12 April 2009
Summer has arrived full force in the Mamoni River valley the last couple of weeks. It's been 90s or so everyday with clear blue skies. I've been working with my farmers every week in their plots and we've definitely been making progress; new plots of organic tomatoes, peppers, spring onion, cilantro, parsley and cucumbers. Most of the crops look really good, but we found that some grow better on different farmer's plots than others. I've spent many a morning in the cow pastures loading up our truck full of cow manure (dried!) to make organic fertilizer and we've had some success with pest repellents made from hot peppers (from our farm), garlic, ginger, oregano, onion, and vinegar.
I've started teaching English classes two afternoons a week to the teens and adults in La Zahina (the village) who are interested. My classes can range from 2 to 10 students, anywhere from 13 to 53 years old or so. One of the other volunteers, Roz, is teaching the little kids. It's been fun and definitely challenging to accommodate so many different learning levels.
We took a two-day trip out to Santa Fe, Veraguas where our field manager, Iglesias, is from the other week. Santa Fe is in the mountains about 5 hrs or so from the border with Costa Rica. We got to meet his parents and brother and tour their farm and different crops and animals. We were totally wowed by his mom's orchid garden and all the different varieties. There is a co-op of orchid enthusiasts in Santa Fe who compete in orchid competitions in Panama. She has a wall displaying her blue ribbons from competitions that she's very proud of. Iglesias and his parents took us on a walk to a beautiful waterfall and we stumbled upon a folkloric music festival in town and got to see violin and guitar competitions. The villagers were determined to get the 'gringas' eg. White girls to dance but we resisted making complete fools of ourselves. Our only night there we went out to meet some of Iglesias's friends and to see the cock fights. It was an interesting experience for sure; it was amusing to watch the Panamanian guys groom and croon to their roosters getting them ready to fight.
Back in on our reserve, Cocobolo, we found 46 iguana eggs that had been laid in our worm compost. We constructed an incubator to keep them safe, basically just a big hole in the ground filled with sand and a few precautions to prevent anything from eating the eggs, and are hoping they'll hatch sometime in the next two months. In the meantime we're going to start building cages to hold the critters when they hatch.
I'm am currently in La Guiara, a little fishing town on the Caribbean coast, with Sabine, Roz and a dermatologist they met in the city through having a series of skin problems here. He invited all three of us to his beach house for the four-day "Semana santa" (holy week) holiday and we've just been absolutely spoiled on the beach with great food and our own boat. We went snorkeling yesterday and he cooked us a delicious paella filled with seafood. Unfortunately, we're packing up and heading to the city now. It looks like I either have to leave tonight or tomorrow early morning and go to Costa Rica for 3 days since my tourist visa is ending and I don't have everything together to apply for my volunteer visa. The immigration laws keep changing every couple of months here so it's impossible to figure out what's required and what the law is. I've heard so many different requirements from different lawyers it's ridiculous.
Until next time, Ari