Wednesday, July 29, 2009

When do I get to go home?

Let me preface by saying that I have hit one of the natural low points of Peace Corps service. This post is going to be on the negative side but I think it´s only fair to take the downs with the ups. Besides, today, I´m pretty upset so I could be a lot more negative.

This week has been nuts. First off, I think my community guide thinks I´m trying to steal her boyfriend. I´m big enough to admit that this is my fault because I went to a cock fight with him and probably shouldn´t have, knowing how jealous she is. I should have respected that. I really wanted to speak some English though and see what cock fights are all about. (They are pretty horrible by the way but it was a good cultural experience. At least if the loser dies it gets eaten... more human than KFC.) We talked a while the next day and at first I got vibes that she was upset but as we talked I think she was more upset about things not going well with him in general and her daughter got hurt on a horse so she was worried about that.

Then yesterday I woke up with a 103 fever and the worst diarrhea of my life. When I get fevers I can´t really think straight so I just kept tossing in bed thinking I was going to die in Panama, a 7 hour flight and 7 hour bus ride from my friends and family. I went to the doctor which meant an almost three hour chiva ride with a fever trying not to poop myself. It was pretty brutal. Turns out it was just a bacterial infection and I will be fine.

NOW the icing on the mierda cake that has been these last few days is that I get a text message from one of my best friends in the region. Turns out he fell off a 50 foot cliff Sunday, doesn´t remember two days, and now is heading to the same hospital I just left. I really wish I were still there to offer support. I really wish it were easier to communicate so I could see how he´s doing. I really wish that these things weren´t happening all at once. Gracias a Dios he´s still alive. I just don´t know whether or not he´ll medically separated. I don´t know if he´s had any permanant damage. It would be heartbreaking to see him have to leave after all this. The most frustrating thing is that there is nothing anyone can do. It´s all up to luck now.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Santa Maria, Madre de Dios… Santa Maria, Madre de Dios… Santa Maria, Madre de Dios

This is where I will live after homestay time... I´m pretty sure it´s the nicest place in Peace Corps. You might notice the air conditioner. Sigh... I feel like I´m missing out on the suffering aspect of this job.

My Deutsch-Panameño buddy Jaime at novena

My best friend and hunting partner Jonathan. He later chased me around with a piece of cow shit. ¡COCHINO! "Pero es SECO" I don´t care... it´s still gross. This is why we tite son.

This pretty much sums up my site.

I'm finally settling into my site. It's been quite the roller coaster. I'll let the pictures do most of the talking but I do have one odd story to tell. This week was Novena, the celebration of la Virgin del Carmen. The story goes that in 1998 Santa Maria saved some people from drowning on the beach here. Well, every night there has been church services with songs and fireworks. Usually the women and children go inside the church (well… the kids usually run in and out yelling) and the men stand outside and talk. On the final night, the night of the procession, the Padre came to deliver a more formal mass and he was furious about that tradition. He told the congregation they were disrespectful and that he was ashamed and then he left. Keep in mind he got paid for this. Maybe you had to be there, but it kind of reminded me of a Marquez novel in the sense that some pompous authority figure comes in, takes the money, insults people and runs. Instead of the procession being led by the Padre, people would randomly spit out Hail Marys and sing whatever parts of the songs they knew. So, in the end, the Virgin got an awkward spin around the block. It was quite the topic of conversation the next day. Some people thought the Padre was really unprofessional, and some people were ashamed that we couldn't be more respectful of the service. It was a little of both really.

The next night was a baile and I'm happy to report that I'm alive. I live next door to the cantina so I was really apprehensive about the craziness. Luckily I managed to get some sleep. The two bailes I've been to follow a formula so I think they all go like this: first off there is one band but nobody really dances. Men use this time to get really hammered. A few women participate but mostly they just sit at the tables looking super pissed and checking out what everyone is wearing. Then comes the Panamanian version of freestyling. Last night's topic was whether women or men are better. At the other baile it was a straight up diss contest that ended when one dude killed the other with a line about his gallina sitting on his huevos. After this comes the main event. People push the tables out and a new band takes the stage and people start to get down. Usually there is a fight in there somewhere.

I was considering leaving at the first part of the baile because the singers' mics were up WAY too high. You know if it's too loud for me, it's too loud. I was really tempted to go up and help them mix that janx. The thing is… in most típico music, at least around here, you begin each verse by doing a modified gritar (yelling/yodeling) so if you have people doing that at the top of their lungs… while choking the mic… while it's turned up WAY over the guitars, it's going to be painful. And it was physically painful. But anyway. I'm glad I stuck around because the dancing part was fun. People were patient with me not knowing or caring what I was doing. The whole town was having a blast and it was great to see everybody tear it up.

Last night's fight was way better than the one last week. This one guy pushed the other off his chair and spilled a bucket of ice on him. There was only one really good punch but it cracked off the dude's chest like a whip. Other than that there was mostly a big show about throwing chairs. There were no police in town last night so my Brazilian (meaning he's a lot bigger than most Panamanians) buddy and about four others helped hog tie the offender until they could get there. As long as you keep your distance, it's all part of the entertainment.

On the work front, I'm going to start teaching in the school next month. I'm giving English classes Thursday and Friday because Maestra isn't there those days. On Wednesdays I want to share lesson plans with her in order to make it somewhat of a learning experience for the both of us since she won't be able to observe me. I'm planning the all-important first meeting of the tourism group. I think the most sensible avenues for this town would be to have an artisan group, figure out what services we can offer surfers, and/or sell plants, trees, and compost to gringos. Well see if the community in general is down with all that or if it's only the people I've been talking to who like the ideas.