26 February 2009

I survived Carnival...

This post is going to be short because we're about to head back into the bush for 3 weeks. The past 5 days have been a ridiculous experience in Las Tablas...carnival central in Panama. I'm waiting for pictures from some of the friends we stayed with since I didn't want to bring my camera out. We were basically pelted with fire hoses during the day at these huge outdoor parties and then danced the night away into the wee hours.

So I'm off again but will have more posts and pictures when I'm back mid-March.

15 February 2009

It's good to be back in Panama

Hmmmmm.....Where to begin....I came back to the city on Friday after 3 weeks in the bush and immediately went to get a roast beef sandwich with cheese (both of which we don't have due to lack of refrigeration) and a batido (a fruit milkshake of sorts). I was welcomed back by one of my friends from study abroad who has been in Panama since Sept working with an organic farming group we met during our program. We had a fun evening out along the causeway that parallels the canal. This weekend was pretty eventful with me getting my wallet stolen at the mall on Valentine's Day and getting prepared for Carnival next weekend. More to come on that at a later time.

My return to the village 3 weeks ago was really heartwarming. I was welcomed back as the "maestra" (teacher) and asked when I would start teaching English again. Hopefully we'll get into a routine soon so I can plan classes but the first 3 weeks were a little chaotic since we had a group of 10 high schoolers with 2 teachers come from Connecticut. Their week up in the reserve was jam packed with mist netting to catch birds, stream microbiology, and different social activities. The other volunteers and I took one group to the village to visit different farmer's plots and walked them all over hill and dale. Probably 8 miles or so through the mountains and rivers so they were pretty exhausted at the end and could commiserate with the tough life of a farmer. One day we took the entire group to the village and we repainted the school and the students played around with village kids and then everyone jumped into the river to cool off. The last full day they were there we walked into the forest to catch some more birds and then went on an adventurous hike to a series of waterfalls on the reserve. Everyone came back either soaked or covered in mud due to the trail or falling into the stream on accident

When the group left, only Roslyn (volunteer from Pittsburgh) and I stayed up at the field station. For the next three days it was incredible never-ending downpours and vicious wind. We barricaded ourselves in the kitchen with blankets and tea and waited out the storm. Finally, last Saturday the skies cleared and we were able to cross the river and walk to the village to watch our team play baseball against a rival village. It was a very exciting game (we won!!), although our team's pitcher took a line drive in the face and had to go back to civilization and to the hospital to get his jaw checked out, but he's ok. This was the second game we'd been to and it just so happens that they have lost the other games we've missed, so now we're considered the lucky fans and are required to attend future games.

This past week we met with different farmers in the area who are a part of our project to convert the valley to sustainable organic farming. I have 3 farmers that I'm responsible for...helping with projects, providing technical information, and just generally being involved in what they're doing. Unfortunately all of my farmer's plots are way up in the mountains and it's quite the climb to get there. One way our farmers benefit from the project is that we have a contract with one of the grocery stores in Panama City to buy their "culantro" (variation on cilantro) directly for a decent fixed price year round. In addition we're thinking of starting a CSA (community sponsored agriculture) where city folk can pay a monthly fee directly to a farmer to have a box of fresh, in season vegetables delivered every two weeks or so. Other than that, I'm working on the logistics for the iguana farm in terms of location and ownership. Starting next week after carnival we'll actually be able to start putting things into motion.

This week I'll be working with my farmers and around our farm. I'm giving a presentation to the village on Wednesday about where I come from, what our lives are like and my family. I'm excited to wow them with pictures of snow and frozen seas.

Check out the new pictures I've posted (there are 3 albums) and I'll have more next week after Carnival!