23 June 2022
Tom from the recycling center/founder of Wasteless World reunited with our group a few days ago with boxes of his lionfish jewelry to sell. Everybody was very excited and swarmed around him to see the jewelry he had talked so passionately about on the recycling tour. As Tom told us on the 14th, lionfish are an invasive species. They eat voraciously and multiply like rabbits. In addition, they have no natural predators in the Caribbean ocean, so they are very detrimental to the environment. To combat this, Tom makes lionfish jewelry; key chains, earrings, necklaces, and bracelets. His team buys lionfish by the pound, sells the meat, and cuts off the tails and fins. From there they crush up milk cartons as the background of the jewelry, place a lionfish piece onto the background with eco-resin, and add one last layer of eco-resin over the top to seal it in. The result is a beautiful, one-of-a-kind piece of jewelry with its own unique story. I found it very concerning that the lionfish issue is not well known across Panama, but the action Tom is taking to combat it is so inspiring. Tom expressed so much passion for each project that almost everyone bought an item for themselves or their family. When the rain prevented volunteers from traveling to Cristobal, everybody played with the kids in Bastimentos’ community center. We made friendship bracelets and coffee filter butterflies and played “Shark” on the halfpipe. “Shark” is a game that the kids made up and taught to us, where the “sharks” stand in the middle of the halfpipe and try to drag down the legs of those on the edges. The kids were engaged in their game, and I was just happy to participate in it, especially when they got into character with growls and claws. For dessert, we often get $1 ice cream down the street from the hotel, and play/watch basketball on the court in the rain.
It was such an amazing trip, and although I am sad to be leaving so soon, I am grateful for the opportunity to reflect on my experiences. Every day allowed me to be a part of life in Bastimentos and forced me to step out of my comfort zone in many ways. I am grateful for every high and low, and will always cherish the time I spent learning about other people through conversation and through play. The knowledge I gained on this trip opened doors to so much more to be learned, about others and about myself. I am sad to leave Panama, where I feel so close to the community of Bastimentos and the community of SStS, but I am also so excited to employ all that I have learned here in the future.
23 June 2022