2005/2006 DESTINATIONS:
   
Volunteer Vacations:
Africa **
Chile
Ecuador
Guatemala
Mexico
Panama
Peru **
Thailand
   
Educational Adventures:
Africa: Safari Serengeti **
Baja: Explore the Sea of Cortez **
Best of Costa Rica **
Colorado: Garden of the Gods Geoology, History and Ecology **
Colorado: Mesa Verde Native American Culture **
Galapagos Enchanted Isles **
Hawaii: Experience Paradise **
Ultimate Thailand Explorer
   
Other Programs:
Women's Expedition to Aconcaugua
Musician's Cultural Workshop in Ecuador
   
** These programs are available for credit through the Colorado School of Mines Teacher Enhancement Program.
   
Volunteer Vacations Panama

Panama: Kuna/San Blas Cultural Immersion and Service Experience

Introduction:
Panama is a proud nation that offers outstanding wildlife adventures, celebrates its Spanish heritage with frequent and colorful festivals, and respects its seven indigenous groups. It is difficult to leave the country without feeling you’re in on a secret the rest of the traveling world has yet to discover. Located at the southern end of Central America (between Costa Rica and Colombia), Panama is a land bridge where the wildlife of North and South America meet and intermingle. It is home to some of the most remote (although accessible) rain forests in the world containing 940 different bird species. The country, whose Indian name means “abundance of fish”, also includes 1518 separate islands. Because the coasts are less than an hour’s drive apart, you can easily spend the morning snorkeling in the Caribbean and the afternoon swimming in the Pacific. As John le Carre wrote in his novel, The Tailor of Panama, “We’ve got everything God needed to make paradise. Great farming, beaches, mountains, wildlife you wouldn’t believe, and people so beautiful you could cry.”

Despite its history as a “U.S. protectorate” during the Panama Canal era, the nation beams with native culture. The country’s indigenous people share a strong desire to maintain their traditions. In particular, the Kuna Indians of San Blas have lived in the eastern portion of Panama for two centuries. In the 1920’s, the government granted the tribe the right to limited self-rule. Ever since, the Kuna have preserved everything about their way of life that makes them special: native dress, arts & crafts, language, and a largely unspoiled environment. There are an estimated 70,000 Kuna, the majority of which live on the district’s islands. (The Kuna like to say that their archipelago consists of “one island for every day of the year.”) So communal are the Kuna people that they inhabit – in traditional bamboo thatched-roof houses - only 40 of the 400 keys; the rest are mostly left to virgin forests of coconut palms, sea turtles and iguanas.

Kindred Spirits has been granted special permission to visit San Blas and perform meaningful community service alongside these proud & fascinating people. We invite you to join us in exploring their magnificent land and culture!

Sample Itinerary*:

DAY ONE Arrival!
Spend the night at the comfortable Holiday Inn in the heart of the bustling capital of Panama City.

DAY TWO Panama City
After breakfast & a brief orientation, explore the colonial parts of town (Casco Viejo and Panama Vieja) and visit the impressive Miraflores Locks at the Panama Canal. As the sun sets over the Pacific Ocean, enjoy a typical dinner and folkloric show at Las Tinajas restaurant.

DAY THREE – EIGHT
Cultural Immersion and Service Experience in San Blas
An early morning flight will first deliver us to Porvenir, the “gateway to the Comarca San Blas”. After disembarking, we will take a short boat-ride to the island of Wichub-Wala, the home of the Kuna Niskua Lodge, where we will be transported to a reality far removed from the “modern” world.

Our days in San Blas will be spent acquainting ourselves with the Kuna customs and lifestyle – through music, dance, ritual ceremonies, and meaningful cross-cultural exchange. We will learn how to make the traditional ““molas” (intricately stitched tapestries,) and we will join community-wide efforts to preserve native customs by assisting in the construction/refurbishment of an ethnographic museum.

In our free time, paradise will be found! We will be transported by motorized canoe to surrounding islands - to snorkel, swim in the crystal blue & green waters of the Caribbean, and lounge in hammocks on white-sandy beaches. Additionally, we will visit other nearby communities, most notably Carti Suitupo, the center of Kuna culture, government & commerce.

Our thatched-roof cabanas will be simple: equipped with mattresses, sheets/pillows and showers. After a few days of living without familiar conveniences, you will have no choice but to focus your energies on more universal themes: personal interaction and community development. Pick-up volleyball games with Kuna youth or fishing for dinner with our local hosts will be common occurrences.

By departure day, you will hopefully have re-gained a sense of peace and tranquility. A typical goodbye ceremony will celebrate and reinforce our newfound friendships.

DAY NINE
Return to Panama City & Depart for Home (or optional side trip **)
* This itinerary is not set in stone. It is intended to give you an idea of what you may expect during your stay in Panama. Weather may force us to make last-minute changes, or we may decide to take a detour in order to be a part of a once-a-year celebration. We can guarantee you this: flexibility will be built into every Kindred Spirits program…and we appreciate your understanding! No matter what, your experience in Panama will be rich and memorable. We can customize the dates and itinerary for any group of 10 or more.

** Panama has so much to offer international travelers. Regrettably, there is not enough time during the program to do it all! Therefore, we strongly encourage you to arrive early or add on a few days at the end of your stay to visit one (if not all!) of the magnificent sites below. Kindred Spirits will happily assist you in making plans, finding accommodations, and/or connecting with other tour groups.

Possibilities include:
Isla Taboga
Isla Contadora (Pearl Islands)
Portobelo and Isla Grande
Bocas del Toro
Gamboa Rainforest
Boquete
Carnival in Las Tablas or Penonome (mid-February)

Dates and Details:
Tentative Dates:
January 29 – February 6, 2005

Program Fees:
$1250 per person (includes domestic travel, food & lodging)***

*** Price does NOT include international airfare, departure taxes or personal expenses (i.e. souvenirs, vaccinations, passport application, tips, alcoholic beverages, optional side trips, etc.)
Please Note: 5% of all program fees go to Kindred Spirits Foundation to support our community projects and provide scholarships.

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Heather Lopez,
Owner/Director
PO Box 474,
Empire, CO 80438
303-912-7114
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