Panamerican Proceeding

Lend me an ear and you will hear the rants and raves of this volunteer. "Nothing is stronger than the heart of a volunteer" says Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle (parden the pun), but perhaps no one is crazier either. Why do we care so much? Herein lies a glimpse of my Pan-American experience.

My Photo
Location: Bocas Del Toro, Panama Este, Panama

The proceeding 'Panamerican' is a Master's International Student and Peace Corps Volunteer. Disclaimer: Contents are the author's viewpoints only, (need to stress only), and many may have been written on particularly poor days.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Move-in Day

Hey anybody bored enough to be reading this. So it's Sunday and I'm back in David, en route to moving into my site tomorrow. I think I have 17 bags with me, totaling 1,000 pounds. Mood? (Is that a question?) Um... my mood is pretty alright. Right now I'm not too excited about moving back, but that's mostly due to the fact that I'm tired, a touch hungover, and pampered. It's like when you go camping and you really look forward to roughing it and living simply, but after a little while it wears on you and you think, "Damn it would feel good to take a shower right now." Or, "Damn, I could go for a glass of ice water." Or, "Damn, what's growing on my legs?"

I guess I've been pampered this past week. I returned to Santa Clara, to my luxurious mansion, and enjoyed every second of the fan on my face at night. Then, we packed out to Ciudad del Saber, and I enjoyed every second of the AC. We celebrated our official swear-in at Santa Clara Beach, and I enjoyed every second of the ocean breeze. I also enjoyed a lot of Abuelo. But now I have my last night to decompress and catch up on my correspondence.

Well, I gotta run off to a dinner date with Ryu and Joe right now, but hopefully I can chat with you Blogger a little tomorrow. Oh, one last thought... I feel really bad I didn't get to say my good-byes to the group. There was confusion with the taxis, I thought people had already left, and before I knew it I was on a bus to David. So if you are reading this and are pissed you missed a hug, some beautiful parting words, and perhaps a few tears - I'm pissed too.

My Contact Info

Hey Ya'll here's what to do if you wanna yell at me or send me cookies.

Cell phone: (507)-6466-5162

Mailing Address:
Cuerpo de Paz – Panama
Atención: (my name)
Edificio 104, 1 Piso
Avenida Vicente Bonilla
Ciudad del Saber, Clayton
Panamá, Republica de Panamá

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

My new name

So when I got to Qba Cacao, they voted on what my new name should be. This was a very democratic process with multiple people walking to the front of the room and explaining why my name should or shouldn´t be this. One finalist was Tili which I kinda liked. Ultimately my name was voted to be:

Unima Kwaribo

And Bolo, if you are reading this, that makes us brothers. But the debate didn´t stop there. Next, they needed to give me a name for when I´m drinking beer. This was a little unnerving because a lot of people are evangelical and don´t drink. So I´m expecting a name that translates into: ´you´re going straight to hell,´ or ¨you rich gringo...buying beer when we are starving.¨ My name while I¨m drinking beer is Chimi Mitigan. I´m not sure what it means and honestly, I don´t plan on drinking beer in my site. Partially because by the time I would get it there, it would be extremely warm...ha ha.


Pictures from my site visit

  • Ok, so Blogger was throwing a fit and I gotta eat so these are the only pictures for now. Starting out with my future house. This was Bolo´s old house that the Padres de Families built for him. It´s small, but it´ll work great.
  • I apologize now if this formatting gets all messed seems to always do that. Here is the 2 room school. The floor is a concreteish type dirt and each classroom has a chalkboard and desks. One room is for grades 1-3 and the other is for 4-6.
    Apparently a geography lesson, the kids used grass and mud to map a replica map of the world. I don´t know where Australia is either.
    This is the comedor which translates to something like a community kitchen. Only 1 year old, it doesn´t actually serve much. The ´kitchen´has a fire pit and a little closet that has some salt and a few soup packet flavors in it. All the firewood in the foreground was hauled by yours truly. And I have the ant bites on my arm to prove it.
    Ok, so I´m hiking through the jungle with these two guys and I look over and see this carved out boat. I figure the original diameter must have been 6-8´or more. So it was built by this 60 something man but first rough cutting it with a chainsaw, then carving it out wtih an ax. Now he has to take a hand planer and smooth it down. The process has already taken many months. Naturally I wonder, ¨How the hell is he gonna get this outta here?¨(It´s about an hour hike uphill to the road, then about 10 miles to the sea) He figured 60 men, 30 on each side, could help carry this thing. I think I´m included in that estimate.
    These are my two host brothers Jose (13), Milciado (12), and my sis Yanilke (9). They are standing on the table they used to dry their cacao beans before selling them for 52 cents/pound. They carry huge sacks, probably 60 pounds or more of these beans the hour uphill hike to the road and take them to the next city to sell to the co-op. The co-op claims organic status, but the truth is no one can afford fertilizer or pesticides.
  • All of Quebrada Cacao sits in a basin of mountains that rise above 100-200 meters. They have a very eerie whisper to them at night.
    This is my shower. A small pipe brings water in from a nearby stream and fills up the bucket when not in use. Then a big gringo comes in and uses a smaller bucket and splashes water all over. Notice there is no door. Most people in town just bathe in the river since this is the only running water in town.
    This will be my house for the next 3 months. It´s rather big and I have my own room with a curtain for a door. The family has something like 12 kids with grandchildern older than the youngest ones. Actually, I´m not sure how many kids they have...but it´s a lot.

    My host brother Jose chopping wood before he has to head off to school. I walked over that splinter pile barefoot like him once and got mauled by fire ants.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Site Description II

(Please compare this info with what I initially received and posted Sept 13)

Quebrada Cacao is a Ngabe community set in about 30mins off the road. The community lies in a basin with houses scattered about the outer rim. In the center of the basin is a rather large hill. Atop it, there is a public house, a 'kitchen', and a two room school. My house is right next to the school. To get anywhere, one must climb over the rim first. The community is mostly family, from what I can tell, there is one main set of parents, and probably 3/4 of the town are siblings and extended family. There is no electricity or running water.

My counterpart is great, I like him a lot. I'm living with his parents and their umpteen children, but my house is sitting empty, waiting for me, my ideas, and my projects. Freetime may be limited however as the community is super excited to start construction on the aquaduct. I'm worried the funds won't be enough, especially if it gets built right. My family has a bucket shower and a latrine and a good sized room for me with a curtain for a door. The diet this past week was boiled green bananas, plus a few meals of rice, one or two included chicken. I hiked up to the spring which will serve or aquaduct, we felled a tree for lumber and split it, I visisted nearly every house to introduce myself, went pifa collecting, dropped into the school, and had two meetings with the water committe. But I also had plenty of time to read 3 Newsweeks and a National Geographic, and to return the blank stairs of my host siblings. Nico, my closest volunteer to me, came over for a visit and we made plans to build a composting latrine in exchange for a agriculture lesson.

It felt amazing to take a shower and lick my wounds after only 5 days in the campo. The feeling of being clean cannot be faked - either you are or aren't, and I probably won't be often. There is this eerie feeling that the mountains radiate, especially since they know this will be your home for the next two years. The mountains are whispering about you, just like everyone else in town.
I don't have my camera cable on me right now to download pics, and I might not for the next two weeks if I accidently left it at my site. But pictures will eventually come. Tomorrow I make the rest of the trip home.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Pictures from Sept

So anybody that was thinking that I´m a great volunteer and all I´ve been doing is working, check out nice pics from Las Lajas Beach. After two weeks of working we all chipped in (I was out of money at this point) and rented a cabin on the beach on our way home. I felt like a true volunteer as I had to save $12 to get home and the rest I could drink on. I had my fair share of brews, and even bummed a few from the rich business volunteers and woke up to find exactly $12 in my pocket. Thanks Liz for the $5 to eat lunch with, I forgot that I would have to eat at some point in the day.
Sea turtle eggs.

Mo taking a picture of the sunset.

Ryu went surfing. But the true question is: Is he walking towards me or away from me?

Ryu and I thought the group was staying at a different resort a mile down the beach. Need less to say, we ended up walking that mile and back with our packs. In Valle de Junquito we learned some sweet Ngabe dances and all the Gringos offered themselves as clowns to entertain the community. But we taught them the chicken dance and hokey pokey so I guess it works both ways...wait a sec...they were laughing at us during those too.

The 3 sideways kids were my bro and sises in Junquito. From left to right: Elvin (11), Leidi (9), and Beilke (10). Elvin loved math problems, Leidi was my dancing partner, and Beilke had a laugh that I had to laugh to. They are sweet kids. In the background was my uncle? but I never really figured out his name. The other little girl was sporting a ¨Bling Bling¨shirt. How ironically sad.

Colin (aka ¨Big Easy¨) was asked to help prepare the pig for his new community. Worth noting, Colin is a vegetarian. But being the graciously awkard bad ass that he is, Colin grabbed the machéte and just started wacking. Man, there was pig guts flying everywhere! Colin soon had blood of pig all over his hands, but I think he earned some respect. The women then preceeded to half-smoke, half-cook it over the fire in banana leaves. It was funny, when I came up with my camera, they all ran to put the towels on their heads. I think it helps complete the picture too...

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Vision and Mission Statement

Going off the Who am I? rant, here is my updated vision and mission statements.

Vision: I will volunteer myself because I have the opportunity to. I hope to help provide others the ability to make their own life-based decisions as well.

Mission: I will attack problematic patterns to provide the ability to dream, so people can recognize their capacity to improve their education, health, and dignity.

Who am I?

Ok, so we had a former PCV in today to mess with our minds. Actually it was very enlightening but a hard day. He posed 3 questions for us to answer...

Who am I? What do I do? What is my work?

After pondering for not long enough, I answer:
1) I am a confused dreamer who hasn´t woken up yet.
2) I participate in patterns either voluntarily or involuntarily.
3) I seek personal satisfaction through compliments from the less fortunate.

Number 1 was the hardest. I mean, when is the last time you´ve asked yourself, who the hell am I? First, I thought of all the things I like about me, then I thought of all the things I don´t like. After that, I couldn´t really think cuz I kept tossing around my bad attributes. Then he had us list values we think are important. I didn´t really write values, but instead wrote what I feel is important to share with somebody. I wrote:

friendship, silence, eye contact, adreneline, pain, happiness

I think to make a good friend, the two of you either have to experience an extreme high or low together. Then he had us write our skills. Man, this was hard. I honestly don´t think I´m good at anything, just one of those guys that bounce off of people, knock others down, and eventually I´m still standing. So my skills include:

not reading people correctly, quitting things, gaining weight, making excuses, complaining, and wishing for things without doing anything

This session was a hard look in the mirror. I realized that I´m scared. I am downright scared and there is nothing I can do about it except smile and try to maintain my patience and composure. But I´ll tell you one thing, once you admit your scared, things start looking a whole lot better.

Photos from Sept. (ok, at least the first two days)

Ok, so I´ve been sitting at this computer for 1:26:8 now and blogger keeps dropping my pictures. So this is as far as I got. On the left are some local rugrats from Valle de Junquito where I spent last week building composting latrines. The boy in the middle is called Chi Chi cuz the word for small in Ngabera is Chi and the word for baby is also Chi. Hence the boy is called ChiChi. The boy on the far right is Roger, he likes to read Newsweeks (or at least look at the pictures.) And on the right in the blue is Leidi who is an excellent sister and dance partner. She´s 9 years old and shares my birthday (or so her sister said because she couldn´t remember.) Leidi is also really interested in brushing teeth, and hopes she can buy a toothbrush some day. The girl on the left is wicked with a machete. Below, the Michigan Tech crew (and Kevin) are building a composting latrine for Ryu´s and my host family. Matt and Josephine were great instructors. A composting like this costs about $150, takes a few days to build, and requires weekly and monthly maintenence. You also have to use something to cleanse yourself and a dry material for the compost. All of these are perfectly good reasons to keep pooping in the river.

Jessica was a local favorite among the kids, perhaps because she knew the actual rules for the name song. Jessica, Jessica, bobessica, banana fana fofessica, fe fi fonana, Jessica!

The chi chis in Nutivi practiced for two days for this amazing version of Old McDonald. Only it was in Spanish, wasn´t exactly Old McDonald, but a lot cooler. If I was tech savvy like Luke and not pissed off at computers right now, I could post a video of this as well. It´s really cute.

Ok, so this is it for now. In a couple of weeks I´m going to the city where I know of some fast computers to handle more pictures.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Quotable Quotes - Two weeks with the same people

I´m not really into water-based comic book characters. (Colin)

Joe, you are never gonna get married if you dive like that. (Clarita)

Your eyeballs! Your eyeballs? Your eyeballs! Your eyeballs? (Colin)
Quit saying EYEBALLS! (Melissa)

Call me Mr. Harrison. (Kevin)

I think ringworms live in wrestling mats for 2000 years. (Joe)

Oh I thought you were 15. (Clarita to Kevin) I´m gonna go over there and let you grow up. (Later)

There´s something about this room that makes me really wanna take a shit. (Joe)

How does he not run the train on them? Is that what he said? (Kevin)

I heard that if everyone jumped off a table in China at the same time it would cause a huge earth quake...oh yeah, it has to be all at the same spot. Or something like that. (I forgot)

I heard if everyone in China lined up and jumped off a cliff, people would have babies before they got to the end of the line. (Jack) Wouldn´t the cliff fill up? (Ryu)

Do you think they think we are talking about rain water catchment systems right now? (Ryu)

Uh Brandon? I lost the bet. (Ryu) What bet? (Brandon) Who would shit their pants the first. (Ryu)

Kevin, do you like Indian women? (Joe) I could get into them. (Kevin)

I used to not knows enough about des tings, but I learned em all tonight. (Kevin, ripping on the French)

We need chili for 9 people. (Jack) And we need crackers for 9 people too! (Ryu)

If I die tonight, drink to my health. (Jack)

If anybody wants to go in on a loaf of bread with me, that´d be cool. (Joe) I would, but I can eat a loaf by myself. (Colin)

Sandflys are an old wife´s tale. (Kevin)

It was pretty cool being cold. (Adam)

Let´s take a shot for the road. (Ryu) But we aren´t going anywhere. (Kevin)

Aw man, who farted? That really stinks. (Brandon) I think I farted, but I don´t think that was me. (Kevin)

Remember those balls? They always smelled like urine. (Melissa, referring to the play area in KFC)

We shared a mosquito net if you know what I mean. Rob, you were a great sleeping partner. (Joe)

If you were alive in the 70´s, would you be a disco guy or a rock and roller? (Joe)

That smells like burning. (Adam, referring to a mixture of abuelo and seco)

God, I need more beer. (Ryu) What are you gonna do, breakdance? (Colin)

I got me a lock´n key. Gotta lock´p my nikes. (John)

Happy Birthday, you got acid. Happy Birthday, you got LSD. (Kevin)

You aren´t gonna rape me Joe, are you? (Brandon)

Joe, you are so cool. (Ryu) I am really cool. (Joe)