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.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

it's been awhile

It's been awhile since my last post, so I'll try to catch up a little here. My wonderful girlfriend got me a new camera for my birthday, so you can thank her for the photos.

My 27th birthday dinner! It was the best meal I've had in Panama in the last two years.
I stayed at Adam G.'s house while working in the Comarca where we went for Tech Week. Nice eh? Ha ha ha, sorry Adam. He also was suffering from "pink eye" that week. So Adam is ending his service there and for the last two months has been sharing his site with a new PCV. Do you think our boss asked either of them if we could/should come there to build the latrines? Sadly, that's how things operate around here.
I facilitated a working group of 8 new trainees building a composting latrine for Tech Week. They were a really great group, good attitude. If you notice there aren't any Panamanians in the photo - that's because we didn't receive one ounce of help from any locals. This goes against my attitude of trying to work with people, training people. Granted this week was meant as training for the new trainees, but we did the "we came, we built, we left" model for Tech Week for the last two years now and practically none of the past latrines are being used. To me, this goes against everything the Peace Corps stands for, or should stand for, not to mention fostering the "hand-out culture" already in place in indigenous areas here.
But if you ask me, our latrine came out really great. The walls will be the responsibility of the homeowner to supposedly signify the "shared labor", but we provided the tin sheets for the roof.
My group: Jesse, Kaitlin, me, Meredith, Garav, Duncan, Eli, Dave, the director of the EH Program Tim, and David.

And then in the afternoon everyday I gave a 4 hr lecture on aqueduct design. This lecture covered basic surveying, calculating demand, headloss theory, the calculations how to size tubes, how to size a storage tank, and designing multiple networks. Basically this is a semester long class of Fluid Dynamics squeezed into 4 hours, but I argue that every volunteer should be aware of the concepts at least since very few rural Panamanian engineers actually know how to design aqueducts here. In fact, most rural engineers here don't even now how to survey. (And it's not like they're begging us to teach them either if you know what I mean. Most are friends of whatever political party just won local elections.) After this 4 hr class, I would argue that any one of the PCVs I trained is better educated than the rural engineers in charge here.

So last Sunday, Oct. 5 I moved out of my site for good. It took my neighbors exactly 1 min before they rummaged through all the stuff I left behind. The only friendly family in town invited me to a dinner the night before where they thanked me for my service, my friendship, and everything I offered them. The other 100 some people did nothing, no goodbyes, no thank you's, they only rushed to my house afterward to see what I left. At dinner this family told me they hate living in San Francisco de Piriatí as well, can't stand how rude people are, and will be moving in two months as well (they moved there shortly before I did). They told me it was killing them to see me move here and try so hard only to have people treat me so poorly. So Sunday morning Loyda came to help move me out. We drove into town with all my stuff, bought a newspaper, found an apartment, moved her out of her old place, and moved into our new place all that same day. It's the nicest place I've lived in the last 8 years of my life (college, grad school, and Peace Corps). For more pictures of our place check out here.

So now I'm in the city doing all my Close of Service (COS) medical checkups, exit interviews, paperwork, etc. Highlights include a dinner with an NGO called IPADEHM, a luncheon at the Ambassador's residence, and a rented party bus for one last night out on the town.

I'll post again after I'm officially done with Peace Corps here in Panama to close my service and to officially close Panamerican Proceeding. Five more days!!!!