Sunday, June 29, 2008

Lisa's Birthday

Lise and her pals got dressed up in Panamanian clubwear to go out dancing for her birthday (the boys wore their normal clothes). Most people don't go out to clubs until 11 pm, so the club we went to was taken over at 8 by our big group of Gringos. A lot of people were in town for a PC meeting. We know the DJ--his mom was our host mother--and he made sure we were treated nicely. But the clubs here insist on playing crappy techno music so loud that it shakes your guts and makes your ears ring for days. We must say, however, that Lise had a very nice B-Day thanks to our buddies and the many good wishes of family and friends back home. Thanks, everybody!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Still Busy

These kids were hanging out with Matt and his pals during a work trip to the Comarca Ngabe-Bugle, the indigenous area in western Panama.

Here's the latrine Matt was working on before the top floor was poured. The government funded this and a few other composting latrines in the community where our friend Dennis lives, about 2 hours into the hills from the city of David.

Here are some friends up in Santa Fe, Veraguas, where Lise was busy with an agro-business seminar with a few dozen farmers. The farmers aim to sell produce straight to supermarkets, and volunteers gave presentations on everything from marketing to contracts. Santa Fe is home to Matt's favorite coffee, Cafe Tute. Matt came up one day and toured the coffee plant.

It's campaign season here, and posters like these are hanging around every town. They like the close-up photos in their campaign art.

Here's Lisa and our buddy Andrew in Santa Catalina during a charla we did on HIV/AIDS. The event was great, but the school had no lights and it got dark too fast.

That's Andrew's house--the nicest house in Peace Corps. These purple flowers are really pretty.

Here's some waterfront real estate in Panama City. Nearly 300 towers are under construction at the moment. But the city needs lots of infrastructure, like a wastewater treatment plant, to keep up with all the growth.

Hola! Lisa's birthday is on June 19! She and Matt are going to the Volunteer Advisory Council meeting in our provincial capital that same day and then going out to eat with our friends. In other news, Matt was appointed to the editorial team of the Peace Corps/Panama magazine, La Vaina. He just spent five days in Panama City working on the 3rd quarter edition. It was just like old times: stress, long days, no pay, computer problems, etc. But it was lots of fun, and we put out a nice 32-page spread that'll be printed in color to commemorate the Peace Corps' 45th anniversary in Panama.

Next week, we're headed back to the big city because we were invited to attend the swearing-in ceremony for the new group of volunteers followed by an anniversary reception at the ambassador's house. We're very honored!

Lisa's also working on official business as the new vice president of the Peace Corps' Gender and Development group, which supports volunteers working on projects like HIV/AIDS education and life skills activities for young people. Our post down here has a volunteer HIV/AIDS coordinator, and there are a lot of resources to do things like sex education charlas, or talks, at schools. We recently joined a half-dozen buddies for a big charla in Santa Catalina, a surf town with a high rate of sexually transmitted disease. We had about 20 young women show up, and it went really well. Our friend Shawn made arrangements for free lodging with the owners of a hostal, and we had lots of learning materials from the Peace Corps. We also got to swim in the Pacific and eat some good fish.

Matt also recently built a composting latrine with some pals in the Comarca Ngabe-Bugle, the indigenous district out by Costa Rica. These latrines are built of concrete block, which is a lot of fun to work with. He loves to pretend he's a mason!

Anyway, you pour a floor, build four levels of block and pour another floor on top of that. The big box is divided in two, with a hole over each compartment. Liquid waste is sent out a little PVC pipe and the solid stuff goes into the box to decompose. Using sawdust on it ensures bugs stay away and moisture is absorbed, meaning a lot less stench. When Box 1 fills up, you switch to Box 2. The Box 1 crap can decompose safely for months and be removed and used as fertilizer many months later when Box 2 is full. This is a nice latrine since you don't need to dig new pits every few years, and there aren't any bugs to spread disease. And they don't stink, as we said. They also offer a bit of permanent sanitation infrastructure, which is a big goal of the Environmental Health program Matt works in. He aims to build some composters in our site, where the water table is really high, rendering pit latrines really nasty.

Finally, we're headed home in less than a month! We can't wait to see our little nephew Mason! We thank the Good Lord he's doing fine, as are parents Cait and Scott. Tina and Ed will also have their little one by then, and we'll be heading to Tim and Cale's weddings and seeing a bunch of family and friends. Ace and Emily: We hope we can get to Portland!

Congratulations to the Celtics! We saw them win it last night in a very lopsided game. Fun stuff nonetheless. In other sporting news, we see Omar Minaya fired Willie Randolph, and Matt wishes he could be home listening to Mike & The Maddog each afternoon. People must be mad. The Yankees are also in trouble. In times like these, we really miss sports radio! We continue following the Sox online and seeing games from time to time. We're especially pleased to see Jacoby Ellsbury, a great young player who can steal bases. Didn't you watch him in Portland, Ace? He's a cousin of one of our buddies here who's a Native American.

Anyway, Happy Birthday to Lisa! And Felicidades to David Ortiz on becoming a US citizen. Peace!
--Matt and Lisa