For the last couple of weeks Amanda and I have had the pleasure of hosting the three-man team of Ocean Courier in Armila. Ocean Courier, a project of The Ocean Foundation, is a non-profit dedicated to spreading hopeful messages about the state of ocean health by highlighting small, little-known grassroots conservation projects. Its founders, Ben and Teresa Carey, are big names in the sailing community who plan to sail around the world pursuing this mission, and we are honored that they chose Armila for the pilot episode of their television docu-series.
Amanda and I met Teresa, Ben, and Chris (the happy and hardy cameraman and producer) in Albrook Airport in Panama City, and shared some unexpected reunions with some local Armila-bound friends. Once we arrived in Armila, the community received their guests in the congress house and began organizing an exhaustive showcase of the town’s people, culture, and turtles.
Ocean Courier spent several days working directly with the professors and filmed some of the environmental education activities taking place at the school. They were brave enough to load some expensive camera gear onto a couple of very “tippy” canoes in order to go out onto the river with Demetrio, a local fisherman and aspiring community leader who regaled us with stories from medicine men and elders from distant corners of the region. They picked up shovels and pickaxes to help put the finishing touches on Armila’s tilapia aquaculture tank (more good news on this front in a couple of weeks). They learned to make traditional Guna roofs with Felix Espitia, the art of the Mola with Gladys Crespo, and Teresa even learned to dance with Gammibe Gun Galu, who organized a special presentation for the group. They also sampled all the food that Armila had to offer, elegantly arranged by Chef Jesus.
Finally, Teresa, Ben, and Chris went out with me and some students to see leatherback turtles nesting less than 100 meters away from the Armila River. They also helped me out on my morning patrols along the beach. It was everyone’s first time seeing a leatherback.
The 12 days blew by quickly and Amanda and I saw off our new friends in Puerto Obaldia on Sunday, March 30th. By now, Ocean Courier is well on their way from Colón, Panamá to Maine, which they plan to do in six weeks flat. Best of luck to our friends on the Rocinante!
The last few days have let my brain calm down a bit; no one in the group spoke Spanish so for nearly two weeks everything anyone said around me had to be translated by me into another, sometimes two other languages. Amanda and I are gearing up for one of our last long stretches in Armila. We have a house to finish building, an aquaculture project to seed, a traditional music group to sign, and nine grades-worth of Guna students who all want to learn more about ecology and English.