Apologies again for the late post! It seems I have assimilated rather quickly to the Panamanian way of life…aka a bit slow. And apparently a little too well. Yesterday as I was walking up a hill in Meteti (Darien), a Panamanian actually passed me… I didn’t even realize it until a fellow trainee pointed out to me that my Panamanian “shuffle” is officially slower than real Panamanians. But when you’re living in a tropical country, walking slower than you would think physically possible is a necessity to avoid taking a bath in your own sweat by the time you reach your destination. Particularly in the Darien Jungle, but more on that adventure later.
Back to the exciting news you’ve all been awaiting…my site placement! My community is called Trinidad de las Minas in Panama Oeste! Don’t bother looking on a map, I doubt you will find it. The next closest town is called El Cacao (fingers crossed the town actually has something to do with its name). My community is in the district of Capira, the district right next to where I am currently living. I was a little disappointed at first to find out that my site was so close to La Chorrera and Panama City but I quickly got over that once I realized that it’s up in the mountains! To continue with the theme of laziness, I typed up the info from the site placement letter I received from PC instead of putting it into my own words:
Community and Site Description:
The community of Trinidad de Las Minas is located about two hours from Panama City. There are about 800 community members spread out in the corregimiento. There is electricity and water available in the community as well as cell phone reception. Transportation is available all year round through a paved road. The nearest health center is in Cacao, about 10 minutes by car. The community members mostly live from farming and the rest work in Arraijan, Capira or Chorrera. A few commute to Panama City everyday for work. There was a Volunteer in the community in the late 90s. During our meeting, that included MEDUCA’s Regional English Supervisor, the participants remembered his work and life in the community.
The Trinidad de las Minas local primary school has 125 students with 8 teachers and only one English Teacher to support the education of local children. There is one maestro and the school director that has been living in the community for many years. The school has a computer center but is not connected to the internet yet. The kids are getting some computer instruction which can be complemented with English. It was evident the participation of the parents in supporting the school activities and their children’s education.
Potential Work Focus:
· Support the English teacher to incorporate new TEFL skills
· Co-teach and team teach actively
· Create opportunities for adults English classes
· Create and develop environmental education practices
· Organize youth group to start after school programs
In other papers I received, I learned that the water source is “gravity.” I’m eager to figure that one out. In the community there is a Water Committee, Health Group and a Farmer’s Group. I plan on making friends with the farmers asap so I can accomplish my lifelong dream of owning a horse. In Panama, the saddle actually costs more than the horse itself which runs anywhere from $50 to $200. Maybe I’ll just ride bareback for a while. My site is pretty close to the site I mentioned in my last post, Chica. It was absolutely amazing up there and I’ve got my fingers crossed that my town is similar.
So there you have it, all the details I have so far. Please keep in mind that the above information may all be completely wrong. I’ll let you know how accurate it is after I venture there for my site visit!
The reason behind my delayed post was that I was off venturing in the Darien Jungle for my technical week. (Okay so technically I skipped out on the jungle hike other trainees took and instead watched local madres play softball while grilling up some food with friends.) I stayed in a town called Meteti just off the Interamericana. The town is surprisingly large and bustling with all sorts of people including a lot of indigenous families.
The trip had a bit of a rough start. After a short welcome session, Heather and I went off to meet our new host madre for the week. She was a wonderful women but just wasn’t quite ready for guests. Heather and I walked into our bedroom which was also used for rice storage. The bunk bed was covered with stuff and as we started to move it off, we discovered ants, larva and cockroaches everywhere. We were ready to tough it out and went off to the chino to buy bug spray and rope for our mosquito nets but luckily ran into the amazing PCV who hosted us that week and she moved us into other houses.
I ended up moving into the “frat house” which consisted of seven PCTs picked to live under one roof and have their lives taped. Okay I’m kidding but moments did feel a bit like an episode of the Real World. At least it ended up being an entertaining week together. My madre Maria was an amazing cook and my padre Carlos, was, well, words can’t really describe him. He was possibly the cutest, creepy old man I’ve ever met. His flirting was just so adorable, especially when he threatened to tie up a PCT under the table like a dog so she couldn’t leave. He greeted us each morning with either a military salute or a hug and a kiss on the forehead. One night for dinner we had a Panamanian delicacy, iguana. Even though it is technically illegal to eat it, the locals here do so a couple times a year. Honestly it tasted pretty funky and I think I’ll be saying, “No, thanks,” next time but balls to the wall right?
I spent the week working at a small primary school in Sanson, an insanely small town further up the road towards Colombia. The school only had about 50 students and 3 teachers. In Panama, Carnaval is a huge freaking deal. Apparently so huge that the majority of students don’t even show up to school till after its over which meant that the school of 50 was only a school of about 20 the week we were there. I still had a really great time learning from one of the teachers and finally getting to see and understand the inner workings of a Panamanian school. My fellow PCTs and I had a few bumps in our English lessons but in the end the kids were amazing and I came away with a better understanding of the impact I can have on my community.
Later this week I will be traveling to my site for the first time! A guide from my community will meet me near Chorrera for two days and then will take me back to my site. I’ll be there for about five days meeting the teachers and potential host families along with whoever else I get the chance to “pasear” with while I’m there. To be honest, I’m a bit nervous to finally see my site. I’m working with only one English teacher and there is a lot riding on this relationship. I’m ready for the challenges that I’ll face in the next two years but it’s intimidating to finally go and see what my life will be like while I’m living in Panama.
One last thing, I received news this week that a woman who inspired me to join Peace Corps passed away this week. We never got the chance to embark on our big idea together but I will never forget her. I will always keep in her mind as a true example of perseverance and dedication to others in this world. I only hope that I can make such a difference in the world like she did during her life. You will be missed.