Friday, October 05, 2007

New province, new outlook

Pics- Karinne and her new truck, a view out towards the Caribbean, Karinne and her child labor, the new house, hammock safely in place

“At a loss for words”
I think of great things to write about when we are up in our new site, Las Sabanas. But then I don’t write about them while we are up there, since we have no power, and hence no laptop time. Then when we get to town, we get busy, and my head fills up, pushing out the things that seemed funny, poignant, or at least marginally interesting. Oh well.
Anyway, we are already in the thick of it in the new site. While it is only around 15 miles as the crow flies from our old site, it took 28 hours to move from one to the other. I could go into it, but it frustrated me enough at the time, and I don’t want to inflict it on you. Suffice it to say, the Peace Corps experience involves a lot of waiting around for things to happen, and sometimes that goes double for interactions with the PC office. I will mention the best part, which was getting the truck stuck thirty feet from our new house and spending over an hour winching it forwards for absolutely no reason, except it would’ve not been acceptable to simply back up a little bit and call it good. Ah, machismo, is there any situation it CAN’T make worse?
But on the topic of transport, it is so very much better now. We can walk down the hill 30 minutes and catch a truck with no more than two hours wait, almost any time of the day between 5AM and 4PM. Then an hour in the truck, short wait, an hour in a bus, and we are in the regional capitol of Penonome. Sometimes we can even catch a truck going in front of our house, though the timing is anyone’s guess.

“Your dog, are you selling it?”
Yeah, that is what some guy said. He was driving along the street, stopped, stuck his head out the window, and proposed to buy our dog. The weird thing is that other people have said the same thing. It isn’t because she has “for sale” painted in neon on her side (she doesn’t), but simply because we feed her enough healthy food and give her a few vaccines, so she looks way better than almost any other dog around. The funny thing is that any dog here could be nice looking, too, with just some food and care. But somehow that is crazy. Many even doubt that our dog was actually born here in Panama, since such a pretty dog must have come from the U.S. Ah, yeah.

“Jenny- she sure walked a lot”
Peace Corps volunteers spend two years in often remote communities, living rustically with the people. Yet when we leave, most people only seem to remember things that seem somewhat inconsequential to us, and that we may not imagine would be our main legacy. Case in point- Jenny. She was an environmental education volunteer in our new town until 2004; for two years she lived, ate, talked, gossiped, worked with the people here almost every day. But what people seem to remember are odd things. For example, she climbed a local big mountain. And she walked a lot, and was a vegetarian, so she didn’t eat ANYTHING. Beyond that, it is murky. No one says they learned a lot from her, or that she was a good person. Not that they didn’t, or she isn’t, but that just isn’t what pops first into their minds.
On that theme, people in Chitra will remember the following: That husband of Karina sure ran a lot. He didn’t speak any Spanish. What was his name again? That is it.

“Life in a small country”
This morning really drove home how small Panama is. We had our regional meeting yesterday up in Omar Torrijos National Park, and stayed the night in a cabin up in the mountains. This morning we hiked up to a vista where you can see both the Caribbean and the Pacific on a clear day, and it was indeed clear enough to see them. Truly gorgeous views, nice park, even monkeys as curious to see us as we were to see them. The park isn’t that far from where we live, so we may visit it often.
Today we mostly did errands, including visiting the new big supermarket, called Super 99. This was their grand opening, and they had free samples of coffee and a brass band marching loops around the aisles; it was plenty of fun. We like this supermarket a lot since it has whole wheat pasta and other things that are a welcome change from beans and rice.