9.29.2007

Horsies

Lappy and his tecno friends sadly have departed. Our blog entries will most likely be shorter have fewer pictures and on my part worse spelling. That sadness aside here is some stuff that has happened or is happening.

I am currently reading The Decameron its a bit like Canterberry Tales only more bawdy. I think Mr. Carlson, the former Ames High teacher, probably loves this book but is not permitted to use it in public schools.

I was bit by another bird on a different finger. This one is a pet/wild parrot about half the size of the falcon, which has recover and returned to the jungle after a taste of me. This bicho (pest. usually an insect or animal), belongs to a member of our community. He told me the bird does not usually bite, but probably wanted to see what a gringo tasted like. He could not stop laughing, but his wife looked a little embarrassed and gave both Foy and I duros (frozen chicha) to assuage my pain. My finger should be fine in a few days.

In addition to bicho, here are some Spanish words I like:
Ye ye = a thing that is nicer than it needs be, all gringo houses are ye ye
Raca taca = a female thug or nasty girl
Cartucho = plastic bag from the grocery store
Bomberos berachos = drunk firefighters (Only funny when spoken together)
Por alle = the location of anything out of visual range. Both China and a person in the bathroom are por alle.
Chicha. = fruit juice. Also Tang, CoolAid, or any liquid of any color usually with bastante suger.
Bastante = Translates directly as enough, but is used as a lot or more than enough.

I went on a horse ride a few weeks ago. It was my first time in the saddle so I guess the six hour trip was bastante. I'll start from the start. There are two teenage boys in our community and no teenage girls. This is a very important and much bemoaned if you are a teenage boy. One of these boys, Abrham, said I should visit a small near by village with him to meet the people. I asked if it would take more than a day, and he said not if we used horses. I said I do not have a horse or saddle and he said he would borrow one for me. I asked if my wife could come and he said no.

We set out and at first I could not split my attention to speak Spanish and ride at the same time. But the horse was small and calm and quite easy to stay on top of. I said I was too big for the horse and he said it could carry at least 300 lb. I said the stir ups are too short and he laughed. I know from reading fantasy novels that horses have more than one gait so I tried out second gear. Trot I think it is called. I did not try for third because second was more than painful enough. And so with my knees by my nose we rode for a few hours and I saw a school with many children. I wanted to stop but my young friend said to keep going. We passed a store with people out front and I wanted to stop but we kept on. We got to Abraham's brother's house, thankfully left the horses and continued on foot for about half an hour. Finely we came to a house and my suspicions were confirmed. The family was very nice and the mother made us lunch, and Abraham passed the rest of the afternoon talking to a pretty young woman. I having nothing better to do drew her and her little brother while they talked. Before we rode back I adjusted the stir ups but I was already sore and the return trip was longer by an hour due to night coming on. I walked the 15 min to our house from Abraham's in full dark around 9 pm but the night was clear and the stars were beautifully bright.

I have never really desired to ride horses. They are fine an noble animals but if I was riding properly and that is what it should feel like, only masochists would ever ride horses.

Day 153 - Volunteer Service - Robbed

Well, I´m not sure how fast the bochinche (gossip) has traveled, but if you didn´t know, Jeff and I were robbed last weekend.

Jeff and I went to visit Bonnie, a gal who started a bed and breakfast in her old Peace Corps Site. She´s originally from Iowa and worked in Extension for Iowa State. We were staying for the Festival de Majorana in Guarare, Panama. While we were in at the festival on September 22 with six other Peace Corps Volunteers and Bonnie, her house was ransacked. They stole our laptop computer among other things. We lost about $900 worth of stuff. Between all of us who were staying there and Bonnie about $9,000 worth of stuff was stolen.

We are fine and no one was there to be injured. It was a long night and we have filed the appropriate paper work and I froze my bank account. We have insurance on our personal possessions so we should be able to get money to buy a new computer. However, we lost all the personal information on the computer. The theives, didn´t even steal the power cord, so they won´t be able to use the computer for more and a couple hours until the charge runs out.

Jeff and I decided to stay for the rest of the festival at Bonnie´s, as did many of the other Peace Corps Volunteers. We went onto Panama City Monday to start pushing the paperwork through for insurance and what not. Peace Corps will reimburse the cash lost.

It´s a crappy situation, but the festival was really wonderful. There were many women dressed up in Polleras, the traditional dress with the pearl flower hair pieces and gold combs . That´s the picture at the start of this post. They have a bunch of different contests and a parade where all the floats are ox drawn carts. It was fun three days despite the robbery. We even got to dance a little at a baile. It is the first cultural event we´ve gotten to partake in. It was well worth the time and effort to go to. Although I wouldn´t have traded the laptop for it.

9.09.2007

Day 142- Volunteer Service - Article 1

This article appeared in the Ames Tribune Newspaper on September 9, 2007.

Guest column: The toughest job you'll ever love, in Panama

We flew into Panama City on a hot and steamy night, the only kind of night
there is in Panama City. Everything is packed into a camping backpack on my
back, a school backpack strapped to my front, and a kidney bean shaped bag
lashed over one side. I would feel a ridiculous except I am in the company
of 34 other Peace Corps Volunteers all awkwardly laden, and the one next to
me is my husband, Jeff.

We traipse all our bags up to the cielo (sky-colored) cinderblock house the size of a two-bedroom apartment. This is home for Julia and Sergio and their two 20-something daughters. They are our host family for the next 10 weeks of training.
Sergio and Julia have moved their bed into the back of the kitchen so that Jeff
and I can have our own private bedroom.


The first night, through a combination of pantomiming and fragmented Spanish, we answer Julia's question, "What do you like for breakfast?" Trying to keep things simple, I try to explain cereal will be just fine. Except it comes across as, "I like food of breakfast in box," because I don't know the word for cereal. Eventually I discover we both know the words corn flakes. Ah, yes, there are some universal words with enough advertising behind them to transcend language. So I say in my woman-child
Spanish, "I like cornflakes or similar thing for the breakfast."

For the first 10 weeks we will be here in our host village. We are scheduled tight.
Of the 72 days in training there are two days that might pass as open, both Sundays that read "self-directed activity with host family." The rest of our time is divided into health and safety lectures, language classes, cultural classes, site visits and technical training. My technical training is in Sustainable Agriculture Systems, Jeff's in Community Education Conservation.

During our training we are questioned over our skills and what we would like to work with and if we have any preferences of location. One thing becomes clear: Panama maybe the size of South Carolina, but it is incredibly diverse. We could be placed in an indigenous site in the mountains with canoe access only or a Latino community accessed by 4x4 transports on the beach. We could be in a large town or a very rural village. In any location, we will be expected to live and work for two years with the people and give them access to information and leadership to improve their lives.

Foy is a Peace Corps Volunteer placed in Panama with her husband Jeff, both graduates of Ames High and Iowa State University. They are scheduled to return to the United States in August 2009.

9.04.2007

Day 128 - Volunteer Service - House Tour

A tour of Ramiro’s House.

I decided it was time to do some show and tell. Blog posts are always more fun with photos. So I am going to give you a tour of Ramiro’s house complete with photos.

Let’s start with a broad view. This is our little community, we actually live up the road about 15 minutes. We’ll probably rent a house somewhere down there in the near future. Here’s Ramiro’s house, where we are staying. The bedrooms are up top on the left, the living areas below, and the kitchen is on the far right.
We will start in the general living area. The porch has two hammocks. The one on the left is way more comfortable, being made of cloth rather than rope. The enclosed area below the house has the shower and storage. Note the glass windows, this is the only house I have seen here with glass windows. Normally they just have a wooden shutter than can be pulled shut at night or when it rains.
Next up is the dining room, basically the opposite side of the porch, and in fact many people when visiting sprawl along the benches at the table. The chair out front is Ramiro’s Chair. It was made from a cross section of a trunk of a tree. He carved it out using a machette.
The table is also one of the places I like to have a flower arrangement. It’s something I enjoy doing and it’s fun to play with the exotic flowers around here. The white flower they call heilotrope (Although I suspect they are not realated to the English flower of the same name) . However, just like the English flower it smells wonderful! Just off the dining room is the kitchen. The kitchen is a stand alone room. I assume that this is because it could burn down and also they used to (and some still do) cook on fagons (raised cook fires) and the smoke would stay out side this way. Ramiro has a gas stove and oven. There is a fagon as well out the back door with a little shelter to keep the wind and rain out of the fire. I have not tried cooking on a fagon.
The sink is accessible from inside through a window, but it is actually sitting outside, and the water drains into a open gutter. There really isn’t a basin either, it is just a sloping painted piece of zinc, with a faucet over it. There is usually a big metal bowl under the faucet that functions as the basin. Also, close to the kitchen is the fregador, which is an outdoor sink. In this case the laundry area. Jeff and I do laundry about twice a week. Here it is beneficial to do laundry often because mold will grow on anything left wadded up very quickly. It takes about two hours to do the washing and four to six hours for the clothes to line-dry in the sun. Needless to say, it is an all day affair, unless of course it rains, and then it is a two day affair.
Another handy feature of any campo (country) house, is the latrina. Ramiro has actually built a little roofed walk way that keeps you dry if you need to visit in the rain. Outside of the house, I have started a little seed bed called a semillero, mostly flowers, with a few vegetables sprinkled in. The seeds are almost all locally collected. I recently expanded to the right as you can see.
Jeff is also testing out our solar panel, on an old battery of Ramiro’s. The panel does work and will charge. However, the battery doesn’t hold a charge long. This pile of bricks will hopefully be a nice building for a flush toilet and “real” shower some day.
The last stop on the tour is the horse. He doesn’t have a name, Ramirro just refers to him as his Caballo Blanco (pronounced Kab-aye-yo Blan-ko meaning White Horse). He’s pretty nice, he lives in the pasture across the road from the house. I take him guallava fruits off the tree in the back yard, and now he comes running when I go to the gate and call, “Caballo”. It’s just like in Zelda Ocarina of Time, except I don’t have an ocarina and I haven‘t learned to ride a horse, yet. *Jeff noticed today that Ramiro went out to the pasture to get the horse with four guallava fruits in his hand. He must think getting the horse to come when you call, instead of traipsing out to him through a muddy field is a good idea.