30 August 2009

Whirlwind Northeast Tour

On August 16th I flew to Newark, NJ from Panama City with Anarelys, a fifteen year old girl from the village where I work. She receives a scholarship from a group at the Marvelwood School to continue with her schooling. Laurie Doss, the Science Dept Chair at The Marvelwood School, has been bringing a group of 10 students to visit Panama for the last three years. They arrive usually end of January and spend a week at our field station. These students help to raise money for three scholarships for girls in the village and also helped to pay for our trip.

Although her first plane trip didn't seem to phase Anarelys, I discovered upon arrival that her true fear was of escalators! We spent an uncomfortable hour in immigration where she was questioned over and over by different people about the purpose of her trip while I was trapped in Baggage Claim on the other side of the glass wall. As we tried to pass through customs we were stopped again and sent back to immigration and the agricultural inspection where we spent another hour being questioned individually and having everything completely searched. Luckily when we were finally let out Laurie and 3 other familiar students' faces were waiting for a us with a photo of a Royal flycatcher to catch our attention.

The rest of the trip was go go go! We spent the first day at the school in rural Kent, CT mist-netting and banding birds and eating lots of blueberries from bushes that were donated by Henry Kissinger. That evening there was a welcome dinner at one of the student's homes. The next day we went to the new Science Center in Hartford, CT that just opened in July. It was really great with many of the exhibits related to hot topics (climate change, energy, water, etc).

On Wednesday we drove to Falmouth to spend a night with the family. My mom had other friends visiting as well so it was a full house. Anarelys got to see the Woods Hole aquarium, the Knob, and the drawbridge in action. Laurie and my dad hit it off and had fun discussing birds and beach species. Thursday midday we said good by and drove back to Kent via a Butterfly Garden in South Deerfield, MA.

We spent the next few days checking out the local waterfalls, American Indian museum, more bird banding and practicing English. We spent Sunday at the Mystic Aquarium and the following day we went bright and early to New York City on the train to see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. We returned to NYC the following day to visit the Bronx Zoo and go to a Yankees game. I was most impressed by the gorilla exhibit and it was definitely weird seeing a giraffe in the middle of NY. The Yankees played the Texas Rangers and ended up loosing 9-10.

The next morning we went back to Newark and had a pretty uneventful trip home. On the plane Anarelys told me she didn't want to leave the US. Hopefully she'll be able to visit again next year and stay for a month or more.

Now I'm in Panama City, working in the CREA office for a couple days before heading back into the field. Sabine's 24th birthday is tomorrow so we'll be celebrating. I'll be coming back to the city September 17th to meet my friend Meg who will be visiting for a week. Can't wait!

26 August 2009

Incommunicado and back in the US

I got back to Panama City Aug 14th, having been away in the field for just over a month! I can't believe how fast it went by! When I got back to Cocobolo in July I got to meet Toni, the one baby iguana who survived! Of the 45 eggs only 3 hatched and only Toni made it past the first few days of life. We've decided that the low hatch rate was probably due to the high amount of rain and unseasonably cool temperatures that this area experienced during what was supposed to be summer here. In fact, the weather in July and August has been beautiful incredibly beautiful. Sometimes 5 days at a time of unbroken sun followed by a day or two of rain. Since we're in the rainy season now, it should be raining here everyday, but it seems as though the weather patterns are all screwed up. Can't say I'm complaining, sun makes life a lot easier here since we don't have to worry about the river flooding as much. Anyways, back to Toni. He's quite the sociable little iguana and is accustomed to us handling him. He hangs out in his cage all day sunning himself, eating leaves, and going for the occasional swim when I bring him a bath. We've come to the conclusion that he's a male, but in reality you can't be sure until they reach about a year old, so we'll see. I figure the name Toni can be gender neutral.

We started our reforestation projects in July, beginning with a family that has a cow pasture that abuts Cocobolo Nature Reserve. We brought about 250 saplings out to them of different native species, and they are being planted in rows near the edge of the reserve where they're allowing the forest to regrow. To get out to their farm with our truck and trees we had to drive through a neighbors cow pasture and all over hill and dale. We followed what some claim to be a trail, but on the way back from planting we veered off course, smashed into a rock, and I smashed the window shield with my forehead. All in all the truck took a much worse beating than I did and my head is all healed.

We've almost completed the construction on a new greenhouse that should help us to cultivate tomatoes and other crops that don't do well with a lot of rain. In July, I spent a day across the river with the neighbors watching them brand and vaccinate their new calves. Apparently this is the time of the year when all the new calves get branded and at the end of August they'll spend a whole weekend doing the rest of the herd. Should be fun!

I've been spending a lot more time in the village school recently working on environmental education projects. We spent an afternoon watching a movie about the earth and then each student planted a sapling in the school yard. At the end of the year we're going to give a prize to the student who has the best looking tree.

Wednesdays I'm teaching an hour on environmental education, mainly showing environmental videos and tying it into the world that the students are familiar with. In addition, I'm now teaching English one day a week as part of their normal school day in addition to my afternoon classes for everyone.

The most exciting news from August is that my co-volunteer/housemate/friend Sabine decided to postpone grad school in Germany and come back to Panama at least until the end of the year. She arrived in Cocobolo on a Tuesday and we talked nonstop until Friday when I had to go to the city. It's great having her back.

I am currently in Connecticut chaperoning a girl from my village in Panama on a 10 day whirlwind trip of the Northeast but flying back to Panama this afternoon. I'll post more on that trip later. New photos are up from July & Aug.