We have been busy the last couple weeks. I am at the NGO (Non Governmental Organization) Earthtrain writing this post, but we will get to that.
This is the view into our valley home as you crest the ridge. I spent valuable computer time putting together this panorama, so if you would like to see the far superior larger version ask for it via email. I will be happy to send it to you. Notice how green is my valley. The country side behind me as I took these pictures has a more yellow tint. The dry season takes hold, but for us it still rains nearly everyday. The woman in red is Vicky, a PC Spanish teacher. She stayed with us for a week, next to her is Carlos, our friend and a PC trainer of new volunteers. Vicky just missed the once a day transport to our site, but luckily Carlos happened to be nearby with one of PC's wonderful white Land Cruisers and was able to stop to admire the view and drive us home.
March 8th two students from McGill University, working with the NGO CREA, came to stay in our house with us for several days. They were gathering information about the spice, culantro (similar in flavor to cilantro, not a misspelling) for papers they are writing. Since every man over the age of 12 in our little community raises at least a bit of culantro this is a good place to be asking such questions.
These are some local farmers rinsing and packing up culantro to send to market. We introduced the students to our neighbors and stayed with them the first night, then around noon on the 9th Business Brigands (BB) arrived.
Our community is small, up to 60 people if you count the suburbs, but only about 26 people within the city limits. BB brought 32 UT Austin students to get an ornamental plants project started. We left the McGill students in our house and spent the next two nights with BB at Earthtrain's nearby headquarters. In that time we helped get a presentation for the community ready and after that worked on what to do with this bounty of energetic willing workers.
Going over some basic Spanish with BB at Earthtrain HQ.
This is part of the BB group scraping out calabasos. We had a good turnout for the community presentation. One of the little girls who came asked Foy if the students were movie stars. Also she was sure that one was an actress in Zorro the a popular Latin soap opera because she had red hair.
We really wanted to stay and work with BB in our community, but we needed to leave midday on the 10th to make it on time to the PC All Volunteer Conference (AVC). Instead we stayed that night to help plan BB's first work day and got going at 5:30 am on the 11th. We were about 4 hours late for the first day of AVC.
For much of the time en route to AVC, I was thinking we should have gotten out of going in order to stay and work with our community. We arrived in Chitre at 2:30 pm and only missed hotel check in, general meet and greet, lunch, and the first half of the US ambassadors speech to open the conference. By midday on the 14th when AVC ended I was glad we had come. The best part of it was that nearly all the PC volunteers and staff were there. The accommodations were some of the nicest I have experienced in Panama. Groups of people that would never otherwise be in the same room talked face to face, and organizational meetings had record attendance. We had down time in the evenings to spend with friends, and held this quarter's regional meeting (no wrestling this time).
After AVC we followed one of our friends back to her site and spent the night. The 15th we walked around her community and then caught a bus back to Panama City to reconnect with BB. They were in high spirits and had enjoyed their time. They completed seven double dig beds for families to grow ornamental plants. After dinner with BB we went to a live performance of what the club hosting it described as symphony reggae. I would like to record this quote, spoken in jest (I think) from that evening "It's our last night and I want the women of Panama to remember me." Priceless.
The 16th we were able to meet our embassy host family for the first time. PC has a program that connects lucky volunteers with US Embassy families that are interested in letting us do laundry and sleep at their house. That was meant to be a joke, but it is mostly true. We had a great time and the next chance we get to visit I will ask their permission to post names and pictures.
I'll just post this one of Foy with their son. We had hamburgers for dinner, and played with their adorable, well behaved children. They are a young couple, he was a PC volunteer in Honduras and she was a first grade teacher, before they started their three year stint in Panama. They will be leaving for a new post not too long after we are scheduled to return home. We had a good time swapping PC stories with him after dinner. Then we took hot showers and slept in a real bed. Being in that house reminded me of visiting friends houses in the states. Several of our closest friends will have children almost the same age as these when we get back. Children that did not exist when we left. I have never felt homesickness, but I have never missed friends back home as much as I did while thinking about these comparisons.
The 17th we spent a relaxing morning chatting with our host, and she was good enough to drop us off at a meeting with Jesus a PC volunteer trainer. Jesus in turn was good enough to take us to the City of Knowledge for Foy to meet with Russ, a professor of agriculture from our alma mater ISU. From there we made our way back to Chepo to catch the transport back to our site on the 18th.
The McGill students had faithfuly cleaned and locked up our house when they left, but I discovered that I was missing several hand tools. I gave BB permission to use the tools and our house before we left. I should have realized that it would be difficult to get all the tools returned to their proper homes in what must have been a whirlwind of work. I assumed that the tools ended up at Earthtrain hence my trip here today.
In the past we have walked the road to get here and that takes two and a half hours, but today I went cross cow pastures on a more direct route and shaved more than an hour off the trip. On the homeward hike I will try an even more direct path over a ridge. It might take less than an hour. Earthtrain is closer than I thought.
Two of the six missing items were at Earthtrain so tomorrow I will go back to the houses that BB worked at and suggest at that perhaps a few of my tool were left at other houses. My tools are easily recognizable and they would know if they have them. I am fairly certain my tools are around, but I doubt I will get them back. In the future I will probably be less generous in the lending of my tools. It is hard for me to turn people down. I can replace what is lost, but I do feel a bit angry that someone would take from people who have only tried to helped them. Of the missing items I felt worst about Foy's missing machete. Machetes are personal tools. I can't explain it any better. I did find her machete, but the sheath is still MIA
Only a lighter note, cats sleep funny.
Zeus at the foot of our bed.