It’s hard to believe we are heading into our third month of living here in Bocas del Toro. As a group, we have settled into our daily routines and are always looking forward to new adventures. Our sense of community between the students and staff strengthens each day as we learn more about one another. Although we thoroughly enjoy getting to know each other here at the center, some of the highlights of our study abroad experience thus far have been from interacting with the local communities of the Bocas Archipelago.

We have been fortunate to have the opportunity to visit several communities throughout the semester to learn about their culture and traditions, and also to learn about the impact of tourism in these areas. Recently, we were welcomed into the community of Bahía Roja. After enjoying a delicious lunch consisting of chicken, rice, and beans, we spoke with Christina, the leader of the community, to learn more about how this group was founded. Then, Christina’s mother gave a demonstration on how to make Johnny Cakes, a special type of bread made with coconut milk. We were thrilled to learn how to cook these Panamanian favorites as they have become a staple food at the SFS center as well.

Before heading home, several of the students and staff played soccer against a group of kids from Bahía Roja and our own boat drivers, Totito and Edward. Being a soccer player myself, there is no doubt this will be one of my favorite memories from Panama. By the end of the match, everyone was covered in mud but had huge smiles on their faces. Through our visits to groups like Bahía Roja, we can step outside our own SFS community to see all that local communities have to offer.

→ Tropical Island Biodiversity Studies in Panama