Sunday, May 30, 2010

Garbage, garbage everywhere and no real place to put it

Posing in front of the recycling tanks

¿Que sopá? There is a lot going down in the pueblo these days so I think it´s time for an update.

The recycling thing is off to a good start. There are problems but that´s ok. There is always an adjustment period. People are throwing straight up trash in the bins... shoes and whatnot, we have a bin for tetra-pak (milk and juice boxes) but the recycling center doesn´t accept tetra-pak, and we still need a committee to run the whole thing. At the meeting we had to present the project we had zero volunteers but, that´s how it goes. Panamanian culture in general does not have a big focus on volunteerism but, there are always exceptions. Tuesday I try again.

I spent a couple days with my homegirl on a nearby island to learn about turtles because there is talk of creating turtle guides in my town. There was a two day charla about how to identify and unobtrusively observe the tortugas. I´m super excited about the possibility of this project. I was talking with a community member on the bus ride over and she already has plans to seek support of the hotels in the area so maybe I can help guide that process if they want. In any case, it´s really important that people see that they can legally make money off of turtles without selling their eggs and wiping out the species. At this point, there have been enough visits from the maritime authority that people know if they take all the eggs, it will be only a few short years before there are no turtles on the beach. It´s not a lack of knowledge anymore. The people that still hunt for eggs do it because it´s part of their culture and they really don´t care if their grandchildren never see any sea turtles. It´s just not that important to them. Fair enough. A handful seem to do it because the resent the government telling them that they can´t. Mostly, though, it´s a lack of alternative. ARAP (the maritime authority) comes in in their air conditioned cars with their pretty powerpoints and tells the community to snitch on their family and neighbors they see stealing eggs, because there are no police or rangers to do the job themselves. And, then, to add injury to this insult, they never once mention a possible alternative. I hope that becoming a turtle guide for tourists might become a viable option.

Usually, egg hunting is hard work with little pay off. You´re out on the beach late at night (hiding from all those scary ColumbiMexi coke runners) getting DESTROYED by mosquitos, chitre, and sand fleas and even then sometime you come home with nothing to show for it. The problem is, on a good night an egg hunter can make about $40 or more which is way more than most families make in a week. It´s a gamble that some people really don´t mind, unfortunately.

It´s a really tough, polarizing issue but, I don´t blame people that look for eggs. I wish they wouldn´t but who am I to tell them they can´t. I´m not with the government. I´m not looking for enemies in my community and I don´t want people to think I´m going to rat them out. If there is anything I learned from living in Baltimore it´s "stop snitching". But anyway, it is my place to present alternatives. Tourists will pay lots of money to see these beautiful creatures and people won´t have to exterminate them to get money to feed your family. They won´t have to be out at all hours getting a haphazard blood transfusion from the bugs on the beach. Please wish us luck as my community members and I go down this scary, everyone-including-best-friends-might-hate-us path. It needs to be done and I´ll put my neck on the chopping block if I have to. If we do this well, it will be a huge boost to the economy and a huge leap forward in bringing the community together but, if we screw up we´ll have even more animocity and bruised egos than before. I don´t mean to get too dramatic but this is a potential minefield, albeit a necessary one. I´m scared. I´m psyched.

In other news, I´ve gotten involved in Peace Corps´ Gender and Development (GAD) group. I´m the new secretary. They do good work like give small donations to projects that have to do with gender or youth development and host a camp where kids can build self esteem and all that good stuff. I´ve volunteered with a group to help edit this super informative book, Vida Sana, Pueblo Sano (healthy life, healthy town). We´re going to update and clarify information from the old edition, especially the AIDS section. Sadly, Panamá has the second highest HIV-AIDS rates in centroamerica (with the new census they just took that rank may change) and a huge factor is cultural myth and lack of education. The book represents a good, neutral source of information on a wealth of issues that could be used by teachers or service providers to start the behavior change process. Most teachers are not permitted to touch on the sex education aspect but there are also many chapters on self-esteem and healthy choices in general so it can still be useful.

All in all these are exciting times.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Kelsi. I live in Clayton, where many of the American Embassy personnel lives. I am panamanian but lived in Colorado many years during my graduate studies. I am part of a group that started community recycling a year and a half ago. It has been a rough road, and there still people throwing things in the wrong place and at the wrong time. You can follow our project at Good luck while in Panama with the Peace Corps.