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.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Comida Conundrum

So I ran out of my Peace Corps salary last Tuesday the 19th. No problem, I'd take out some personal cash with my other ATM card. "Sorry we cannot process your transaction at this time. Please contact your banking institution." I had $6.50 in my pocket, 3 packs of Ramen noodles, 2 spagettis, and 3 sauce packs in my house. I'd be paid on the 28th. Returned to my site, spending $1.50 on bus fare.

Wednesday, 20th - One Ramen consumed
Thursday, 21st - Another Ramen
Friday, 22nd - Ate a pack of spagetti and one sauce pack
Saturday, 23rd - I go to town to try another ATM spending $.50 on a bus. Now have $4.50. Bought a Pepsi thinking the ATM would work. It didn't. To make a long story and many phone calls with my banking institution short, my magnetic strip was broken. I bought $1 worth of juice packets and remembered a fellow PCV owed me $20. I called him urgently. Returned to site, spending another $.50. Forgot I made a deal with a local teen that if she washed my clothes every week I'd pay her bus fare to school next year. One bucket of clothes = $3.00. Made another spagetti packet and one sauce. The only money I have is the $0.47 that I found at the bottom of my suitcase so I bought another spagetti packet in the local store for $.45.
Sunday, 24th - I have $0.02 and only one pack of Ramen left and don't get paid for another 4 days. I make the hour hike to meet the volunteer and collect my $20.
Monday, 25th - Bum food from houses I visited.
Tuesday, 26th - Today. I'm rich! I have $20! I'm going to pay a little bit for this computer, buy lunch at a restaurant, and enough groceries for 3 more days saving $7 for my bus ride to David on Friday where I can hopefully collect my Peace Corps salary from another ATM - if it works.

Pics from my porch during Christmas

The path up to the school taken from my bedroom window.
Prolly better if this pic was vertical. From my porch. The tree on the right is a bird watcher's best friend.
An old house and future store I hear. I hope they take their time remodeling it because I really like my privacy.
Christmas afternoon during a heavy rain. I was cool (it was 79 degrees) so I broke out the sweetshirt and pajama pants. Don't mind my underwear overhead.
I laid in my hammock and recorded myself singing Christmas tunes. If I can figure out how to post those, that'd be hilarious since I had forgotten most of the words. My Christmas meal: first house I visited I had coffee and a Johnny cake. Next, rice and a hunk of pork. Lastly, dachine with salt.

Monday, December 18, 2006


Graduation day last Friday. Mmmm....we ate well.
My house the first night I moved in. As I keep losing weight, my house gets bigger and bigger everyday. Now it's more organized I swear.
My Panama Verde kids making tomales. This was supposed to be our big money maker but they sold them all on credit so now we are broke again. Good luck actually getting the money.
Another shot of the mountains and agricultural region near Cerra Punta.
Making shelves for my new house. At one point I snapped my fiber glass hammer but unlike tossing it and buying another one (something I've done dozens of times in the states) I spent the next 3 hours whittling the handle and reattaching the head.
Emilsa (11), Sabina (11), and Diamentina (9) hanging out on my porch after school.
Daniel, Vidal, and David show me an animal they caught. I can't remember the name but it was really cute. It's kinda like a small possum or something. (Actually, it was a baby ant eater. Specifically an endangered oso hormigera. Check it out here.)
I guy wanted me to take a picture of his daughter. The hat nor the flashlight seemed to cheer her up. She was afraid of me.
Valle de Risco (Joe's site) at dawn.
Fellow volunteers on our Thanksgiving hike around Cerra Punta.
This aquaduct, suspended in the air by a small cable, serves the house below.
My host sisters Bedu and Juanita playing. Juanita on the left must have taken her brother's shoes.
The critters on my legs - infected bug bites and cuts.
Some boys playing and swimming.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

I'm so glad I wrote that disclaimer in July

My disclaimer written when I first set up this magical piece of rant says "...many may have been written on particularly poor days." So am I just a complainer or are there always particualary poor days? I'm probably just a complainer.

Today Brandon hit the melting point, but let me choose my words carefully. I have received a rumor that my bosses read this blog too, Hi Peter!, Hi Greg!. I guess it's not really a rumor, one once said, "Hey Brandon, I finally checked out your blog. Some really funny stuff on there."

No, I don't want them to think I'm crazy, nor not cut out for the The Toughest Job. I'm just impatient. If there is one thing that I cannot stand it's laziness. Yup, the pure ol' "Ya know, I don't really feel like working....ever."

Personally, I love working. I am not a workaholic by any means, but I love to be engaged in something. I always take on more than I can handle, I always get it done, it always turns out well.

Comparisons are useless here but I would just like to state that my goals for the next two years, I mean the physical labor goals, could easily be done here in no time. In fact, give me 5 of my old laborers at Terra and my two brothers, and I could have it done in a week. In fact, give me any 10 able-bodied Americans and I could have it done in 2 weeks.

I've worked with Habitat in Romania and Engineers Without Borders in Bolivia. While this doesn't make me an expert, I do know hard workers when I see them. And I know lazy people too. I knew my construction experience would be a blessing and a curse here. So far it's only been a curse - but at least I know what I would do. All three times I've been invited and all three times I gave it my all. The only difference is that local volunteers worked much harder in both previous instances. And by "much harder," I mean they worked much harder than both me and here.

My other problem besides my lack of patience, is that I'm horribly spiteful. So much of me just feels like packing up and leaving and teaching my community a hard lesson. Except they wouldn't get it: all they would do is comment on how I didn't do anything for them when I was here. They want handouts, I want motivation. I do seek a little comfort knowing I'm not the one who is not trying - what more can I do?

My Grandma once gave me the best advice of my life. She said, "Brandon, always try your hardest. But if your hardest just isn't good enough, there's nothing you can do, and you shouldn't feel bad about that." I just wish other people would try as hard as I'm trying - or just try a little more than you are right now, which is not at all.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


Ok, so this is some guerrilla blogging if I´ve ever seen one. Let me cover the following topics: collegey, the critters on my leg, Mother's Day, podcasts, moving, springs, others.

1. Collegey. First of all, it's not a word. In fact, don't ever read it again. Someone lately called my blog collegey. As or of pertaining to college? I've attended 5 colleges in the past 7 years and I have no idea what that means. I think the word he/she/it was searching for was ¨Jejune.¨

2. The critters on my legs have met their match - and that´s two admittedly awkward shots in the a**, 24 pills to be taken every 8 hours, 36 pills I need to ask about tomorrow, four packets of some mixture, and creme baby! This creme is awesome, it smells like cherries, no lie. I like putting it on my upper lip, it covers my rank.

3. Friday is Mother's Day! Have you bought your Panamanian Mom a present yet? I suggest buying a chicken like I'm going to do. You'll make your mom's day and eat well that night - and Saturday morning.

4. Darn you Adam. (Who says ¨darn you?¨ I'm trying to clean this up for my sobrinos.) Adam introduced me to podcasts with the disclaimer ¨You won´t read as much in your site. But they are awesome!¨Podcasts are awesome, and awesome doesn´t even do it justice. Glorious? Imagine a frustrating day hiking through the jungle 2 hours one way with critters on your legs falling multiple times and finding out your spring is not a spring (see no 6). Not so bad when you can return home, plop into your hammock and listen to some ¨Wait, Wait Don´t Tell Me¨and other NPR masterpieces. I hated PTI in the states, here it´s such a breath to listen to Wilburn and Kornheiser go at it. Podcasts rule Adam.

5. So not knowing how long the critters were going to stay, I packed up all my stuff and moved out. I was half way there anyway. Consider it another present to my house mom. Yup, that's right, the week 6 move out. But I got PC permission, na na na na poo poo. Now I just gotta figure out how to eat, where to go to the bathroom, and where to take a shower. But I got the sleeping part down, I've always been good at that, right P?

6. My spring, perched a convenient 250 meters above the town and supposed to supply my community with continuous, potable water, is not a spring. It´s an underground creek. It's not consistent and probably contaminated. If you wanna come over here and tell my community that, you're more than welcome. I tried. It didn't go so hot. Of course they wanna use it anyway because it doesn't look as brown as the rest of the water.

7. Others. No hay mas puntos asuntos.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

My little critters

So I´m in the city today to get the little critters on my legs checked out. A fellow PCV, who has been here 1.5 years so he knows everything, took one look at my legs and said ¨Ah! Dude! That´s leishmaniasis. You got it bad!¨

Blogger won´t let me copy and paste, but go here for the definition.

I´m not saying I have it. Mom, please don´t worry. If I do have it, I´ve had it for several weeks. I probably shouldn´t even post this...sorry.

(I´m such a bad son.)

I´ll find out ASAP.

Another quick story (I have more too)

The other day I was sleeping soundly, gently swaying in my hammock. It was pitch black, no roosters, dogs, pigs, children, rain or insects to ruin the silence. I was in a high school basketball game, leagues above my competition, stealing and scoring at will. The crowd was cheering, I was on fire. Then my coach, who suddenly turned Panamanian, said ¨Buenas Dias Unima¨and started singing crazy Panamanian cowboy tunes. He was belting it, guitar in hand. Next time I looked over at the bench, he had a Panama hat on and his shirt was half unbuttoned. He was just singing away, as loud as he could. This continued until halftime until I finally came to my senses.

I open my eyes, it´s pitch black but the singing continues. Where is it coming from? Ah, I was sleeping! What time is it? 4am Hmm.... Why is the radio blasting? I can´t fall back asleep. Who the hell is listening to the radio...I need to investigate. I get up, walk out to the kitchen, stepping over sleeping family on the way. The radio is on the table top, volume on 10. I turn it off. ears... But that won´t cut it. I need to remove the batteries too. Ok, just one. I´ll hide it in my room.

Around 6 am when I woke up peacefully, I took great enjoyment listening to my family putzing with the radio trying to turn it on. I went back to sleep until 7.

Quick funny story

I was playing cards (I taught them Go Fish) with my two host brothers the other night and the youngest who I have nicknamed Milk (Milciado) was having problems dealing. He would always forget the count and have to ask his brother Jose how many cards he had. I suggested counting them as he dealt. So, taking my advice, Milk proceeds to count every single card he put down. ¨One, one, one, one, one, one, one, one, how many cards to you have Jose?¨ I laughed so hard I blew out the candle.

Updated mailing address

I´m trying to stay true to Peace Corps form so I´m changing my mailing address again. It actually doesn´t really change much, just makes it a little easier for them to sort. Please see ¨My Contact Info¨ under ¨My Links¨ along the left tab. ¡Graci!