Friday, February 11, 2011

Playing Politics

Since I last posted, the days have just flown by! The trainee visit went swimmingly. The girls seemed so nervous but it's understandable. They had only been in country for about a week and a half. I guess it's a good idea to let them see what a Peace Corps site is like right away but I imagine it wasn't easy to jump into the deep end like that. Not to sound too cocky, but they were lucky to visit my site :-). The first day was the performance of our version of the Nutcracker. It went beautifully! I was so proud of all the kids and it seemed like they were proud of themselves. Additionally, we raised a lot of money for a family that's going through a hard time. Everyone is already talking about next year's production. That's sustainable, yo!

During the volunteer visit, my homegirl from El Cortezo came by just in time to see our leatherback nest hatch! It was a pretty magical moment. I had never seen leatherback babies before and they are huge compared to the Olive Ridley... I think they are cuter too. We also all got to go to a baile in town. I don't know why but I got this huge rush of pride from being the first one to take the trainees to a baile. I hope they had a good time. It was a little hard to tell. Their dance partners were all respectful as far as I could see, so that's good. We also made time for the beach, of course, and Alisa got some surf practice in. Some good friends from Chitre were also down so they got to meet them... basically the visit was timed perfectly.

After that, I took a well deserved vacation to the Kuna Yala with Katie. We went without much of a plan but it turned out to be a great adventure and went smoothly. We started off by staying in Casco Viejo, a part of the city which I hadn't had much chance to explore yet. It reminds me of Fell's Point in the sense that it a gentrifying area by the water surrounded by ghetto. Honestly, it kind of made me homesick. We had a nice dinner and some interesting conversation with this older ex-pat guy dealing in textiles who ended up paying for the meal. I think generosity is contagious in Panama. We spent the rest of the night making fun of the backbackers at Luna's Castle. Always good times. We chatted with these Argentinians who said they were in Panama to start a revolution so we got onto politics. I am always interested to hear people's impressions of the American People. It kind of made me laugh that they thought the average American spent any time at all thinking about the US corporate takeover of Latin America, as if there were a thought-process behind our neo-colonialism. It's business, plain and simple, and the vast majority don't know or care about it's consequences. That's the most dangerous thing. I kept these thoughts to myself because I don't like when people talk about a people they don't know yet.

We made it to the comarca the next morning bright and early and I was blown away by the beautiful sea and how DIFFERENT everything was. Like I said, we had no plan so we just asked the boat driver at the airport to take us to a cheap place nearby. We ended up in a place over the water with a really interesting owner. She was cool to talk to and her son and his Ministerio de Salud friends were also super nice. They took us in a boat to Isla Tigre so we could check it out, then to this deserted island where we could swim a little. We even found some conch to eat. yum yum. Before the boat trip, we had some time to check out Nargana, a well-developed island you can walk to by bridge. They told us it used to be a Peace Corps site and it would be good one it looks like. There was a grade school and a high school to work in, as well as various agencies. I'm not sure why PC stopped working in Kuna Yala but people said they wanted volunteers... One thing that made me laugh was that the houses are for the most part cana and penca huts with sand floors. They look really humble but we stopped to get flan in this one and I looked inside. To my surprise, they had a large flatscreen, a soundsystem, and a wii... in their grass hut. Panama is like that sometimes.

Modeling/ Site Developing

The next day we went out to Isla Tigre or Diger Dupu in Kuna which is a smaller, much more traditional island. The sea is less contaminated by trash and the over-the-water latrines so we could swim there. We stayed in a cabana built like a traditional Kuna house; cana, straw roofs, and sand floors. Because the wind could get in, it was nice and cool inside. The owners and staff were really awesome here too. I think because Digir Dupu sees less tourism than the eastern islands, they were pretty relaxed with us. I never felt like anyone was putting on a show, which I appreciated. We just chatted a lot about Kuna culture and crafts. The chef taught us some sweet card tricks, most of which I have unfortunately forgotten already. I was able to use one for my English class, though. The cabanas are set a little ways away from the settlement but we took some time to pasear. Walking around seeing the women's traditional dress was the best part. These ladies got style. It was a little weird though because as soon as we entered the "mainstreet" people wanted to sell us their crafts. They weren't pushy but it's something I'm not used to. I ended up picking up a Mola and Katie got a bracelet. I was hoping to get another mola so I could have one for my family and one for me but the pressure to buy weirded me out so I didn't. I think it's because I'm used to just shooting the breeze like a Santena that the directness of "Hey, you wanna buy my stuff?" was weird. Also, people didn't want their picture taken. WHAT KIND OF PANAMANIAN DOESN'T WANT THEIR PICTURE TAKEN!? I guess the people are Kuna first, Panamanian second.

Also, we saw a sign that said Stephen Segal. We never got a straight answer as to why it was there.

I was really looking forward to snorkeling but the sea was too rough to go to the best spot. I settled on snorkeling nearby and it was ok but I didn't get to see much. The water was cloudy. I mostly just like the rush of breathing underwater anyhow. Your brain is like, NO DON'T DO IT!!! but you do anyway. Other than that we spent a lot of time reading, getting some sun, and chatting. It was a joy to get away from the stress of site.

Things are going well in town but the stress comes from trying to keep up with all the events we're planning and meetings I have to go to. It's a lot of juggling, following-up, and making back up plans. We were supposed to get the computers last week with the representante but he said he was too busy on the date we had set. THEN I find out he went to the city the next day to work out a scholarship for one of the kids. He didn't mention this to me and he really should have. Stuff like this is why I get stressed. So now I have to find another ride because I'm not trusting this guy for anything anymore. I've given him enough chances and every time he screws me. Si Dios quiere, I'll go with my community counterpart Monday. He is just as untrusting and misanthropic as me so we'll have a lot to talk about. Then comes the big step of actually teaching people how to use the machines. I'm also trying to plan a business plan talk and a beach clean-up but with the environmental feria in Tonosi, carnival, and the close or service conference coming up, I can't figure out a date. I've also taken on new tutees for English. We just started but it seems to be going well. I've realized that I like community organizing way better than teaching English. I don't know weather I don't care for teaching English because I'm not good at it or if I'm not good at it because I don't care for it. I'm thinking about a tourism-focused English class for Tortuagro anyway. Apart from that, I signed up to translate for American doctors that are coming to give treatment in Veraguas. That's about it, really. A lot of planning and hoping not to drop the ball.

Until next time,