Saturday, September 19, 2009

Fifth Week of Training: Culture Week


I hope you are well. It has been a challenging, encouraging week. Three of us who will be stationed in the Comarca Ngobe Buble, a large plot of land set aside for two indiginous groups, spent a week living in the community of a current Peace Corps volunteer, Andrea. She stationed us with our own host families and then organized some language and culture classes throughout the week.

God has shown me His beauty in the beautiful views, sunsets, and the beautiful people He has created. He´s forced me to rely solely on Him, being sick on Wednesday on the top of a mountain in the rain with a host family from an indiginous culture who I´ve only been with for less than a week.

I´m encouraged even as I write this because my host brother Efehemio, a host brother who´s in 5th grade, saw me reading my bible and pulled out his own bible and read a chapter together in our own languages. How cool is that!

It´s been a joy to be with my family this week. Efehemio is 13 years old and so eager to learn. He teaches me the indiginous language Ngabere every night and then I teach him some english. The family has also taught me some of their traditional dances. The family has two parents and 13 kids, ten of whom live with them. They have a palm roof with wood walls and dirt floors. They don´t have electricity, but use a kerosene lamp to light up the house for a bit after the sun goes down. They listen to lots of Christian music, often at 2 or 3 in the morning when they can´t sleep. The father is fairly quiet, the mother a bit more outgoing. They talk to me in a mix of Spanish and Ngabere.

As Efe continued his dances, his brothers and sisters joined in as I took some pictures. Eventually, I started to dance too and then they all started laughing as I tried to learn the steps.

Showering has been quite an adventure. There is a path down the hill to the creek where they have a small bucket. It´s kind of fun showering in the jungle, but the water is actually quite cold.

Sleeping is a bit of a challenge. There is plenty of time to sleep as the sun goes down around 7pm, but my bed is just bamboo rods with my sleeping pad on top. It gets quite cold up here in the mountains, so it gets fairly cold at night. I´ve worn pants, sweatshirt, and socks to bed every night.

Every morning we walk over from our host family´s house to Andrea´s house, where we have some lemon grass tea from her yard and then catch up on our host family experiences. We usually spend a few hours learning Ngabere each day and then have some type of field trip in the afternoon.

On Friday, we came back to my host family´s house, where we learned how to shuck some fibers from the plant to make rope to make a chakra, a type of handbag that can be dyed a variety of colors. My host dad also was working on a sombrero which he will sell later. He works on it for 3.5 days and sells it for around $25 down in San Felix. We also toured the vegetable garden of one of the men in the group.

Other fun activities this week included hiking to the top of the town, where we could see down to the river valley, out to the Pacific, and up to the tallest mountain peaks. We´ve learned about the history of the Comarca, typical family foods, typical family responsibilities around the house, and other helpful bits of information.

I hope you have a bit of an idea of what life is like and I will try to post again after my upcoming technical week.



  1. I love your stories! Efehemio sounds like the best kind of friend you could find. Someone who is as eager to learn as you. What do young teens of his age like to do in their free time? Must be quite a contrast from teens in America. Sorry to hear you were sick. I hope it only lasted a short time. No Mom or Sarah to take care of you :*(

    Can you give us a little idea of what the cost of living is there? A chakra sells for $25. What will they be able to buy with that money?

    Please be well and know that we are thinking about you and keeping you in our thoughts and prayers. And along with Sarah counting the days until we see you again.

    Much love,

  2. Kevin - Thanks for the update. I enjoyed reading your post. Your story about reading the bible in 2 different languages reminded me about a prayer we had with some Mexican families in Ensenada on our mission trip several years ago. It was so cool to know that regardless of the language, God understood perfectly. It truely is an amazing thing! Stay strong and have fun.

    Jeff Rau - Strand

  3. Hello Kevin ~
    Just thought you might like to know that Florida is finally cooling off. It's been in the 90's during the day and not much cooler at night. But this week a cold front came through. We actually had the windows open this week!!! It's nice to have that break from all the heat and humidity. The animals are the first to "show" their relief by running around, romping and asking frisky. Well, just dropping by for a quick weather update for you.
    Enjoy and be safe!!

  4. We started making plans for our family Thanksgiving dinner. As I plan, I'm disappointed that you won't be here this time! And of course, to lead one of the ultimate teams in the pasture. Guess we'll have to endure Eric's humble team captainship. :D Kevin, know that you are thought of and we'll look forward to the next Thanksgiving that we can all share.