I remember way back when, before arriving in Panama, thinking that with just a few months in Panama, I’d be highly conversational and ready to take on the world. Ha. That was utterly wrong.
Several weeks later, I’m sitting on the front porch, working on my sombrero, while my host dad and another guy are off in the woods behind the house doing something. I hear a tree fall and decide this something is worth checking out. I put on my shoes and head on back and discover that they’ve knocked down a tree. I stand around for about twenty minutes watching them work. It appears that Panamanians have more faith in machetes than in a saw to cut wood into pieces and this is pretty fascinating to watch. Eventually I ask what the wood is for and my host dad proceeds to tell me about the rancho that he’s constructing for me. Whelp. Guess I’ll need to work some more on my Spanish.
|Chopping down a tree to use as the four corners of the rancho.|
|Preparing the wood.|
|Marking the spots for the posts.|
|I was away for a day and then didn’t get a chance to take pictures until late in the afternoon after we’d done some work.|
|Frame is done. Up next is adding the roofing.|
|Housing material which is known as panca|
|Loaded up on snacks the last time I was out of site. Might have purchased too many.|
|This little guy was really hard to catch a picture of. This is him trapped inside my bug catching jar. He was a little less than an inch across.|
|Getting creative in site and figured out how to better place my light.|
|Started learning origami.|
|This is what I ended up taking with my to the hardware store to check out materials for my house. Thought the collection looked ridiculous so I snapped a picture.|
|Future house in the background, some of the materials under the blue tarp and in the foreground.|
|This is what my future front yard looks like after a truck tore it apart delivering materials for my house and fifty cows and bulls ran through.|
|Accidentally stumbled upon this sunset while going out to make a call one night.|
|Who needs an ax or saw when you have a machete?|
|I scared the horse a bit by the time I got the camera he had moved away. When I first walled up to the door he had his head just outside and could have easily walked right into my house.|
|Almost done my sombrero! Last materials there before I’m ready to start forming it.|
|I’m pretty sure all of them have blueish eyes.|
|Making a campo fishing pole.|
|This is my new favorite spot in site. Walked twenty minutes up a river, in the river, to get here. It’s over 15 feet deep in the middle.|
|Went to the local town to check out a parade/competition type thing.|
I was going to write a blog post as I was posting pictures last time but I never got around to it. This is a sort of combination of an explanation of some of the pictures and also a general post about the more important stuff that’s been going on in site since I moved here. I’m going to group everything together by topics instead of just one big rambling blog post.
WorkFor the first three months the goal of a volunteer is to focus on PACA tools which revolve around understanding the daily and yearly schedules, community needs, and community map. I’ve been getting along pretty well with this and am almost done. I decided to do a GPS map and as a side project I’m writing a guide for other Peace Corps volunteers to use on how to construct a GPS map. I’ve also been getting a lot done with regards to my job as an environmental health specialist. I’ve sat down and had conversations with several people who are involved with the water committee in my community. I’ve also checked out the water system and have begun to discuss the next steps of getting improved water.
HouseI just got the money for my house a few days ago! I’ll be heading into town to withdraw it from my bank account. I’ll then discuss with my host dad, who will also be my landlord, the next steps. This will roughly be to organize the community together to help build the house. I’ll supply the lunch for the workers. If the timeline my landlord has already laid out is correct, it’ll be done three days after construction begins. That would be amazing. The next step will be to focus on getting lumber from a man in the next community to begin constructing furniture, windows, and a door. Luckily, I already purchased most of my furniture from the previous volunteer who lived in the next community over so I won’t need so much stuff.
Free TimeMy sombrero, which you’ve probably already seen too many pictures of has been occupying most of my time. It is also a discussion with just about every person that stops by to visit. Looks like a chose a good hobby for integration. Another good hobby that I’ve taken from my community is doing nothing. Life moves much more slowly around here and it’s important to be able to enjoy doing nothing. Not too much of my day is filled with doing this but I try it every so often to recharge myself. Besides hobbies I’ve learned from my community, I’ve started a garden which is currently failing miserably. A member from the gardening group in Peace Corps will be out to my site in two weeks to help out a bit. When I get as much sombrero making done as I can in a day, I like to relax with reading, movies, and listening to music.
SpanishMy Spanish has been moving along pretty well. When I first arrived I was at a comprehension level with my community, mostly due to their accents, of about 10%. I’d say it’s up to about 30% to 80% ranging on the conversation. If I’m the one initiating it and know the topic it’s much easier than if I’m just listening to five other people talk about something. I was studying about two to four hours a day for the first month but have taken a break to focus on other aspects of my life here. I’ll return to studying more vocab and grammar in the next month or two.
Other Random Stuff
- The rainy season has arrived and we’re right in the middle of it. As I write this it’s raining rather hard. The situation isn’t as bad as the weather forecast makes it seem. (85F and thunderstorms all the time) The rain comes for a few hours a day in the afternoon and that’s about it. The other day though, we did get the hardest rain yet. There was a giant rock in the trench around the house that caused the water to rise up and over and start flowing towards the house. My host brother and sister along with myself spent the next half an hour digging new trenches around the house to funnel the water away.
- I’ve been hand washing my laundry since I arrived and dam does it suck. It takes about an hour or so to finish all of my laundry and I’ll have it hung up for a few hours and then the afternoon rains come. Luckily, today was a rather hot day and I got the first load of laundry completely dry and put away in my room before the rains started. The other half of the laundry is hanging about my room and on the front porch.
- I’m sadly not doing as much machete-chopping as I’d hoped. Host family has access to a gas mower so no need to chop the yard, and as part of working on the water system, which is already installed, there’s not much land to clear for it.