A day in paradise

13 07 2010

My decision to travel to Panama happened by default. I had taken a 35 foot fall while rock climbing in Yosemite National Park, which resulted in a contusion to my left foot and thus out me on crutches. Having been proudfully conquered, I returned home and began to ponder alternatives. “Hmmm, I’ve been wanting to travel and improve my Spanish,” I said to myself. Of course, this was the opportunity I needed. I almost always go climbing as a first option, thus I’d postponed such a culture and language-rich voyage. Somehow too, I thought I would be able to see monkeys and bright birds in a jungle thick rain forest. How I was going to do that was undetermined, nevertheless, it was a dream of mine. Plus, Panama was more affordable than Costa Rica and cost less to fly there. Plans were hatched with Habal Ya Spanish School and I was on my way!

When I arrived, (taking buses and taxis straight to Boquete), one of my taxi drivers told me about “un refugio para los animales,” explaining that I could see monkeys and other animals there. He of curse said the key word and that was all I needed to hear. The very next day, I went  to check it out for myself. It was a Sunday and they’re typically closed then, but by the graces of Jen, they let me in. I had a thorough briefing by a helpful and obviously enthusiastic volunteer (thanks Fidel!) and then was off to discover Paradise.

I began to walk down a little corridor with beautiful green hanging vines and delicate white flowers. I rounded a corner and was pleasantly surprised to have my first ever face to face encounter with a Capuchin Monkey.  The little guy was in a nicely constructed shelter, with plenty of room. In it were big branches, a wooden box he seemed to like to play on, a tree house, a small and bright hanging toy and plenty of green matter. The flora was so nice all around me that I thought I was literally in the jungle! I stayed with the monkey, who’s cage had a sign in front explaining that he’d been rescued from an unfortunate situation and that his name was Manolo. I was scared at first at how he’d react to me, but he kept coming over inquisitively and turned his back to me as if he wanted me to reach through the chicken wire walls and scratch his back. I nervously stuck my finger in there and was relieved when he didn’t bite it off. Then Manolo turned around and grabbed my finger with his soft black hand and held it like a child would.

That’s when I fell in love with Paradise gardens! I stayed with Manolo for two hours, then walked around taking photos and introducing myself to the other animals for another couple of animals. It was amazing to be in a spot that had many of the same animals and vegetation as the jungle, but the guarantee of being able to see them, and all while hobbling around on one foot! That encounter so touched me that I decided immediately to volunteer in the mornings three days a week. Then I could return to this Paradise as long as I was in Boquete, taking my Spanish classes! I don’t know in the end if it was fate or a coincidence that put me here, but I feel really blessed for this amazing opportunity! Me encanta El Jadin Paraiso!