Sunday, October 28, 2007

We´re official volunteers

Matt and I swore in as volunteers on Thursday. Our group got all dressed up and headed to Panama City for the ceremony. The US Ambassador to Panama, the minister of health, the Peace Corps director, and the head of the cooperative organization that I´ll be working with, along with several current volunteers, were all in attendance. We had to stand up and introduce ourselves in Spanish. It was fun and a reception followed. After the reception we took a tour of the canal museum.

A bit later our group went out to eat at an Italian restuarant in the city. It was good. I had a salad, spinach ravioli and some red wine from Argentina. Matt had a salad and some garlic bread and some beer (he´s on a diet...just kidding).
After dinner we went out dancing! Unfortunately the cheap dress up shoes I bought here in Panama fell apart half way into the night, so I danced barefoot (always questionable).

We stayed out v. late for Matt and I but we didn´t mind the lack of sleep because the next day (Friday) we all piled into a diablo rojo and headed to a beach a couple of hours outside of the city. We all bought food at the grocery store before arriving and ate breakfast and lunch in our rooms and dinner at the restuarant.

Despite the fact that it rained a lot, we still went swimming and played ultimate frisbee on the beach. We´re going to miss our group. It might sound strange because we´ve only known our new friends for 10 weeks, but I think we´re all really close at this point. We´re been through a lot together. This morning Matt and I got up and headed straight for the bus. We said bye to a few people, but I think it´s best to just go and not say goodbye.

The good news is that we´ll see them all in a few weeks at Thanksgiving. We´re headed back to where I went for my sector conference for turkey! I´m really excited.

I´ll post pictures from this weekend sometime soon. We didn´t use our camera, but everyone else did and they´ll post the pictures soon enough. On that note, I should mention that our laptop is locked away in the city. Unfortunately the hard drive, which is less than a year old, is dead. It might have been the humidity. The good news is that it´s still under warranty and Dell is shipping us a new one in a month. We´re going to have to figure out a better way to store it down here! Ah!

Hasta pronto and Happy Halloween! Oh, I forgot to mention Matt and I dressed up as arroz con pollo for Halloween! Chicken with rice...he was arroz and I was pollo. So cute and thanks to Melissa and Emily for making our costumes!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Site Visit

We´re back at training after another adventure. We traveled to our site last week after meeting our community guides at a conference in Coclé. The town is beautiful, with views of the mountains and the Pacific, and our hosts are wonderful. We toured the town and met all the teachers and students at the primary school and the government health workers. Matt also hiked into the jungle to see one of the aqueducts. The weather was sunny and comfortable in the morning, misty at midday and very rainy all afternoon. We look forward to living and working here and staying in one of the concrete houses, where we can stay dry and watch it rain. The food isn´t too bad, with large quantities of rice and beans, boiled green bananas, yucca, and a little bit of chicken.

During our visit we were the talk of the town and crowds of children would either stare at us or come joke around. The Ngabe (picture the a with two dots over it and pronounce the word no-bay) are really sweet people. Many of them live in huts without any walls and most of the children suffer from malnutricion. But they love to smile. They are also proud of their heritage and language, and we went to a conference at a school in a nearby city with our community guides about Ngabe life, where we were told to spell it with the a and not an o. The talks there focused on health and development issues, including controversial mining and electric power projects. Matt felt right at home!

While speakers were getting up and talking about the Comarca, Lisa was lying down next to the bathroom. After several hours of agony a teacher at the school offered to bring her to the nearby hospital. Lisa said yes, grabbed Matt and off we went. But when we got there, Matt called the PC doctor, who told us to go to a different hospital the PC has a relationship with. So we got on a bus for a tense ride up the highway and they got Lisa right into a room at the hospital. Matt developed the same GI symptoms shortly thereafter. Eventually they gave us a room with two beds and we stayed for two nights for treatment of intestinal infections. We had lots of IVs and watched a lot of TV. Gracias a Dios, we felt a lot better Sunday and Monday morning we returned to the Comarca. We feel like real PC volunteers now!

This morning we met the host family we´ll stay with for a while, and they´re really nice and their house is cool. We´re also talking with a guy who has a concrete house we can rent after we leave our host family. Lisa unfortunately didn´t get a chance to really talk with the women who run the cooperative, but we had a great meeting with the water committee and several of the women artisans in town.

There´s definitely lots of work to do, including getting the water back on. The town hasn´t had water in over a month because of aqueduct problems, but for now everyone´s got water because it´s the rainy season. After Christmas, when it dries out, it won´t be so easy. But our thinking caps are on, and we´ve got the cellphone numbers for all our engineer buddies.
Training winds down this week and next and then we swear in as volunteers. Can´t wait! Best wishes to everyone.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Lisa's CED group photo

I had a virus on my flash drive, so this picture did not get uploaded. It's my business group during our technical week.

Friday, October 5, 2007

What we like about Panamá

Okay, I figured out the keyboard on this computer, so I´ll try to include the accent marks on this blog entry!The other night Matt and I were resting after dinner and decided to each make a list of our favorite things in Panamá (thus far).

Matt´s list:
  • the lovely people
  • rice and lentils, habañero sauce and fried chicken
  • 4x4 trucks (Nissan and Toyota)
  • hammocks
  • zinc roofs
  • oranges, bananas and plantains
  • 10-cent packs of cookies
  • riding in old school buses
  • watching the Red Sox with our host brothers (ok, the fact that it´s easier to watch the Red Sox in Panama than it is in Upstate NY is a bit disturbing!)
  • not seeing snakes
  • using a "coa" (a narrow, flute spade) to dig with
  • being outdoors all day
  • listening to drumming practice outside the elementary school
  • greeting people by saying, "Buenas"
  • cabbge salad and potato and beet salad
  • watching skyscrapers being built in Panama City
  • cooking on a fogon (blocks or stones arranged around the fire)
  • learning how to work with concrete and block
  • seeing the Pacific from high in the mountains
  • telling people about where we´re from

Lisa´s list:

  • learning slang Panamian Spanish expressions
  • learning Ngóbe (an indigenous language)
  • crossing the Bridge of the Americas and seeing the canal and all of the containers
  • walking up steep hills everyday (can we say, "buns of steel?")
  • eating exotic fruit and trying to remember which fruit tree is which
  • wearing dresses and skirts almost everyday
  • waking up early and seeing the sunshine just about every day!
  • taking a cold shower at night before bed (it´s the only time I´m cool)
  • buying snacks at the little stores in town during our class breaks
  • sleeping under a bug net (I feel so safe and I am--there are a lot of bugs in Panama!!!!)
  • saying the word chancleta (sandal), over and over again
  • talking about nutricion and health 24/7
  • traveling to the cold part of Panama near the volcano...I do miss fall, but ah not that much...
  • talking to my host Mom at night (she has 3 boys...I think she enjoys talking about girl stuff from time to time)
  • coming home for lunch everyday and not knowing what we´ll be served (today it was an awesome chicken soup with squash, yucca, and rice on the side)
  • being tan for the first time in about 10 years!

Monday, October 1, 2007

More pix and our diagnoses...

La iglesia del Carmen in Panama City. Matt and I went for a walk around the city and were just in time for mass in this air conditioned, beautiful church.
Volcan Baru, on the way to my business sector conference.
Lisa at a beautiful hostel in the province of Veraguas (we just visited it, but did not stay overnight). Marilyn check out my necklace!! I love it. Thanks again.

A outside view of a coffee factory we visited with the mountains in the background.
Our medical diagnoses...

Matt has a minor tear in his right shoulder, specifically the labrum, which should heal in a month. He just has to take it easy and it should heal on its own.
I have a parasite and a bad head cold. I had to take some medicine to kill the parasite and then take some more meds. in a week or so. I feel better already.
I did not take any pictures of our cultural week because I was sick for most of it. So, the picture of me and Matt will have to wait until next time.
Oh! One last thing. We have a cell phone now. It does not cost us anything to receive calls from the States, so if you want to call us, send me or Matt an email and we will email you back the number. We would love to hear from you!