Jeff and I have officially accepted our Peace Corps nomination and will be headed to Panama May 12, 2007 give or take a couple days. We have been told by many sources that our correspondence will be easy the first three months while
we are in training near Panama City, but once we are at our site we could be fairly remote. That doesn't mean you should stop writing to us, just that we might take a while to get back to you.
We will be in Panama for 27 months.
The only reasons we would leave the country would be for close
family deaths, siblings or parents, or medical evacuation. Hopefully, we won't have to leave the country. Note that you may visit us when ever you wish after our first three months of training. I'm sure we can find a an open hammock for
Jeff and I have been given job titles, but let me tell you, they aren't narrow. I am Sustainable Agriculture Services, fondly known as SAS. As far as I can tell, this could be clearing fields with machetes, aquaculture, home vegetable production, integrated pest management, alternatives to slash and burn or cash crop production. Jeff is Community Environmental Conservation or CEC. His description is even more vague, environmental education, promote eco youth groups, rural development, or advocate environmentally responsible practices. The Peace Corps gives site assignments after the three month training period so they can match you and your skills to a specific site at that point we'll have a better idea of what we'll be doing.
As for the location we will be assigned to, there are also many diverse options. I can say we will be in a community that is indigenous or Latin that has at least 70% poverty. Many of the journals I have been reading by Panama PC volunteers ( http://www.peacecorpsjournals.com/pm.html) describe being a several hour canoe ride from the nearest road, sleeping in stilted, bamboo huts and/or having to wash themselves and their clothes in a river. Most of the population of Panama speaks Spanish and is catholic. Although, in an indigenous village they would speak their native language as a first language and Spanish as a second, and have a mixture of native and catholic beliefs. Will we have a computer or cell phone? Probably not. Jeff is looking into getting an inexpensive laptop and solar array . We most likely won't have running water or electricity so internet is out of the question, but with a computer/solar set up we would have a way to journal and download pictures so we could burn them onto CD and send them home. We'll see, I am on the fence regarding having a computer. I feel having a computer would set us apart, we are supposed to be living on the same level as the people in our community and having a big solar panel on our roof just might make us stick out. Also, theft is pretty common, especially when we are in a big city for training or what not. As for cell phones we won't have one. The Peace Corps will give us a pager of sorts that will alert us if we need to leave the area due to weather or other events that might effect us. Other than that we'll have to use pre-paid calling cards when in town.
Does PC pay you guys? Well sort of, we are given a "walking around" stipend that will be similar to the money the people in our community make. This money should be enough to buy us food and basic necessities. In addition to the stipend we will have $225 per month put into a savings account for us. This money is what we will be given when return to the states. Let me do the math for you, that's about $6,000 we'll each earn in two years. So we're definitely not in it for the money.
Why did we sign up? One night over dinner, I mentioned wanting to do a project where we would live on a demonstration homestead in Maine for a year. Jeff said, "I'd rather do Peace Corps or something like that." I'd always thought Peace Corps sounded interesting and we had been saying it would be a real boon to our children if they could grow up bilingual. So the idea was germinated and began to take root. We applied in January 2006 and now, about 15 months later we are about to begin our journey.
I will continue to use my blog (http://www.foyupdate.blogspot.com/) as much as possible. Jeff may make entries as well. If we take a computer/digital camera I will probably get a Flickr account. Many people feel that we will be out of communication with civilized world while we are volunteers. This is not the case, we will be in communication, just not in the ways we are now. The old art of letter writing shall be revived and short emails asking when to meet for dinner will have to be replaced with less frequent but more substantial emails.
This is already becoming a substantial email and I'm not even in Panama yet. I will attempt to keep you all up to date on our journey and I hope you will do like wise.
This is the Foy Update I just emailed out, so a lot of you will have seen it. If you want to be added to my mass mailing list, just let me know.