What's in yer pickup?

We are in route to our one-year-here celebration, at Isla Grande. First we need to get one of the youths from our community to a sex-ed camp. He is standing behind me right now watching me type. We will drop him off tomorrow.

The transportation from home to the real road can be dodgy. This time we came out in a extended cab pickup not the regular chiva. This is the first time I have ever seen people chose not to get on any vehicle because it was too full. We had:

20 people (5 children),
4 70lb sacks of culantro (each about the size of a large duffel bag),
2 propane tanks,
1 five gallon gas tank,
10 or more backpack type bags of varying sizes, and
1 puppy.

It must be scorpion season. I have now been stung 5 times and Foy just got her first. I used to relocate the bichos (a fun word for pests) but after receiving enough pain from them they now receive the flat of the machete from me. Yesterday I smash-Oed two. The last time I got stung while helping/demonstrating basic carpentry. I was commenting loudly in English so as not to offend. To be helpful a young man squashed the offending arachnid and rubbed the guts on my stung finger. The young man's mother made me a bitter tea of cedrone (a tree, I believe) to help with the pain. I don't think one helped any more than the other but it was a cultural experience.

This is our host father and me making a estufa lorana, or mud stove.

It is now finished and functional. Other people have expressed interest and I have made a list of things that must be collected before starting. Why make a mud stove when most people have burners that run off propane tanks? Because, many of them still use open cook fires almost everyday. The mud stove has an environmental and a health benefit. It uses about one third the wood of an open fire and the smoke is funneled out the chimney instead of being breathed.

Two idle thoughts that do not connect to anything.

Both of my grandfathers were in WWII. Back home, one ran a service station and the other had a dairy and farmed 120 acres. I have always been proud of them but they didn't usually come up in conversation. In the past year I have frequently called up the Spanish translations of ¨Yes, both my grandfathers were in WWII.¨and ¨My grandfather was a farmer.¨ Our grandparents led lives quite similar to our neighbors here in Panama, and it gives me an credibility boost to say, ¨My grandfather grew corn.¨

Foy and I were walking through the jungle in silence having used up interesting conversation in the first two hours of hiking. I finished this train of thought and related it to Foy. Peace Corps is a way of putting off real life. We finished school and instead of getting real jobs we are here in tropical Panama. But what is real life? Get a job, pay off school loans, save money, but people are always looking forward to vacations. And where do people go on vacations? Frequently to tropical locals. Maybe Peace Corps is less putting off, and more of a shortcut to real life.

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