Well I guess I've been neglecting the blog recently so I'm going to attempt to update it to the present...
(If you click on any of the photos, you can see them full size)
September flew by in the blink of an eye. We had gloriously sunny weather most of the month which coincided perfectly with the soccer games between the village of La Zahina where I teach and the village of San Jose (a 1.5 hour walk across the river valley). The teams played a series of 7 intensely competitive games with La Zahina winning the series 4-3. I attribute their win partially to the goalie gloves and stopwatch I brought from the US in August. As the godmother of the La Zahina team I went to all the games I could and traveled with the team (walking) when they played in San Jose. It was a great way to meet other people in the area and get to know a new community.
The other big highlight of September was my best friend Meg Munroe from Haverhill came and visited for a week. I picked her up in the airport and immediately started showing her the sights of the city. Since we had very limited time we really had to pack it in everyday. Luckily the fates were on our side and everything went our way in terms of the weather and transport. In Panama City the first day we visited the canal and watched ships go through the locks and then strolled around the old part of town, Casco Viejo, and ate scrumptious ice cream and Mexican food.
The following day we checked out Summit Botanical Garden, where I had never been befor, which is actually a zoo and houses lots of the local celebrities including a jaguar, tapirs, monkeys, and all sorts of birds.
From there we headed into the heart of town to Plaza Cinco de Mayo where we were treated to a children's 'Tipico' dance practice. We had a delicious dinner of fried fish on the Causeway (which was constructed using rubble dredged from the canal) which serves as the entrance to the canal. Afterward, we went to see Aventura live in concert! Aventura is a Bachata band from the Dominican Republic that was popular with our Dominican friends in high school.
The following day we took a bus out of the city and met up with one of my neighbors and his friend to get a ride up to Cocobolo. It was an awesome ride up through the mountains on terrible dirt trails scoured out by the rain. I got to drive the car out of one of the big holes while the guys pushed, fun!
Once up in Cocobolo Meg got to meet my friend Sabine and everyone in the village. We went on a hike to a waterfall, planted trees with the farmers on open pasture land, spent an afternoon herding cattle with my farmer friend Alejandro, and enjoyed a full day of rain and river flooding. The day before her flight back to the US we hiked 2.5 hours down the river valley with our backpacks to get the bush taxi out to the main road and then a bus to Panama City. It was a whirlwind trip that really worked out perfectly.
October was pretty quiet, just the usual routine of working on the farm and teaching classes. I spent a few weekends in San Jose with a family there and celebrated the village pastor's birthday. I've started showing movies once a week in La Zahina so I now arrive on Thursdays in the village rain or shine with my computer, extension cords, and gasoline to power a small generator we bought for this purpose. I've been showing a combination of environmentally themed videos and movies from the cinema. In honor of Halloween I baked a chocolate cake, brownies, and muffins for 50+ people and the entire village watched The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. These movies are definitely CREA's best attended events.
A new volunteer also arrived in October, Patrick, a truck driver from Texas. He's a total sweetheart and is the perfect match for CREA. He enjoys manual labor and solitude. It works out really well for me because I now have someone on the reserve to take care of my puppy! We ended the month of November with a workshop in cooperation with MIDA, the Panamanian agricultural ministry, on sustainable agriculture and how to make organic fertilizer. The workshop was well attended by all the local farmers and we learned some very valuable tips for transplanting plantains.