I figured, I needed a guitar to perform on the streets and in hostels in order to financially support our mission. So before heading to Santa Catalina, we first needed to fix my lack-of-guitar-problem in Penonomé. I bought a cheap but good enough guitar in the nearest music store (panama only has a few) and off we went to the main road. It started pooring with rain and we waited like we were told…..and waited… Trucks with heavy engines drove by, leaving a gasstrail of black substance and splashing everybody in too close a distance…. and waited… The roads turned into rivers and more busses trucks and cars drove by….. and waited… We were breathing gasoline and black exhuast gasses and still no buss. So we waited a bit more…
Boy we were happy when the bus finally arrived! A happy pappy little bus with loud reggaeton music, making stops on the side of the highway whenever somebody on the side of the road gave a sign to pull over, brought us to the next big town where we had to change busses again. I do not remember how many more busses we got that day (and especcially how long we have waited for the next ones to come), but eventually we arrived at a great place just outside of the surfer town. It was almost deserted, except from a couple of crocodiles, dogs, kats and many many species of birds, wich was quite nice. It turned out I had to make extensive use of the hammocks as my allergic reaction on the particulate matter turned out to be sinusitis and would last for the two weeks that came. Eventhough you can consider it being winter, having sinusitis, while lying in a hammock with 35 * C is a truly interesting experience. But enough about that.
We are positively surprised that every place we go to, we find at least one clean up team taking care of the environment. So we made our way to the Panama Dive centre that had been organising montly beach cleanups for over a year and they told us they had just saved a Turtle that afternoon. The poor animal got stuck in a couple of fishernets and they had to cut the ropes around its feet and neck. Fortunately it swam away after they removed it.
On our way back, our busdriver told us he had travelled around the world in his younger years and now drove tourist busses as a holliday job. His real job was to teach teachers how to teach in native communities that often lack basic things like class materials ecetera. Just like the teacher in El Valle he told us, the children in Panama really needed to become aware of the plastic problem, but so far it has not been part of the scolar programme. Before I knew, I said we were happy to come over with some (yet to create) class materials and give a workshop that the teachers can work with in the future. He liked the idea so much that we didn’t have to pay for the busride, instead he gave us his email adress, and we agreed to meet in Bocas del Torro (a northern part of Panama) somewhere in January to give the workshop.
The day of the clean-up, in the early morning, we gathered with a nice group of 14 participants who were dedicated to leave the beach cleaner than they had found it. My head was almost bursting when I bent down to pick up litter, but there appeared to be so many micropieces of hard plastics on every square meter, that I figured it would be best to sit down and pick al the tiny little pieces around me as I went. Meanwhile the sun got to its highest point and people were running to get cans and bottles on the bits away from the water as their feed burned every step they touched the black burning sand. It seemed to me like piles of rubbish were the exact right cercumstances for stinging red ants to build their houses in as they were full of them. Sweaty, burned, stung and full of scratches, the group continued cleaning when they encountered a huge heap of rubbish that had clutted together on the rocks. Only an hour after the hottest part of the day we decided to call it a day and go for a swim.
We had gathered over 10 full bags of rubbish and most of it consisted out of tiny microplastics that had bit by bit been picked up by each member of our group.
Next time we will tell you about Arthurs adventures visiting the trash plant and about our masterplan to introduce a special game for hostels to start picking up litter and collect data to fight the ignorance of the packaging industry.
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