Ms. Susan Jorgensen
Honors 200 University Writing
Life in Paradise: A Bit to Take In
A tropical island—earth’s paradise; typically stereotyped as a place free from the stress and troubles of life. That is, unless you are assigned to live on one, stripped of the comforts and commodities to which you are accustomed. The first eight months of my mission in the Republic of Panama brought the usual challenges of missionary lifestyle adjustment along with the expectant (or unexpectant) culture shock that accompanies a new life in a foreign land. By the time I had been there six months I felt like I was finally getting a handle on the work, on teaching well, and communicating effectively in Spanish. When I had received my second transfer though, I met up with some surprising changes in my now somewhat-reliable lifestyle. I soon found myself in circumstances I had never before imagined and that forever changed the way I looked at life and at the world in which I live.
On the Panamanian isthmus, there are two coasts running from east to west on the north and south sides with a continental divide of mountains running through the middle. On the northeast corner there is a long strip of land called Kuna Yala, though on most maps, it’s labeled the San Blas Archipelago. This land is the territorial land of the Kuna Indians, who in a revolution more than 70 years ago, gained some autonomy and now basically take care of themselves. There are over three hundred tiny islands along this strip of coast with around 60-70 of them inhabited by the Kunas. The islands are very small and range in inhabitants from 40 or 50 to around 5000 on the largest. I was assigned to work on the largest island called Ustupu.
The small plane we were to take to Ustupu left at 6am. It was the only way to get there unless you drove an hour and a half to the city of Colon on the Caribbean side of the canal and took a motorized boat somewhere around 10-14...