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.

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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.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Hey you guys! (Goonies saludo)

I had a blue, pinkish, and white piece of chalk (and way too much free-time) the day before the gringos came to town.

Wow, so I just logged in and moderated my comments and didn't realize how many people drop by Panamerican Proceeding from time to time. Hey P, how do I put up a clicker? An old aquiantance from MTU happened to be in Panama, googled peace corps panama and called my cell phone ...that's scary, but he's cool so I didn't mind. Too bad we couldn't meet up.

Shout out to Tim in Somoa. I didn't ever tell you but PC told me there was a good chance of me going to Somoa as well. I was all pumped, but am super happy here. You gotta blog?

The coolest is RCPVs telling me they've been to my site, or area! That's cool.

And Scott, I got more pics of the leg infection...private viewing only. I was gonna send you an email...does this count?

Ok, guerilla blogging to follow (I have to that word everytime I use it): ant attack, the day all the gringos came to town, my shower, da Bears.

Ant Attack - I'm sitting on my porch and Sabina points out the flood of ants coming up my post. The broom doesn't deter them, only sweeps them around. They are pouring in by the thousands, Sabina runs away. I hide under my mosquito net and decide to wait it out as they paint my floor, walls, and ceiling black. They are about 3/4" long with stingers in back and pinchers in front. A battle with 2 cockroachers and 3 good sized Scorpians ensuses which was amazing. The ants just overwhelmed them. Two hours passed and I finally emerged to check the damage. Pot of rice, check. (the pot was too hot for the ants to stand) Water filter, check. Underwear pile, check. The ants were still chomping on the scorp that got caught on my mosquito net, and I just left them alone to clean it up (see below).However it got to be 7ish, time for bed and they were still there. Worse than that, they were eating the scorp from the inside as well - they had eaten through the net! "Ok," I said, "I've had enought of this. It's 7:15 and I need to go to bed." In one fluid motion (Richard Simmons would've been jealous) I screamed and shook out the mosquito net and endured multiple wounds. Apparently you are supposed to just leave the ants be, take a walk, come back in an hour, and enjoy a scorpian and cochroach free house. Trying to deter them just makes them swarm in a frenzy.

The day the gringos came to town - The biggest day in my site happened Thursday when reps from Peace Corps, Waterlines, and Rotary came to my site and ultimately announced I would be receiving the funding to build the aqueduct. Their reaction? "Koin." Body language is such a cultural, funny thing. Here we (I mean "I"), have been preparing for weeks for this visit, there is chance they will announce the funding, your kids and grandkids will finally be able to drink potable water in their lives, and they looked like me during Advanced Topics in Systems Transportation Planning. They mutter "Good" and then proceed to tell my boss how I'm not doing much for them. Thank you, thank you, un aplauso, un aplauso fuersa.

My shower- So tilt your head to the left like this and check out my completed rainwater collection system. 4" PVC collects the rain from my tin roof, and drops it into the bucket. When it fills up, the tubo de escapa lets it out. I have two spigots, one for the shower and one for washing dishes. It has a concrete floor, 3 walls, and I only lack a curtain (so I get to wash a pair of shorts at the same time). I've been using this for the past month. So this proves I've actually been up to something Scott! ha ha.

Da Bears- I hope to make it out to the island to watch the superbowl. I don't know anything about NFL this year. (I mistakenly heard that it was the Pats vs. Bears yesterday). I'm rooting for da Bears, and you should too.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Book List

in no particular order: (not including magazines, newspapers, or text messages)

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Financial Planning in your 20s and 30s Sarah Young Fisher, Susan Shelly
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance Robert Pirshig
Digital Fortress Dan Brown
What is the What Dave Eggers
Villa Igconito Tom Robbins
Guns, Germs and Steel Jared Diamond
Blink Malcom Gladwell
Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas Tom Robbins
Wind, Sand and Stars Antoine de Saint-Exupery
The Snows of Kilimanjaro and other short stories
Ernest Hemingway
Love is Strange: Stories of Postmodern Romance Rose and Texier
Getting Stoned With Savages J. Maarton Troost
The Sex Lives of Cannibals J. Maarton Troost
Following the Sun: A Bicycle Pilgrimage From Andalusia to the Hebrides John Hanson Mitchell
Deception Point Dan Brown
Fahrenheit 411 Ray Bradbury
Running with Scissors Augusten Burroughs
My First Book of Yoga Miranda Morgan
Development and Social Change: A Global Perspective Philip McMichael
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Yoga Joan Budilovsky & Eve Adamson
Into the Wild Jon Krakauer
A People's History of the United States: 1492-Present Howard Zinn
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Playing the Harmonica William Melton & Randy Weinstein
OM Yoga: A Guide to Daily Practice Cyndi Lee
Rich Dad's Guide to Investing Robert Kiyosaki
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Living on a Budget Peter J. Sander & Jennifer Bayse Sander
Entangling Alliances: How the Third World Shapes our Lives John Maxwell Hamilton
The Catcher in the Rye J.D. Salinger
The Alchemist Paulo Coelho
Financial Peace Dave Ramsey
The Humanure Handbook: A Guide to Composting Human Manure Joseph Jenkins
Escape Martin Young
The Sun Also Rises Ernest Hemingway
The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber & Collection of Other Short Stories Ernest Hemingway
Exploring the Unexplained: The World's Greatest Marvels, Mysteries, and Myths TIME
Gandhi: His Life & Message for the World Louis Fishcher
Coyotes: A Journey Through the Secrete World of America's Illegal Aliens Ted Conover
Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster Jon Krakauer
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Maya Angelou
How to Stay Cool, Calm, and Collected John E. Newman
1984 George Orwell
The Tortilla Curtain T. Coraghessan Boyle
The Kite Runner Khaled Hosseini
Snow Falling on Cedars David Guterson
Life of Pi Yann Martel
Indian Givers: How the Indians of the Americas Transformed the World Jack Weatherford
An Outline of American Government Richard Schroeder
Think and Grow Rich Napolean Hill
Core Concepts of Accounting 8th Ed. Robert N. Anthony, Leslie K. Breitner
The World's Religions Houston Smith
Globalization and It's Discontents Joseph Stiglitz
A Thousand Splendid Suns Khaled Hossein
The Brooklyn Follies Paul Auster

Card readers rock, but not as much as computer literate Ngabes who speak English

This is Tess, my former trainer and my favorite person to pick on and make fun of in Panama. Ask her to say "creek." Anyway, I caught her off guard by putting my arm around her and she was so shy and nervous her tongue actually fell out of her mouth and she started drooling everywhere. Now, I'm usually used to girls drooling over me, but not to this extent. You really need to control yourself Tess...
Have you ever seen a Ngabe cooking pizza? Jessica sports her nagua and our delicious campo pizza made in Adam's co-op's kitchen. Below: Surveying her aqueduct line.
My hiking partner Laura and I at the summit.
One day Bejerano brings over this little cat (it's dead by the way). I'm not sure what type it is but I'm sure it's not too common. Their dog attacked it and I'm surprised the dog won - unless the mother wasn't around. It was cute for sure, but it was also bleeding...a fact which Bejerano didn't seem to mind.
A typical house in Jessica's site. Most of the roofs are penca (thatched palm leaves) with dirt floors. The women also wear naguas everyday.
So I'm sitting on Jessica's porch and this very old woman walks by me. I say hello several times but it was apparent she couldn't hear well. First she sat down by me, then she just kinda laid down and decided to take a little nap. Then Jessica said "¡BUENAS TARDES ABUELA!" and the women said, "Hon."
The cloud line from around 3500m.
My future Christmas card.
Of course one cannot have a giant mountain without a plethera of anntennas (anntenni?).
Another shot of yours truly.
So then Bejerano wanted a picture of the cat with his girls. They put on their best dresses and Erica and Geodessa posed with the bleeding cat. Ok, to tell you the truth, I saw this coming from a mile away....hmmm...Geodessa's pretty white dress....bleeding cat.....maybe a bad combination. But Bejerano and his wife were stunned that Geodessa's dress was covered with blood as they picked up the cat.

Then Bejerano prepared a rope to skin the cat. I sat there in silence with his mom watching him hang the cat by the neck. Out of nowhere, his mom makes a Saddam Hussein reference which caught me by surprised and I laughed outloud for probably 5 minutes with all of them. BJ subsequently skinned it and stuffed the hide with newspaper to make a rudimentary taxidermy mount. He also said something about there being many ways to skin a cat......ha ha ha... (I had to end this story with a joke)
Mi Jardin es Su Jardin (My garden is your garden....but you knew that) in Boquete. Ranked as one of the best public gardens in the world. Notice the rainbow, would you please freakin notice the rainbow?
The entrance to Volcan Baru National Park. You know, this is one of those cheesy pictures with a big sign to show everyone that you were actually there.
Sarah from Cali, and other unrecognizables (and Adam) hiking up. Colin, being the expert former backpacking guide, suggested garbage bags for our backpacks for the rain.
Jessica, Sarah, Adam and Colin (an expert former backpacking guide).
Laura and Jessica trying to stay warm. When isn't Jessica cold? Ok so there was 100% humidity as we were literally in the clouds. This made fire starting a little tricky and it wasn't long before we were all really wet. Luckily Colin, being the expert former backpacking guide, had a tarp along which we used to make a tent. I'm not ripping on Colin by the way, his tarp saved my life.
"Celebrating cero siete with six shivering sober spooners."

Monday, January 15, 2007

Crazy Drivers

I was in Davíd walking towards the buses to Changuinola and was looking for some M&Ms. You know, the yellow packet peanut ones. Anyway, a bus is just pulling out and the ayudante is yelling at me, ¨¿Chaguinola? ¡Venga acá, Pronto! ¡Ven, ven!¨ I didn't really want to get on that bus cuz it was full and I had my mind on M&Ms. But I found myself picking up my step and I jumped on the moving bus as it was pulling out.

The only seat was the foldout one directly behind the hump for the engine and immediately I regretted my decision. I should've bought some M&Ms and hopped on the next one. Now I'm cramped, there is no room for my feet, and I have a fear of sitting in the front of a no seat-belted bus. The driver was flirting with the girl sitting shotgun and he would randomly play air guitar to the music always looking over at her to see if she noticed his excellent skills. He was changing the CDs with one had, seemingly after every song, and tooting the air horn at every passerby with the other. I didn't like him and had a bad feeling about this upcoming 4 hour trip.

Two hours later it's pouring rain, the radio is blasting, and we are passing the mountain range. Swerving, weaving, ignoring the median, windshield wipers shreeching, going way to fast. I see a car that crashed into a rail on the opposite side, it's back to tires suspended in the air. We crossed over a mudslide and a broken aqueduct spraying the road.

We stop at the 3/4 mark at Chiriqui Grande. I buy M&Ms (you know, the yellow packet peanut ones) and I'm promoted to the shotgun seat. The driver motioned that I should open the window, I please him one inch. Then the guy behind me opens it 4¨ more and I close it and swear it's my decision whether I should open my window or not.

We drive 10 more mins or so, and as we are climbing a hill to the left, a Jeep Prado comes barrelling down his lane, fish-tailing on the wet pavement. A split-second passes before he crashes into our back/left quarter, flipping us on our two right wheels, then our left, then our right, swerving in the road. We finally come to a stop, babies crying, bus driver cussing - I'm pushing my heart back down into my chest. We were all fine, no injures, and the driver of the other was fine as well. It would have been really bad if we flipped.

I started walking for Silico Creek knowing it was only 5kms further and eventually hitch-hiked the last 4km. I spent the night with a fellow volunteer, calming my nerves. Crazy Panamanian Drivers! I should´ve bought that pack of M&Ms and waited for the next bus. (On a side note, I refused to pay. But I´m not sure the protocol on this matter. If you hop on a bus and it gets into an accident, do you still have to pay?)

Thursday, January 11, 2007


Ok, quick post to let everyone know I'm still alive. I have some amazing photos from Volcan Baru (the highest point in Panama at 3474m) over New Years. But my camera cable started smoking in the computer and fried itself - hence no photos here. And my phone decided to stop working as well. Don't you love it when things work properly?

I'm helping Jess survey this weekend and excited to be going to another site to see how they do things.

Guess that's it, not much new here. Have my first quarterly meeting next week and our 3 month reunion and in-service training Feb 5-9. Oh yeah, a rep from Rotary International and Waterlines are visiting my site on Jan 25th. Hopefully my community climbs outta their hammocks and has something to show them.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Hi Wakun

That's weird you stumbled across my blog. I actually met you at Mark H's house when you were down here visiting. I was doing my site visit during training with Julie M. and we came to party with you guys.

I know exactly what house you are talking about, they were actually my host family. Juan Bonilla, Meliana Tera, Jose, Milciado, Yanilka, and the upteen others. Their son, Bejerano is actually my counterpart and was Bolo's as well. I hear about you guys all the time.

Sorry to rag on QC recently. Things have been off to a slow start but are starting to pick up now after the holidays. In a couple of weeks I'll hit the 3 mo mark.

After New Years afuera in Boquete and Volcan Baru, I was dreading coming back to QC. But walking back I stopped to pasear with a family (Adam P's host family). One of their daughters, Yanilka (4), whom I have titled the cutest little girl in Panama, ran up to me giving my leg a huge hug. That made my year. Things are going better now, and the next time you visit QC may actually have water.

Good to hear from you and feel free to pop by and say hi from time to time.