Day 667 - Volunteer Service - Texas Brigade Blog

Want to know how the brigade with Texas and the ornamental plants is going? Check out the Texas blog to see their point of view!


Day 663 - Volunteer Service - Mom and Clarissa Visit Panama

My mom and sister came to see me and Jeff and Panama. We embarked on an amazing week of adventures. We visited the city, country and an island. We started with a visit to the port where the Mamoni River enters the Pacific. There we bought red sea bass and some sort of ocean catfish. They were tasty fried and later in curry. The dog did get his share of tale and fins. Mom and Clarissa visited where we live and hiked to ...look out points that were very muddy to reach.
We saw some banana plants along the way. We trekked across rivers to reach ...... the waterfalls.
We made some traditional Panamanian foods and used the raised cook fire called a Fogon to make s'mores. The heat from the fire made the shower (big blue tarp and bamboo box) quite toasty.
There was a lot of cattle moving while we were in El Valle as well as a political meeting and a Ministry of Agriculture meeting. Our porch is an excellent place to people watch.There was a bit of wildlife. There is a snake in this picture. Can you see him? Hint: he's green.
The chiva wouldn't come up the last hill into El Valle becuase it was too muddy. So we had to walk it with all our luggage. My family is awesome.
Then we headed off to Panama City where we based out of this lovely apartment on Plaza Bolivar. We went to the Beach on Isla Taboga for a day.
As well as the Panama Canal ...
... and shopping adventures. All of Casco Viejo is full of cats. Nice cats.

I was sad to see mom and Clarissa go. Although that was over shadowed by gut twisting worry with the stress of the ticket counter being closed when we arrived at the airport. And the fear that they wouldn't make their flight. It all worked out okay, but after our stern lecture from the Delta employee, I will be at least an hour early for international flights. Even though the Panama airport is tiny.


Moss Rug

I have recently become a fan of gardenrant.com. And here's one reason why: The moss garden rug. Although it is not for sale... yet. And yes that is real growing moss.

Picture Post

These pictures and events from the last several months did not find their way into individual posts.

In the end the humidity was too much for our camera and this is the best of the pictures from my birthday in December. (I was wearing shorts, honest!)

I took this picture of downtown Panama City from the top of Cerro Ancon while balanced on the back of a bench. Cerro Ancon is a tall hill in the middle of the city with a huge Panamanian flag on top.

While we were gone Zeus battled with an unknown titan. The wounds on his nose have since healed.

Foy's family sent us a new camera that arrive for us to pick it up during Christmas. Making all subsequent pictures, like this one from Foy's birthday, possible.

The Austin Brigade returned to Panama in January. Part of the group drove to Earthtrain's facilities not far from our house.

Texans with children at the school in our community.

These girls brought over an English version of Beauty and the Beast. I translated it as best I could. They seemed satisfied.

Irene, her granddaughter and dinner riding with us down to Chepo.

Beach combing at Veracruz near Panama city.

Our lovely embassy host family. Marcela, Daniel, and Isabela.

Daniel and JJ at Veracruz. The line of ships on the horizon are waiting their turn to pass through the canal to the Caribbean.

A new record, 33 people on the chiva going up to our site just before carnival.

Foy has been working in the school's garden daily. You can see the continental divide in the background.


Saril - Te de Saril Recipe

Hibiscus sabdariffa
The first time I saw this plant a man from our community called it yahoo and said it was for making a drink. Wikipedia lists more than 20 names for what is commonly known as saril in Panama.

Saril is related to hibiscus, but unlike hibiscus after the flowers drop off the calyx becomes fleshy and turns bright red. (Calyx is a term for leaf like parts under the petals. The green points under a rose bud are the calyx) .  The calyces taste like sour cherries and can be used to make jam and pie filling.

Saril starts flowering in November and is harvested through January.  In Panama it is used to make a traditional Christmas and New Year's drink.

To make this saril tea boil the calyces with diced ginger in enough water to cover them. Then, strain out the red tea and add sugar to taste.  You may need to add water if the flavors are too concentrated,

The tea is served chilled and seco (sugar cane alcohol) is frequently added. This drink came to Panama as part of Jamaican culture so "traditional" means Jamaican-style.

We got some saril seeds from a fellow PC volunteer more than a year ago. This January we harvested several bushes worth of saril. The flowers and the bush are pretty and they grew quickly especially considering the poor soil around our house. After the plants died and dried Ithey are an annual - only living about nine months) we collected some of the seeds to distribute to other volunteers in Panama.


Day 650 - Volunteer Service - Preparing for the March Brigade

We are gearing up for the Brigade from Texas 14-21 of March. There was a conference call tonight with Nathan of Earth Train, Charlie and Maggie of University of Texas Austin, Foy and Jeff of Peace Corps and Andri of Global Business Brigades. We ironed out some details for the March Texas Brigade.

Here is where things stand:
They are working to renovate the gallery. The electrical part, including lamps and fans are being worked on right now and hopefully next week it will be ready to paint. Nathan will not be in Panama for this Brigade.

All the pots have been planted. The plants are growing, but not as quick as we hoped. The goal is 25 plants ready for transport by March 12.

What this means:
The gallery will not be opening in March. It looks like it will be pushed back to April or May. During the March Brigade instead we will be working on the gallery and marketing and also having an open house event "Fiesta Planteadora". Lisette and Carlos will be our team from Earth Train at Casa Arias during the Brigade.

March brigade plans:
Again there will be two groups, City and Jungle. Six students in the City group and five in the Jungle group. City and Jungle will work together Sunday 14 to Monday 16 in The City. They will be working to prepare the gallery and other marketing things. The Jungle group will go to El Valle de Madrono for Tuesday 17- Thursday 19. In Madrono, Jungle will meet with the women, have a financial workshop, buy pots and look at transportation. They will come back to The City with the women who are growing the plants for the gallery event Thursday 19 in the afternoon. Meanwhile, the City group will continue working on the gallery, marketing, artist stuff and preparing for the Thursday event.

On Thursday, March 19 in the evening we will have the Fiesta Planteadora (The Planters Party). The goal will be to present who and what the gallery is, receive feedback on the gallery and further the network of the gallery. To this end Nathan recommended "A slide show, and 8 compelling questions to draw out ideas and engage the guests." The guest list will include all supporters of the gallery: artists, journalists, Casco businesses, embassy people and friends of Earth Train.

Friday 20, the women will return to El Valle. The Texans will follow up in the Casco for their remaining time in Panama.

Who's doing what:
Before the March brigade these things need to be done.

Foy and Jeff will invite the women to a financial workshop on Wednesday 18, and then to the event at Casco Veijo. They will work to make sure the plants are as far along as possible.

Nathan and Earth Train (Lisette, Carlos) will make sure the gallery renovation is as far a long as possible, help make a list of contacts to invite to the Fiesta Planteadora, distribute invitations, suggest 8 compelling questions and provide photos for the slide show to Texas.

GBB Panama (Andri) will arrange all logistics and the women's stay in Panama City, create a list of contacts to invite to Fiesta Planteadora and help distribute invitations.

Texas will make the invitation to Fiesta Planteadora in English and Spanish, work with GBB to make a list of contacts to invite to the event and facilitate the distribution of invitations. Jungle group will prepare the workshop on receipts and consider transportation of the plants. City group will draft the slide show, and 8 Compelling Questions.

These are my notes on the meeting. I tried to keep track of all the details, there was a lot said and if there are additions or corrections let me know.