Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas

We wish our friends and families back home a Merry Christmas! We miss you! We'll celebrate Christmas with the neighbors, a few former volunteers from Africa who are passing through, and, of course, Lisita and Mateito. Below are just a few more photos from recent weeks. We have lots more to share! And we have lots more to do in 2009. Prospero Ano Nuevo!

We were up in the mountains a few weeks ago to work on the mud stove we built with the restaurant and tourism cooperative. The 2nd burner wasn't getting hot enough and the body cracked a bit because it wasn't given enough time to cure. We made some adjustments and fixed the chimney, and the members plan to coat the stove in mortar. Once again, we had a great time visiting with these folks, and we'll be back soon.

Here's the view from downtown, near the cooperative. The mountains of Veraguas are beautiful!

Arturito and Adam hang out by the family car. Note the Panama flag on the dashboard. Everyone here is very patriotic.

Samuel rides to his finca on a cart. We forgot to ask what he was hauling home. Anyway, this is the view from our front yard. We don't see any mountains (you have to hike out of town for that), but it's still a fine place to live and work. And the people are muy amable. Come visit!

Desfiles y Fiestas

Volunteers from around our region celebrated World AIDS Day December 2 with a parade, Mass, and education program in Santiago. We were joined by representatives of the health ministry, the Red Cross, and other organizations. After the Mass, we talked to dozens of city residents about HIV/AIDS, and we gave away condoms.

Our friends Ellen (left) and Laura were part of the team. Just about everyone wore red shirts.

Members of our group posed for this photo with Red Cross folks. Our friend Teri (fourth from right) organized the event.

Volunteers carried a banner and red umbrellas in the parade to the cathedral. Like 99% of the days in Santiago, it was hot! But the program was a success, and we plan to do more in other parts of our province. Talking to strangers about HIV/AIDS was not as hard as we thought it would be.

There was very bad flooding in western Panama during Thanksgiving week, so we had to move the volunteer dinner from Cerro Punta (by the Costa Rican frontera) to El Valle de Anton (in the mountains closer to Panama City). Many volunteers from Bocas del Toro, the Comarca Ngabe-Bugle, and Chiriqui could not attend. Still, 60 or so people cooked, ate, and had a nice time visiting at Hotel Los Capitanes. The Peace Corps did a great job making sure everyone was safe and sound. And many volunteers joined relief efforts before and after Thanksgiving.

Here's the hotel. We were able to use the kitchen, the whole dining room, and another conference area. The owner is very nice! It was still the rainy season, so it was chilly and wet. The mist was hanging over the mountains the whole time, and you couldn't really see the views.

Our friend Bhoj was really hungry after living for weeks in the jungle without any substantial food. Bhoj joined Matt, Lisa, and a dozen other workers in the kitchen the evening before and Thanksgiving morning. Lisa made 9 pumpkin pies out of zapallo, squash. They tasted like the real thing!

This float was at the huge procession honoring Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal last month in Santiago.
The Mass before the procession was packed. This is our cathedral, Santiago Apostal (St. James). The church sits at the top of the main street in the city, Avenida Central, next to a lovely park.

Here's Lisa walking with the contingent from our town. Our tribute to the Virgin Mary included a little rancho (you can see the roof of it) that contained local agricultural products. Carrying an umbrella was a good idea because the sun was very intense. Mucho sol!

Everyone lined up on side streets and waited for hours for the procession to get rolling. This old sign is for one of the many shoe repair shops in the city.