Friday, July 28, 2006

From aspirantes to voluntarios

We swore in as PC volunteers yesterday. Everyone was happy but tired. I will just simply put a few more pics, since we are off to the beach shortly.
It was hard, but totally worthwhile. However, having not spoken enough spanish in the last couple weeks, it'll be hard to resume.
Since we will be out in the boonies for a while, I will likely compose stuff for here on our laptop, then download it in town. Until then, adios!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Grape Nut flavored ice cream

How do some foods get invented, and then become popular? Today´s example is grape nut flavored ice cream. It is exactly what it sounds like- vanilla ice cream with grape nuts in it. Not very good, but somehow immensely popular here. Odder still is the fact that nobody eats grape nuts cereal.


Enough on the food. Later this week we will swear in as volunteers. Everyone is ready, though there is definitely an undercurrent of nervousness and trepidation. We will go from being told about stuff in english in a group setting to having to teach it alone in spanish with locals. It will be interesting.

But before that, we are finally going to the beach. We have been in this skinny, coastal country for over two months, and have not even dipped our feet in the ocean. That is wrong. We are tired of training, tired of being always on someone else's schedule for eating and doing everything, tired of the heat. So getting to our site will be welcome.

Once we are there, this thing may not be updated for a while- the 4 hour or longer chiva ride between our site and the nearest computer is a bit of a hindrance. Plus, we are planning on not leaving for the first month, to better assimilate into Chitra. So adios for now, we will be back online with tales and pics sometime in late august or september.

, not quite chitra, but our site looks just like this. Tough! much better than the imprisonment of training!

Monday, July 17, 2006

Back from Chitra, semi-intact

Well, the word chitra means this awful little biting insect. It goes after exposed ankles and arms between dusk and dawn, and you don't generally know you are getting bit until hours later, when a terrible patch of itchy red dots surface and take up to a week to go away.
Chitra also is the name of the district that we will live in for the next two years. I would love to attach some pics, but truth be told, I am too tired to go to the trouble. Woken up at 2am by a big storm, realizing it would make the truck (aka chiva) ride out much harder, didn't really get back to sleep much before 3:30am arrived and we had to get going. We were told that it was so muddy that the chiva might just start out waaaay down the hill, so 4:05 found us stumbling down said muddy road in the rain, slipping and sliding. Soon, the chiva actually came barrelling past us, Karinne and I jumping off into the ditch as it careened down the hill to a spot it could stop, then jumping into the back with about 5 lbs. of mud on each foot. A highlight was when the road got so bad that we all had to get out of the back and walk while the driver gunned it up a super dodgy hill. Sara was with us, she rode in the cab of the truck and taught the driver and another woman good curses in english.
The scenery is beautiful, but hard to appreciate from the cramped cover over the bed of the truck. Someday I hope I get to ride up front, mostly just to see the terrain, but also so I can have fear in advance rather than in retrospect, since you never know what is coming when you are in the back.
Otherwise, we are very jazzed by our site. Good coffee, enthusiastic friendly people, cool climate, mud mud mud, and lots of work to do. Nice swimming holes, lots of hiking potential, and mostly a lack of previously mentioned chitras make it primo. But good lord, that ride. And it isn't even the really rainy season yet. That comes in october, and we may just stay put till december or so.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Cool Boquete and hot coffee

Hey yáll, greetings from the land of rash covered extremities! Also the land of Old Milwaukee beer, huge sections of store refrig space devoted to awful hotdogs, and soon, the land of a dispersed Group 57. Yup, we will be heading out to our sites for a visit tomorrow, and in a couple weeks, moving to them for good.

Until then, more spanish classes, more charlas on personal safety, and maybe even more shots. Well, I shouldn´t complain. There are plenty of sublime moments or even afternoons, filled with mermaids on rocks in cool rivers, seas of coffee beans to swim in, and when we are lucky, holdras. These are like beignets, but without the sugar and a little tougher. They are often just served plain, owing to the panamanian aversion to all spices and most condiments. Uh oh, I´m complaining about the food, a slippery journey that often gets a little too beligerent for a sober guy. So I will move on. I will say that after our trip to Boquete for coffee training, I have a big bag of some of the best coffee I´ve had, and I think I have gotten our host mom addicted to it. She will have a hard time going back to nescafe when we leave. Or maybe she hates it, but is just trying to be polite, since she can see how much it means to me.
I miss fire season, but as you know, mysterious rashes on both arms and legs is nearly as rewarding. Maybe next time I´ll include pics. I still get to cut down trees, but they are more often banana trees with my machete. Speaking of machetes, I´ve finally scored some points with our host mother with my machete skills. Actually, I think she is happy to have something for me to do, and enjoys watching me flail skillessly. Plus, I´m a tall gringo with a big machete, so I can reach those tall branches that are dying to be cut off.
Tonight we are in the Albrook Mall, the most bizarre place in the world after you have been out in the countryside. Take any big mall from suburban america, drop in intact on the outskirts of Panama City, and there you go. And I do mean intact- it has Wendy´s, Burger King, even a friggin´Quiznos. When you consider that many volunteers live without electricity or running water in shacks that you have to hike to, and the fact that the mall is also the main bus station, it is one heck of a cold culture shower.
Ok, getting delirious for an Orange Julius or similar mall rations. Oh, the prices here are the same as the U.S., too, so when you go from the countryside making $10-day as a volunteer, it is scary. Plus, you start pricing everything else in duros, which are delicious frozen juice bags that cost ten cents. Crap, back on the food topic.
Anyway, I hope to make this blog better in the future, by adding links to other PC peoples sites, ones who have better pics and are less likely to digress to food philosophy. In the meantime, salud from Panama!