03 October 2007

Well, we´ve been in site for two months now. Settling into more of routine, which means more regular blog updates. Yay! A quick synopsis of the last 5 months:

Mac and I arrived in Panama May 16th, 2007. We spent the first 2.5 months in language, culture and technical training in a community about an hour and a half outside of Panama City. We covered everything from composting with worms to the imperfect subjunctive.

July 26th we were officialy sworn in as Peace Corps Volunteers and the 29th we moved to our new community: a little town of about 500 people in mountains of Coclé, bordering Omar Torrijos National Park. Our transportation is a bus from Panama City to a transportation hub and from there an hour´s ride in the back of a 4x4 truck on a gravel road. No electricity but lots of fireflies.

Mac´s Peace Corps sector is sustainable agriculture and mine is environmental conservation, though our work descriptions and goals overlap quite a lot. Mac will likely be working with coffee farmers on improving harvest quality and quantity and looking for a better market. I´ll likely be working in the school: teaching environmental conservation and english. I´ll also be teaching computer classes in a school about an hour´s walk from our community.

Our official work right now is doing a community diagnostic: to learn what the people in the community need and want from us over the next two years. This work translates into ´pasearing´everyday: making neighborly house calls, perhaps the way people in the states used to pre-1940. We are lavished with food and hot, sugary coffee on these visits. Wonderful, friendly people, who drop everything to listen to us chatter in our broken Spanish, sometimes for hours.

We´ve got the beginnings of a few projects: an environmental youth group, an herb garden, and a decent seed collection for reforestation projects. We´re especially excited about gardening prosepects: neither of us has lived anywhere for more than a year since we graduated from high school and we´ve had nothing but sickly houseplants for the last 8 years. The house we´ll likely move into once we move out of our host family´s place already has banana, platano, coconut, pixvae, mango and coffee growing around it.

Everyday sheds new light on old philosophies of development and environmental conservation. We´ve got just as much to learn here as we have to teach, which pretty much sums up the PC mission.

It is Mac´s birthday tomorrow so we´re spending the day to his liking in the regional capitol: we´re going to eat a whole (large) box of Cheerios for lunch, we´ve got inside information on where to buy a wheel of gouda cheese, and later cold beer and a Phillies playoff game. Go Phillies!