These are my final words of Blas:
I will never forget my people in Kuna Yala. I have had an experience that I never believed I would have. I am connected to the island with all my heart. Hna E and I are in love with this people. I wish they were a little taller and I might bring one home to marry. jajaja. joking! maybe... but seriously. It hurts us to see pictures and think of them there. They became our family as we saw every single person in our area every single day. We had the smallest mish area that you can image, a 3 minute walk. It would take less than 10 minutes to walk around and knock on every door in our area. We loved the people and had disputes with the people as if they were our family because it’s like living in a really big house. I cannot and I will not forget the last 4 months of my life. I will return. I will see each and every one of them one day again, whether in Kuna Yala or after we are reunited at that great day in heaven. I can understand a bit of Kuna and respond. I wish I could be here for a year to learn to speak fluently. Their language is very basic. For example there aren’t articles like the La El un una, etc. and unlike Spanish the accent doesn’t matter. The people have the most beautiful skin in the world. They are shorter and I always messed with the young men and asked them if they knew that men were to be taller than the women, one kid responded innocently and said, pero, soy indio... haha. Their culture is difficult to work with as many things are linked with drinking. The government saila have even gone to the edge of taxing people if they don’t have a big festival for the island and provide alcohol when their daughters start their period. They have all these superstitions that if they don’t drink something bad will happen to them. It’s pretty discouraging at times and hard work, even though everyone seems to think that we just hang on the beach all the time. Okay, first off, we have to travel to go to the beach cause houses cover our island until the edge of the water. There is no beach. Second, it’s just a different mish here. We are in charge of everything. We are activities director, the Institute teachers, the seminary teacher, the music coordinator and director, once they even tried to get us to help prepare the Sacrament... I’m sorry priesthood holders... but that’s your duty, privilege and responsibility. What more do we do? Family home evenings with members, a TON of service, and we take p-day like moments and go to the river to help with stuff or the beach or take a trip to the next island and meet people and buy veggies. We look for the kids and people who have been coming to church but are not baptized and we baptize them. We search for member families that are not baptized. That sort of stuff. Hna E and I baptized 5 children like that and one active family boy at 8. The attendance at church varies. Depending on if it’s raining, if there are vacations, etc. It’s usually around 40. Once when the previous Hermans were here it was 93, but that was because the health center told everyone that the church was going to hand out all these toys that they donated. It wasn’t true though. That was a mess, but that’s a culture thing.. so that’s the work.... here are a few weird things that I did....
What I ate: Octopus tentacles, chicken hearts, lobster, big shell sea snails, raw glowing squid, shark, eel, iguana, and a lot of fish, rice, beans, dule masi and wacho.
I am a pretty good canoe goer. This last week I took a stroll around the island with a group a kids and Hna E. But on the canoe... I totally ripped open my skirt completely! hahahaha When I got off all the kids were running around showing everyone, tugging and pulling on my skirt. soooo fun and sooooo good that I had a slip on... hahahaha
I now know how to sew. My aunt ya taught me machine, but now I can sew mola and other handy things. I ripped apart and put a new zipper on Hna E’s skirt. It’s been a great skill to develop and I can say that Indians taught me to sew... haha
I have a ton of mola. I have one that fits me cause a lady made it the night before I left! She was awesome and she gave it to me for FREE. That’s something that people in the city will pay like 50 bucks! sweet!
I went to a few beaches (islands perro, diablo, piscina de las estrellas, and aguja, they let us in for free cause we’re mish, pretty great) and hung out and taught tourists the gospel. wow.... talking to Italians, states people and Spaniards in English is sooooo strange. I have a hard time doing it in English and it’s kinda embarrassing. But I think some of our best lessons have been with tourists and they’re the only contacts we can make cause we know pretty much everyone on the island.
We went with one tourist that was collecting antique mola. That was a super interesting trip. He’s really into like political mola and stuff. There was stuff from like the 40s 50s that had satellites and space ships and aliens that looked like big bugs. He bought some cool stuff. and soooo cheap. He’s making an exhibit in NYC. He’s done some famous stuff in NY and he’s smitten with my companion. hahaha.... so funny. It was awkward, but awesome to share about the church cause he was so interested and he had abandoned going to church cause rough stuff that had happened to him. It felt good to have a normal kind of mish moment on Blas.
I had the opportunity to see the beginning and almost the entire project of constructing the new church. But like always with baptism.... (we always prepare people to be baptized and watch them progress and grow and we love them and are a part of them and then we get transferred the week before their baptism.) Well they are to finish the new building this next week! I worked hard on that church! Hauling wood and roofing, cleaning the job site, putting putty in the nail holes and painting varnish over them... it felt like old times when I worked with my Dad. And now I missed the end, but when I come back to visit, I can happily say that I was a part of helping construct the church building in Carti Tupile.
This change we were best friends with EVERYONE. Hna E is amazing and talks with everyone and we seriously had so much fun just hanging and serving everyone. I felt like I lived in their houses. They are my family. I have so many brothers and sisters now. But they’re all Kuna! haha
I have learned to love gutting fish, washing all laundry by hand (it gets clothes SO clean and they smell soooo good, but it wears them out faster), eating ketchup and hot sauce or lemon and salt on everything, talking in Kuna, swinging and sleeping in a hamaka (it doesn’t make me dizzy anymore), sewing by hand, walking barefoot or in sandals, living without Internet, eating green bananas cooked every day, and more. These are the things that really I love now. You think I’m joking, but I actually enjoy doing these things.
This last week I was in Cardenas. I went out working with the sisters there and it’s a different world. I was rejected door to door like never before in my mission. It’s the richest area in Panama and where all the gringos and embassy workers live. I imagine that it’s more like a States mish in that area. It’s hard work. I had a member here from the States tell me that he doesn’t think he could have served in such an area like Blas cause it’s too primitive. I told him he could have cause it’s where the Lord sends you that you can flourish. I’m so grateful that the Lord sent me to Carti Tupile. I didn’t have to handle the area, the culture, the strangeness or the people. I flourished and loved everything. Sure it was hard. In a not so regular mish-like way, but I shall never forget my people there.
So I finish my words of Blas. Well... at least till I get home and tell you all about it... and tell you all my secrets that I can’t write in an email! hahahaha. What happens in Blas stays in Blas (till we get home from the mish that is.... ha!) Really, it’s hard to explain how I feel about Blas. I feel that I can only really talk with those who have served there to feel understood. I feel that if I try to explain my love for this part of my mish, I’m exposing something so sacred in my heart. Maybe you previous missionaries me entiendan.
And now I head back into the real mish field again for less than 3 months. Only two changes left and please... no one is allowed to remind me of that in letters or emails please.... the time will come to go home and I’ll be home. I love my Panama for the time I am given and the time is now. So I’ll be JUMPING back in training a newbie in this half elders-half sisters mish de Panama! and opening an area who knows where! I’m stoked. You should be too. The Lord is bringing to pass a marvelous work and a glory and we’re all a part of it somehow.
I love you all and hope that all is well. My mom has been updating me on your lives once in a while. Sounds like you’ve all moved way passed me in the world while I’m stuck in this time warp of a mission. If anyone reading this is contemplating a mish, lo q sea, girl or boy, GO! at one time in my life I said I would never tell someone to just go... cause it was a personal choice... and it still is... but just choose to GO! haha. I guess I’ve changed my mind about a few things out here. That’s a good thing. It’s been 15 months... I hope I’ve changed and I hope you all have too.
Much love is sent from Panama and I’ll talk to you next week now that I have Internet in my area! haha
La Hna Schumacher