Month of Reflection in Panama

The “Crewing To Panama” experience was one full of tests for me personally and not a lot of time for reflection. I left the boat in somewhat of a chaotic state and therefor, right off the bat, did not have too much time for reflection then either. Instead I was thrown right into the next adventure of my journey and that was exactly what I needed.

Leaving the Boat

Since I did not feel safe remaining with the Captain my only other choice was to get out of Panama within 72 hours. Flying somewhere was not an option for me, but I thought that I may be able to take a bus across the border to Costa Rica. After gratefully spending one last sleepless night on the deck of another captains boat, getting eaten alive by mosquitoes in Shelter Bay Marina, I set off on a journey towards Costa Rica.

Right away I met an older couple who unknowingly refreshed my spirit and filled me with hope. They joined me in the taxi from Shelter Bay Marina to Colon, and then on the bus from Colon to Panama City. From there they gave me directions on what I was going to do, where I was going to go, and when I should return. After joining me for lunch in Panama City they gave me a warm hug and wished me well. I spent the rest of the day hanging out in Panama City’s monster mall before catching an overnight bus to Frontera (a border town, half in Panama and half in Costa Rica).

Photo of stevie vagabond with tourists on a bus in Panama
My messengers of hope.

Africans in Costa Rica

When I arrived at Frontera the next morning I cleared out of Panama and into Costa Rica. I found a hotel that allowed me to use what was sort of a mix between a storage room and a jail cell for a place to hang my hammock. The bars that made up the walls of my room were across from the doors of other rooms of another building just 3 feet away. One of these doors was open, and standing in the doorway was an extremely fit Cameroonian with the brightest of smiles, whom I quickly learned goes by the name Godlove.

photo of hotel azteca in Frontera, Costa Rica
Home for my time in Costa Rica
Photo of a hammock in a jail room in Costa Rica
My “room”
Photo of a Cameroonian in Costa Rica
Photo of a African in Costa Rica

There were many other Africans staying in the town, so many that I actually remember seeing more Africans than Costa Ricans. They told me that they were all refugees who have been making their way from South America to the United States without passports and very little money. They were stuck here waiting for the Nicaraguan border to open up, so that they could continue on. The stories they shared with me were so full of faith despite the incredible tests they were put through, such as hiking 15 days in the Darien Gap between Colombia and Panama with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

Photo of Stevie Vagabond with Africans in Costa Rica
My African brothers
Photo of Cameroonians representing their Cameroon National Team
Most of the guys I connected with were from Cameroon
Portrait of african refugee in Costa Rica by Stevie Vagabond
Nde (was raised Baha’i in Cameroon and so happy to meet me)
Photo of african refugees at Frontera Costa Rica
My neighbors outside my cell
Portrait of an African refugee smoking in Costa Rica

I was so humbled by their presence and gratefully had the opportunity to serve them by using my passport to receive money from their contacts back home, and pass it onto them for the remainder of their voyage. In return they shared their stories, food and coffee, and most importantly their radiant spirit with me. I will never forget the last night before their departure to the camp near the Nicaraguan border. They hung around the outside of my room, holding onto the bars, watching and listening to me play guitar for them. In my short time of performing for an audience this was my best one yet. Together we prayed and thanked God for this incredible opportunity to meet each other.

Family in Panama City

Three days after arriving in Frontera I was able to return to Panama, and more specifically Panama City. After a long 10 hour bus ride I was greeted by a young loving Baha’i family of four who welcomed me into their home. They gave me a room to myself with a bed, my own bathroom, food, and most importantly their love. Life was busy for them and I got to join right in, spending days playing with the two talented children and in the evenings I enjoyed long conversations with their two incredible parents. They became my family right away, and I was sad that they were soon leaving to visit their family in the United States. Amazingly they offered their home for me to stay at while they were gone, and while I wait for Romi to arrive.

Long lost siblings
Photo of Stevie Vagabond reading bedtime stories
Bedtime stories
Photo of a young boy playing with mom working in the background
Playing animals with my new little brother while mom gets some work done.
Portrait of a little girl smiling in Panama
How cute is she?
Photo of a family in Panama City, Panama
New family in Panama

Finally a time for Reflection

This is where I have remained since. My days mostly consist of walks through the community, which is engulfed in thick jungle forest with exotic birds zipping around chirping songs I have never heard before and other animals I never knew existed. The rest of the time is spent playing music, cooking, praying and meditating, and to me the most needed of all, reflection. After the incredible and chaotic experiences I have had these past two and a half months I now finally had the time for reflection, which in itself had its ups and downs.

Photo of the jungle forest of Panama and its reflection in the water Photo of an Agouti Paca in Panamaphoto of a spiky tree in panama Photo of the jungle in panama Photo of Clayton, Ciudad del Saber, Panama City Photo of a street in panama Photo of a flower and butterfly in panama Photo of a bird in panama Photo of a lizard in panama Photo of a swing set in panama Photo of a cat under a car in panama

Life is wonderful and amazing, its challenging and brutal, some days we want to laugh and other days we wanna cry. We all experience this in different ratios, but none of that has to do with our true happiness. At the time while I was sailing I struggled with being happy, because I was attached to certain aspects of my physical environment such as the instability of the Captain or lack of good weather. I know this sounds crazy to you as the reader, but maybe that in itself is a good example as to how outwardly things can appear one way, and inwardly they are another.

“Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” – Plato

As I sit here in reflection of the recent events I am reminded that none of the details matter. This life is fleeting so whether a moment is a good moment or a bad one it too shall pass. My goal however should forever remain to find happiness in every moment, whether it is in gratitude for the chance to strengthen my virtues through a test or tribulation, or in the joy of receiving a pleasurable gift such as the arrival of my beloved. I will remain happy.

“Should prosperity befall thee, rejoice not, and should abasement come upon thee, grieve not, for both shall pass away and be no more.” – Baha’u’llah

Photo of a yogi meditating in deep reflection


Do you make time for reflection?

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