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Lost at Sea

PanamaHere I am, in the middle of the Carribbean Sea, in a not so steady dugout (with a motor), jackknifed under a large plastic tarp, stiff from holing onto the board on which I’m sitting. I’m beside a stunning Kuna Indian woman, clad in the traditional colorful garb, with her legs striped in orange-purple beads; her daughter’s shoulders and arms perched over my left knee. I am scared to death. The rain is pounding on our heads and upper bodies under that tarp; splashing waves have long ago left me drenched. This is supposed to be my tropical dream vacation?

PanamaMy travel (and life) partner is somewhere in the front of the long boat (can’t see anything under that tarp) and I want to scream (in English? Spanish? Kuna?) but my linguistic confusion and my co-passengers’ stoic clam keep me quiet. Peeking out from under the tarp, with rising terror I see huge waves rolling towards the little boat, rocking it from side to side, threatening to flip it over; no island in view. My imagination and memories of the movie¬†Cast Awayplay cruel games with me. The Kuna woman, Mercellina, tries to warn the skipper, screaming at the top of her lungs in a Kuna-Spanish mix, “Agua mala, agua mala (bad water, bad water)!” Then the motor died.