It was one of my favorite nights of the entire Central America trip; sailing the San Blas Islands on Kokomo with our hosts Denny & Becky. On our last night, we went ashore to one of the Kuna family islands (Nuinudup) to grill out with another family of cruisers. In the San Blas, indigenous Kuna families live on many of the 360+ islands and the family living on Nuinudup was known to be friendly to cruisers. As Denny, Shannon and I took a walk around the tiny island to see the huts where the family lived, one of the women motioned eagerly to my camera. Due to the language barrier, we didn’t understand what she wanted until she ran into one of the huts and returned with an old, worn family photograph that was clearly a cherished possession. We managed to decipher that she wanted me to take their pictures so they could see the image on my camera’s digital display. Obviously, the Kuna don’t get the opportunity to see images of themselves very often so this was a big deal.
When I eagerly nodded my agreement, the women sprinted into the huts to put on their Sunday best for photos. It was unbelievable; they came out pulling traditional tops on over their heads as they ran. They gathered the family in various groups for photos: mother and daughter, younger kids, older kids, sisters, daughter with her doll, etc. Then we did individual shots of each person. Each time I took 3-4 photos and then they rushed over to me to view them on my camera. The smiles of wonder that lit up their faces as I scrolled through the photos made my heart soar. Especially the youngest children who I suspect had never seen an image of themselves. There were multiple wardrobe changes and it was a whirlwind of excited activity. I was so thrilled to have made them so happy but I would have given a million dollars for access to a printer to print them all out on the spot. Denny promised to try to get some of them printed to bring back but I worried that he wouldn’t be able to, photo printers aren’t exactly common in the San Blas.
For days after we left I thought about that family and whether Denny was able to get them the printed photos. I’m happy to report that I checked their blog a few days ago and Denny was indeed able to print several of the photos and take them back to the island! He said that the family was absolutely overjoyed and it warms my heart to know my photos are probably displayed prominently around those huts as we speak. It’s the kind of feeling that makes travel immensely meaningful to me and just another reason why I never tire of the journey.