Friday, July 17, 2009

I have become Ralph from Lord of the Flies...

These are pictures of my future house on the beach. It is concrete and then the rancho is basically my front porch facing the ocean. The next picture is of one of the two year old's in my community that follows me everywhere. The teacher/director of the primary school, Gladis. And my gang of friends who just happen to be 11-13 year old boys. haha. They are awesome!

Monday, July 13, 2009

July 7- July 13 “Look the doll is going swimming in the Ocean!”

Things took a drastic turn mid-week when I decided to be a big girl and embraced the awkwardness that is my life right now. I went to the school and talked to the director/teacher for grades 4-6 just to get to know her a bit better in an informal setting. We talked for a few hours and had a great time. She is young, energetic and very excited to learn English from me. WOW. Who would have imagined? She answered all my inner questions about how I am supposed to reach Peace Corps goals of sustainable development. We set up class times so I can teach her English and I am going to observe her classes for a couple weeks before I begin teaching. Amazing. Afterwards we had snacks and chatted about the community and being far from our families. She lives in the school during the week since she is single and her family lives 3 hours outside of the community. She definitely understands my loneliness and sadness, as she feels the same at times. It is especially hard for her seeing as she is Panamanian and in their culture families are incredibly close. Children from the community started to trickle by and we decided to play basketball…eventually we had enough kids and started a baseball game. It was so much fun!
I have started to venture out on my own more and more. Running on the beach, swimming with the boys that live near me. There is an adorable group of 10-14 year olds that all want to play with me all the time. It is very comforting. So we swim, play cards, play soccer…they help me with my Spanish and I with their English. Everyday I become more independent and that much more excited for my life here.
Quick laugh for you all: When we were walking to the beach a few days ago a man yelled at me, asking where I was going. I told him I was going to swim. He promptly informed 5 houses surrounding his that, “the doll is going swimming in the ocean”, I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time.
Today my host family and I cleaned the little house on the beach that I will be living in for the next two years. It was so much fun! We were barefoot mopping the floor, soaking it in water, soap and bleach. Killing cockroaches and termite nests in the rancho (my soon-to-be awesome front porch facing the ocean) I realized how far I have come. I killed a cockroach and didn’t care at all that it even existed. Saw two spiders and DID NOT kill them. I repeat, DID NOT KILL THEM. I merely encouraged them to leave the house. For those of you reading this that know me, understand just how MASSIVE an accomplishment this is for me.
Afterwards my host dad, mom and brother sat on a palm tree hanging over the beach in front of my house and looked at ships with binoculars. We talked about all the animals in their part of the ocean and the fishermen see when they are out to sea.
I am very lucky to have the family I do, as well as the community as a whole. They are wonderful people – my host dad is an incredibly genuine person. It is so refreshing to spend time with him. He is loving and caring with his family and has been a great friend to me. I really look forward to spending more time with him, he makes me want to be a better person. It is hard to articulate other than to say he is the type of person you want to be around all the time. He is positive, hardworking, constantly wanting to learn about the world, open-minded and has a kind heart. He exudes the essence of what life should look like no matter where you live in this enormous world.
Now that I have rambled on for paragraphs I will close with this statement: The quote, ‘jump and a net will appear’ has never become more apparent and tangible in my life than this past week. I hope that those who read my blog all have the opportunity to experience something as wonderful as this week has been for me on my little Peninsula in Panama…

*Sorry for some of the repeat pictures. The computer freaked out on me and wouldn't let me see what I had added. I hope you enjoy them, seeing as this is my home for the next two years. My next update will have pictures of my future house, I promise!

June 30- July 7 Speak English for 2 Weeks THEN Return to Your Community…HAH

We swore in on June 30 and the week before and after were together as a whole group. There were plenty of good times being had by all, seeing as we very rarely had the opportunity to see everyone from group 63. The saddest part was leaving our training community so abruptly. Our families didn’t understand why we were leaving the NEXT morning…selfishly we were all excited to be in a place with running water, air conditioning and windows!
After Swear In we had a final session for training in the city and then were given a few days to relax. Nearly our entire group of 46 people headed to the same beach. It was awesome! We got to relax and spend time together as adults, not trainees, not random “gringos” trying to learn Spanish. Haha. We could sit and have a meal, speak English and just be ourselves.
My birthday was amazing. My friends made it an incredibly special day, definitely ranks among top birthdays of all time. It definitely helped that everyone was so relaxed and happy to be with each other…and silently freaking out about leaving the next day for our communities solo!
I spent the night in a city on the way to my site with other volunteers in my group who are just as far out there as I am! It definitely made it difficult to go to my site after two weeks of fun and English. And the extra night, due to travel time, only added to the nervousness. I fell in love with my group and really did not want to leave any of them.
I showed up to the town closest to my community, about an hour away and the directora/teacher of the primary school and my community guide/host mom picked me up! It was nerve racking everything became so real, very quickly. All these emotions came flooding over me and I couldn’t distinguish one from the other.
I was happy to be starting my service, I was SO sad to leave my friends and I was so nervous. My Spanish had gotten worse, this only added to my nerves. I started worrying about how good of a volunteer I would be…would the people ever really get to know me? Do they want me here? Do they care that I am here? WHAT AM I DOING?! Two years and I don’t know anyone. How am I supposed to help them when I have so much to learn from them? When I got to the house, I crashed on my bed and slept for nearly 2 hours. A much needed rest considering my emotional exhaustion. Maria woke me up informing me that there was a party at the school for me; they threw me a birthday/ welcome to the community party! There was a dinner, cake, piƱata, drinks, balloons, signs and people brought me birthday gifts. Totally mind blowing. These people are amazing.
I have been here for a week now and slowly I am starting to get hold of what things will be like. Everyday brings a different knot in my stomach and then I remember:
This is the hardest job I will ever love, right? Haha. My language is going to be stellar with a few more weeks. I am going to meet everyone with time and patience. I will form friendships and this will become my home. Just like every new place I have ever lived. Not having an exact schedule is so difficult. Not having a boss hovering, demanding specific work from you is incredibly hard as well. Ironic as it may sound, the flexibility can really start to get to you. Failure seems inevitable.
So, I have started to come up with miniature goals from week to week. Eventually these goals will become much larger and I will have a tangible project, however nothing can happen without the necessary relationships in place. It is scary and wonderful all at the same time when you realize just how important your relations with the people around you are…
I am going to learn so much about life here than I could have ever imagined when I applied for Peace Corps.