Staging was fairly uneventful other than meeting our fellow volunteers. We did take time to print photos of home, family and friends to bring with us while we were in Georgetown. (They are in a 4x6 album with spaces left over – hint hint!) The flights here were fairly good. Senator Joe Biden was on our flight to Miami just two seats in front of Kevin. Smooth flights, they went quickly despite American Airlines now trying to charge you for a simple snack in-flight.
It is a good group of people in our class. Kevin is having a fabulous time goofing off and making friends. I am also enjoying it all, but am a bit less bubbly about it. The past few days have given me a whole new window into why Kevin was voted “Most School Spirit” in high school.
I know, I know…So what is Panama like? It is so humid that at 8:30 at night I walked out of the airport and my glasses immediately steamed up…completely fogged over from the humidity. The smell here is the smell of Florida after a rain…but almost all of the time. The heat has not been terrible…yet….but it has been mostly overcast. It sounds like the bid section of a pet store outside. The different sound of the birds was one of the first things that I noticed when I woke up.
It has been fun to be here…very interesting. I have seen a new hummingbird, very cool since we only got ruby throats in everyplace that I have lived. For the bird lovers out there it was (as best as I can tell) black with a white breast and a slightly curved beak. Also sighted: a tree frog that was 4 inches long, some parrots, many mango trees with lots of un-ripe fruit. I didn’t see the mosquito who got me, but one did (don’t worry Mom, I will survive.)
It gets dark here around 6:30pm. Everyone has been really nice here, the Panamanians who work with Peace Corps clearly want us here. I think that we are lucky to be in Panama. PC Panama seems to be a very well established program. They say that attrition from this program is very low, and that volunteers here report a high level of satisfaction with their time in PC. Also, (this is for the Moms who worry) PC Panama has a great health care system – good enough that they are the Evacuation hub for the region. All PC Volunteers who need medical care evacuations in Central America are sent here.
We are currently in Panama City and have seen the Miraflores Locks on the canal. We are doing some introductory classes and interviews here. Accommodations are simple but nicer than I would have predicted for PC. We do know where we will be going for training, but I am not going to post it here for safety reasons. We leave for the training site on Sunday and will be then living with our host families for the duration of training. It has been announced that Kevin and I will be placed in the same host family. We won’t find out our site assignments for 4-5 weeks, so please join me in trying to be patient.
How about some stats to round out the picture:
*There are currently 7300 volunteers serving in PC in 73 countries.
There are 34 volunteers in our class here in Panama.
*27 is the average volunteer age – our class oldest is 38 and youngest is 21. Oldest ever to serve was 84 and current oldest is 79….so many of you still have time to serve!
*58% of volunteers are women
*9% are married in PC overall. Our class of volunteers has 5 couples in it – 1/3 of the class…that is a lot.
*178 thousand volunteers have served since PC was started by Kennedy in March 1961.
Why is PC serving in Panama?
*20% of the population here earns 60% of the income. *40% of the population lives in real poverty (68% of those in rural areas, and 98% in indigenous communities.)
*Projects here address sustainable agriculture, education, health, promotion of eco-tourism, teaching English, and many others…all requested by the Panamanian Government and local communities.
I don’t think that the access to internet will last once we go to training, but phone coverage is supposed to be good. Many of you will laugh at this: 95% of volunteers here have cell phones…so Kevin and April will probably get one after training. Just think, we avoided cell phones for years only to get one in Peace Corps. Oh the irony!
I think that is all my fingers can handle for now. Love to all. We are well and happy. Don’t worry!
April & Kevin