Category Archives: Trips

Panama- The Crossroads of the Americas: Part 2

On August 5, our family set out to Volcan, our next destination in Panama. Volcan was a small town in the mountains, near the dormant volcano Volcan Baru. Although we were to stay in Volcan, we were going to do most of our activities in Boquete, a more developed city that was an hour away from Volcan. It was a 5 hour long car ride to Volcan, during which we stuffed our faces with ice cream, Oreos, Ritz crackers, and a bunch of other junk food.

As we were nearing our rental house, we had to navigate through the town of Volcan. It was quite difficult, as it was foggy and raining. To make matters worse, there seemed to be some horse celebration going on. The streets were crowded with horses and riders of all shapes, colors, and sizes. It was an amazing spectacle, but the horses made it really hard to drive.

When we finally burst out of the town, however, we faced yet another obstacle. By now it was dark out, and the steep mountain roads had many twists and turns. At one point, we got to a particularly sharp hairpin turn which left our mom trembling and scared out of her wits.

After a couple more scares, we reached the house, safe and sound. We rumbled up a long, grassy driveway, and finally came to the front porch. We were greeted by the barking of four dogs, as well as our host.

Once we had heaved all of our bags up the  curving stairs (the entrance to the rental section of the house was upstairs), Ariana and I got a chance to look around. The place was made almost entirely of wood, and it was absolutely beautiful. As soon as you entered the space, there was a bathroom door to your left, and beyond that, a kitchen. To your right was a dining table, some black leather reclining chairs, and a day bed. Just beyond the kitchen was a tight, winding spiral staircase (also wooden), which lead to a downstairs bedroom and bathroom. Next to the staircase was a sliding door, which lead out to a balcony. The entire space shared a grand round ceiling, which was held up by a support beam down the center.

Ariana and I were giddy with excitement. We just knew we were going to have a good time here.

 

Every day of the week we stayed in Volcan was amazing. On the first day, we visited a carpenter. He was amazing with wood, and demonstrated how he could write with his chisel. The speed and accuracy he could write with on the wood was better that mine on paper!  We were so impressed that we bought an owl he carved, which he signed before out eye. He also turned out to be a poet, so he recited some of his works for us.

On another day, we went on a hike. We walked by several ice-cold streams. At one point, we walked past a little farm, where a hen was crossing the trail with her fluffy little chicks.

One morning, we went horse-back riding. Our mom couldn’t make it, but Ariana and I went with our dad. We went to a farm called Finca Guardia. While there, I saw a giant ox carrying a load of sacks. It had a ring through its nose and everything! We also saw donkeys, cows, and a baby horse. There were even some Shepard dogs running around!

The animals weren’t being treated very well, though. There was some welding going on in the stables, and no one bothered to move the donkeys and horses away from the sparks. In addition, all of the animals appeared to have been branded with the same symbol. I tried not to let it distract me from the amazing ride, though.

Riding on a snowy horse I privately named Nieva (snow), we rode up the mountains. Some of the Shepard dogs trailed behind us. We rose higher and higher, until we were at the top of a large hill. I could see trees for miles around, and the sky was a bright blue. It was one of the best views I had seen so far.

We also went on Jansons’ coffee tour.  It was a really good tour. They explained the rich history of their farm, and the process of making the best coffee, which is grown at the perfect altitude. In fact, Panama is recognized for making the best coffee in the world! We got to look at the nurseries, and got to sample the coffee and tea. I’m not a coffee person, but even I could tell that the coffee was high quality. The tea was also very good.

Since we started planning our Boquete trip, one thing we decided we wanted to do was do zip lining. We hit quite a few bumps in the road, however. First, we couldn’t find a space. Then, when we finally found one, medical issues got in the way, and we had to reschedule. On that date, we got a flat tire. We finally went the next day.

Upon arriving at the tourism center in Boquete, Ariana and I were very excited. By the time the bus left for the mountains, we were practically screaming. Finally, we arrived at the zip lining center. We got strapped in, and were ready to go. Then, out of the blue, one of the guides pulled us aside. He measured us, and determined that we would not be able to zip line alone! We would have to be strapped to a guide.

I’m not going to lie, Ariana and I  were both really upset. But, all of my reservations were forgotten once I started rushing down the cord. It felt like flying! (Even though my guide was singing something in Spanish.) We did several cords, but I kept having to stop, since my guide needed to help other people along. It was fine, though. By the time we reached the zip lining center again, I was as happy as could be.

At the center. we watched a slide show of pictures, which were kind of funny. Luckily, we got to keep them! On our way out, the guides gave us a flash drive with the pictures on it.

(On the bus ride back, a guy decided the bus was going too slow, so he actually got up and jogged the rest of the way to the station!)

We went to some hot springs, too. We had a little trouble finding them, but it was completely worth it. The spring was owned by an older woman, who made us pay $5 to see the springs. I couldn’t help noticing that she had a lot of exotic pets. She had a horse, some ducks, and even a monkey walking around her property. The day we went was a really hot day, so we weren’t really keen to go into the near boiling spring. We tried it out anyway, though. When it got to be too much, we went to a nearby (5 minutes walk) river. It was really cool and refreshing, but we eventually got really cold. So, we moved back to the hot springs were we took a (sort-of) nap.

One of the main things I enjoyed about Boquete was the Spanish lessons we took there. We used a school called Spanish by the River. I have to say, our teacher was really good. She was funny, multilingual (Spanish, French, and English). We watched movies in Spanish, and learned the grammar for the simple future and past. Not only that, but Spanish by the River was outdoors. They had 9 chickens and two billy goats! There was even a relaxation area, where they provided hammocks, tea, coffee, and pastries. (There was a really good brownie/cookie with walnuts and caramel.) One lesson, the French director made us crepes, and put some locally grown oranges on top!

We even had fun when we were at home. Our host had 2 hectares of property, which she let her four dogs roam freely. I spent a lot of time snuggling with Loki, Zeus (who was disabled), Juno, and Tucker. Our host was also really nice. She gave us some of her home made Greek yogurt, which was very good.

Eventually, though we had to leave Boquete behind. After a week there, we left for Penonome, where we would spend the week at our grandma’s house. Her house has no AC, so it was sweltering. Even worse, the WiFi was incredibly slow. During that week, we mostly just worked on math. We did purchase hammocks for the house, though, so we chilled in those a bit. We even slept in them for the majority of the nights, as they were surprisingly comfortable.

Pretty much every night at our grandma’s house, we had a game night. We played Uno, Farkle, and Spanish Scrabble Dash. Our mom won every time, I always lost miserably.

(I also broke my glasses one night, which was a bummer, since those were the only pair I had brought with me. Luckily, we were able to super glue them back together for the remainder of the trip.)

One night (we were sleeping on the hammocks), my eyes were just drooping shut when Ariana shook me awake. She said she had seen a “weird boar rat creature” and was freaked out. She told me it had gone up a tree. Now, we were both very creeped out, but I managed to fall asleep. In the morning, Ariana told me that she had seen it go over to the mango tree and pick at on of the fallen, rotting mangoes. She also told me that she had had the strangest dream, where she had seen an “Armadillo Xing” sign. We also found that a critter had gone through our trash. Ariana looked up the traits of an armadillo, and sure enough, we had a match. The 9-banded Armadillo sometimes goes through trash, can climb, is nocturnal, and eats insects and fruit. Not only that, but it matched exactly what Ariana had seen! It appeared as if Ariana had known what it was all along.

One day, we decided to go to the beach. This wasn’t the first time we had gone, but it was one of the most memorable. For one thing, we got a sweet little tiki hut, which had hammocks and everything. Next to our hut was another family, who happened to have two adorable puppies, which we got to pet.

We also got a bit of a fright when we couldn’t find Ariana. In Panama, the waves are a lot higher and stronger, which means strong riptides. One of our favorite beach activities was getting washed up by the waves. But when Ariana went down to the beach to rinse her bathing suit, it took her an awfully long rime to come back. Our mom was scared that Ariana had been pulled out by a riptide! Luckily, we found her sitting back at the tiki hut, wondering where we were!

One of the most enjoyable days in Penonome was the day we visited El Valle. The road there had a lot of twists, but it wasn’t anything we couldn’t handle. Once we got there, we got a chance to look around the artisan market. People were selling all kinds of exotic fruits, but that isn’t what interested me the most. On the other side of the market, people were selling all kinds of crafts and jewelry. Some of the most common crafts were wooden animal carvings, paintings on bird feathers, and switchblades with carved clay handles. Ariana and I bought matching leather bracelets with our names on them. I wore the the one with Ariana’s name on it, and she wore the one with my name on it. That way, we said, we could always be together.

After the market, we decided to go on a bike ride around the town. We didn’t just ride any old bikes, however. Our family rented a four-person bike. It looked like two tandem bikes side by side, with a steering wheel and a little roof. We rode around for a bit, eating pastries we had purchased at a local panaderia. Finally, our dad decided that he would let Ariana and I drive for a little. It was actually really scary, because we were on a road with actual cars. It was really hard for me to drive in a straight line, especially with a ditch on the right and cars on the left. My parents (especially mom) were not happy. They didn’t think we were doing that bad, but they still got scared, especially when it began to rain.

Our dad quickly took over the wheel. As he drove, water collected in our roof, which we were now very grateful for. Soon enough, though, a bump in the road dumped the water all over us, and we were dripping wet. When we finally got back to our car, we had to wait out the rain before we could move on to our next activity: A hike up La India Dormida, or the Sleeping Indian, which was a nearby mountain. (Before we set off, we bought a bracelet at the market for Ariana’s friend.)

La India Dormida looks like the profile of a sleeping woman, complete with arms, hair, and a nose. You can read the legend behind why here. In order to climb the mountain, though, we needed to hire a guide. We drove with the guide to the mountain, where we began our journey.

It was a rather steep climb uphill, but it was completely worth it to see the beautiful waterfalls. Eventually, we reached the tip of La India’s nose. It was a beautiful view. We could the the entire town of El Valle spread in front of us, and a mountain vista behind. (Our mom scolded us when we leaned off the side of a cliff, however!)

 

As soon as our week in Penonome was over, we were off to Panama City. I was a little nervous about going there, because we were giving up our rental car (We got a new one for every section of our trip.) Instead, we were going to rely on taxis, uber, and other public transportation methods.

When we arrived at our new rental house, it was still around noon time, so I was awake enough to look around. We were staying in a condo-type space, which was attached to other cookie cutter condos down the street. Our space had no yard space whatsoever, but it had three bedrooms, along with WiFi and AC. We didn’t spend much time there throughout the week, though.

On our first day, we just looked around the city a bit. We found an old theater that was absolutely stunning. It had a high, circular ceiling, which depicted angels and flowers. A large crystal chandelier hung from the ceiling. The stage itself was very large. It was framed in “gold” carvings, similarly to the walls, which had balconies hanging off of them. A worker told us that the place was being refurbished, so there weren’t any shows going on. That was okay with me, though, because just seeing the theater was a treat.

Something else we had planned for Panama City was visiting the nature monument Barro Colorado. I learned a lot there. (I talk about my findings in Its a Jungle out There: An Exploration of Panama’s rainforests.) In this post, I just want to talk about the actual experience. The jungle itself was really beautiful, but a couple of things disappointed me. First of all, they had put concrete blocks in the ground to mark the trail. Also, aside from spiders, Ariana and I didn’t see all that much wildlife. Yes, we saw a toucan, some bats, leaf cutter ants, a frog, an agouti, and some tadpoles, but based on all the articles I read, I felt like I would see a little more. Something we really wanted to see were monkeys or sloths, but whenever our guide smelled them (yes, monkeys have a sweaty/fruity odor) she would yell “venga! Venga! Donde estas, chicos?” (Come, come! Where are you boys?) I’m pretty sure that scared any monkeys away.

Luckily, we got a chance to see some sloths at an urban park we went to. They were really slow, and barely moved, but they were really adorable. We learned why at Barro Colorado. Apparently, sloths live on a diet of leaves, with provide minimal energy. So, sloths hardly ever have enough energy to move a quickly as some other animals.

We got another glimpse of a sloth at another STRI sanctuary, but that wasn’t the main attraction. We got to look at some 5 year old sea turtles, and some nurse sharks. We also got to examine aquarium with all kinds of exotic fish in it There was even a place to look at frogs. Some of them were really brightly colored, like the neon green and black poison dart frog. Others blended in with the dirt and leaves. One frog I found to be particularly interesting was the crystal frog. The crystal frog is a transparent green. It is so transparent, in fact, that you can see its internal organs!

As I mentioned in a previous post, we visited the Biomuseo, too. It was recommended to us by a young woman who we met at Barro Colorado. The Biomuseo was colorful, and designed to symbolize the creation of Panama. We went on a wonderful journey, were we learned about how Panama rose from the ocean, and what affect the land bridge had on our world. One exhibit that really touched our mom was a virtual reality exhibit, where you were surrounded by screens and speakers that were trying to imitate the sights and sounds of a real rainforest. It was really beautiful and a special experience.

Something else I really enjoyed was watching traditional Panamanian dancing at La Tinajas restaurant. There was live music, which included an accordion, singer, and professional drummer (he treated us to a lengthy drum solo). They explained the different parts of a tradional Panamanian dancing dress. For example, they told us about how the skirt alone could cost up to 8000 dollars! Not only that, but the gold necklaces worn around the dancer’s necks were passed  down through generations, and were a symbol of family wealth. In another dance, two men wore diablico, or devil masks. Originally, these masks were used by the Spanish to scare the Panamanian natives into the Christian belief system, which most of Panama still follows today.

Of course, the dancers themselves were also amazing. They all seemed to enjoy themselves the whole time. The women performed complicated twists of their fan-like dresses, while the men moved their feet in an impressively rapid dance.

One of the last things we did was take a bike ride on the Causeway. Ariana and I wanted to rent a tandem bike, but unfortunately, such a bicycle was not available. Instead, we road regular bikes down the causway. It was a spectaclar view, and we got to see all of the boats drifting around in the water. There was some construction going on, though, and I acciedently got caught up in some netting!

The day after that, our family went to Panama Viejo, or Old Panama. It is the ruins of an old city. It was a short trip, but it was still interesting. We got to climb up an old bell tower and read about the history.

One thing I want to always remember about this trip was the times we talked with our 96-year-old paternal grandfather, Papi Homero. Before the trip, we had only met him once, but we talked with him three separate times during our visit this summer. First, we talked to him briefly at a funeral. While we were in Panama City, we had dinner with him at the mall. Ariana and I had Subway, our parents had sushi, and Papi Homero had a food from a Panamanian fast food chain. ( “He’s 98, he can eat whatever he wants,” said my dad.)

Papi Homero gave us a travel book. We leafed through it, and found it really interesting. On one page, there was a map. Without looking, Ariana and I pointed to destinations on the map, and said we were going to visit them some day in honor of Papi. I landed on several oceans before finally landing on Bolivia. Ariana landed on Lithuania. We also sang  “The Girl I Mean to Be” for him, and he sang a song for us, too.

We met for a second time at his apartment. The building was rather nice, but the elevator had just broken (it had fallen down from the 7th floor!) , so we had to take many flights of stairs up to the apartment. (This wasn’t very good for Papi’s health.)

Papi Homero had just moved in with his wife, so a lot of things were still boxed up. His wife, Lali, had four dogs. They were everywhere, and Papi Homero didn’t seem to like it. Luckily, Lali’s eight cats were kept in a seperate back room.

When we got a chance to see Papi Homero, he showed us pictures from his time as an ambassador, and some others of his time as governor of the providence of Panama. There was even pictures of him playing pool with one president, and standing with another! On every picture, he would point at each person, saying  “He’s dead. He’s dead. He’s dead. He got assassinated. He’s dead.”

At the end of our visit, we took a picture with Papi Homero, and hugged and kissed him good-bye. As we exited, I whispered “Te quiero mucho, I love you.”

These memories are precious ones that I will cherish forever.

 

 

Visiting Carlo’s Bakery

“Fess up, were are we going?” I asked my parents, somewhat irritably.  “Um, the place is on TV,” my dad responded, fidgeting with the edge of his shirt. I rolled my eyes in unison with my twin sister Daniela, who was sitting next to me in the backseat of our family Camry. “That sure clears it up” I muttered sarcastically. “Dad,” I said, raising my voice to it’s normal volume. ” Practically everything is on TV these days”. “True, true” my dad grunted vaguely. I eagerly waited for my father to continue, but he said no more. Sighing exasperatedly, my sister and I turned to watch the cityscape rushing past through the window…

Cookies at Carlo'sMy family was supposed to be going to New York City, but in mid-trip, our parents informed us that we would be taking a “Pit-stop”. Of course, like any typical kids, Daniela and I badgered our parents for any information about this mysterious “Pit-stop”, and like typical parents, they had managed to keep the location of the pit-stop a surprise. That is what drifted through my mind as I stared out the window, but my brain hardly processed any of it, as it was to busy admiring what I was seeing outside. A tall building was billowing large quantities of smoke, while smaller buildings blinked up at me in he sunlight, as if saying, “I might be small, but I can still do just as much as any big building”.

A good five or six minutes later, we had not yet reached our destination, and I was starting to feel anxious. I was longing for a hint, a clue, of were we might be going. “Girls,”my mother started. I snapped my head around to look at her. “Hmm?”. “Well, if you look at that sign coming up,” she gestured ahead of her, ” You might have an inkling about where we are going”. I gazed anxiously at the sign, but it was to far to read. Frustrated, I leaned forward a bit and strained my eyes, hoping to get a glimpse of the words that might tell where my mom and dad were intending to go…and finally, I could see the white block letters, the letters that spelled”Hoboken“.

Hoboken…TV…what was the connection? Come on, you can do this, I thought desperately. The answer was so close, I could feel it. Then, an idea came to me so quickly it was as if it had been right there in my brain the whole time: We were going to the famous Carlo’s Bakery. I glanced at my sister, wondering hazily if she had come to the same conclusion. Evidently, though, she hadn’t, because her eyebrows were scrunched up as if she were baffled and she was mumbling”Hoboken?” curiously under her breath. “We’re going to C-” ”I can figure it out by myself, thanks,” Daniela snapped, causing me to flinch.”Jeez, sorry” I snarled, utterly perplexed. ” I’ll leave you to think in peace,then,” and with that, I turned around rather fiercely to stare out the window.

One minute passed…( “Almost there!” my mom insisted.) Two minutes passed…( “Just around the corner!”). I sat straight up in my seat, completely  forgetting about the quarrel I had just  exchanged with my sister…we were bound to be pulling up any moment, yes, there it was; Carlo’s Bakery. Carlo’s Bake Shop was printed in gold, and sample cakes were decked out on the display case, looking picturesque. I gaped at the shop a few moments more, than climbed out of the Camry and onto the sidewalk. Behind me, Daniela looked completely stunned.”Wow,” she breathed. “Wow”. “Cool, right?” I grinned. All Daniela could manage to do was nod. Then, instantaneously, we both ran towards the building, only stopping when we reached the entrance. I reached out with a trembling hand to turn the door handle, but some thing made me hesitate… where were our parents? I turned to my sister. “Where are our p-?” ” Ariana, Daniela, wait up!” our parents called. Relief washed over me like a cool bath. They were right over there! Grinning sheepishly, I did what I had been intending to do before: Open the doors to Carlo’s Bakery.

Livid with excitement, I bounded into the shop, wanting a great deal to remember this experience, When I looked around, I noticed that the shop not only had cakes and cupcakes galore, but tons and tons of torts, tarts, and other things of the sort. It bit my lip and realized with a start that it would be nearly impossible to pick less than ten items, and I was sure my mother or father would never allow me to buy that many pastries. “Er…mom? Dad?” I piped. “What?” my mom replied, sounding curious.”I was, er, wondering how many, um, treats I can get?” I muttered all this very hastily.”Three each, so chose wisely.” I gulped heavily and began to scan the shelves for something that I found appealing. Almost at once, my eyes stopped on a sweet that was labeled “Mama’s favorite”. I strode over to Daniela to consult her about “Mama’s favorite”. “It’s a chocolate covered biscuit with some walnuts as a garnish. Or, at least I think it is, I’m no expert baker.” I told her out of the corner of my mouth. “Sounds good, but this looks better,” she shrugged, and just like that she dragged me over to another display case, and showed me something that made mouth water, much, much more than when I saw “Mama’s Favorite”.

Chocolate covered strawberries. The ripest, most succulent, strawberries I had ever seen. I gasped. “I know!” Daniela swooned, misty eyed. “We’re-we’re getting a least two of those,” I stammered. “Yeah,” she mumbled as if she Carlo's Mugwere in a trance. I swayed and fell hard on my bottom, which, admittedly, shook me back to my senses. “Right,”. I grabbed Daniela round the middle and brought her away from the strawberries.  “So, any other leads?” I prompted. “Whaa…? oh, yes,”. In turn, she dragged me over to the third and final display case. Daniela crouched down, and I shadowed her. ” How does this tort look?” Once I had her thoroughly convinced that the tort looked wonderful, we reported back to my mom with our preferred pastries. “Is that all ?” the cashier asked cheerfully after we had told her everything we wanted. “I think so!” our mother replied with the same cheerfulness. The cashier turned on her heel and began to box our items as I watched over the counter, smiling with glee. In just a few moments, I would be carrying a box branded Carlo’s Bakery, and I would be curiously trying to guess which pastry was within. And soon enough , that was exactly what was happening, and then in what seemed like an instant I was sitting in the back of the Camry, waving a wistful goodbye to Carlo’s bakery as it disappeared into the distance.

 

 

Sailing to Liberty

DSCN1762Sharp winds whipped at my hair while violent waves struck the side of the ferry. Daniela was facing the opposite direction, admiring the skyline. I was equally dazzled, but more interested in surveying the scene before us: the minuscule outline of the honorable Statue of Liberty. My entire family, just out of a leisurely tour of Ellis Island, were eagerly awaiting the nextwatch full movie The Boss Baby online

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attraction. “Mommy!” I  giddily pointed into the distance. “We’re nearly there!”. She grinned. “Daniela Bean, take a look!”. My twin tore her eyes away from the New York cityscape and rushed over, our dad directly behind her. We huddled around the ferry’s railing, as it rumbled ever closer to the monument.Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

The ferry screeched up to the dock, and the doors gave a shrill whistle as they slid open. “The Statue of Liberty” a cool female voice chimed over the intercom. A stampede of tourists bustled out of the exit, my family included. Stomachs and knees surrounded me. I grasped my mom’s hand in a death grip, terrified I would lose her, Daniela and Daddy in the crowd. But when statue came into view , all emotion apart from awe was lost. The immense structure towered higher than I could have ever imagined. Standing where I was, I could just barely make out her facial features, but it wasn’t necessary. It was obvious to me that  the monument was built to be extremely impressive. I, for one, was mesmerized. Next to me, Daniela’s mouth was gaping open. But, I can’t exactly say that mine wasn’t.

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Whitesbog Village

 blue sky grass cranberries

I restlessly fidgeted with the bottom of  my shirt and rearranged the food on my dinner plate. My body was tingling with excitement; tomorrow I was going on a field trip  to Whitesbog Village, a cranberry bog, witch happened to produce a great quantity  of cranberries for Ocean Spray! As I snuggled up in bed, the last thought that ran through my head was how much fun I was going to have the next day.

 

I woke up to a soft tickling of air in my ear.”Rise and shine,” my dad breathed. I sat bolt upright, and my heavy eyelids snapped open. I leaped from my bed, eager to get to the day that lay ahead. As I tossed on an outfit (An orange baseball cap,orange t-shirt,red fleece, worn jeans, and red converse,)I noticed my twin sister Ariana-who was just as excited as I was- jamming on her own outfit.”Race ya!” I hollered to Ariana, bolting down the steps to the kitchen. I finished off the last of my corn flakes just as Ariana came thundering down he stairs. I was one step ahead of her. I slipped on my book bag and zipped out the door. Ariana joined me just as the school bus pulled up to our house. We sprinted down the drive way and hurtled ourselves into the bus.

As we pulled up to school, it dawned on me to keep my eyes peeled for my mom, as she was a chaperone for this field trip. I bounced up and down in my seat, squealing with delight and anticipation. I bounded out of the bus, but slowed to a walk as I approached the school because of course there is”No running in the hallways.” I met up with two of my schoolmates in the hallway and asked for their opinions on the field trip. They where just as excited as I was. I mean, what kid wouldn’t trade a normal school day for an educational and fun field trip to a cranberry bog?(Emphasis on educational.)Me, I love school, but it’s the same schedule every day, so some change was exciting, especially if it meant going to new places and leaning new things.

As I just mentioned, kids love field trips, so the teacher had trouble rounding us kids up. As we finally got herded into the bus, I spotted my mom. She waved me over, and I sat in the middle seat (she was in a three seater)while she sat a the window seat. Then another chaperone sat on the seat closest to the isle, so I spent the entire 30 minute trip sandwiched in between two moms. Every couple of minutes I would groan”Are we there yet?” until the answer was finally yes.

The moment I stepped onto the bog soil a thrill rippled through my body. My group(consisting of  two fourth grade classes,)trudged around the “wet harvest”bog to cranberry workersstudy a new type of cranberry picker called a “floating picker.” The way the floating picker worked was that underneath the picker’s boat like structure, there was a comb that ran through  the cranberry vines, which of course bore cranberries. When the comb loosened the cranberries, they floated to the top of the bog, creating a beautiful scene with different shades of reds and pinks floating into sight, melding together into a sea of crimson. The floating picker had recently been updated to feature a GPS, witch seemed to be very helpful to the farmer, as it tracked where the picker had already been. I drank in every detail of how he bog ran.

Our next stop was to see how the floating cranberries got transported to land. First,some workers waded into the water, where there was a bunch of cranberries floating in one group held together by a yellow tube called a boom. Then the men pushed the cranberries into a suction tube that transported the cranberries onto a conveyer belt . The conveyer belt then loaded the cranberries onto a truck that hauled them away to an storage facility.

I hopped back onto the bus is good spirits, anxious for more. The bus pulled up to the  village neighboring the  bog, called Whitesbog Village.”How did this pace get a name like that?” I wondered aloud.”You’re about to find out,”a  cheery guide replied with a wink. A chilly wind whipped through my hair, and I shivered. The guide, on the other hand, seemed perfectly unfazed. I soon found out why. As my group entered a shack, where we were apparently going to learn the bog’s history, we were greeted by a graft of freezing air. No wonder a little breeze didn’t bother the guide; it was like a refrigerator in the shack! I trudged up the isle and plopped down in a folding chair next to one of my classmates in the front row.

We started the presentation with a play. Select kids were called up at different points to play the growing number of parts. The show started with a Lenape woman standing with  a basket which supposedly held fresh picked cranberries, because the land of Whitesbog Village had originally belonged to the Lenape people. Shortly after, a farmer called James cranberry stalkA.  Fenwick bought the property. By the 1860’s, Fenwick had succeeded in cultivating the property for cranberry growth. Once business started, barrels of cranberries cost $10 each.  In 1882, Fenwick passed, and his son in law Joseph J. White took over, along with his wife, Mary White. Joseph’s daughter, Elizabeth Coleman White, often assisted him in his work. Eventually, Elizabeth took an interest in blueberry farming and worked with scientist Dr. Fredrick Coville to cultivate blueberries as well as cranberries.She succeeded in 1916, and blueberries went for sale in Whitesbog. After a while, the Whites hired workers to help dry harvest and wet harvest the cranberries and blueberries. But there was a catch. There was nowhere for the workers to stay overnight! And so Whitesbog village was created,and it was a big help, even if four families of workers had to live in the same house. Of course, that is how Whitesbog Village got it’s name; the Whites owned a bog, and there was a Village for he bog workers.

At one  point in the play(In the period of time when the Village was being made, )one of my friends got called up to play a building. I hesitantly waved to her, and in response the corners of her mouth twitched as she made a steeple above her with her hands. I grinned a toothy grin at her just as the play was coming to an end. A sigh of relief seemed to make it’s way around the room, but I didn’t join in. Instead, I made a peace sign above my head, a symbol of respect at my school. The teacher clapped her hands, and the roar of voices that had begun to spread like fungi died down.

Everyone was looking forward to leaving the chilly shack, but the production wasn’t over yet. Just as everyone had gathered up their things, I got wind of the fact that we were going to watch a slide show, and from there the news just spread. The slide show was short, so I only learned the following: Cranberries used to be known as crane-berries; as in the bird, that at one point in Whitesbog history the berries were hand sorted and picked; one by one, the rooms were cranberries were held had holes in the slates so natural air could get to them,and that there are two methods of cranberry harvest; dry harvest and wet harvest. Soon enough however the tour guide was clapping her hands, and we were finally permitted to leave the dark, damp, and dingy room.

I breathed in deeply, elated to be back in the sun. As I took in my surroundings, a grin spread across my face. “Time for lunch!”someone in the distance hollered. My stomach rumbled as if on cue. The whole grade filed into a convenience store to wash up and collect our lunches. As soon as I finished washing, I ran to collect my lunch. Once that was done, I bolted outside to the orchard type place where I was to be dining. I dropped heavily onto he first wooden picnic table I saw and started to devour my lunch; a sandwich, a juice, a chewy granola bar, and-yum- two chocolate covered pretzels! When I fianally glanced up from my food, I discovered that I had plopped down at a table with four boys and no girls to speak of! Just as I was about to mentioned this, my mom scooted in next to me. So much for there being no girls.  As I scouted around to find Ariana, my gaze landed on one of those board thingy’s where you can sick you’re head into a hole and fill in a persons head or such. This board had holes over a blueberry, a woman, and for some reason the Jersey Devil.damp cranberries2

One of the boys followed my gaze and yelled for the whole world to hear,”Hey, why is there a Jersey Devil on that board?” Soon every head in the whole orchard was turned in our direction. I, for my part, tried to keep my face from going scarlet. Instead, all of a sudden feet began to pound the hardened ground toward the board. I tried not to join the stampede, but I couldn’t help it. Even my mom couldn’t resist that seemingly magnetic pull to her sense of adventure.

From there, all chaos seemed to unravel. There was screaming, yelling, pushing, and shoving, all to strike a pose, flash a light, and have a snapshot of the moment. Finally, when half the kids were blinded  by he flash of their own picture, the pandemonium died down. As we lined up there was more than a smattering of sheepish grins. I skipped along, wondering were the next and final pit-stop of our journey was going to take us.

When we filed up to the dry harvest bog, a thought accured to me. We were going to pick cranberries! As excited as I was, I knew not to get my hopes up. A voice shattered my thought like a rock shatters a window. “As you may have guessed, we are going yo let you kiddos give dry harvest a try!” There was a shower of cheers, the loudest one coming from me. “But first, I have to show you how it’s done.” The thought of waiting diminished the cheers like water diminishing a flame. Waiting aside, I still watched the process intently. “Pull the cranberries off the vine carefully, so you don’t squish the cranberry. It is perfectly fine to pick a white cranberry; that means that is just needs to ripen before being eaten. Those are all very important things to remember, but the key factor, kiddos, is to not pick mushy cranberries. The ones you want are the hard ones. If their soft, it means they are rotten, and who wants a rotten cranberry?” There was a sprinkling of joking “me”s. “Anyhow,” the guide shouted,”who wants to get started?” She was answered by a deafening cheer.

I searched through the dozens of feet to find the perfect berry. I soon learned that there cranberry dry harvestwas no such thing. Even after 10 minutes of searching, the closest berry to perfect had white all along one side. I soon found a”honeyhole” of hard cranberries. The catch was that if you did find a honeyhole, the cranberries in it would soon run out, and I would have to set out once more to find another honeyhole. This would be no big deal, except right smack in the middle of the bog there was a stream, so every time I traveled to place to place I would have to leap  over the stream, and as I had to slow down when I did so, it was an extreme waste of time. All in all, though, it was an amazing experience

As we loaded back onto he bus it was all I could do not to wave goodbye to the bog. I strapped on my seatbelt and stared into the distance at the bog until it was just a speck in the distance.