Panama Chronicles by Deborah Buehler (Re-posted by PH)

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Debbie is now in Panama (for background see her previous posting). She regularly sends "chronicles" to friends. I suggested that I post her recent chronicle on the TA forum as I'm sure you'll find it as interesting as I did. It appears here in several parts because of the length limitation we now have.

In the last two years Debbie has written us about her adventures from the Arctic to Tierra del Fuego. She has taken wonderful pictures of both those places and also several in between, as well as pictures of many birds. You can find these pictures on her web-site. Take a look!

Debbie hopes to publish her previous chronicles of travel, danger, romance (she met her husband, Beto, in Panama), and ornithology in a book. She's looking for a publisher. If any of you have suggestions about publication, Debbie would be very interested in hearing from you.

I've probably already reached the length limit, so will post Debbie's chronicles as answers.

Paul

-- Anonymous, February 19, 2003

Answers

Hi everyone,

I realized the other day that I have mentioned Barro Colorado Island (BCI) in a few of my chronicles but have never really described the island. BCI is the summit of Palenquilla Hill, and was created between 1911 and 1914 when the Chagres River was dammed and the area flooded during the construction of the Panama Canal. The island was declared a biological reserve in 1923 and has been under Smithsonian administration since 1946.

I have spent a number of days on the island recently. First, I went to play tourist (but of course since I have STRI [Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute] affiliation I was able to explore parts of the island that tourists never see). The island has over 40 km of paths and trails. These trails provide forest access to the scientists who study the island. On the far side of the island, lies an area specifically for preservation. This means that no scientific studies are permitted and consequently people rarely walk the paths in that area. I was feeling adventurous and decided that the far side of the island was worth the long walk. I was not disappointed. The preserved area absolutely teemed with wildlife. I ran into no fewer that 5 flocks of ant birds, two ant swarms, several rare birds including a Crested Guan and as a crowning glory four species of monkey: Howler Monkeys, White-faced Capuchin Monkeys, Geoffroy's Tamarins and Spider Monkeys.

I have had a notoriously hard time seeing Spider Monkeys. They are extremely agile and travel very quickly through the treetops. Usually all that can be seen is a flash of rusty fur. This time I got lucky. The troop was feeding and at first I didn't see them. Then to the right of the trial I heard a screech that could have woken the dead. It sounded like a banshee wailing. The sound reverberated off of the trees and camera in hand I drove into the bushes to investigate. Ok realistically, I tripped on my way down the hill and slide protecting the camera into a gully, but I digress. High above me, dangling by his tail, "fists" shaking, hung the troop leader. He was telling me who was boss! Trying to be as inoffensive as possible I snapped a few photos (as usual there wasn't enough light) and observed Spider Monkeys up close and personal for the first time.

-- Anonymous, February 19, 2003


My more recent visits to the island have been as a tour guide for the STRI visitors program. My first tour was a group of American tourists from a cruise ship. The tour was quite a bit of fun as we got to walk the trails of the island and take a Zodiac boat around the island to spot birds and monkeys. The grand finale was a gourmet lunch on the cruise ship. Not bad eh? My second tour included a famous surgeon who was in Panama as the keynote speaker in a bigwig medical conference. This tour was a particularly interesting as I got to mingle with several high profile Panamanian surgeons as well as the keynote speaker and learned a great deal about healthcare systems worldwide. During the tour I discovered that the keynote speaker's wife was supposed to attend as well, but had to stay in the USA because of a last minute luncheon with Hillary Clinton. Holy moly! Definitely bigwigs!

In other news, festival time is in full swing in Panama and as usual Beto and I toured the Chorrera Fair where we delighted in traditional dances, handicrafts and yummy food. For those of you who have not read my previous descriptions of this fair, think of a slightly smaller version of the CNE.

Another event that brought us great excitement was the arrival of our closet - finally, a place to hang our clothes! What makes the seemingly benign arrival of a closet interesting is that it arrived completely disassembled! Needless to say, Beto and I are not carpenters, but after 2 days of drilling, screwing, hammering and gluing we have a beautiful 6'7" x 5'11" x 1'6" wardrobe (it is HUGE!!).

I have also discovered another fun toy that offers me hours of excitement--a short wave radio. I can't understand how I failed to discover the wonders of short wave before. I can sit outside my apartment and listen to radio programs such as the BBC, French Public Radio, Radio Netherlands, Radio Belgium, Radio Quito Ecuador, and to my utter delight Radio Canada International! It is like having the world in my hands, and somehow it is "cooler" than surfing the Internet for international news. The crowning glory though, is hearing my beloved CBC radio in Panama.

That's it for now,

Debbie

Deborah M. Buehler
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
Republic of Panama
507-228-9148
deborah_buehler@edu.yorku.ca
www.geocities.com/dbuehler2001/index.html

-- Anonymous, February 19, 2003


Hi everyone,

I just wanted to let you know that since Paul posted my website, I have added two new photo pages (www.geocities.com/dbuehler2001/). I hope you enjoy them.

Debbie

-- Anonymous, February 24, 2003


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