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.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

My Grandpa

Written for the funeral services today:

My Grandparent's Wedding Day Oct 29, 1938.

I never once saw Grandpa mad. His presence was refreshing. One didn't need to talk, no need for banter, the silence never awkward. Just sit, enjoy the company.

My Mom and Grandpa.

"How's your car been running?" he would ask. "Good, she's been doing fine lately." "Good," he would reply. We would sit. We didn't try for conversation - it wasn't necessary.

His family, taken at their 25th wedding anniversary.

Grandpa was a stoic man. His posture, his gait, his charm, his dignity...your respect.
My sister.

My oldest brother.

He was big, strong, and fit, but he had the softest eyes. Eyes made of smile. We know this smile, the gentle face, the ever-so-slightly creased lips, the twinkling eyes, and the look of shared acknowledgement. His innocent smile never aged.
I'm on the left with my other brother.

Dancing, celebrating 50th wedding anniversary.

And didn't he love to laugh? His laugh was quick but not fake, loud but not obnoxious, strong but gentle. You would see his teeth, his head would tip back, sometimes his hand would come up to his chest. He enjoyed the laugh...the you suddenly felt better. That's Grandpa - he made everything better, including us.

My Grandparents, married 68 years. Grandpa would have been 89 this June.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

I made it...

I made the decision to come home around noon on Monday. In the next 26 hours before my plane left at 2pm Tuesday, I was on a bus for 17 of those. The "free" hours were spent buying my ticket online, hiking in and out of my site, packing, waiting for buses, spending a day's wage for a sandwich, and trying to grab an hour of sleep here and there. Then I got on the plane and started the trip home, arriving in Chicago at midnight and luckily finding a ride from strangers to Madison, finally arriving at 3am.

It's now 8:30am, and I have to find some clothes and get organized before the visitation begins at 3pm. Of coarse, to add to the passing of my grandfather, the ensuing chaos, the culture shock, and my lack of sleep, my amoebas and/or giardia decided to act up again (I'm on medication for both) - the only reason I can't go back to sleep now. But the exhaustion is numbing the culture shock, and the fact that I'm incapable of making a decision gives me a certain go-with-the-flow ease. And the stomach parasites might make a decent excuse to have some alone time, albeit the time will be spent in the bathroom. I'm not sure if my time right now in the states feels like reality, but oddly the last 9 months in Panama seems like a dream. It must have happened though, because I keep addressing everyone in Spanish, I'm still itching my bug bites, my clothes smell like mold, and oh yeah, there are still the stomach parasites...

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Coming home today...

I really don't have any time right now, but I'll be flying to the states today to attend the funeral of my grandfather. I want to write more, especially about him, but another day.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

One man's trash is another man's treasure.

Yesterday Joe, Lane and I rummaged around a closing Army base asking "Can we have this? How 'bout this? Can we have some of that food?" We managed to fill up a donated 20' flatbed with over 450 cement blocks, sacks of cement, corrugated iron sheeting, lumber, PVC tubes, you name it. I was the lucky recipient of the block, should be just enough to build my 4000 gal tank. Calling the Army wasteful doesn't even do it justice. They fly their helicopters around to deliver power saw blades while the dirty, smelly three Peace Corps folks are asking them if we can have a carton of milk for the school kids, or if we can have that plywood they'd just burn to make into a chalkboard to give health lessons. As we drank their imported bottled water and ate their $17 apiece MREs, we commented that their old sewer pipe hopefully will be able to supply a few families with fresh drinking water. This imported, SCH 40 PCV pipe that would've just been left behind is a godsend to these villages. It's pretty ridiculous comparing one US governmental agency vs. the other. But they thanked us for "picking up their trash for them."

I believe the UN World Health Organization's Water, Sanitation and Health sector (see Right to Water) estimates the current cost of supplying the whole world with access to clean water and sanitation at around $20 billion. Can someone remind me how much we are spending in Iraq every week? Is it closer to $1 billion or $2 billion? How much is Halliburton charging for laundry these days? Where is your tax money going? Where do you want it to go?

Now my folks are hauling in the blocks (25lbs each) and I snuck off to "buy some more tools" but really I'm buying back some sanity, a brisk gin and tonic, and resting my poor body for a day.

This past week we worked really hard in our little rock garden. We started laying out pipe from our spring to our eventual tank, hacking, grunting, sweating, bleeding, cursing in Ngäbe, just to give the tube a good foot or so of cover. I've become the rock removal specialist. When their arms are too tired from swinging the homemade pick-ax, their backs are too sore from hacking the line, their legs are too tired from the hour+ hike, and their hands are too blistered, they call up yours truly to pick up the 2' dia rock in the way. Did they fail to notice I've been working this whole time right next to them? What makes them think I have any energy left to move that rock? Surprisingly they respect the burying rule, and I am the only one allowed to actually glue the pipe, only after I've confirmed we've dug the trench deep enough. It's going slow but well. Ah...I'm to tired to write more....

Friday, May 04, 2007

I'm in, what are we doing?

So I wouldn't advise August, and November I'll be coming home, but other than that when are people coming?

This will get you started:

C'mon, what do you really know about Panama besides the canal, Noriega, and malaria?

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

"The Witness"

Stolen from my friend Luke's blog from Madagascar. I recommend his amazing videos as well:

"Three forms of transport now- bike, boat and foot. Three elements- the road, the river, the forest. These I have pushed through, I have sliced through. These I have crawled over. And along the way there are faces and there are sounds and the hum of the rural landscape and I am witness to it all, I am also humming. We ride, we row, we follow the contours or push up and over the mountain slopes and there is always the opposing flow; the women with their children pass, the moonshine sellers with their burdens, fresh from the forest and the high plateau, they pass too with tired legs and the elders lean on canes with almost a century in their eyes. The waters too, high from cyclonic surges pass by; the flooded fields of rice, the matted canopy above our heads. Rugged green gives way to the well trodden path and I am witness to it all. And we are witness to it all."