I visited the US of A for 3 weeks in November and true to my style of visits, saw everyone and everything. I managed a trip down to NC to visit college friends, a weekend in NY with my grandparents, a few days in Haverhill with high school buddies, and time with family for Thanksgiving and my dad's birthday.
It was a great visit although I was in much need of rest by the time I got back to Panama.
All in all, it sounds like I planned my trip perfectly since while I was away it poured everyday and the Mamoni River crested multiple times per day making it impossible to go anywhere. The day I arrived back, 'summer' seemed to start immediately bringing with it a blazing sun and strong breeze. We've had gorgeously sunny days since, although very hot, but the summer breeze does make a difference. I arrived back in time to celebrate Mother's Day in Panama which falls on Dec 8th. When I left the city, I first went up to the village of San Jose where the church put on a big dinner for the mothers and gave them all gifts at their Saturday night worship.
Since I stay with the pastor and his wife when I'm there, I got to help with the shopping and marvel as the men in the village cooked a meal for the women (something that never ever happens.) I spent a few days there relaxing and visiting with people who I hadn't seen in over a month. I went exploring a bit as well and saw where the Mamoni and the San Jose rivers meet, carving out an intricate path in the bed rock. It's a great swimming spot although a bit tricky with the current and some of the drop offs.
On Mother's Day I hiked up to La Zahina with a cohort from San Jose who were going to visit their mother. I carried a baby, while others carried potatoes (for Panamanian potato salad), gifts, luggage, live chickens, etc. It was quite the procession.
We all gathered in Lydia's house in La Zahina and it was the first time in a long time she had so many of her children under the same roof (8 out of her 10 children).
That afternoon I hiked the rest of the way back to Cocobolo and was greeted by a pack of howler monkeys in the trees (the four black blobs in the tree).
My dog Muñeca was waiting for me as well as Patrick from Texas. That week for movie night in La Zahina I showed a short documentary about development in the country and unsustainable tourism, followed by Scooby Doo. It was a big hit. The students watched Planet Earth during the day and we continued working on English pronunciation. The school year is about to end so I'm trying to figure out a new schedule for classes since school doesn't go back into session until March. On the farm in Cocobolo, we're having issues with a fungus of some sort that is bleaching the leaves of all our lettuces, mustard greens, etc. All of the crops looks like they took a hit during the three weeks of heavy rain but hopefully the new weather will improve the turnouts.
This past weekend I went across the river to the neighbors' house for a birthday party. Parking for the party:
Sabine and I spent most of the morning in the kitchen helping with the potato salad, drinks, rice and making sure all the guests were served. They had killed a pig so there were lots of chicharrones (fried pork fat) to be had.
The kids enjoyed the piñata and everyone ate a lot of cake. It was really impressive to see how the two cakes had survived the journey up from the city, only a few chunks of frosting missing.
The last couple days I've been working hard on the farm; taking care of the horse/chickens/dog, harvesting coffee beans, transplanting leafy greens, watering and pruning trees.
I'm in the city now, finishing up some final planning details for my family's visit at the end of the month. I'm going to take them up to Cocobolo for six days or so, a couple days in the city and for my birthday weekend we're going to fly out to the islands in the Caribbean (Bocas del Toro) where I stayed during my study abroad program to study mangroves. It should be quite the visit!
I'm also in the process of planning for the Marvelwood School group that visited us this past January and will arrive again at the end of January 2010 (only two week after my family leaves). This year we have a group of 14 high schoolers and 3 chaperones coming. I'm in charge of the logistics planning and food buying which is no small task. They'll be in Panama for 12 days, leaving just before Carnival starts. Then after Carnival, I only have one week before I fly home. I can already see that my last months here are going to fly by.