Getting to know a new way of life: our visit at the Nasos‘ in Bongie

During the last three days in Panama we visited a Naso village and had the opportunity to get to know a new kind of life. A life that is ruled by a king and a life which is simpler than ours. So many new experiences!

Bongie is a Naso village located close to Bocas del Toro and the river Teribe. The Nasos are a big native tribe, who have had to fight for a long time to get accepted by the Panamanian government. Now that they are accepted, they are ruled by a king and are divided in many tribes.

Bongie is one of these tribes consisting of 50 members living in this village. Bongie is kept very simple like many other villages: there is no warm water, no ovens, no real washing machine or refrigerator, even the windows are missing. But even in this village you can see the global evolution. Many of the houses located in this village have a TV, and a few of the Naso tribe members even have a smartphone.

Our way to the Nasos led through Selencium, a small village about 20 minutes away from Bongie. At Bongie we were friendly greeted by the Nasos and divided into groups of two to three. Everyone of us was assorted into a family, where we stayed the three days. Sadly, the Naso families did not talk a lot and did not do so much with us, but Raul, the leader of this Naso tribe, organized our program and our meals and spent a lot of time with us.

The first day started at 7 o´clock with a breakfast and then with an adventure tour up the river Teribe to a neighbor village. We divided into seven groups, every group was accompanied by two Nasos, who drove us with their dugout (“Einbaum”) to the neighbor village.

It took us about two hours to go up the stream, as there was a big swell that made it quite adventurous. The neighbor village was an even smaller village with only five huts and about ten people living there and we got a tour through this village. Furthermore, they showed us their cacao plantation and even the way of production, from the plant to 100% of cacao chocolate. After we had lunch, we had a small introduction to the production of rice and then went back to our home village. Interestingly, it only took us only 20 minutes because we experienced the advantage to travel downstream. On our way back I even had the opportunity to take over the responsibility of steering of one of the dugouts and drove down the stream. It was an amazing opportunity to have such a big chance.

Back at our village Bongie we made our own sweet drink out of some orange juice and the juice of sugar cane. To get this sugar cane we put it under a simple press where we took advantage of a lever. It also tasted very good just sucking on it. Soooo sweet!

On our second and also our last day, we made a small trip across the river Teribe to a national park, where we divided into two groups to explore the jungle. We saw different types of frogs, one was completely red and the other was black and had some green stripes. Both of them were very poisonous. Additionally, we got information about the rain forest and the living plants and animals there. It was so amazing to see and hear how many different species live in such a small area. So many different trees and animals!

Now it was match day, Nasos against KUSis. Every year, the Nasos have won the football match. Thats why we all wanted to win, at first the boys started, but however after about 20 minutes we realized how good they were, and in the end they were the stronger team. Although they were better than us, we tried our best and had a lot of fun. After dinner we then celebrated our farewell and had a nice last night in Panama.

The Nasos have a lot of traditions and their own way of life, it was interesting to see the major difference between living in a city compared to living in such a small village with their old traditions. It is sad seeing how more and more traditions are getting forgotten. They were all friendly and tried to fulfill all our wishes, like allowing me to steer one of their dugouts.

I wish we would have had more time to see how they live, to understand their tradition and to have fun with them exploring the jungle. All in all, it was an amazing experience seeing such a different way of living!