Saturday, April 3, 2010

It's ok to eat fish because they don't have any feelings

It's been almost a whole year since I've been in Panama. It's quite an accomplishment but I still feel pretty numb about it. The significance of it has yet to sink in and I feel like I am still struggling in some areas but in others I have made some pretty big strides. All in all it doesn't feel like a year has changed that much. I still wake up and go through a similar routine day in, day out. It does remind me, though, of how long it's been since I've been home and how much I miss my family and friends. There are still days when the complete lonliness and alienation makes everything seem impossible. Lucklily, those days are few and far between now. I'm really focusing on work now, but I need to get more comfortable getting people to work with me. My counterpart from Aguadulce is always ready and willing to help with whatever but my actual
community members aren't really interested in anything I have to offer unless it's an on-demand English class (meaning I will be at their beck and call all hours to teach them whenever they feel like it). My awesome volunteer friend from Colon came to visit and demonstrate how to build a vivero (seed planter thing) and absolutely no one but my counterpart showed up. I was hurt because people have been asking me about gardening and stuff. The thing is, I always end up taking it personally and blaming myself... maybe I didn't give enough notice, maybe I didn't explain what we were going to do well, maybe a semillero wasn't what they had in mind. It's a cycle in which I get angry at everyone here for not working, then turn it on myself for not being good at my job, then I feel guilty for being so angry all of the time, then sad because I think that maybe people don't approach me because I'm angry all of the time. Grr. But enough with the venting. Please excuse it, I'm just trying to share the real experience of being a volunteer, good and challenging. It helps to put myself in the community's shoes. If I were them I would ignore the gringa and lay in a hammock too. Absolutely I would. So I need to let it go. That doesn't help how it makes me look to the office though but that's a whole other can of worms.

The last volunteers built an events hall and a playground, two huge projects, and I just can't for the life of me see how they coordinated that. I wish I could talk to them for advice. I always go back to thinking that I don't "get out there" enough. I have defintely come out of my shell with my volunteer friends, my counterpart, and my tutee, but not the community in general. Maybe I'm afraid of seeming unprofessional. I just wish they knew I have a sense of humor. I could probably get more done if they knew.

But, with the things I have planned for after Semana Santa people should start to see me as a resource, I hope. I'm doing two teacher trainings, one with counterpart (but he's already on team Peace Corps) and the new English teacher who seems amazing. I framed it as an observation period followed by a presentation of the methodology the embassy trained us in so I should definitely learn a thing or two from her as well. I'm also hoping to do a group building training with the tourism coop and while the government agency for coops (IPACOOP) loves me for trying to do this, the community members in charge could care less. Even more, I think the leaders I've been trying to get interested may actually dislike me. At the very least they look at me like I'm a mentally challenged iguana with one leg sawed off. Maybe I'm paranoid but they try their hardest to talk about anything BUT this training I want to do. You can try to get people to work smarter but you can't force them. The recycling project is chugging along and we have all the letters and project description hand outs to get started. Now we just need community and government support.

I've had a few adventures since I wrote last. I visited Aguadulce with my counterpart. It was pretty cool and his mom made good food. Where he lives is as suburban as it gets for Panama which was an interesting contrast. Really my favorite thing was just talking music with him and his buddy Carlos. Carlos is a Nirvana obsessed rocker and my counterpart is into to pretty much all forms of rock/ indie. I hipped them to Yo La Tengo and they layed some Cien Fue on me. It was really good stuff. This one song "Somos Terroristas" got in my head fast (in a good way). They inspired me to listen to some Led Zeppelin. I've been meaning to listen to more rock to understand Walt's songwriting better and now I'm finally getting around to it. To balance that out my friend from Colon let me burn her new Vampire Weekend album, which I liked a lot. It's kind of like they perfected what they were trying to go for in the first one and now they sound less like ripping off Graceland and more like they have their own sound. It's a little hard for me to admit I like a band that has songs called "horchata" (which includes the word "balaklava" by the way... and they're not European), and "Oxford Comma", and "Campus" but they are on to something. I guess it's redeeming that they wear their hipness on their sweater sleeves.
I also listened to Nevermind again after years and years and it was like hearing it for the first time. I think it's time that bands got loud again. The whole pop church choir, string quartet thing is cool but probably about to run it's course. The thing that the alterna-rockers never got was that what made that album interesting wasn't the whining... (in fact, that the lyrics don't really make enough narrative sense to whine saves it) it's the controled catharsis. It's turning the guitars up way too loud, beating the drums too hard, and screaming your melody. It's the tension between the feedback and the melody. Anyway, it was nice to enjoy the record out of the context of the hype and could shake the image of Saint Cobain and simply say, "that boy was a fine songwriter. Cheers". What else...? The water has been on for only a few minutes a day lately and it killed most of the vegetables I planted. It never rains in this part of Panama in the summer you see so I need to water them. That was sad. Oh well... when the rain comes, we'll start again. This week is Semana Santa so HOARDS of people, literal busloads, have decended on the beach here. I have never seen so many cars on our little road. People celebrate Easter time here by going on vacations and drinking a lot. It's way different than back home. Nary a chocolate egg in sight. It's funny because it's illegal to sell alcohol on Friday and Saturday of the week but people just stock up before hand. Seems like a silly law since people just "pre-buy" the hooch. Last week my visitor from Colon and some local volunteer buddies went to a feria nearby. There
were all kinds of craft tents and food stalls and even a carnival! We went on the bumper cars. I wanted to crash into this kid from my community who is always really obnoxious to me but he got off right before we got on. There was even a PH (pretty sure I explained what that is in the last post). Tons of my community members were there and our dance group performed. We
watched some cow wrangling games and one of my friend's teams whooped up on my town's team. Sad. He also bought a belt buckle that had a lighter built into that said "Tupac". It was the greatest thing I've ever seen. MY other buddy finally got herself a Panama hat! She was doubtful but I hope by now she has learned to love it. And then unfortunately my friend from Colon lost
her wallet and camera at the PH. Luckily, she said there wasn't much in the wallet and that she had a good time anyway. I would hate for her to walk away with a bad impression of the Azuero because of that. Other than that, there is not much to tell. I'm thinking of going to a baseball game tomorrow but am not sure I should spend the money getting there. We'll see!

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