu (dugout canoe) came along side and the man inside introduced himself as  Nestor and explained that he lived one island over on Nalunega.  He offered us a tour of his village and invited us to the birthday party of his daughter Carolina who was turning four.  
Our tour started at 0930 and Nestor met us on the small beach and instructed us to leave our dinghies next to the ulus lined up there.  He led us through the village of palm huts explaining that up to 14 people lived in each of the houses, men moving in with the families of their wives and taking their names when they married.   Narrow paths curved between the houses tightly packed upon the small island.  Around several corners we were greeted by groups of people cooking, cleaning or sewing.   The women were almost all dressed in red and gold headscarves, traditional mola shirts, skirts and beaded leg coverings.   Very beautiful.   The school house was full of children dressed in crisp uniforms enthusiastically welcoming us as a break from their studies.  The village has an aura of relative wealth and independence apparently driven in part by the fact that they were close to the ‘touristy’ part of the Kuna Yala islands.  

The birthday party started later in the afternoon.  Deana had baked a birthday cake and we and the big Pjotters brought presents, the rest of the guests we from the island.  We were welcomed kindly and then became part of the birthday celebration.  Nestor’s wife Nuedi had cooked up a tasty mixture of yucca, rice and fish and this was served to all of the approximately 40 people present along with a slice of Deana’s birthday cake.   After the party Nestor took each of us out one by one in his ulu for a short sail.  He and his crew sailed this tippy boat with incredible skill and pushed it to great speeds.  Wooohooooo!  Emma went along with Deana and claimed that she wasn’t scared…  I offered to take some of the local kids out in our dinghy and ended up with 11 people (fortunately all small) in the Spikkle.  Quite a crowd. I expect that they may have been a little disappointed that it didn’t go as fast as the ulu but they seemed to enjoy themselves none the less.  

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