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Latin America Kevin Dispatch

Do You Know Senor Bornel?

Kevin and
Abeja trying to find a boat heading their way
We have spent over a week trying to get around the Darien Gap, but we finally got out of Colon! Jerry, a man at out hotel, suggested that we go to Palenque, look up Senor Bornel, stay at his hostel, and take a canoe to the San Blas Islands the next morning. Great idea! Abeja and I piled on a bus for a three hour ride to Palenque on the Carribean coast of Panama.

We secured our luggage on top of the bus and scored seats -- not a minor feat in Latin America. After days of waiting, we were finally on the road again! As we travelled, we had the beautiful Carribean coastline to our left and the green of the tropical forest to our right. Don't I sound like a tour guide?! By the time we pulled into Palenque, we were the last ones left on the bus. Maybe that should have tipped us off.

Four of the cutest chicas in Panama!
We quickly discovered that Palenque isn't a city, or even a town. Palenque is a village of about thirty homes, a church, a school, and a playing field. And Senor Bornel? No one had ever heard of a Senor Bornel! Fortunately, there was one hostel in Palenque run by Don Domingo (no relation to Senor Bornel). Apparently, we're the first guests to the hostel in a long, long time. The kind old man gave us clean sheets, but the beds had mouse droppings on them! Then we learned that there weren't any light switches or running water. We had to carry containers of cold water from the neighbor's house back to the hostel to give ourselves sponge baths. The next morning, we accidentally left the only key that could open our door inside the room. No problem. Don Domingo used his machete to let us in through the window!

Kevin with a group
of camera-shy kids

We spent the day swimming at the beach, and headed back to the hostel to make some dinner. As I was about to pick up my fork to start eating, the sound of a microphone being tested rang out. Five women and one man were gathered under a tent that was set up to resemble a little chapel. (None of them were related to Senor Bornel either.) They took turns stepping up to the mic to sing songs either alone or in small groups. In between songs, one woman in particular did all of the preaching, and we found out that she was staying in the room next to us in the hostel. They must've gone through at least ten songs by the time we finished our dinner. The evangelical ceremony lasted three hours. The next day, the entire ceremony began again at noon. Only a handful of villagers (none of them were Mr. Bornel) watched the ceremony, but it could easily be heard throughout the entire village. This must have been in the background for everyone else's dinner too.

Hey, we're shy,
too! Take our picture!
The different religious traditions of Latin America are very interesting. Check out our brief Team report on religion in Latin America.

The next day I took a morning swim and when I came back to the hostel I found three girls, Neli, Damaris, and Ariel sitting on the porch. (Their names don't even sound like Bornel!) They told me that they had seen us all walking around the night before and so they came to the hostel to find out what we were doing in their village. I asked if I could take a photo of the three of them and they were more than happy to smile and pose for the camera. It didn't take long for before the photos session attracted other kids nearby.
I think I can
handle this for a little while
First their brothers came over to see what was going on, then their cousins, and pretty soon after, all of their friends too. Within ten minutes every child in the village was trying to make it into a picture. All of them attended the same school across the street from the hostel, but since it was Sunday, everyone had the day off. None of them had ever heard of Senor Bornel, but they all thought it was very funny for us to have ventured all the way out to their little village just to meet a man that nobody knew.

They suggested that if we still wanted to get to the San Blas Islands we take a bus to the next town, Miramar, and take a canoe to the islands. That's exactly what we did. Finally, some accurate information! (Still no Senor Bornel, though!) We are still on the island. I am writing this dispatch from there. Now we are wondering how long we will be here before we can continue on to Colombia.


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