Monday, September 21, 2009

Panama Firsts


Things I Had Never Done Before Peace Corps (besides the normal speak Spanish/ meet Panamanians type stuff)

Eaten a turtle egg
Made hojaldres! YUUUUUUUUUUUM!!!
Been so excited to eat fresh black pepper. This actually goes for a lot of foods. MUSTARD!!! HONEY!!! BREAD!!!
Been so hungry that I didn't mind fake yellow cheese
Had someone offer to buy Maria cookies off of me
Seen that my cereal was crawling with ants but eating it anyway, after trying to sift them out, of course
Seen a cock fight
Seen a rodeo
Showered in a sink
Showered outside with a bucket in the dark but still in plain view of the Ngobe community
Desperately pooped behind a tree on the beach then wiped with my Spanish workbook
(In a related first) almost od'ed on antibiotics because the doc didn't say I should take each course separately
Been pooped on by a lizard
Been bitten by an iguana
Enjoyed being at a dance club
Had to wait by the side of the road for a good long minute because a herd of cows were passing
Played hand drums while we all jammed some tamborito tunes
Waded through calf deep swamp muck just because I was curious about where the path went to
Had so many 8 to 13 year old male friends... well... really they just like the SNES games on my computer
Swam in the Caribbean and the Pacific within the same month or so
Had bug bites on my privates

Friday, September 18, 2009

Moving Day!

We lost another good one but at least there is a nice picture of her eating some dreds.


So I'm slowing moving my way into my new house/ office. Almost everything was set from the beginning which was great but I have to buy kitchen stuff and things like that. I need to buy gas for the stove because it was supposedly jacked by the people who administered the building last. Hmm... I'm really excited to have a place to sort of call my own.

I'm teaching a lot of classes and running an "English Club" at nights. It's essentially another class because people are too pena-ed to participate but we do more fun stuff like translate "A Change is Gonna Come" by Sam Cooke. Awww yeah. I used it to talk a little about American history and racism and stuff but nobody looked too interested. I need to get the hang of making stuff seem important. I'd like to blame my students and say they don't care but a good teacher can make anyone care about anything. ANYhow, I'm looking forward to putting a more cultural aspect on the English Club. As far as my classes at the school go, I'm hanging on. About half the kids seem to have attention/discipline problems so it means that the others can't learn even if they wanted to. If I hear the phrase, "Mire que el me pego!" one more time I might flip. At first I thought it was a cultural thing... in Peace Corps you try to develop different (sometimes lower, sometimes higher) standards for host country behavior... but then I did a guest teach in a neighboring town and the kids were so GOOD! Nobody even talked over me. I got through my hour long pronunciation lesson without ONE hitch, without anyone grabbing my stomach telling me to give a drawing assignment, without anyone just walking out of the room, without anyone hitting anyone else! My mind was blown. I'd like to sit down and figure out why my students are having so much difficulty paying mind but I think it's beyond little old me. They're great kids, I just don't have the chops yet to maintain a positive learning environment.

Well... That's about all that's on my mind. I'll leave you with some Spanish phrases I really like now.

Echar cuenta - to toss stories - to chat
Echar arroz - to toss rice - to serve food
necio - means bratty as far as I can tell
Acha? la vida, or my favorite, Acha la - Oh drat!
Estamos refrescando - we are refreshing - we are drinking beer

My favorite of all time: WAH! This versitile interjection is used to express joy, displeasure, anguish, surprise, anger EVERYTHING. It's wonderfully useful.

and one that gets on my nerves:
Mire que - kinda like lookit! It only is annoying because my studest always use it to preface telling me that someone is being necio.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

I run on ritz crackers and nasal decongestant!

Im not really sure what to say here but I want to say something because a lot is going on here, but not all of it is good so part of me wants to just keep my mouth shut. Its not like you want to listen to me whine anyway right, internet? Too bad for you because Im at an internet joint with time to kill.

I started teaching in the school. Thats going ok. Im a horrible teacher but, hey, no one is Joe Dimagio when they first pick up the ball. To my credit, Ive discovered I can change a lesson plan mid class and not miss a beat. This is really important because most of the kids I teach would sadly be labeled ADD back home. Theyre just being kids. The English teacher Im supposed to be supporting stares daggers at me everytime I ask to look at her lesson plans so I know what to teach the Thursday and Friday, the days she teaches elswhere. I really dont know what to do to break the ice really. She doesnt live in the community most of the time so I cant really pasear and get to know her. Im kind of at a loss. I started teaching night classes for the high school kids and adults. I had one adult show who can only attend once a week because hes in the finca. Two very bright kids from the high school and of course, tons of kids from the elementary school. DONT SEND ME YOUR KIDS WHEN IM ALREADY TEACHING THEM IN THE DAY! That was the whole point. It was lost. We are supposed to do more advance stuff here so if that means working intensely with the two high schoolers then so be it. I got the free time for it. Im at a loss here too. I dont want to have to tell those young kids that they arent ready for the material I want to cover but on the other hand its not fair to hold back the rockstars. Conjugate some verbs and then get back to me.

The tree selling project is at a stall. I want to make a work calendar to keep us on track. I hope that occurs.

On the personal front I did a very stupid thing and hung out with my hosts boyfriend when she wasnt there. In my defense she left me alone in the house, I was bored, and he was offering a showing of Slumdog Millionaire in English. I couldnt really refuse. Furthermore, we went to find her and invite her, and we did find her at her daughters boyfriends place, but she ran into the back room. Her daughter lied and said she wasnt there. We all saw her run so it was really awkward and we collectively said "screw it" and went to watch the movie. So for the past half of this week Ive been dealing with fall out of this situation, crying and feeling guilty about absolutely nothing, feeling paranoid... all that good stuff. My host and I talked it out and came to the conclusion that all parties share some guilt. She was CONSTANTLY finding excuse to leave me and the boyfriend alone and then being pissed about it later. For my part, I should have broke off the friendship and hidden at home alone because people dont believe men and women can just be friends here. (Ill admit that the situation wouldnt look very good on the surface in the states either). So, after talking and even HUGGING IT OUT!!! (my first Panamanian hug! Weve had problems, but I love my host) now things are getting back on the up and up. Im living with a new family anyway just because I switch every month. Its a pretty nice pad even though my student slash roomate cant stop rolling around on the top of the bunkbed. Hes a kicker!

The other issue thats come up is drugs. I was told that drug runners use my beach as a stop off point and then go on their merry way. This is not the whole truth. Some of the famers in the surrounding communities actually produce drugs and are affiliated with international shippers. I was really annoyed about this. Last weekend some folks nearby (not IN my community mind you) found about a pound of cocaine packed in those giant pixie stick wrappers on the beach. People say that Panamanians are anti drug in general. I have found this to be true for most. But not the guys that found the package. The friend who told me the story about all this was offered a pixie stick while disfrutaring in a cantina. Cantinas are bad enough I dont want to imagine one fueled by coke. This, coupled with the misunderstanding about the movie night, has made me really paranoid. Im terrified of people all jacked up, swinging machetes. Im terrified of bochinche being spread to get back at me for something I would never do. Im scared. High school level paranoia for those that new me back then. I dont know who to trust here. Somedays it feels like no one. Itll pass. Itll have to. Right now, Im just throwing myself into work for the classes, reading a lot, and not talking to anyone. I have Twin Peaks to watch on my computer but I just found out that its broken. Need the windows disk. Otherwise Id be watching that too. I need to keep a low profile for a while which is very much impossible here.

I really feel like Im this fount of negativity on this blog but at the same time I dont want to lie about the Peace Corps experience. We all have it rough. Today I found out another friend is leaving. She had stuff line up nicely back home so thats where shes going.

Ill end with this. I really like working with kids. They are hilarious. Even when they are laughing at me. ESPECIALLY when they are laughing at me. Now if the adults gave a rats patoot about the work wed be on our way.