Saturday, December 29, 2007

Christmas Pix

The day after Christmas we met up with our PC buddies for lunch. Seen here are (l-r) Lisa, Sean, Dennis and Andrew.

Olga´s brother, mother and me.

Olga and her husband Martin dancing on Christmas Day at her aunt´s house.

More dancing...

Olga, Matt and I.

Olga´s baby MarieChristine holding the baby Jesus lawn ornament.

We are so glam.

Her Santa hat lit up. So cute.

Me and Olga´s brother at Olga´s parent´s house on Christmas Day.

Christmas Day in the sun, lounging on the hammock.

Matt and I spent Christmas with my college roommate Olga and her family. It was great to meet Olga´s husband and three year old child. Olga´s brother just got back from China, where he participated in the World Special Olympics. He won several medals. Olga´s Mom told us stories about being a Panamanian in China and not speaking English. She had several escapades on the bus trying to get to the stadium to watch the Olympics. Olga´s sister just had her third baby shortly before Christmas.

On Christmas Eve we ate a lovely meal at Olga´s parents house. It consisted of ham, turkey, arroz con pollo, a large rosca or braided bread, dates, apples, grapes, fruit bread, spiced punch and sangria.

Then on Christmas Day we took a trip to Olga´s aunts house in a nearby town and had a catered Christmas dinner. The men drank Chivas, rum, and wine. Both houses had real Christmas trees and were decorated like in the States. Everyone made us feel very welcome. Thanks so much Olga!

Back at our site, we are eating lots of grapefruit and oranges and looking forward to a birthday party on New Year´s Eve. As for work, we are making the rounds and working on starting our youth group. Matt has a fungus on his back, neck and now face. It´s little white spots, but you can´t see them from far off. We were ignoring it for a while now, but it moved to his face the other day so he went to the doctor´s today and got some medicine. Don´t worry, it will clear up in a few months! Otherwise, we seem pretty healthy.
Thanks so much for being in touch.

Miss you all very much.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Merry Christmas

Wow, heard about the snow situation back home! Craziness. We miss you all very much and are thinking of you often.

Well, just in time for Christmas, Dell computer hand delivered and installed our new hard drive yesterday at the PC office! They accidentily brought the Spanish version of Vista, so they're ordering us the English version too (no complaints!) We waited 2 months for the hard drive to arrive from the US and it didn't, so this visit was a relief and their costumer service was excellent.

We hope you all eat some pork pie and Christmas cookies for us! We don't know what we'll be eating with Olga's family, but we're sure it will be excellent.

Unfortunately we won't be able to host our annual New Year's Party this year, but from the sounds of it you will be snowed in anyway! Okay, just kidding.

Oh, congratulations to Erin and Russ! They had a baby girl named Abigail earlier this month! Can't wait to meet her next year.

Peace and health in 2008.

Love, Lisa and Matt

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Our New Site

Lisa walking alongside the sugarcane!

There are large expanses of cow pastures.

The cemetery.

The Catholic chapel.

Our room. Yes, we have a bed with a mattress!

Our host family´s house.

For the last couple of weeks we´ve been in our new site. It´s in the middle of country in the Province of Veraguas. It´s an agricultural community surrounded by fields of sugarcane. Yes, it´s hot here, but we´ll take it. It´s much better than freezing--we´ve done enough of that in our lives. I do however, need my shorts. Peace Corps frowns on shorts but in our site nearly everyone wears shorts because it´s just too hot for pants.
Our host family is a retired couple in their 60´s. The father is the president of the agricultural cooperative I´ll be working with and he´s a jovial man who tells a lot of jokes that we laugh at but often don´t understand! Our host mom speaks rapid fire Spanish and is the main caretaker for several of her grandchildren, who live nearby. She´s a bit intimidating, but seems to like us enough.
She´s currenly not impressed that I can´t eat fried food at the moment due to my many illnesses. Wow they like everything fried here. I guess I didn´t realize how spoiled we were with our host family during training. They fed us very healthy food.
Typical breakfast for our host family is thick homemade tortillas (she soaks corn overnight or boils it for a while) then grinds it in a mill and then forms it into a dough the size of a large frying pan and grills it until it´s cooked. Sometimes she puts cheese in the middle of it (don´t get excited, it´s yellow individual wrapped pieces of American aka fake cheese, oh we´d kill for some Cabot cheese!) She serves these with fried hotdogs. Other times for breakfast it´s patacones (fried green plantains) with a fried egg or hotdog.
Lunch is usually white rice, beans (all sorts) and sometimes some meat (chicken, pork or liver), or fish. Sometimes there´s coleslaw, cucumber, or a sweet fried plantain. Dinner is the same as lunch. Sometimes after dinner we walk to the coop and buy molasses cookies, they´re good!
Matt´s most likely going to work on building composting latrines. They´re a type of latrine that doesn´t require a hole to be dug in the ground. The people here all have pit latrines and they´re bad because during the wet season (April-December) they´re full of water. Another project he going to investigate is trash. Right now there´s no landfill, so yeah the trash is all over the place.
There are a lot kids (there are 800ish people in the town) and few youth groups. We´d like to start a girls scout troop and an environmental group. Our closest volunteer has both of these groups in her town and she´s going to bring her kids over to ours to see what the interest level is in our town.
There is a Catholic church youth group in our town, however we only have a chapel and the priest only comes every 8th of the month. We went to mass on Mother´s Day (December 8th down here). It was nice. Two babies were baptized.
Well, as long as we have our health, life here should be much better for us. The people are so generous. We´ve trying to visit every house in the community in the coming months. So far we received bags and bags of oranges, had fresh squeezed grapefruit juice, and agua de pipa (a type of coconut that one slices the top off then drinks the water out of it, and then one cuts it in half and eats the white, milky flesh inside).
Yesterday our next door neighbors, another couple in their 60´s, who don´t have children, made us a typical chicken stew. It was excellent. In addition to the chicken it has yucca, ├▒ame (a root vegetable like yucca) carrots, and squash.
Happy holidays! It´s 85! We have to keep reminding ourselves that it´s December and that Christmas is rapidly approaching. I´ve never been anywhere this warm for X-mas. When I was Spain, Monica and I travelled to Italy for X-mas and it was cold!
Note: Post offices are few and far between here, which is why we don´t write snail mail much and why you Christmas card isn´t there yet!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Pictures from Thanksgiving

Volcan Baru, as seen from the front seat of our bus back to David.

Most of the country´s vegetables are grown in this part of the country, the province is called Chiriqui.

The day we left it was gorgeous with great views.

A truck full of iceburg lettuce or cabbage, I can´t tell.

Danny serving up some of his town´s coffee. It´s cold (like you need a fleece) where we had Thanksgiving.

Emily, Logan, me, Kelly, Adam and Ashley hanging out after eating too much turkey.

Our bags! We travelled for three weeks before T-day. We shared this room with one of the other couples, Greg and Lisa.

The lodge we stayed at. I took a hike with other volunteers one morning through the jungle and it was amazing (not to mention wet and muddy). The lodge provides rubber boots, which are a necesity.

Micah, me and Adam.