Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Week 10: Swear-In today!


I am in the last week of training here in Panama City. Everyone in our group of 36 volunteers has stuck it out through training and is set to swear-in this afternoon. We will be presented to various ministries here in Panama during a ceremony with the US Ambassador. There are some rumors about some special guests from the Panamanian government as well.

I thought it would be a good idea to give you a glimpse at what the next few months will have in store for me. The first few months are geared towards integrating and understanding the community, thus you won't see too much in the way of building physical things. The work done now in knowing and understanding the community will be very beneficial later as we start more construction-related things.

1. Peace Corps Volunteer Swear-In: October 22

2. Settle in to site: October 25
---Basic needs
---Observation, journaling, listening, appreciative inquiry

3. Community Introduction--Proyecto Amistad (Project Friendship)
---Environmental Health Project Presentation
---Initial Needs Assessment

4. Community Mapping with guides and counterparts

5. House visits and informal presentations

6. Group-based informal presentations

7. Regional Governmental Organization (GO) and Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) introductions with Peace Corps Regional Leader

8. Community Analysis with guide and community partners

9. Finish Peace Corps Volunteer housing arrangements

10. Regional Leader Visit: November-December 2009

11. Associate Peace Corps Director Visit
---Work plan visioning
---Project Management and Leadership
---Technical follow-up

12. Regional Meeting: End of January

It is hard to believe all the information I've learned and the places I've seen in the past two months. I'm sure there will be plenty more adventures to be had in the next couple years. I'm excited to get settled and slow the pace down a little bit. I'm still working on getting enough calories in my diet.

From here on out, my posts will be about the experiences with my community, so I anticipate talking less about extensive lists of events and more about growth and experiences in my community, but we'll see.

In my comments section, feel free to write suggestions for what you would like to know more about of my Peace Corps experience. It is sometimes hard to recall what things you would most enjoy reading.

Until next time,


P.S. I've added captions to all the photos in my two photo albums. The links are below.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Weeks 6-8 of Training


I apologize for my lack of posting the last few weeks. Training is quite busy and the time to post seems to get less and less.

Firstly, I´ve posted some photos on Picasa. The links are below. I´ll be adding captions in the future. I´m still trying to figure out how to rotate the photos.

Secondly, I´ve received my new post office address.

Cuerpo de Paz
Entrega General
San Felix, Chiriqui
Republica de Panama

During week 6, our group of Environmental Health volunteers went to a city in the far west of Panama near David for our technical week. We got to build two pit latrines and two composting latrines that will be used by the students in the school. We also got the chance to build some rainwater catchment systems.

Week 7 was probably my favorite week so far. We had a married couple come in to teach us about acueducts using a teaching tool called the ¨macueduct¨. Using household items like a 5 gallon bucket and clear tube they were able to display the theory behind how the acueducts work and what the air and water does in different situations. I´m considering expanding this teaching tool during my service here.

Week 8 we got to visit our sites where we´ll be for the next two years. Lugging all my stuff to the site was a challenge as I acquired quite a few books and educational material during my training. I met my guide Roman at the site preparation conference and talked about our expectations for each other and the community and how the next 5 days of the site visit would progress.

Arriving around 1030 last Tuesday night, we found all taxis up to my site done for the evening and everyone in bed and not answering their phones. Walking behind the closed store, we knocked on the door of the owner´s house and she allowed us to sleep on her porch for the night. We had some companions that night--two roosters who serenaded us beginning at 3am in the morning. The next day I found out that inside the house where we slept was a previous Peace Corps Master´s International volunteer who returned to Panama after her service. I had even watched her defend her thesis--what a surprise!

The next few days I was able to visit the three communities that I will be working with the next two years. There will be a variety of capacity building in the area of latrines, acueducts, and committee development. There will be plenty of work in building, improving, and maintaing acueducts as well as building composting latrines. They also mentioned that their bridge of cables and rotting bamboo could use some improvments as well.

Other highlights included attending the church service over the weekend (all 3 hours of it!), meeting kids at the school, and checking out the house where I´ll live the next two years. Pictures of my house are included in the Picasa link above.

The plan is to Swear-In next Thursday as an official Peace Corps volunteer. The presentation will be at the US Ambassador´s house.

Hopefully I´ll be able to update the blog a little more regularly and add some captions to the pictures as well. If any of you have any questions about my experience here or are possibly interested in coming to visit, please let me know! I would be glad to help share my stories and experiences.

Love you all!