Thursday morning was the last conversation I had in English, until Sunday afternoon.
The adventure began with Viviana and I walking to the Rey (grocery store) so she could call some people and then we walked to the bus stop. At this time, I suddenly felt the urge to run back to the house, in fear of the event ahead of me, but then a verse came to my head in which I read that morning; The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?
God was with me, I could do this. I pushed the cowardly thought aside and worked on reading more in the dictionary, to work on my Spanish.
We had hoped to catch the bus at 9, but we ended up waiting for it for an hour–in which I read a book that Randy had given me to read; Hostages by Nancy Mankins. (click to read summary)
On the bus ride, which was four hours, we talked very little, but I read a lot. I was still extremely insecure with talking in Spanish, afraid that I might sound like an idiot.
We arrived at our stop and I saw the sign for the Piriati tribe across the street. “You’re here, Sarah, no turning back now”
We walked down the rocky road passing the tribal houses and the school. All the way at the end of the road was the church (where we would stay) and my first friend’s house. Elizabeth (A.K.A Ellie) (All names I was spell phonetically) and her husband (Bee-en-ben-ee-do), he is one of the pastors–the only one I met. They served us lunch-patacones, arroz, y pollo. (fried plantains, rice, and chicken) It was yummy and great for my empty stomach.
After conversation and sitting around on the porch as visitors came to see their beloved Viviana, I closed myself and only observed, preferring not to speak my pathetic Spanish. (Everybody in the tribe speaks Spanish)
Raquel, my second great Embera (tribe name) friend, asked if I would like to go to her house as she prepared yucca for the evening meal. I accepted and went without Viviana.
Raquel was extremely patient with my Spanish and for some reason I understood her better than any other Spanish-speaker. At her house, thanks to God, I opened up and forgot about my insecurities. I talked with Jessica, Mah-rah, Mar-lel, and their brother, whose name I forgot…all are siblings with Raquel but they told me they have other siblings, that I did not meet.
As I was forced to talk in Spanish and listen extremely hard to understand them, I began to get more comfortable with the situation. I suddenly didn’t care if my Spanish was horrible, I remembered when I first came to Panama a person saying, “…it doesn’t matter how horrible your Spanish is, we appreciate your effort to talk in our language.” I wanted these new friends of mine to feel comfortable with me and to love me as their sister in Christ, therefore-I tried my best to speak Spanish.
As our conversation continued we found out more about each other and they were astounded that I had learned all my Spanish here in Panama.
“Only three months!?” Mara exclaimed in Spanish.
“Yeah, I knew the basics, but not enough to talk to people” I responded.
Everybody was impressed with the way that I had learned; listening and and reading the dictionary.
Each day I attended some sort of devotion; whether the women gathering together, or Raquel and Viviana reading the Bible and sharing insight and life’s hardships after breakfast. It was beautiful.
As Thursday turned into Friday and Friday to Saturday, I was saddened by the fact that I was leaving early the next morning…it was going to be extremely hard to leave this place as I had grown to love the people.
Saturday, after lunch with Elli, Bienvenido, Viviana, Actavio, and two other kids, I decided to walk the road and take pictures. I figured I was safe enough and of what I had experienced, the Embera were very nice people.
At the end of my walk, I met five girls who were so cute and loved the camera. The oldest, who was fourteen, talked to me and I only understood her after she simplified her sentences and talked slower. I was glad to meet these girls, because they definitely put smiles on my face and gave me extra practice with my Spanish.
After my walk I laid down to rest, for Spanish was extremely hard on my brain and it wore me out big-time.
Raquel came and I went with her, Jessica, Marlel, Tatiana, and Marysing, to Raquel’s aunt’s house about a mile away.
After walking down the road, through muck, over water on a slippery bridge, and up a muddy path, we reached the tree in the backyard of her aunt’s house. This tree, the jagua tree, bore fruit in which the Embera paint with on their bodies. This coming week they have a traditional fiesta, therefore, we gathered many taguas. Raquel gave me one so that she and Mara could paint on me after the church service that night.
The church service included testimonies, singing, a message, and a tribal video about New Tribes Missions.
It was all very lovely, but the message was in Embera, so I understood the two words that were similar in Spanish, meaning: Jesus Christ.
Ellie gave me her Spanish Bible, because she had her Embera Bible (WHICH WAS SO COOL!). I never thought I would see the day where I was highly thankful for a Spanish translation…it was extremely funny to me, and I couldn’t help but give a chuckle.
When I first arrived, you all know that I had memorized Bible verses in Spanish, well, some of these verses were also in this specific message given!!! Thank you LORD that I understood the verses and got something out of the message. It was beautiful really, when this man went up and gave his testimony-although I only understood a little, his emotions stirred mine and I felt like crying in awe of God’s glory. He was rescued from the torturous death, and raised up with Christ to walk in a new way–praise God!
After washing my incredibly dirty legs and feet, I went with Raquel and Mara to Elli’s house. It was already ten o’clock at night, so Viviana went to bed because she knew our morning would come early (we had to leave to catch the bus at 7).
Raquel explained to me that the jagua was white now, but tomorrow it would be black, which fascinated me! As Raquel grated the fruit into a bowl, Mara cut the spine of a coconut tree leaf to use as the paintbrush.
Mara began painting, but because I had such white skin, she couldn’t see where she had already painted; “White on white doesn’t work good” (Actavio)
I laughed at his silly humor.
Actavio’s sister gave Mara an ink pen to mark out the pattern before painting, it would show up MUCH better this way.
As my traditional Embera tattoo was being formed, Raquel and I began reciting Bible verses to each other in Spanish and afterwards we sang some songs. I knew them in English so we sang our bi-lingual duet, which was fantastic. Actavio plays guitar, but left it in the church. (QUICK THING: he let me play his guitar along with him my first night there, it was SO fantastic!! AND it was a steel stringed acoustic, it had been so long since I played one…in Panama City I only play nylon string)
It was a great last night for me.
As my tattoo was done, I slipped on my shoes and said my Embera goodbye. “Ah-bah-noo” (hasta meñana; see you tomorrow)
That night I dreamed in Spanish.
In the morning at 6, I woke up and tried to wash off the jagua ink that had smeared all over my right arm and left hand…but no such luck-I was stained.
I was told that it would last for two weeks-which made me roll my eyes and say, “of course”.
After buying a paruma from Raquel, I told Mara and her that I loved them very much and I was thankful for the goodness and kindness to me and that I would see them in one year.
It was hard to leave..it honestly was.
As I sat on the bus heading back to Panama City, my mind flowed with the scenes from the last three days. Funny thing, it was all in Spanish. Not that it was good, because my Spanish is still EXTREMELY TERRIBLE, and of course, in English formation, but I thought in Spanish…heehee!
Viviana and I walked rapidly from where the bus dropped us off, to the house, to change. We quickly changed clothes, shoved some food in our mouths, and rushed out the door to make it to church in time.
I was greeted by many and extremely glad to see them, especially my Panamanian family; Randy, Donna, Jordan, Jonathan, Jesse and Sanna.
I missed them and my English conversations.
As I began to spout out words in English, I stopped every once in a while to think what I was saying and to grab a word from my memory, because I forgot it. I LOVED THAT FEELING.
English tasted really weird on my tongue. But this experience…I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Piriati and the Embera will always be in my heart, always.
Their kindness, goodness, sacrificial love, and open hearts touched my life and changed me forever.