Wednesday, June 1, 2011

It’s a small world after all, and Panama feels even smaller

I recently had a visit from a Peace Corps trainee who hopes, after 10 weeks of training, to be sworn in as a volunteer herself. The community where she is currently living is very near (relatively speaking) to my community as it is on the same road that eventually reaches my site. What makes this a small world and thus, Panama a tiny country, is that this same trainee is living with the sister of one of my community members. Craziness! How is this accomplished? Because Panama is just that small! I also recently met a man who works at the U.S. Embassy here who actually knows me from DeLand (where I grew up) and remembers my face from all the sports clinics I used to go to at Stetson University!!! So So small.

They finally fixed the water situation as well. Here’s what went down: The machines building the road were kind enough to wait for my neighbor to dig up the tubes that go to our houses and make them even deeper so that the machines wouldn’t damage the tubes. What they failed to wait for was the Padres de Familia (like the PTA) to put the tubes running to the school and the community pavilion even further into the ground so they wouldn’t get damaged. The result of this was a snapped tube and water spraying everywhere as well as the school remaining without water. Quite the problem. So what the water committee did was, and this is incredibly selfless on my neighbor’s part, was to connect tubes to the tubes running from my neighbor’s house to mine. However, they connected the tubes really close to my house because my neighbor, the sweetest lady out here, you know her as Senora Martina, told them that the ‘muchacha’ shouldn’t be without water and shouldn’t have to get water from the icky creek. This left them without water for a long time because there wasn’t enough pressure in the tubes to get the water up the hill to their house. Only to come downhill to my house and out to the community pavilion and the school and needless to say, I saw them a lot as they came to get water from my house. This happened in March and just now, on May 14th did they actually fix the tubes that originally went to the school so that we could have our water restored. I must say, having the pressure back in my shower is pretty fantastic. It’s so much more than drip. But this just shows you how AWESOME my neighbors are for making sure I had water always and they would just suck it up by carrying huge 5 gallon buckets up a pretty steep hill.

I have already been here one year. Almost completely one year in my community. It doesn’t seem like that much time has passed although I can’t imagine that those of you in the states feel entirely the same way. But it’s true what we learned in training about the 1 year mark: everyone really starts to trust you and be your friend and ask you to work in their fields with them (planting rice is not as much fun as harvesting it) and actually participate in projects you try to start. I can’t say this is true of everyone because there are still those who really could care less if there was a gringa living in their community. However, as I am feeling sad or lonely because I really have been gone a long time, these people are starting to make me feel like I belong and in doing so, I have less time to have these sad or lonely moments. I appreciate that.

The road is advancing along although not as quickly as I would have hoped (but I should know better, this is Panama). However, there is something to be said about the work being done here. The creepiness level of construction works is equal in all parts of the world. Their creepiness transcends international waters, borders, cultures, any barrier it might go up against, it will cross it. I apologize to those of you who might be a construction worker or know someone who is, but really, do you have to stare and whistle and be so painstakingly obvious that you are ogling me! It doesn’t help that I’m a female, much less a gringa but the good news is that even though it’s annoying and bothersome, it is harmless.

It’s a short one this time and it took me a long time to post again from last time but who knows, I might surprise you next time I come back out of site.

Until next time…

Friday, February 18, 2011

Fern Gully

WAIT! Before you read this post, scroll down past the one before this one and read a post that I tried to publish way back in August. It didn't work when I did it but it saved a draft anyway! So, go check that out and then come back and finish reading this one... DO IT!

The road to El Harino is now in the painstakingly slow process of being paved. I finally figured out how long it is... 5.59 miles (9 km). And while I have to say that I am really freaking stoked about having a paved road and only having to worry about slipping when I go to people's houses, it has occurred to me that some development cannot be made without a little bit of destruction. What I mean is, the fences that used to run along side the mud road were lining people's properties, which also includes something called "live fencing"... essentially using existing trees as fence posts so that you don't have to cut down another tree and that you have shade as well. Anyway, the point is that in order to make the asphalt road, they have to flatten areas to the side of the existing road and in doing so, cutting down and crushing these poor little trees! And I know that it really is going to benefit everyone in the end and I am sure I can get in touch with the Ministry of the Environment here to plant some more, but it's just sad to see it happening, especially when they are trees that I appreciate are along the road when the sun is beating down on me making me wish for a pool filled with ice! But, enough with the heavy stuff.

I killed my turkey recently... last Saturday I believe it was. Holy shit it was difficult. He did not want to die! Or maybe it was just operator error because it took me a good 10 minutes to get all the breath out of him (sorry for all of you vegetarians and animal rights people out there, but this thing was attacking small children and trying to mate with roosters!). But, my friend Jim was able to come and witness and enjoy the deliciousness that was my nasty pet turkey. Roast campo turkey tastes just as yummy as a Butterball turkey... it just has a LOT more fat!

Be prepared... the following has to do with toilet paper... I'll leave it for you to decide if you want to read it...

So when I am in the position to choose between toilet paper,- the thicker, softer, and thus more expensive kind or the $.60, one ply kind- I am faced with a tough decision. But as of late, this due to my recent bout of intestine invaders, I have realized what my choice should always be, no matter how little money I get to spend every month. The choice will always and forevermore be the Charmin or equivalent. Now, why, you might ask, has this become a serious topic to be thought about in her mind? Well 2 things, the first very obvious: I have a lot of time on my hands and can afford to spend my time thinking about such things. But the second, because I realize that when I discard my toilet paper, it is going in to a hole that is not very deep and so I should do all things possible to keep the level of waste from rising too quickly and the type of toilet paper I use has a direct impact. But, that being said, I have found that even though buying the cheaper toilet paper will cost me a fraction of the cost of the nicer brand (roughness aside) I will be using more of said cheap ass tissue because when I have those intestinal invaders or have eaten that weird, unidentifiable piece of meat from going to visit people, using more is better to ensure maximum cleanliness for total parts involved. This brings up the second reason for why I have given this so much thought: I am using more of the cheap stuff to get my ass clean and therefore depositing more toilet paper and causing quicker buildup of nastiness than if I would have just bought the thicker toilet paper where I could have used less. And so, if you are ever faced with this dilemma, the answer is sometimes hard to justify for the cost but just think of how much longer it will last you if you use a fraction of the amount when you are making your deposit and how much less is going into your latrine or even your regular toilet. Just sayin’.

And finally, I have recently spent time trying to teach myself how to be ambidextrous. This originally stemmed from me playing a game on my iPod and trying do it with my left hand and sucking at it (I had never tried before.) Thus launched my quest to become as ambidextrous as possible. This applies to many things that I do in my life here in Panama as well. Por ejemplo... when I'm washing my clothes, my table is to my left and so I have to cross over with my right hand to wash my clothes but it would just be so much easier to do it with my left hand. I can do it but not well. I also want to be able to machete my yard for the same amount of time as with my right arm and have the grass actually be cut instead of my just swiping at it and almost slicing my shin open! Becoming ambidextrous has another useful purpose as well... as my right arm is becoming chiseled with all the work it's doing, my left is being left behind and I'm concerned that when I leave here, I will have this bulging, muscular right arm and a wimpy left one. But, now that I am determined to be more ambidextrous, this will help with my problem of uneven arm mass. Happy day!

Hope you are all well out there and finally not freezing anymore!

Until next time...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

I'm Back

After a clearly too long of a hiatus, I've decided to get back in action with the blog writing. As I have been keeping up with my journal while I am in the community, I have found that even though I enjoy the stress release and happiness that writing in it brings, it's very cumbersome and heavy to bring in and out of my site- if you know where I live you understand why carrying as little as possible is key. This is why I am continuing the blog so I can get those thoughts out that I normally leave in my journal. And so for those of you who don't know, allow me to enlighten you on what goes on in my world since I've been gone from blogging...

I live in a very small latino community in the mountains of Panama, technically called Panama Oeste or West Panama. This means I'm still inside of the province that is home to the capital of the country but I am worlds away. No matter where I am going, it will always take me 1 1/2 hours to get to the main highway and this is ONLY if the cars are coming all the way in to my community. When it is the rainy season (we are finally getting over that!) the cars either will go up to a certain point which is where the gravel road stops and conveniently or, rather, inconveniently for me, right where my community begins along with a purely mud road OR it won't come at all and then the walking ensues for 2 hours, through sometimes knee deep mud, crossing through 2 rivers (only when they are low enough) and arriving at the asphalt road. But I love it! What a great exercise to have to walk the 2 hours... only if you don't have to haul a lot of shit.

And when people have come to visit me or I talk to people on the phone, they will ask me questions like, "Why are you still sleeping on an air mattress? Why don't you just buy a real bed?" And then those who are visiting have to walk out with all of their belongings and quickly realize why- it tires you more than you would think. Those hills look small and easy enough to tackle but this is not so when you are full up of 'carga'. So it isn't that I wouldn't love to have a real bed, I just don't want to carry it.

Just ask Parker, my now fiancee (hooray!). He will tell you all about how I warned him about a two hour walk in to the campo of Panama and how he kept reassuring me that he had walked for 12 hours to the top of a mountain in China, smoking unfiltered cigarettes. Ten minutes into the walk that would take us to my house, with all of our carga (my parents loaded him up with stuff) he was ready to turn around. Everything ended up ok (except for me getting amoebas) but it just goes to show that things aren't always as easy as they might seem.

This applies to what I am doing in my community. I think to myself, sure, it will be easy to start home gardens with people and have them be successful because the gardens are close to their houses and so surely they will take care of their little vegetable patches. So not easy. People have asked me why their seeds have died or why they haven't sprouted. So I go through a battery of questions about the general upkeep of the garden and get "No's" for about every answer. This is hard because they figure that if I show them how to do something, it will work always and that they can just leave it like they do with their crops of rice or corn even after I have explained how important it is to keep close watch on their gardens. This is the biggest learning experience for me. That explaining something to someone doesn't necessarily mean they will get it the first time... or maybe even the second or third times.

With that being said, I can finally answer Jennifee's question: Have you learned a whole bunch of stuff about yourself that you didn't know before? (Or something to that effect, right, Jennifee?) The answer now is yes. I can, in fact, be very patient. I do, in fact, speak very good Spanish (more or less), especially when I am getting heated about something. I have learned that I LOVE not stressing myself about things that I cannot control. Like waiting 2 hours in the hot sun for a truck to come- that's ok. What else was I doing anyway and what am I going to do that can't wait a little bit longer? This isn't to say that I don't get frustrated still and that I'm always chill and mellow. It very much annoys me to wait from 8:00 in the morning until 3:00 in the afternoon on a Tuesday for someone to tell me I have a 5:30 doctor appointment on Thursday. Quite irritating.

And so, I will be back to share more of my adventures of campo life. And if there is some burning question that you want answered, diga me.

Until next time...

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Road to El Harino...

... is WICKED bumpy! I will just tell you that first, sorry for my absence, but second, I am really enjoying where I am, even if it is really hard to travel in and out of my community at any given time, especially if there is enough rain that has fallen. It's super slippery and I will tell you that in the first week that I was there, I fell TWICE! I have fallen since then as well but the first week was rough. I don't know why I thought I could go anywhere without my giant rubber boots on, again, especially after the rain! This is quite the site to see: me covered from head to to with giant rubber boots on! I don't know how the people in my community do it, and I know this happens all over the place, but they never seem to get dirty!! NEVER! I have so many clay mud stains on my clothes but they have really clean clothes all the time! Eventually I will learn how to not get filthy... one day.

I have also figured out how to walk up and down the giant hills without getting too much out of breath so that is a plus! Sadly, it's just walking really slow and trying not to look down- even though I should really do that to make sure I don't trip over a rock! HA! But I have something to say about that too! If you are somewhere really high, like say on a roller coaster or somewhere scary and someone tells you 'Don't look down!', you automatically do it anyway and you are instantly mad at yourself for doing it. Here, I like to say, don't look up! Two reasons are because if you do, you can easily trip over a rock, step on a snake, or step into a giant hole created by rain runoff or 2.) you will that the giant hill you are a about to climb is extremely steep and you can't see the top from where you are standing and you sort of feel a little dejected ;) It's much easier and almost faster to climb the hills if you don't know what it looks like. Just follow the person in front of you and it won't be so bad... unless they walk really fast, then you're screwed! HAHA!

Sometimes I feel like I'm in Jurassic Park though... and I know I'm not the only person who feels like that either! You'll be walking to go visit someone but the path to get through to their house is like this foot wide space with jungle on either side with crazy noise making birds all of the place. There is one that they call a Fudodo but that isn't the real name but it makes the craziest noises EVER!! I can't even describe what it's like but just think Jurassic Park. I also feel this way when there is thunder off in the distance... it's like that scene where they hear this loud ass noise and the ground shakes the mud puddle and they know it's the T-Rex coming... it only sounds like that but it's still crazy!

All kidding aside, I really do like my community and the people there are so nice! Every time I go to someone's, they fill me up with food, coffee, or things to take home with me! They are really excited to have me there and they really are looking forward to starting projects or revamping the ones they already have going. I think this is going to be a great 2 years!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


So I think that there will be MUCH more posts of more value when I actually move into my site in a couple of weeks! and there will be more awesome pictures, tambien! Sorry about the suckiness lately but more will be coming SOON! I promise!

Until next time...

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


Today I found out where I will be living for the next two years!!!!! I am living on the border of 2 provinces even though I am only officially in one! I will be in the Panama Oeste region, right on the border of the Cocle province! SO AWESOME!!! I am actually really close to Panama city as well, about 2.5 or 3 hours! I am just so exited/anxious/nervous about the whole thing but I know it will be fine. Just have to keep working on that Spanish!

We had a really great time at our coffee training week in Boquete. The climate was just amazing compared to the climate everywhere else I have been here. It hovered around 70 degrees the entire time we were there and even though the sun didn't shine a whole lot, being in the cool environment was really great! I learned so much about coffee that I never thought I could possibly learn or that shit that ever existed.

There isnt't a whole lot going on at the moment. Nothing super exciting anyway. Except that I went to a beach on Saturday because we had the day off and it was a really nice beach that had kind of black sand (a little bit weird to find mucky black shit in my bathing suit!). But, it was a fun time and we basically just slept on the second floor of this giant cabana/restaurant type place owned by some Germans. I tried to speak the Deutsch to them but since Spanish has infiltrated my brain, I was not able to get a whole lot out except that it was my birthday and I spoke a little bit of Deutsch. Oh well.

Also, my host family had a small party for me on Monday for my birthday. It was nice because they wanted to make tacos (not a common food here in Panama) and so even though we had to do all of the preparations, it was still really cute because they had all the stuff we needed. AND they bought me these really cute DANGLY earrings (good because I lost one of mine!) and I got a bracelet from 2 of my friends here. All around a pretty decent birthday. I'm sure that next year it will be different as I will be allowed to actually have a couple o' drinks!

Anywho, I forgot my camera this time so I can't post any sweet pics of the coffee awesomeness that was last week but I will get them up soon!

Until next time...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

COFFEE... mmm

Ok, so here's the latest... I will be working in a COFFEE site!!!! I am very, very excited because you probably didn't know this, but Panama has some of the most expensive coffee in the world and it's very rico! And they supply coffee to some V.I.P.'s that I am probably not supposed to mention, so I won't. Anyway, I am currently in a place called Boquete and, if you can believe it, it's actually kind of chilly here!!! I know, not what you think of when you think of Panama or if you have talked to me on the phone or read other stuff, you know it's like SWODY all of the time. But here it is very cool and it stays pretty cloudy most of the time but those are like prime growing conditions for coffee which is why this place has sold coffee for over $100 a pound, and no, I'm not exaggerating.

Anywho, the place where I will be working- I find out exactly where next week- is not going to be like this so much. I will be working on a much smaller scale of farming but the community will be selling to buyers here in Panama. More to come when I figure out everything!

In other news, there was a GIANT tarantula in my house last week. It tried to sneak in through the roof because it was raining and apparently they don't enjoy getting wet. They are also very docile creatures I have heard but let's face, I'm not trying to hang out with one and let it crawl on me for fun. NO THANKS! Here is a picture of my furry little friend. Needless to say, I had trouble sleeping that night and I most definitely put up my mosquito net the next!

But, here is also a picture of when I fell and scraped my leg walking to the waterfall, also pictured. I want to put these on FB but it is giving me trouble at the moment. Anywho, enjoy these ones.

I will be returning to my host family on Sunday, my b-day, and they are having a party for me. How sweet! Also, I am at the Spanish level that I need to be at to stay so that is great! Only a month of learning and I am good enough but certainly nowhere near where I want to be!

I leave you with a picture of the river near where I am at... I don't know the name but there was a hot springs next to it that was AMAZING!

Until next time...