Local. Healthy. Delicious.

Comñ Grom (pronounced kɔjn mo-row) “Healthy Food” spoken in Ngobere. These are two words of my limited vocabulary of indigenous dialect that I have been trying to understand for the past year. I can ask for salt, “Mner,” or a rooster,” Cui”, but beyond greetings and a couple of nouns, I have a long ways to go before I’ll ever be able to communicate.

Comñ Grom is the name that my neighbor and I came up with for the delicious creations that we have been making with ingredients from our organic farm and food forest.

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With our focus in fermented and probiotic rich foods, the MayaPoint kitchen has been looking more the like laboratory of a mad scientist lately. Our core values of the project are personal, environmental, and social health, so what better way to uphold these values during harvest time than to get the word (and the flavors) out into the community of Bocas del Toro region.

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We started small scale, just taking chocolates to Isla Colon once a week where the local grocery and deli has Organic Fridays. It was always fun to set up our table and chat with tourists and locals about the MayaPoint Project.

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Then later this summer the Bocas Brewery started holding a farmer’s market every other Saturday on their back patio next to the Caribbean Sea.

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Our first market was so much fun! We got to meet so many amazing neighbors from the area and share the amazing work that we are doing at MayaPoint.

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Our products have included cacao nibs,

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chocolate sauce,

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sauerkraut,

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fermented Noni juice,

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solar-dehydrated mangos,

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sweet&spicy ginger garlic salsa, super spicy salsa,

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tropical fruit jams,

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superfood chia chocolates, medicinal tinctures, coconut oil, vegan coconut bread, raw brownies, and wasabi paste. The list of goodies in constantly evolving and depends on what’s fresh and in season!

I was surprised that out of all our products, the Noni juice was such a big hit. It’s so great to know that the health foods are getting out there in the community. And, of course, to share all of our yummy recipes with the world. The market will definitely continue to be an focal point of our efforts at MP to keep us connected with our community and to fund some of our greater projects on the island. We will be out of town for the next few farmer’s markets, and we promise to announce beforehand when we’ll be back at our market stand here on our WordPress and on our Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/themayapointproject

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Experimental Cultivation of the Tropical Oyster Mushroom

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The tropical oyster mushroom is one of the most prolific species of fungi we are blessed with on the island they they provide an excellent source of protein, vitamins, and minerals as well as having strong medicinal components that have been shown to balance cholesterol, inhibit the growth of tumors, and inhibit HIV infected cells. They are an aggressive species that can grow on a variety of substrates (Mushroom Food Source) including straw, coffee grounds, numerous varieties of wood, hair, and the most applicable for our community, the pods of cacao. Caring for a multitude of cacao trees, we are blessed with an abundant fungal food source and we can use this “waste” source to produce food for the community after the delicious beans have been extracted. The leftover substrate can also be used as a compost or mulch material giving these mushrooms a multifunctional role in our ecosystem.

The method of cultivation we have chosen is the spore slurry which is essentially a mass of germinated spores in liquid. We chose this method  to experiment with because it is one of the easiest and low tech cultivation techniques requiring no sterile equipment making it very applicable for developing areas such as Panama. A spore slurry only requires five components to make: a five gallon bucket, non chlorinated water, table salt, sugar/molasses, and mature mushrooms of the desired species.

First, fill the bucket with non chlorinated water. Chlorine can kill mushroom spores. Tap water containing chlorine can be left out for 24 hours to off-gas.

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Second, mix in fifty milliliters of sugar. It is recommended to use molasses but we use raw cane sugar and add it to hot water so it mixes well with the water.

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Second, add two teaspoons of salt. Salt will help inhibit the growth of molds in the slurry.

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Fourth, add the mature mushrooms.

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Leave the mushrooms in the slurry for 4-8 hours. In this time the mushrooms will drop thousands of spores into the liquid.

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Cover the bucket with cloth and let is sit out of direct sunlight for about two days. In this time, the mushroom spores will germinate in the presence of the sugar. When its ready, the surface of the slurry will appear shiny.

Instead of culturing a specific genetic to cultivate the spore slurry acts as a shotgun, shooting thousands of spores with different genetics onto the mushroom bed in the hopes that one will be the perfect fit for the niche we have created.

The next step is to prepare the mushroom bed:

First we dig a swale on a slope. Swales are essentially ditches with mounds on one side dug on a line of contour. The swale works to catch water running down the hillside and store it so the mushroom bed will maintain proper moisture and humidity levels.

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Next we layer in the cacao pods as the substrate into the swale.

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At this point the spore slurry is poured into the swale inoculating the cacao pods.

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The last step is too add a mulch layer over the cacao pods in order to help retain water in the bed and protect the mycelium (Mushroom Roots) direct sunlight.

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At this point the only maintenance required for the mushroom bed is to water it occasionally to prevent the mycelium from drying out but due to our abundant rain this is not a necessary step. We are unsure of exactly how long it will be until the mushroom bed is fully colonized and producing mushrooms as this is a very experimental project in its early stages. Still we are confident that these methods will succeed and be able to be spread to surrounding communities.

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As we are in the experiment stage we are trying out different types of mushroom beds to develop the perfect composition of food for the mushrooms we are cultivating. The first was composed of cacao pods, coffee grounds, and coconut husks as a mulch layer. The second was simply cacao pods with leaves as a mulch layer. The third was comprised of whole black pods harvested from the trees with leaves as a mulch layer. All the beds are in Swales and inoculated with spore slurries.

For updates on this project check out future blog posts.

Much Love,

The Maya Point Family

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(Written by Raskal Jack Turbeville, Maya Point Mycology Program Director)

 

 

 

From Emergency to Miracle… The Healing Power of Community Support

Those who have followed the story of MayaPoint are familiar with our beloved neighbor, Fabian. As volunteers come and go from the island this fourteen year old boy and his family have opened their hearts and their home to make us feel welcome and share the magic that is their island community.

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Last week he and his brothers were teaching the volunteers how to maneuver their dugout boats, a feat far more difficult than any modern kayak. I chatted with his grandmother Cecilia about her grandchildren, and she commented to me that he is the “funny one” out of all the 20 or more of them. It is still hard to believe that just three weeks ago Fabian was in the hospital… paralyzed.

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As the adventure guide he naturally is, Fabian went out for an afternoon hike around Isla Pastor. Playing Tarzan, he was swinging from a vine that hung down from the jungle canopy some 40-50 feet above the ground. When Fabian took his last turn the vine snapped, sending him through the air and landing in a seated position. He was instantly paralyzed from the trauma to his hips. His friend hoisted him up and carried Fabian over his shoulders all the way back to Grandma Cecilia’s house on the other side of our tiny island.

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He was rushed to Almirante hospital, where they told his family there was nothing they could do for the boy, so he was transported by ambulance to the next larger hospital in Changuinola. Back at MayaPoint, everyone was praying for our friend, after last seeing his limp body being loaded onto a boat as he slipped in and out of consciousness.

“You can’t let the body win.” Those are Fabian’s exact words (translated from Spanish)  reflecting his thoughts that first day in the hospital. There was no way that a doctor was going to tell him that he can’t walk anymore. After less than two days of being paralyzed, Fabian was rejecting a disabled future for himself. No matter how much it hurt him, he forced his body into a sitting position in the pediatric hospital. Miraculously, and to many doctors’ surprise, he was standing the following day, and then taking a few steps the next day.

“I was bored. I didn’t know if it was day or night. It was cold in there.” Nobody likes the hospital. Especially a kid who spends almost all of his time in nature. All Fabian wanted was to be back on the island with his family and friends.

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After almost a week in recuperation a small group of us paid him a visit. The nurses only allowed one of us at a time, since we were breaking the visiting hour rules. He was surprised to see me standing at his bedside for sure. It was a only a couple of minutes before they sent me out and let Daniel go in. He was kicked out almost immediately when he started to play his guitar and sing to our friend with healing power. It was worth the trip, even if it were only a moment.

We all said goodbye to his mother, Esmeralda and headed to the bus station. No longer did our bus start back toward Almirante and we got a call from Esmeralda. Fabian was so empowered by the hugs and smiles from his friends, that he told the doctor that he was fine. It was time to go home.

Now Fabian is back to normal, even better. Our friendship with him and his family has grown deeper with the support that we offered each other in the time of hardship. He and his two teenage brothers hang out with us almost everyday. They really feel like part of the family, joining us for meals and adventures. Possibly the most beautiful change of all is that the whole family who wasn’t accustomed to giving hugs has opened up to the way we show love. We greet each other with a hug everyday… and every time that I hug Fabian I remember that it was a hug that gave him that last push to get our of his hospital bed for good.

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We are graciously asking for a donation of any amount to help Fabian’s family recuperate financially from the unexpected challenge that they all faced. Donations will go directly to pay for hospital and transportation costs, as well as educational support to get Fabian back on track after missing important time in school.

With love and gratitude.

Strengthening community through service, direct action, and gratitude.

We are blessed to be here.

We are strong.

We are integrating.

We are thankful.

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        We are blessed to be part of the incredible community and local area of this part of our World.  As this project grows, develops, branches out, and roots deep into the local community, we are amazed at the depth of feeling and experience being created.  Through our service projects and goals aimed at aiding in the renewal and advancement of quality of life in the Northeast Panamanian Caribbean, we have as individuals and collective been helped, inspired, humbled, and strengthened.

        The area we are working in is suffering with many systemic issues regarding food security, access to education, economic viability and environmental degradation. These are global issues, and as a world we are awakening to the solutions, one person, one project, one community at a time.

        We have learned that when working with communities, it is incredibly important to not impose our ideas of what the solutions are, or what we think they should do. This abrupt and external method of project application can lead to a disconnect between what the community truly wants and needs, and the outside ideas of how to better their lives. This can lead to misapplications of appropriate technology and lack of trust and support from the local community.  What we must do is listen.  When we first listen to the direct needs of the community and work alongside them, sharing our energy, voices, honesty, humility, and strength, we grow together, aiding in the collaborative progression of collective health.

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        This has been the intention and awareness we have brought into our weekly service projects which we have been blessed to create and unfold.

        Our first project was a collaborative effort with one of our community members who is a caretaker of a property adjacent to ours.  Franko is a genuine, compassionate, and dedicated man, who has taught us many needed lessons in sensitivity, privilege, and the systemic educational and economic confines that restrict intelligent and proud people.  Franko communicated that he needed a kitchen, as he uses a cook-fire with no roof and when the rains come (which are incredibly frequent here in the humid tropics) he is not able to cook and eat.  His caretaker’s home was also in need of a new coat of paint.

        We were humbled that these needs were addressed and asked of, and grateful for our ability to help in the meeting of them.  We organized what materials we needed, made plans and simple but effective designs, and took a trip to our neighbors home.

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         The preliminary steps were taken to complete a simple and low energy intensive evolution of the living quarters of our dear friend.  With the cooperation, teamwork, and connection between all of the individuals creating one team working and learning together.

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         Beyond the physical work completed, we shared an emotional and humbling experience while helping and learning with our friend Franko. He taught us many things from how to transplant and harvest sugar cane, to jungle bug repellant strategies and useful plant identification. We are blessed to give and receive and further strengthen resilience in this area while cultivating meaningful connections and lasting friendships.

         The next week we had the opportunity to create a communal space at one of our dear friend and Omar’s house. Omar is a strong, sincere, compassionate man who works with us on our farm and projects, and he and his family are very well a large aspect of ours.

         Omar hosts family gatherings and services at his home on the island, and communicated that a meeting space and communal living area would benefit multiple aspects of family and community life. We were excited to collaborate. With our amazing group of volunteers and community members, we listened to Omar’s vision of the creation of a third space at his home (third-spaces and communal gathering areas being a very needed addition to civic and community life) and got to work. We leveled ground, hauled gravel, hacked through rock and stone, created large benches from recycled materials and scrap wood on the island, smiled and laughed.

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        The act of service, fostered by a deep sense of compassion and not to improve status or gain a hidden agenda, is a priceless and healing act on both sides of giving and receiving. We were touched and honored to be able to help, and we learned many aspects of ourselves, our ability to both give and receive, and the awareness that we are all human, we are all deserved of service and receiving.

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        We are grateful to be integrated into this strong, collaborative, and family oriented community. We are doing all we can to establish relationships and true heart to heart connections to further bring all of our livelihoods into thriving and balanced harmony.

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¿Que es el Proyecto MayaPoint?

Okay amigos y queridos. Con toda el emoción del MayaPoint Project, mudándonos a Panamá, y aclimatándonos a la vida aislada, yo estaba escribiendo el blog en inglés, pero nunca en español. Ya  LES PROMETO que cada vez que pongo un blog en inglés, lo traducirá al español también.

Pero para empezar es importante que les explico el básico…

Que es MayaPoint?

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Hace 7 años nació una visión de un proyecto innovador, algo que no existía.

La visión de una escuela que no será escuela. Mejor dicho, será un lugar de aprendizaje. Este lugar no tendrá escritorios ni tablero. Sera un lugar donde los estudiantes vayan al campo, estudiarán el medioambiente y aprenderán como vivir en ello.

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Le dimos el nombre la “Escuela de Experiencia.”

Cuando estuve trabajando de maestra en las escuelas primarias de México, me di cuenta que habían muchos niños conocidos como “falta de atención,” “hiperactivo,” o “soñadores.” Aparte de unos casos especiales, eso no fue la verdad. Estos pobres niños estaban ABURRIDOS! A meter 25 chicos en un salón con la expectación que van a prestar su atención para siete horas diarios es un crimen. Niños necesitan explorar, moverse (mucho), usar todos sus sentidos, y practicar las lecciones d verdad. De hecho, los adultos también funcionamos mejor así (pero ya estamos bien entrenado después de los 12 años de la opresión académica).

También, en la Escuela de Experiencia cultivaremos toda la comida allí mismo para alimentar los estudiantes. Un jardín tiene ventaja para facilitar lecciones de todos los materiales básicas de la escuela tradicional, es mucho mas interesante y divertido de lo común. Mas que nada, las personas aprendan mejor cuando están bien alimentados.

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Mientras que este visión seguía desarrollando, cruzamos con un advertencia por internet:

“Finca y casa en isla caribeño…. Se busca cuidador con visión de largo plazo.” Hmmmm, sonó bien.

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Por los próximos seis meses la visión crecía con ideas de como haremos el centro educativa. Nos importa mucha vivir con el menor impacto al medio ambiente, por eso decidimos que la finca será auto sostentible lo mas posible. Buscamos varios técnicas para utilizar en la finca que nos dejaran vivir sin la necesidad de comprar cosas en pueblo. 

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Incluyen maneras para cultivar comida sin químicas,

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hacer nuestras propias medicinas,

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convertir el poder del sol para uso en casa, 

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reciclar el agua para sacar lo mas provecho posible, 

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usar basura para materiales de construcción,

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y usar el desecho humano para abono en la finca. 

Acompañando la gran búsqueda conocimos gente increíble. Juntamos un equipo de estudiantes y profesionales, todos con la misma visión:

Atreves de varios experimentos veremos cuantos personas puede apoyar una sola finca utilizando las técnicas avanzadas (pero sencillos) auto-sostentibles. Hay que compartir la información con la gente que lo necesita mas, como poblaciones con pobreza grave. Todo el mundo necesita que adoptar técnicas sostenibles ya pronto para salvar nuestra Mama Tierra.

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Les invito seguir este blog sobre la gran aventura del desarrollo de la vision del Proyecto MayaPoint.

View into life and progress at our community and farm!

Hello dear soul!

I am writing as I sit with our dear friend Fabian, a 14 year old native to this area who has been working alongside us, working incredibly hard, motivating and teaching our community. He wishes you well and tells you “bienvenidos a Maya Point” or “Welcome to Maya Point” in English.

I want to express how our lives, work, passion, and learning are progressing and transforming here in Panama at the Maya Point Project.

The past month has been flowing wonderfully, with passionate interns, connected projects, abundance from the Earth granting us the ability to continue to grow and flourish in this endeavor. We are working incredibly hard and learning, resting, singing, teaching, and growing all along the way. We are seeing the fruits and already feeling and teaching the benefits of these incredible projects, which connects us all to the meaning and inspiration behind each step forward, each bag of cow manure hauled, each deeper connection.

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Here are some of the projects which are blossoming forth as I sit here with Fabian and write this, feeling deep gratitude for all that is:

Mango season has begun!! We are incredibly blessed with a mass surplus of mangos here at Maya Point (we use them in abundance in every meal). We have more mangos than we could ever eat, as they ripen from the trees and fall in huge numbers.

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This is a problem in our local community, as surpluses of tree crops often times rot and are not fully utilized due to their prolific numbers. But we have a solution! Thus, we started design and construction of our first solar dehydrator. This is a device which utilizes the sun’s heat and the natural flow of cold air coming in, heating up inside, and leaving at the top of the system. These systems are incredibly needed as they allow people to dehydrate food in a low impact and replicable way, ensuring food security further by preserving the harvest.

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This is our first prototype and it is working effectively. We built this first system using 95% recycled  materials we had access to on the island, and are actively creating an accessible and easy to understanding step by step construction booklet and workshop. We are already enjoying the fruits (or dried fruits) of this wonderful project.

We are growing in our volunteer capacity and are connecting and hosting more and more dedicated, talented, passionate people week by week. We are growing. Fast. Due to these blessings, we are needing to expand our composting toilet capabilities, so we can have both ensure ecologically safe sanitation, and create rich, renewable compost for our food production projects. We are in the process of creating a new compost toilet facility (or palace) which will be beautiful, functional, and serve as an easily replicable model for implementation in our local area. Sanitation is a major problem in many communities and families throughout the world, and we are blessed to be able to build and implement a compost system.

It is designed and being built by our wonderful team of international volunteers, program directors, and the local native population of this area. Here are some of the photos of it going up!

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Our mushroom cultivation project is up and growing!! We are incredibly excited to bring this experiment and project into being. Our mycologist Raskal Turbeville has arrived and we instantly got to work. Following through on our intention to produce edible and medicinal mushrooms while utilizing an agricultural byproduct, we have created a cacao husk oyster mushroom cultivation bed. This is a location where our inoculated cacao husks will serve as food for the mycelium, which will fruit, producing nutrient rich edible mushrooms for our community. This project is an amazing addition to our scope of work and application, as we will be able to implement this program in many other family cacao farms in our area, giving them a regenerative nutritional and economic advantage. We will update our findings, data, and production.

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Our community is growing and our health, quality of life, connectedness, and resilience are being practiced and strengthened. It is very important in a community of hard working and dedicated people to take time to rest, gather, teach, center and share. We have been doing and continue to create weekly yoga classes, story-telling days, spanish lessons and cross cultural workshops with our local community. We are inspiring and cultivating honesty, knowledge, and inspiration in our community, and doing what we can to spread these blessings outward.

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This last week was a cohesive, productive, and balanced work week. We achieved quite a bit. One of the most exciting (and yummy) parts of the week was our cacao harvest where we broke a Maya Point record!!! We collected one and a half five gallon buckets full of the delicious superfood we are blessed to cultivate here on the island. It is fermenting as we speak and will be set out to dry in 2 days. Along with harvesting, we completed a large amount of tree care which entails pruning, mulching, and observation. We will be blessed with LOTS of chocolate soon enough.

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These are just some highlights from last week, and we have many more exciting and beautiful projects, occurrences, connections, and breathtaking realizations and re-awakenings happening here at Maya Point.

Please connect with us to further learn how you can get more involved and deepen our mutual understanding and experiences.

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We are here. We are working and learning, living and implementing solutions we feel will create positive cycles of regeneration and rebirth here in our part of the world, sending ripples into the wider ocean of hope we all know is ever there.

Thank you for your energy, intention, collaboration, connection, and love.

We are honored to work with you .

Salud y mucho gratitud familia!

Author, Daniel Cherniske

Maya Point Permaculture Program Director and Vice President

MayaPoint Gets a Makeover (part 1)

IMG_6572  Welcome to paradise! Now where do we begin???

We left our apartment in Olympia to embark on the MayaPoint mission. We knew that it was going to be a huge undertaking, and we’d been preparing ourselves for a whole year to get to Panama and get our hands dirty. It was quite the step up from suburban living to a 15 acres of wild jungle!

First things first, we had to create a living space to house more volunteers. Permaculture building principals led us to utilize the existing  structure, however, there was plenty of work to do in order to make the place livable.

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The open air design of this space is wonderful when there’s a nice Caribbean breeze, BUT when the wind calms, the chitras (annoying little harmless bugs) will sneak right in. So we had to determine the best way to enclose the cabin without detracting from the breeze or the views. The easiest solution, relatively speaking, was to utilize the ground level of the cabin to make bug-proof bedrooms and leave this kitchen and living space open.

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True to the mission of the MayaPoint Project, the construction phase of the cabin renovation provided living-wage jobs for seven of our neighbors. With their efforts, plus incredible help from Roman, who joined us all the way from Switzerland, the project was underway! Countless wheelbarrow trips were made up and down the slippery, narrow mud trail as the guys leveled the ground and built a retaining wall to prepare for the concrete foundation.

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In need of filler material to lay between the earth and the concrete, we took advantage of the opportunity to reuse a bunch of woven plastic rice bags as well as some plastic shopping bags.

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So just another million trips up and down that slippery slope with wheelbarrows full of concrete mix, and the vision was becoming a reality!

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It took the efforts of six more volunteers to collect the huge, flat stones that Sandalio used to create the “living” retaining wall on the backside of the house. The wall is still young, but as time goes by the roots of the plants will grow deep into the soil to anchor in these stones, reinforcing the structure and preventing erosion.

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This is the outdoor shower in the works. We already had the concrete blocks, so they were placed in a semicircle (behind Erick in the photo on the right).

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Then, long bamboo poles were cut down from our bamboo garden on the back of the farm. They were placed into each block to create the shower walls (more photos coming soon!!!!)

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With the help of Luis and Ricardo, our sweet little neighbor boys, we placed seashells and marbles all along the staircase to the entrance of the cabin. The kids had fun participating in the project, and it added a little touch of magic, too!

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Our friends Ben and Ali were the first volunteers to stay in the cabin as it was being renovated, roughing it with their hammocks and mosquito netting. They were the ones to give the new cabin its name, “The Gecko House,” honoring the friendly little residents who shared their space. Ali was inspired to do some mosaic art in her time at MayaPoint, so she started with the countertop in the Gecko House kitchen.

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All of us who have tried our hands at tile mosaic have learned that it is not a fast process. So, although Ali was unable to finish the gecko in her time on the island, Becky and Tressa were more than happy to pickup where she left off. They tried so hard to finish it that they even built a fire to keep the bugs away and work after dark!

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Elizabeth, who visited MayaPoint on her tandem bicycle world tour, got to finish the collective piece of art. This kitchen is definitely a work in progress, but at least there’s a brand new gas stove, running water from our rain catch system, and gorgeous scenery all around.

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Stay in touch for Part 2 of the MayaPoint Makeover… currently, the bedrooms have been framed in and the mosquito net just went up. The compost toilet is being transformed into a rather pleasant place to take care of business, and the outdoor shower is being piped in to the rain catch system. Later this week we will share photos and stories of our efforts.

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Do you envision yourself at MayaPoint? Working with an inspiring team to pursue a sustainable lifestyle? Sharing that knowledge with your community? Check out the Join Us section on the left to learn about how you can take part in this life-changing experience.