Saturday, May 30, 2009

Tech Week

Well, its been a really tough, but rewarding week. We spilt up by sector and headed out for some hands on training in our areas. We taught a class, helped students with a recyling project, and helped make a brochure and webpage for El Cope´s tourism group. El Cope was absolutely beautiful. Nice mountains and cloud forest. We hiked in Omar Torijos National Park
My host family there was great! They were almost too nice! I didn´t feel like I was worth all the fuss. On the last night, they had me and my buddy Nicky dress up in Polleras. It was pretty hot if I do say so myself. Right now I´m in Chitre for the night gearing up for culture week so I don´t have too much time for an in depth post. I´m totally drained but still having a good time. Next week. I can expect more dancing, possibly milking cows and plenty of salomaring (look it up it´s awesome).

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Dile "No" a las Drogas

This past week I had my first awesome malaria meds dream. It took place at my parent's house which makes it even weirder. 50 cent and the fat Columbian guy from Vice City were trying to get me to buy their kilos of cocaine. They start to fight over who would sell to me and when I said I wasn't buying they came after me. All of a sudden, I am at my best friend from childhood's house and 50 cent is coming after me with a hand grenade. He blows himself up trying to blow ME up. I wake up. I start chuckling to myself.

Now, there is a telenovela here that my family watches about a Columbian cartel and in my Spanish class we had a quick discussion about why it's really important not to confuse "coco" with "coca" so it makes sense why that was part of my dream but I have no idea where 50 cent came from.

I was able to spend a good chunk of time with my host family this past weekend. My fake mom taught me how to sew… I thought I knew how but I was doing it all wrong apparently. I ripped my pants on the hike in Bocas and I went to repair them but she saw what a terrible job I was doing and coached me through it. It's a good thing too because it wasn’t going to hold for very long the way I had it. My fake mom has been great about teaching me stuff. She seems to understand that I want to be able to do things for myself for the most part. She also led me through doing laundry with the semi-automatic machine. It's kind of rough on the clothes but she got stains out of my socks that the washer back home never could. It's pretty cool to learn this home ec type stuff that no one seems to think is important anymore in the US. On Sunday we made tamales to sell to fund Christmas celebrations. Preparations began the night before and early in the morning I went to the neighbors where a big work force was already going full blast and helped grind some maiz for a while. Mostly, I watched and hung out with my SAS (Sustainable Agriculture Systems) buddy who lives there. I was so excited to try one of the tamales and it was well worth the wait. They were so good! They were cooked in banana leaves and the masa was well seasoned with broth from the chicken and all sorts of spices. There were bits of bone-in chicken and peas inside. Yum.

After cooking I went with my fake mom and sister to my fake aunt's house. It was a really nice place with a balcony that had a nice view of this beautiful sloping green hill. We played bingo and I got taken for 2 dollars. Some advice: never challenge a Panamanian at bingo. They will win.

After participating in the national past time, we all got eaten alive by mosquitoes while waiting for the bus. My fake sister did a little dance to keep them away. I've even got some bites on my butt. It's pretty amazing. I also have a perfectly straight row of bites on my left foot. I'm assuming it was an OCD mosquito that got me there. On my right, I've got one on my little toe that is probably getting infected. There is a lot I really like about this country but I have to say that I am getting really tired of feeling like a feed bag for the bugs.

Also, I just saw a cockroach the size of a mouse. For real.

But the REALLY big news is that I now know where I´ll be!!!

It´s a SURF TOWN in the Azuero region (Panama´s heartland... where all the traditional craft stuff and cattle ranching goes down). This is where the biggest Carnaval parties are so plan your visit accordingly. It´s funny that Walt always jokes about how I´m going to spend two years on the beach and now I actually am! Not too many sites were by the water. I don´t want, and am not supposed to, say the site name on this public forum but if I know you, you´ll hear me talk more in specifics. For now, let is suffice that there is all kinds of fun ecological side projects for me to get into, protecting sea turtles, beach clean up, giving information on why deforestation is bad... maybe I´ll even plant a few trees on my own time. My main goals though are working with the tourism organization (I´m so glad they have one) and teaching English. The town is really interested in learning the business aspects of tourism so I plan to put a lot of energy there. They already have surfers come in and people checking out the nearby national park so it´s just a matter of getting the money to stay in the community. There is a foreign owned resort in town so that could be good or bad. The good is that they hire people from the community to do dances for the guests and the bad is that the community has to compete with that kind of capital. We´ll see how it all goes. The site is pretty ye ye (rich-snooty-preppy) I should have potable water and electricity. The only thing is that it´s an hour´s hike to get cell phone reception. I might try to do without but we´ll see. The public phone in town is broken so I´d be bien incommunicado. Anyway, you should expect to schedule your calls with me ahead of time :-P.

Miss you all back home!!!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Que lastima

So I don´t really have too much to say but I have some extra time to kill in the internet joint. Training is going well and next week we find out our site locations. From what our trainer has told me, I´m very excited. I´ll keep you all posted. The sad news is that I seem to have neglected to pack my camera battery charger so there won´t be any pictures for a while. They don´t sell it in Panama apparently but my dad has been nice enough to agree to hook me up. WHAT A GUY!

I really, really miss all you folks back home so please leave some comments saying how you´re doing!

Monday, May 11, 2009


This is where I have class

Crazy dancing for el cumplea├▒os de mi hermano

View of Panama City

This is my host house

So the big news around here has been the election. Last Sunday was the big show. My family was for Balbina for president but Martinelli won. The night of the election was really intense especially since I stay near the school where all the voting goes down. There were celebrations going until 2 in the morning and nobody got much sleep. People don't really sleep in around here. My host mom's brother in law ran for local office but lost so he was really disappointed. Politics is a very different process here than in the US. To start with, voting is essentially mandatory. You need to vote to get a cedula (ID) and you need a cedula to do everything… at least this is how it was explained to me. Also, people are much more open about their politics. Americans, with many loud exceptions, are really hesitant to ask people who they support and talk about policies but here there is little pena. In our training town pretty much everyone has a party flag flying and a poster of their favorite candidate.

The following day was my host brother's birthday party. His actual birthday was the election but there was no time for a fiesta. A handful of the guys got kind of out of hand in a benevolent way. One was dancing and gritar-ing by himself from about 5 when I got home from class until 10:30 when we all went to bed. One gentleman decided to take a rest in the grass for a while. There were fireworks left over from the election and a truck of beer. There was arroz con pollo which may be my favorite dish I've had here. Everybody had a pretty great time and a few other trainees even stopped by and met my family.

My day to day schedule is pretty off the wall during training. We have language class and technical class, in which we talk about development and teaching and whatnot. That is the basic day but we have also had field trips to Panama City, Arraijan, and Chorrera doing scavenger hunts to learn the bus systems and have talks on health and things. Tomorrow we go to visit current volunteer sites. I'll be going to Bocas del Toro, the furthest province to the West. It's going to be an overnight trip and I'm a little nervous about all that traveling but luckily I will have another trainee making the journey with me. Everything I've heard about Bocas sounds really beautiful. It may be too remote for my tastes but we'll see when I get there if I would be comfortable in a site like that. I'm looking forward to narrowing down what I want.

The other big news is that I have a cell phone! Let me know in an e-mail if you want the number. I can receive calls for free and calling Panama can be dirt cheap so don't hesitate!