5.19.2007

Day 4 - Service Training - Visiting Agriculture Site

We’ve been busy from dawn till dusk every day this week. Granted, the sun comes up at six and goes down at six here. It’s weird because I connect hot summer days with long daylight hours. We are so close to the equator (about 7 degrees north) that the day and night are of equal length. I haven’t gotten much of a chance to explore because it is usually dark when they let us out. However, we wouldn’t be able to leave this compound anyway.

For the first week we are in a retreat in the City of Knowledge. This is a little compound that houses many of the altruistic organizations such as UNICEF and Peace Corps and soon will house the United Nations as well. We still have air conditioning, electricity and flush toilettes. There are small difference but, it doesn’t really feel like we’ve left the country. The last couple days they have treated us to a myriad of lectures on safety, the history of Panama and what the PC is currently working on here. An interesting fact we learned is that 95% of the volunteers have cell phones and about half of them have coverage at their site. So there is a very good chance we’ll have direct communication too.

In the afternoon yesterday, we had our second language assessment. I am in a group with two others. We seem to have a decent grasp of Spanish. However, I understand the other gringos much better than I understand the native speakers. I don’t think it will take long to understand the locals. I am just not tuned in yet. We have also received the Yellow Fever vaccine, Hepatitis and Malaria pills. Some of the women, including me, got to have a pregnancy test, because the vaccines could damage a fetus. This was of great discussion among the women in our group. Ask me about it later. I believe we still have several more vaccines to go.

Today we break into our two project areas, Agriculture (Foy) and Ecology (Jeff) and are going to visit a volunteer’s site. The agriculture site I am going to has rice tanks, fish tanks, traditional farming and an iguana project. This is the first time we will be outside the city. I’m really excited to see how it goes.

Late on Thursday we had interviews with the head of our project area. We got to tell our preferences. I took horticulture as my first choice, which would be working with home vegetable crop production or possible growing trees to sell. She alluded to the sites they have in mind for us. There are three places we could end up. One is a day’s bus ride away, one is in a remote place that they wanted to send a couple because it might be to lonely for a single, and the third is in one of the most populous sites they have. I’m not really excited about the remote site. However, Jeff thinks it is on an island and that appeals to him. Who knows, where we‘ll end up! But it is fun to hear they have ideas about where they are going to place us. We find out which community we are going to be in on Wednesday the 13th of June.

Later that day…

The trip was fantastic. We visited Jacabo (Spanish name for Jake) at his site. He has a beautiful village. They speak campo (country) Spanish, a dialect I could barely understand. We took two SUVs and there were ten people in an SUV. It was not comfortable, especially when we started bouncing around on the dirt roads. When we arrived we walked out onto a hillside where Jacabo’s host family was planting rice in a slash and burn field. When Jacabo first arrived at his site he worked with his family and taught them to only use each field for a year and then rotate through ten areas. In this way the soil isn’t exhausted. It isn’t the most earth friendly way to farm, but it is sustainable. We helped plant rice. It was back breaking work in the hot, humid sun.

After helping plant the field, we visited Jacabo’s house. He built it with the help of his community. It is quite nice and has a beautiful view of the mountains.

However, his Latrina (out house) has an even better view.
There is only one room and a porch with a little rancho out side. A rancho is four posts with a palm frond thatch roof. Ranchos are much cooler because the roof acts like a swamp air conditioner as long as the leaves are wet, which is most of the time. Jacabo also built himself a system to retain the water that runs off his roof and he uses the water for a shower. Its very clever.
Then we went to lunch. For lunch we had chicken soup. It was a million degrees out and we had hot, boiling hot, soup. Granted it was really good soup. The locals say eating a hot meal helps cool you off. Jacobo claims this is true as well.

After lunch we visited his other projects. He has worked with the locals on rice tanks and fish tanks as well as a vegetable garden. Planting rice in tanks both inceases production and allows for a third harvest each year. The fish tanks run into the rice tanks so that the fish poo fertilizes the rice. Jakobo also worked with a NGO (global organization) to harvest and start seedling native trees to reforest the mountains. It was really inspiring. This is our group looking at fish tanks.

1 comment:

  1. i love your huge windows! moving can be stressful but so fun!

    ReplyDelete