Saturday, May 30, 2009

Yaya Panama

I am a fool and have had no time to update this blog. I promis soon enough I will sit down and write up more information. I am in the PC Office right now for a short technical session and took advantage of the free internet. I leave Sunday to visit my site for a week!!! Woohoo.

Soon enough I will have interesting storied to upload. As of now, I am boring. MY BAD.

Love and miss you all.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

May 12- 16th You got the Swine Flu Fo Real?!

First of all, I had my site placement interview this past week. It was vague to say the least…all I know is that I get my site placement this Wednesday. Let’s keep our fingers crossed, maybe throw out a prayer or two that I get a great site. The weeks are flying by and I am feeling a bit apathetic as of now. Things are going as well as can be expected. I still love my group and don’t feel incredibly overwhelmed. HOWEVER, I also don’t feel incredibly prepared yet…I am waiting for my Spanish to click and my fear of all insects, as of late, to subside. I must admit, I am getting better – I shower with cockroaches now and have dance parties with ants and geckos in my room before bed every night.
I am at the 4 week hump and today was my first day completely free. Let me tell you, it was one of the most difficult days to date! I didn’t know what to do with a whole day. I have been conditioned to follow a ridiculously regimented schedule that my brain shutdown today. I spent time with some training friends and talked a lot with my host mom.
Yesterday we had another big group meeting day so we got to see the other sectors. It was nice to see some different faces. Sad fact of the week: I was one of a very SMALL group of people that did not receive any type of letter or package from family/friends from the states. I am over it now, don’t worry guys.
Oh, duh. The weather is changing over to rainy season now and my allergies went BUCK WILD. I called medical because I need allergy meds and she made me go to the clinic in a nearby town. So I get to this clinic and I don’t even finish telling the doctor my symptoms before he calls a nurse in to bring me a MASK, yeah that’s right folks…I was forced to wear a mask all day. He assumed off the bat that I had la influenza. Super Duper. To make a long, absolutely absurd story short, I had to go to Panama City to get further testing done. I was wearing a ridiculous mask over my nose and mouth, broadcasting the fact that I had H1N1, all to be told that I have seasonal allergies and a minor nasal infection. Gee, thanks guys, I had no idea. I was gone from 9am – 9pm and no one told my poor host mom where I was. All in all I got the medicine I needed and the culture shock I guess I deserved? Haha.
So, if you need a good laugh sometime image me in a foreign country, in a clinic where a doctor is rattling off Spanish faster than anything I have ever heard. I am asked why I am there and one sentence deep I have a mask thrown at me, and everyone in the clinic is told I have swine flu. Needless to say, I was pretty frightened.
It is all gravy now, so don’t you worry your pretty little heads!
I miss you all a heck of a lot and hope this update finds you well.

May 4- May 11th Holla at an Indigenous Village in the Jungle.

Ok over all things are on the up and up. My group continues to be awesome. Training sessions are exhausting only because we sit for four hours and talk about hypothetical situations in 95 degree humidity. We are all always sweaty and gross but whatever. My host family is awesome and I seem to learn more and more everyday just how good I have it. Maria is a fabulous cook. She is a huge help with my Spanish as well – her patience is amazing. I enjoy the time I get to spend with her, however limited it may be due to training.
We travel a lot through out the training to different parts of the country. This past week I traveled to visit a current volunteer in an Indigenous community in the East part of Panama. My friend Shiv and I were placed together to visit and had a blast. It was really awesome to be immersed in a different part of Panamanian living. We were in the middle of the Jungle where this volunteer lives in a hut on a river. It takes 45 minutes by boat to get to her site.
The people of the community are amazing. Their way of life is so foreign to me as they live a much more sustainable live style than I am accustomed to; they live in huts and use minimal electricity. They are in a tough situation now because the land they have lived on for decades is now considered a national park. They are not allowed to hunt freely, or use wood freely to repair their homes. This causes quite a predicament.
The volunteer told us about a racist boar that the village had to get rid of after she moved to site. The boar hated white people and took a chunk out of a light skinned Panamanian teacher and proceeded to charge after the volunteer whenever she came around!
I had an amazing time. We cooked, we relaxed, we bathed and swam in the river every day and I learned a heck of a lot about Peace Corps Panama. I am really excited to finish training and settle into a site somewhere.
One of the nights the three of us had a ridiculous dance party. Yeah, that’s right, a dance party in the middle of the freakin’ Jungle!!!! It was awesome.
Hmmm, what else…
There were mad amounts of crocodiles in the river.
We made pasta and grilled cheese but best of all – she bought SPIRAL KRAFT MAC and CHEESE!!!! We made pancakes and peanut butter and banana sandwiches. I laid in a hammock and read while it poured cats and dogs in the afternoon. We napped every day…so perfect. The female chief of the community re-named me, Shanene and Shiv, Chili. Pretty ridiculous! By the end of our time ther. everyone in the village referred to us as Chili and Shanene. Hahahaha.
Today we headed back home and met up with tons of people in our group. Everyone had very different experiences, from what is seemed no one had a trip that could compare to ours. I really lucked out and hope things continue to be this awesome!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

April 27- May 3, 2009 Santa Clara Fo Sho!

We had a giant group of trainees at the waterfall in our community last Sunday. Pretty amazing way to start the day!

Skyline of Panama City.

Beach pictures from a rainy day in Panama City.

Panama City
Playing with the pollitos yet again.
The front of my house - Abdias playing with the pollitos.
My frontyard
My host brother, Abdias. He is 4 and absolutely wonderful.

We arrived in our training site on Sunday and were sent out to find out new host family/residence for 10 weeks. TEA (Tourism and English Advising) and SAS (Agriculture) are living here and CEC (Environmental Conservation) is staying in a town 10 minutes away. My host family is small: Tereso, my host father, Maria, my host mother and Abdias, my host brother live in an awesome part of the town. They are amazing people -- so kind and helpful with my Spanish. They are very understanding of my weird tendencies. Abdias is 4 years old and might possibly be one of the cutest little boys I have ever met. I think the whole language thing adds to the effect little kids of me, for real.

Let’s see…my host mom was looking at my photos and said Tim (my brother) looks like Brad Pitt. Way to go Tim! That definitely makes up for incident with Leonardo DiCaprio with Marta and I a couple years back. What a load off my shoulders.

Big black ants are all over the place here. Cockroaches come in all sizes…some look like they could be mistaken for mice. True story. I have not encountered too many spiders here, YET. The mosquitoes are the real issue in all honesty. I get eaten alive! And a lot of them carry random diseases, not just malaria. No worries guys, the geckos are all over my room! I love those little suckers. Haha.

The public transportation system here is pretty simple. Diablos Rojos are public buses. They are glorified school buses. All of them are painted with different pictures and have different things going on inside. It is pretty awesome. And they are not expensive by our standards.

My name is incredibly hard for people to say here so I often get called “Grutchen”. Pretty awesome, right? Hmmm. Oh and I look like a tomate after my walk home for lunch and after any form of exercise.

The food is WAY better than I anticipated. Lots of rice and beans, bananas and plantains, eggs, chicken and bread. Maria is a great cook! I had my first hardboiled egg two days ago and I LIKED it. Crazy, I know. Since that fateful day I have had 3 more. Wow I have been missing out all my life. I also had my first ham sandwich. She fried it in a pan so I didn’t have too hard of a time consuming it. I am still not a huge fan but it was yummy. Every dish my host mom has cooked so far has been amazing.

Training was good this week. Long and hot – I hope my body starts to adjust to this heat. I am sweating more than ever before in my life. It is the beginning of the rainy season, it means everything cools down at bit at night and you wake up to even more moisture! Yay!! Haha.

On Saturday we were sent on a scavenger hunt in Panama City, it was really nice to be able to have some free time with every sector.

We hiked to a waterfall today and swam for hours. It was glorious. Tons of us getting to know each other and actually relaxing semi- comfortably, what a novel idea… I am having some trouble completely opening up here. I really enjoy every person in our entire group. I have given it some thought and I think my emotional reluctance at this point is a mix of the intense climate and being exhausted both mentally and physically. This year has flown by and I am in a very different place than originally anticipated. Perhaps it is a good thing. People will get to know the real me when the time is right. I am doing my very best not to compare experiences but WOW it is hard. We get to travel SOOO much during training and in a couple weeks all of our technical training starts in Spanish as well. I have no choice but to get better. Holler at your girl.

The take away message is as follows: I am doing very well. Week one has been a success and training has been successful as a whole so far. I am walking a tightrope between getting to know my host family and community as well as my fellow trainees. Hopefully that will become easier this week!