BootsnAll Travel Network

Mountain Journey: Part Four: I Become A World Citizen

This is final part of a series of four.

I woke up this morning having decided to do something which many people may consider impossible-I´ve decided to help to the communities of Cerro Limon, and the adjoining community, Cerro Iglesias, build a bridge.

All night long, I kept waking up, thinking about the people that had died trying to cross that makeshirt bridge I had heard about. I kept thinking about the kids trying to get to to school and falling off the bridge into the river.

I knew that the first thing on the agenda today was to take a hike to the current site of the makeshift bridge to see if what I had heard was true-if it really was as dangerous as they had told me the night before. I set out with some peanut butter(the cockroaches ate my crackers at night) and a few liters of bean-water with my ayudante, and a man from the community of Cerro Iglesias met us along the way.

The path itself was pretty easy, until we got close to the river, where it was so treacherous that I went very, very slowly. When I turned the corner, and saw the log that they were using to cross the river, I was really shocked.

It was just a thin piece of a tree trunk-a large tree trunk, and it was about 50 feet long. Someone had added some supports with sugar cane, but that was it. Below, were some of the fastest rapids I had seen, as well as alot of boulders and rocks. After the rapids was a huge pool, very deep, and this is where they often found people who had fallen and then drowned. If it were not a place of so much tragedy, I would have said it was one of the most beautiful natural wonders of the area.

We sat down to survey the scene, and watched silently as the people of Cerro Iglesias came down their side of the mountain to cross the bridge to the Cerro Limon side.

One woman walked across with a bay on her back and a small toddler. It was a frightening scene to watch. Once she crossed, she told us that she did not cross often, only when she had too. She said many people die in Cerro Iglesias because they cannot walk across to get to help when they are sick, to travel to the clinic or the hospital. Many mothers are afraid to let their children cross the river and so do not let them go to school. Small children must walk to school by themselves-as young as 5 years old-and often fall into the river, with no one around to help them.

I felt just terrible. Just hearing these stories-and seeing the makeshift bridge made me feel sick.

I asked to see the location of where they wanted a new bridge-and we walked over the hill to see it. It was perfect, with good level walking paths on either side. I could definitely picture a small suspension bridge here.

I decided in that moment, that this is a solvable problem, and that I can help come up with a reasonable solution-as well as the funding.

Medo, the organization I have been working with, is currently filing paperwork for official non profit status in Panama. This will make a tremendous difference in how-and how much-grant money Medo can recieve for projects. I´ve decided to make the bridge between Cerro Limon and Cerro Iglesias my pet project, and write grants, find the volunteers, and so on to make this project happen.

You might be asking, well, why don´t you just ask the government of Panama to built the bridge? It´s their country.

What you might not realize-and even if you think you realize it, you don´t really, until you actually experience it up close and personal-is that governments in other countries(and, in your own!) don´t always help all of their citizens in the best way possible. In fact, since the start of this trip, one thing I´ve noticed in myself is that I don´t really divide the world up into convienient catagories anymore-we call them countries, but it´s really just a way of categorizing people and places-so that I don´t have to be responsible for things not directly in my backyard.

I´ve come to see my responsibility as being so much more than helping my family of neighbors, working at a local food pantry, writing a letter to the editor of my local paper, or even voting for president. My responsibility is bigger.

I have the power, the resources, the capability, to help everyone that I come into contact with-and even people that I never will. I can do this in intangible, subtle ways in my daily life-and I can do it in enormous, change- a- community- in- a -day ways, like by raising the money to build a bridge in the middle of Panama so that kids can go to school and people have access to healthcare.

I went back to the finca with a spring in my step, and told the family that I thought the bridge project was something we could work on. It will take time-maybe even a year of two, but I thought it could be done. I met a church group here who had several engineers, and they were interested in a project in the mountains, so I thought they might be able to help with some of the project-possibly some fundraising as well. Everyone was excited and happy as well. They understand it may take time, but there´s some hopefulness in the air.

I realized that I´ve become a citizen of the world.

We ate some plantains, drank some cacao, and started the long walk home.



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