Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Home for Christmas!

Good afternoon!

I just want to wish everyone an early Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Sarah and I are heading out tomorrow afternoon for Minneapolis, where we will spend time with family over the holidays until January 3rd. We are really excited to see everyone again, yet a little worried about how different the temperature will be!

Here's a quick recap from the past couple weeks:

After being sick for most of the first days of December, I arrived back to site with my Environmental Health Director Timothy Wellman. It was good to get his insight as to how to sustain the work for years to come. We met with community leaders and discussed projects for the future.

We had a couple more English classes, with about 4 members attending. They were really excited to learn about family and directions. The group is small but we appreciate their enthusiasm to learn.

At the school we finished two base layers of light blue, on top of which we will paint the countries of the world.

It is also graduation time for the 6th graders. I got to attend two different graduations, give some encouraging words to the students, and eat some delicious chicken!

Sarah and I travelled to Panama yesterday and are at the Peace Corps office today before flying out tomorrow!

Best wishes to you all in this holiday season!


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Fourteenth Month on Site


Here I am, 14 months in, 10 months to go. I tell Sarah that the days can go by slow but the months go by fast!

Sarah and I visited a couple churches to visit some friends. One church doesn´t have walls, which I prefer, so I could worship seeing the beautiful green trees, bright flowers, and feel the warm breeze. We are thankful to worship in the beauty of nature.

After returning home from church, we had an English student from the University video interview Sarah and I regarding why we are here in Panama and what we are doing. ¨I am going to interview you, but do not worry about that¨ she said. And worry we didn´t . She said she was going to watch the video, write it out in English, and then present it to her class. We´re hoping not to see the video on tv!

The community has experienced the ups and downs of being ¨given¨a project of latrines. We requested help with materials, but the contract agreement the mayor made with a contractor was for them to build it too. The community´s part would be building the hole and then carrying materials in 20 minutes from the paved road over the dirt trial to their homes.

The community members were told that all the materials would arrive the first day at 9am. Men and women left the work in their homes, fields, and other paid work to arrive at 9am. Only a small portion of the materials arrived at 1pm with the promise that the rest would arrive tomorrow. This happened 6 more times, with one day waiting for 6 hours in the hot sun without food with no sign of the contractor arriving with the materials and no call saying that he would be late.

The good news is that the latrines are turning out quite well, but the bad news is that the community can´t say much to the contractor because they aren´t paying him and if they protest, they won´t receive any ¨gifts¨ of projects in the future.

Over Thanksgiving Sarah and I joined about 100 other volunteers in Cerro Punta, a community up in the mountains of Panama by Volcan Baru. Full of flowers, strawberries, brisk breezes, we enjoyed the company of friends, Settlers of Catan, and a scrumptious Thanksgiving dinner.

Recently we had meetings to organize committees for latrines, which will work together to solicit help for funding latrines. They are working well together and are excited to learn how to write formal letters.

Upcoming events:
Dec 8 Mother´s Day. The father´s cook for the mother´s, but then some fermented alcholic drinks are served and the mothers tend to take care of the fathers.
Dec 10 Environmental Health Director will come and visit
Dec 16 6th grade graduation. I was asked to be a special guest for one graduate.
Dec 23-Jan 3 Back to MN for Christmas!

Thanks for reading!