Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Fifth Month on Site

Good afternoon!

I can´t believe I´ve already been on my site for five months! In another five months, Sarah and I will already have spent our first month together here in Panama!

1. School Started!

Recently, the kids started school and many trampling feet can be heard outside my doorway every morning. I attended planning meetings with the school director and teachers the week before school started and now I´ve been helping out in class once a week. They received new teachers in English and Home this year, but they lack teachers for fifth grade, so they´ve spent the first two weeks of class at home--what a shame!

I´m continueing onto English 102, having a smaller class of around 5 students every Sunday evening. The teacher from the school who attends my class said he would like to teach Ngabere before my English class, which I´m really excited about.

2. Baptism Weekend

In my community exists one church, belonging to the Seventh Day Adventists. Every year they invite everyone to a baptism weekend down at the river, where they have musical worship Friday night, a Saturday worship service, and then a baptism service Saturday afternoon.

I was told that it was a three hour hike, so I packed up my clothes, sleeping pad, bible, and set out with my host family. Three hours later we were halfway there, I was told. Fortunately, an agency truck came by and brought us most of the rest of the way. Arriving there six hours after setting out, I arrived to find one thousand Ngabere people camped out on the ground, most without tents.

Needless to say, I didn´t get too much sleep as people visited all night and babies cried to the mothers in hunger and nervousness. For our meals, we had community-wide corn drinks and rice with beans.

I really enjoyed meeting new people, watching 150 people get baptised, and taking pictures of my host brother singing in a quartet in front of everybody. Pictures can be found on the Picasa link on the right margin.

3. Environmental Health Update

I´ve talked quite a bit about the cultural part of my work, but there is the continueing environmental health project as well.

In one community, we elected a new latrine directive, I gave a charla on how to pick the pit latrine location, and have a follow-up date to walk house to house to verify that the latrines are located away from rivers, wells, and not too far from the house.

The main line was just surveyed, taking almost 3 days with a team of six each day. We also found a new spring that could be used to give water to five houses up on the hill who aren´t currently connected to the main line. While I was hiking to the spring, I was told to ¨watch out!¨. Not knowing what to watch out for, I turned around to find a six-foot boa a few feet away from where I had just set down my foot. They´re not poisonous, but it did make my heart jump!

In a second community, I sat down with the latrine directive to write solicitudes to the mayor, regional representative, and two government ministries. I´m told that we should expect too much help from the mayor or representative because all their money is being spent to bring electricity along the road to the regional government office up on the hill. We´re also looking for material prices to include in our solicitudes.

In a third community I´m working with, we had a community meeting and then a community workday to clear and survey an existing aquaduct line to connect more houses. I also had the opportunity to visit another volunteer to help make a concrete pit latrine.

4. Biking Mishap

I bought a bike from the previous volunteer, so I´ve been using the bike to make occasional day trips for food and internet. As I was returning back to my site, I heard a pop and found that my bike tube on my back tire had broke. I walked twenty minutes to the stores along the Pan-American highway. Expecting to drop off my bike at the store and head to the bigger city to find a new tube, I found that the store had a bike tube that was just the right size. Not having the equipment to fix it, the store owner said that her friend would fix it for a Pepsi. I accepted the offer immediately, adding a package of Doritos to the deal as well.

I´m thankful to have a community that´s eager to help out a volunteer such as myself!

Well that´s all from here. I hope this update finds you healthy, safe, and in the company of those you love.


He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
Micah 6:8

Recap of February


With the recent marriage date announcement, I didn´t include too many details other details from February. Here is a brief review of the month:

1. Sarah visited! (Host Family trip, On-Site, Beach Birthday)

Host Family Trip

We first went to my training host family´s house, where we spent two days in the hills near Panama City. From the airport to their house, we took an old school bus from the United States that was transformed with a lot of artistic expression into a ¨Diablo Rojo¨, filled with paintings of their family, Looney Toons charecters, or whatever else was on their mind. The bus was packed way beyond the limit, but we made it! My host family has two 3-year old twin daughters and an 8-year old son. They were nervous at first since they hadn´t seen me in over three months, but they warmed up quite quickly. On Sunday during our visit, we went to church and then went swimming in the afternoon, picking up oranges and grapefruit on the way back!


After two days with my host family, we took a bus ride west for six hours to my site. It was so wonderful for Sarah to see with her own eyes the people and places that I had been telling her about on the phone previously. Upon arriving, Sarah received a blue dress made by my host family called a nagwa, as well as a Ngabere name, Boja. She´s named after a hard-working woman of the community who always helped out without being asked. How appropriate!

The next day we took down an old house to make room for a new store. That night she learned how to play dominoes, even beating the locals in her second game! Later in the week we made a trip to town to get groceries, however that night she got sick! We learned together what it means to care for someone when there´s no electricity, no soft couch, no chicken noodle soup, and no car-ride to the doctor. It was great practice because one of us will surely be sick again.

She learned what it means to go to church (4 hours underneath a zinc roof!), go to a community meeting (5 hours long!), or go for a walk (¨These are mountains, not hills!¨). We also got to troubleshoot a clog in an aquaduct line, built a pit latrine, and rode a horse!

Beach Birthday

At the end of our trip, we went down to the beach for my birthday. How special to have my fiancee here to celebrate with me! We got to walk on the beach (getting sunburnt, of course!), swam in the ocean, had a pasta dinner, dodging crabs along the way.

It was sad to see her leave, but she´ll be back down once more before we get married this September!

2. Reconnect Inter-Service Training

After being at our sites for four months, we were able to come together for four days to get more technical training and share ideas and experiences. All 36 members of our group came together, enjoying training sessions during the day and walks to the beach and Settlers of Catan at night.

The first day we presented our community analysis (maps, daily schedules, yearly schedules) and transferred this into future community action steps, involving the community every step of the way and starting a smaller project to build confidence.

Other sessions included proposal writing, water seminar planning, springbox construction, aquaduct computer modeling, and training for building latrines.

I´ll be posting an update for March shortly.



Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)