Friday, May 21, 2010
This young man was helping his father pick coffee beans up in the Boquete Panama highlands. Many of the indigenous Indians move about the country picking crops. While one crop is in season, they will work for a land owner, then move on after the crop is picked. Schooling is not the norm for these kids.
Even those kids that are lucky enough to be able to live in one location all year, they are usually not present in school. The parents have to supply uniforms, books etc. which is a limiting factor in such poor societies. They learn to tend to farm and tend whatever animals they might be lucky enough to have.
Further along the Caribbean coast we came across many kids who would come out to our anchored boat to just look at us, or maybe ask for something. Often it is something as simple as a pencil. Yes, such simple things are desired by these children as there rarely is a small tienda (store) for such things. We usually give them a small box of raisins or a granola bar instead of the cruisers usual candy as we prefer to give something that is tasty, but has some nutritional value. One little boy came out in a dug out canoe one day and just sat looking at our boat; a kind of a blank stare. I could not decipher his thoughts. It is obvious though, that to a child floating out to us in a hollowed out tree must view our craft as probably we might if we saw the spaceship from Close Encounters of the Third Kind hovering over us.
I could not speak his Indian language and he did not understand Spanish or English, so we did a little sign language. I should correct that. When he had seen enough and was ready to paddle back to his village, he asked for what I believe was a pencil I brought one up and some paper, placed both in a Ziploc bag so it might make it to shore without getting soaked. You see these canoes leak and always have water inside. He smiled quietly, examining the bag slowly and intently. He then looked up at me and I think asked for 'agua' (water). I went below and filled a plastic cup with cold water from our galley's refrigerator. He drank it slowly but steadily, still looking up and down, left and right at our boat. He then offered the cup back, but I motioned to keep it. He smiled sweetly, a gentle little boy, and paddled off slowly.