Friday, March 31, 2017
DJ, aka Little Crab, Anthony, aka Wha-chu-PEH (Catfish), and Sean, aka Tikon (Small Gift), are seated on the plank benches of the dinner hut in La Chunga, a small village up the Sambu River in the Darien Province of Panama. We are four hours or so by boat from the nearest road of any consequence. Some people call the place the Darien Gap, the empty hole between the north and south ends of the Pan-American Highway. It's got a bad reputation for guerilla hideouts, drug running, people smuggling, and hungry bugs. Lots of mud and jungle too. But we are talking life here at the table with DJ, Sean, and Anthony. These guys rock the world of hope and possibility. For two years they have been living with indigenous communities as Peace Corps volunteers in conditions that most of us in the material abundance of the developed world would find dangerously primitive: no lights, no running water, no access to easy food, oppressive heat and humidity, and regular bouts of irregularity and infections. They are givers and love being part of something bigger than themselves. Yes, they are doing aqueducts, eco-tourism web sites, and "charlas" about HIV and birth control, but they are also river-runners, surfers, rock climbers, dancers, and are lucky at dice and love. Dang! How did I end up here?