Monday, June 27, 2011

Twentieth Month on Site


Sorry for the delay between posts. It's hard to believe that Sarah and I only have just more than two months left in Panama! We will definitely miss the people here, but we will also be very happy to see many friends and family again after long absences. The plan is to fly into Florida, visit with Sarah's family in September, then head to Tampa for October to finish my thesis. Then, we begin the great migration north to Madison and Minneapolis for November. December, the job search begins--location TBA.

In the past month or so I've been able to do some visits to other nearby communities, offering advice for spring maintenance, giving presentations on latrine construction, and preparing another community for a future Peace Corps Volunteer. I enjoy being able to meet new people of the same culture as my home community--they are also surprised when I can speak their lanugage and know their customs.

A continuing project throughout my whole service has been rehabilitating aqueduct. We did one more material purchase to now work on house connection lines after we completed the main line. Work has been extremely slow but I'm confident they will have a working aqueduct system by the time I leave.

Quite randomly I ran into a visiting group of 25 USF School of Nursing students who arrived to Panama, staying in a nearby community and working in more rural communities. After explaining how I was also a USF student and working in Environmental Health with the Peace Corps in a nearby indiginous community, they asked for my participation in giving an informal presentation about my experience working with communities to improve health. Sarah and I even ran into a mutual friend from USF ultimate!

Thesis testing has kept me very busy. The last rounds have been testing two different communities every two hours throughout two consecutive days, testing the chlorine residual at six different locations. I've found out that the chlorine tablet is disintegrating a bit too fast, leaving the chlorine residual a bit higher than the recommended range. I will continue to do more field testing and then polish up the thesis at USF, and then defened my thesis and submit a copy to the American Water Works Association.

In June we also went to Panama City, where we visited my host family from training and helped make some additions to the training materials for Project Management and Leadership seminar that Peace Corps hosts. We also watched the new Pirates of the Caribbean in a really nice theater for $2.50 each!

That's a quick (or maybe not so quick) update from Panama. See you stateside in two months!

Blessings and peace,


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Nineteenth Month on Site

Good afternoon!

I hope this note finds you well. Sarah and I just got back from Costa Rica last night. In order to renew her tourist visa, one must leave the country every 180 days and be away for 72 hours before returning, so the law required us to take a 3 day trip to one of the most beautiful places on earth.

We were able to spend 3 days at a very nice lodge near Drake Bay, where we got to swim in the ocean, take a boat ride through the mangroves and rain forest, and take a horseback ride through primary rainforest.

One of the highlights of the past couple weeks was attending an Easter Service. We walked about an hour and then hopped on a bus to get to an outdoor church in a nearby town. It was a beautiful sunny morning and we were able to sing hymns and celebrate the risen Savior. We were super thankful to worship with other believers.

My thesis field testing has picked up over the past month. After installing a chlorine tablet before the tank, I've been measuring at various points throughout the acueduct system for two different types of chlorine, the ph, and the temperature. With this data we can see whether the current in-line chlorinator is efficient at eliminating pathogens or whether another option should be recommended.

Another highlight of the past couple weeks was celebrating our 8 month marriage anniversary. This called for heading to TGI Friday's in the big city of David. We enjoyed BBQ chicken fingers, pasta, brownies and ice cream. Unfortunately the rich food made our stomachs a bit angry.

We hope all is well with you and thank you for reading about our journey.

Blessings and peace,


Monday, April 18, 2011

Eighteenth Month on Site

Good afternoon! The past couple weeks have been very eventful. Unfortunately, the first event was the onset of shingles on the left side of my body. I was stuck for seven nights in David while I recovered. Shingles, very similar in appearance to chicken pox, only affects one side of the body and is said to be dormant in the body, activating usually because of high levels of stress. Throughout the week I was able to get some research done on my thesis and watch the first week of the Minnesota Twins playing! In more positive news I just held a Project Management and Leadership seminar on site. 25 participants and 4 volunteers joined us each day for 4 days as we covered topics of values, money and time management as well as improving meetings, resolving conflicts, writing letters, and presenting in public. It was great to see people gaining confidence and getting a vision on how they can accomplish their goals. Also, field testing is starting! I installed chlorine tablets in two different aqueduct systems. For three days I will be testing free and total chlorine, pH, and wet weight of the tablet. Testing will continue throughout the next couple months. Thanks for reading and be well! Kevin

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Seventeenth Month on Site: Part 2

Good morning! I hope you all are well. Life has been busy, so I'll hop to the chase. The world map is pretty much done! We've finished the painting of he countries and the writing of all the country names. Soon will come some small geography lessons with the students. You can see the map on the Picasa link on the right hand side of the page. Water projects continue! Along with the water committee, we went to the regional environmental health office, where they helped organize a technical worker and transportation to build a spring box. It looks like this addition will dramatically increase the flow in the summer months. In two different communities I put on some latrine presentations. There are sometimes attitudes in communities of poverty that help is needed from the government for any type of larger project. My goal was to try to present an option of using local materials to build a nice looking latrine for under $10. Plus, the same materials can be used if the government does donate materials in the future. A neighbor of mine, about 19 years old, challenged me to a race from our community to the Pan American Highway. In between is about two miles of pasture, including ten gaes, three river crossings, and one big hill. He told me that he could run the whole way in twelve minutes. He clocked in at fourteen minutes, eight huge minutes before I finished in 22 minutes. It looks like I have some more exercising to do! The same neighbor has a fruit tree, which produces an 8 pound fruit called a guanabana. I bought about two pounds of it and Sarah and I proceeded to take the seeds out and make a delicious fruit drink. We offered this to about fifteen people who passed by our house in the afternoon. Another neat opportunity we had was frisbee day! A youth volunteer came by with about forty frisbees and we had an afternoon of fun learning how to throw the frisbee and having them track down my long tosses. Plenty of pictures are found on Picasa. In a couple weeks we are hosting a seminar for managing projects and leadership, so we've been busy sending out invitation letters and readying the lessons. Thanks so much for reading! Kevin

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Seventeenth Month on Site


Time is flying by...Sarah and I just celebrated our six month wedding anniversary! We went to a baseball game on Thursday night, to find the home team Chiriqui walloping the opponent 18-3. It has been a joy to have her serving by my side here in Panama.

Another celebration re able to celebrate my birthday up in beautiful, cool Boquete, where we stayed at a beautiful place by a bubbling brook and toured flower gardens and tried out some new restaurants. A nice way to reengergize!

An exciting, but bit terrifying story, is that I got bit by a scorpion while underneath my mosquito net! The picture can be found in the Picasa album, with the link on the right margin. I was sleeping and moved my arm only to feel a large jolt, like a beesting, just above my right elbow. I turned to see the scorpion scurry away under the mattress. About 30 minutes later we were able to corral the scorpion to a place where I could spray it.

Our World Map is almost all painted, with the exceptions of Norway, Japan, and large amount of South Pacific islands. It has been a fun way to spend our time together. Lots of kids and parents alike have asked us if this was a map of their province or of Panama. When we point out where Panama is, they say it's so very small! We're planning on giving some fun classes on geography in the coming month.

In other news, a Rotary group from Kansas, working with an organization called Heart to Heart, helped install three biosand filters. The goal is that people can use this at the household level to improve their quality of water. It was a bit weird to see a pickup truck arrive and 5 white people pile out!

This morning Sarah is at a meeting for Girl Scouts to see if they have resources that we can use back on site. Lots of the kids are looking for things to do and would enjoy having an organized activity where they could learn and have fun.

That's the news from here! Thanks for reading!


Monday, February 7, 2011

Sixteenth Month on Site


A quick update from Panama.

This past month one water committee, in an attempt to raise funds for future projects, decided to sell over 50 cases of beer, buying them from a nearby town and hauling them on their shoulders 20 minutes to the town plaza. From there, they partied over 40 hours, with some people there the whole time. With the object of the water committee to improve the community's health, I'm not sure if people falling down drunk and fighting in front of their own children and using, possibly, their food and high school education funds for their children to do so. I'm hoping to promote a local soccer tournament idea in the future that probably won't raise as much money but would be much more healthy and beneficial for the community.

We also have been doing some aquaduct system improvement, installing a chlorinator, fixing air blocks, and cleaning two spring boxes. What first was to be a one hour installation of the chlorinator turned into a day and half of working--I should come to expect that by now.

In the most rural community I'm working with, they are about a year into repairing their main water line. Recently, a landslide caused by heavy rains and lack of soil stability from farming broke the main line above the tank. We went in with picks and shovels to find where the landslide took the tube--a great exercise regimen if you're looking for new ideas. I'm also hosting some presentations on latrine construction using local materials. We have finished the solicitud for latrines with concrete floors, but the response has not given a specific date, therefore the community should have some type of sanitation option in the meantime.

Sarah and I also went through some fairly intense home cleaning and repairs. We cleaned from top to bottom, from the palm branch roof to the dirt floor. We got rid of things we never used and got rid of many insect homes as well.

The progress on our World Map is going slowly, having finished over half of the horizontal grid lines, with the vertical ones waiting for us this next week. With these 3" boxes, we'll be outlining the countries box by box until we have our 14x7 foot map finished. If you're thinking this sounds like a great project, send me an email with days you'd be available to help out. That means all you people in the freezing cold Midwest, too, this invitation applies to you as well.

We're in the early planning stages of hosting a frisbee camp. One third year volunteer is going across Panama holding one day camps in various communities. Maybe we can get some leagues formed!

Currently, we're in the big city of David getting work done. We watched the Super Bowl last night, enjoying the game but thinking that it should have been a different NFC North team playing, and that's not the Bears. Maybe next year.

Anyways, hope you are well and feel free to send a quick email update if you have time.

Grace and peace,


Friday, January 21, 2011

Fifteenth Month on Site

Good afternoon!

I hope everyone is well and enjoying the cold winter. I tried sending some warm weather up north, but it didn't work. Sarah and I went back to Minnesota for ten days from December 23rd through January 3rd. We went from 90 degrees in the Panama airport and sandles to 15 degrees in Minneapolis and two feet of snow on the ground. Thankfully, my parents were there waiting with winter jackets, hats, and gloves for Sarah and I.

We celebrated Christmas with both the Orners and the Trulens and were able to visit my Grandma Bev in the hospital throughout the week. When we left, she was not doing well but recently she has started talking again and has said she wants to go out to eat. We are praying for her continued recovery.

Another highlight of the trip was our second reception on January 1st. My mother worked hard to plan out the delicious chinese food, great party favors, and beautiful decorations around the church. We had over 150 people show up, including family and high school friends who I hadn't seen in years.

After getting back to Panama on January 3rd, we visited my host family I had during training. We stayed two days, talking about the holidays, praying at the church, and heading to the waterfall with their grandchildren. Afterwards, we left to Cocle, a neighboring province, to help facilitate a water seminar. We talked about water conservation, health, and aquaduct theory for three days. It was way up in the hills, so it was windy and cool the whole time. Thanks to Kathryn and Aaron for hosting us!

Once we got back to site, we were reconnecting with the community and continuing our environmental health work. We installed a chlorinator, fixed some tube that had been destroyed by a fallen tree, and had an inauguration for a completed aquaduct. Also, baseball season has started, so I've been attending practice sessions in the field throughout the week.

Hope all is well with you and hope to see you soon.