Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Thanksgiving-type thoughts...


Things are pretty good here these days, in general. I finally feel like I'm starting to adjust to a more Panamanian way of life and what's even better is that I've got some ideas for work to do so I don't have to feel like I'm sitting on my butt all the time. I keep a list of project ideas now and while most of them will come to nothing, it helps keep me focused. Here's what's going on:

1. Work on the vivero to sell plants to support the maintenance of the Centro. (This is a really tough one because my counterpart works in construction so he's gone a lot. Also ANAM can't help when you want to sell the trees. I'm not really clear on the project yet but this group is the one that requested Peace Corps so I'm going to keep at this.)

2. Get a bathroom built in the school. (I'm starting with this one because there is already a plan so it's relatively easy. It's just a matter of coordination and fundraising. Still, something like this could take the whole two years.)

3. Get INADEH to come give a tourism course for the new tourism group.

4. Get a guide in Cero Hoya park. (Probably not going to happen because the guy that came in for ANAM with the new government doesn't really seem into the idea. Que va.)

5. Make signs for the park.

6. Put internet in the Centro. (The kids always come in to play with my computer so if there were internet that would be a huge fundraiser for this place.)

7. Tutoring program. (This is the only definite. I start in January.)

8. Start an English pen pal program with La Zapatosa school when the new school year starts.

9. Create a youth service group… kinda like co-ed boy scouts I guess… I need to think this one out more but the kids really need something to do and a few of them need serious encouragement in being good citizens.

10.Share some "best practices" with the teachers. (I have to do this carefully so I don't come off like some inexperienced snot telling these people who have taught longer than I've been alive what to do. They really do need help though. The teachers teach two classes a piece at once! I think that's the source of a lot of challenges.)

I'm writing this on día de madres which is a huge deal here unlike in the states. However, due to lack of planning and political backbiting there is no celebration this year in my site. I teamed up with an artist extranjera de canadá to host a card making event for the people though. It went pretty well I thought although my friend said it was a pretty small turn out. We were competing with a party for the Reina here AND the Reina in Tonosí though so considering that, I was impressed. [People host these parties to fund the campaign of the Reina, who is kind of like a prom queen but bigger… much bigger. They sell glossy photos of themselves and people vote for them during Carnival.]

On a mental health level, I know I'm starting to adjust because I wasn't miserable at the party for the Reina. I live next-door to the Salon de Eventos so when there is a fiesta there, it is going on at my house as well. The kids come over to play and I have to keep my bathroom open because there isn't one in the Salon, people use my electricity and water, which I pay for… basically I'm always helping at the fiestas whether I feel like it or not. This used to annoy me massively. So… sometime during the night someone dumped my shampoo and filled the bottle with water and I wasn't even really that mad! THAT'S how I know I'm starting to not sweat the small stuff. My expectations are become more in line with Panamanian life and behavior. OF COURSE some kid is going to steal my shampoo if I leave it in the bathroom… or maybe it was some drunk guys that thought it was hand soap… it doesn't matter. The point is I'm starting to expect things like that to happen and when you expect something like that it doesn't get under your skin. Same goes for people throwing trash in the vivero. Same goes for the used toilet paper on the floor. I've been here long enough to know that if I didn't want to pick up poopy paper, I should have provided a trash bag. So what right do I have to be upset? It took me a while but I'm starting to see things from a slightly more campesina view.

I've been visiting with a lot more people now as well, which helps adjustment. I realized that my initial shyness definitely makes me a horrible volunteer so I'm working on that. It's my biggest challenge I think. I need to relearn the way I've lived my entire life for at least the last fifteen years. Honestly, I spent most of my adolescence when I wasn't at school watching television, reading books, or listening to music... and now all of the sudden I'm supposed to be a social butterfly? But that's the Panamanian life. You’re rude if you don’t drop in on people, eat their food, and talk about other people. Everything my momma taught me about being respectful is turned on its head here. I was raised right but raised right for an American and, quite frankly, to be a good Panamanian I need to do things I was taught were disrespectful. This is the biggest challenge in part because it’s something the community absolutely cannot understand. They have no way of knowing what that value shift is like. They have no context for it so they just think I'm depressed or weird or not as fun as the last volunteer. Now that all this is clear to me I can start to make little changes like setting a pasear quota for the day and stuff like that.

This turned out to be more of a diary entry than I intended so I hope you'll excuse the indulgence. In other news, Thanksgiving was great. I opted not to go to the official PC event in order to join a smaller group that went to Las Lajas. Maybe I'll spring for the main event next year. I had some awesome German food though. No turkey. I guess that makes sense because there are a lot of German cultural trappings in the US and it was almost the official language and… ok… I'm stretching it. But we had fun. It gave me a moment to think about really how thankful I am for the friends I've made here. Right before T day, we had our in service training which was GREAT! It motivated more than anything in my service so far. It was led by a lady who graduated from U of Maryland in Linguistics. My future mentor maybe? She dropped some serious teaching science on us and I finally feel prepared to start up the classes again after my trip home for the holidays.

It's been a while since I've heard from a lot of you punks so go ahead and comment letting me know what's going on in your world por favor.

1 comment:

  1. okay, a few things!

    1. what a positive, peace corps-affirming entry. and ten project ideas?! you are so hardcore.

    2. ¨kind of like a prom queen¨ and ¨they sell glossy photos of themselves¨ bahahaha.

    3. pasear quota? love it!