April and Kevin in Kuna Yala, the northeast coast of Panamá

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Training - week one

Hello all,

So this is April, not Kevin like the computer thinks...he logged in, but I am the one doing the typing.

We are done with week one. One of the longest weeks of my life just because my brain is working hard. There hasn't been any time off at all...just a stolen moment or two laden with guilt because I know that I should be using those moments to practice my Spanish more. But sometimes the brain is just ready to quit.

Today we did a training with two veteran volunteers to learn how to get around Panama City. We finished mid morning and now are at the big local mall taking full advantage -food, internet and maybe even see Pirates of the Carabeen-before heading home- the photo above is of the wonderful house where we are living. I get a lesson in how to wash la ropa interior later this week from our wonderful house mother Marta.
Many of you had asked about what we were allowed to bring with us. I had been meaning to post the recommended packing list for you, but haven't had time. I may or may not get to it. But just to amuse you, I will say that we wieghed in with about 60lbs. luggage each -including carry on. Peace Corps has already added thier own 15 plus pounds of books, med gear, mosqito net and such. Arg. Below is a photo of us with our luggage as we prepare to head to our training site.

Yup...we could still carry all of it as of when this picture was taken, but maybe not now because there are more big binders and books.

We have a full schedule, so full I am ready for a break...I guess I am using that break to type to you. Ok, I tried to make an email smiley but failed miserably on this Spanish keyboard.

A typical day of training goes like this- get up at 6.30 yup you know how thrilled I am with that, eat, get ready class from 8-11.30 either language or technical class, lunch at home, class from 1-5pm, dinner and shower, homework, talk with family and struggle with spanish, go to bed around 9 because my brain is done for the day and it gets dark at 6.30. The daylight is 6-6ish year round here.

In out technical classes we are learning all sorts of things including how to plant yucca, how to do a fast compost pile in 15 days, how to safely use a machete, and how to gather information about your comunity and their needs. Kevin is planting rice in that photo, on a burned area.

We have had the chance to see traditional agricuture here, mostly subistance farming. Yes, they do practice slash and burn agriculture for the lack of a better option. The photo below shows a slash and burn site that I saw on a class walk.
I had a hard time understanding this at first, but there just isn't the access to information about best practices here that there is in the states. I had to remind myself that in the States each major university has had an extension agency for a long time who's purpose is to research best practices and then get that information out into the hands of local people who can use it. That doesn't seem to exist here. In a way PC is serving as Agricultural Extension here.
I have heard some great sucess stories from other volunteers. One volunteer we met has farmers in his community who are not going to clear any new forest this year, focusing instead on using the rice tanks that he helped them to get started. I am sure that there are both sucess and failure stories to share in the future.
What else is important...can't find the question mark now.
Yes there are mosquitos...I seem to be more tasty than Kevin. Little surprise there, the mosqitos in the States thought the same thing. The weather is wonderful, said with no sarcasm at the moment. It ranges from hot and sticky yucky to cool and refreshing. By the time the rain comes it is very welcome. The thunderstorms are spectacular- great thunder, some lightning and anywhere from a light rain to an all out downpour. The heaviest rain in the states is common here...and I am loving it. I have always been a sucker for thunderstorms. The needle count is up to 6 sticks. Love this job.
I am about out of time. More later. Love to all at home. April


dcropper said...

What wonderful information! We are thrilled to know what you are doing and learning. If you throw in a few Spanish words for each entry, perhaps we will all learn something. Muy bien and adios!

m said...

so did you see pirates???

dianakolar said...

if you ever get 5 extra minutes: explain that 'quick compost' thing to me!

Kevin Cropper said...

Yes, we saw Pirates of the Caribbean, in English, with Spanish subtitles. It was a welcome break and much enjoyed by the 8 or so of us who went. We were scared at first when all the previews were in Spanish!