So what exactly is it like to be a brand new Peace Corps Volunteer?? Well, I am sure that the expereince is different for everyone, but I can tell you about my first two weeks. Sorry, but no pictures today...I forgot the cord to the camera. We will try to post photos soon.
We headed to our site a day late, after I spent a day with enough diarehha to make me not want to travel (hum...7 hours in busses and boats with re-occuring diarehha was not my idea of fun). I was feeling fine other than the diareah thing. We arrived at the port for departure and spent about 4 hours waiting for a ride and talking with the port police and authorities...who are very nice and even willing to share their bathroom with us! Despite all of that we got to our site without any real difficulties. We are living with a host family just now. We will be living with host families for the next two or so months, every PCV does this as a way to adapt and intigrate into the community.
Paula and Ancelmo, the couple that we are living with, are very nice and very patient with our spanish. I find that with a day or two of talking to the same person we adapt to their accent and way of speaking and they adapt to ours and things get a little easier. Their house is in a beautiful location...right near the water with a wonderful view and good breeze.
They have an uncountable number of chickens and ducks, two dogs, three horses and laundry lines that make us duck when we walk outside the house. I have come to find that watching chickens is almost like watching fish in an aquarium...kinda relaxing and occasionaly amusing. Of course, you don´t often get offered a fish from the family aquarium for lunch....but I did get offered one of the chickens that I had enjoyed watching. Very sad.
So these two weeks we spent going to a meeting with the local equivalent to the PTA. (There was something going on at that meeting that I don´t quite understand...some sort of tension that I know that they were not addressing because we were there - they said that much in Spanish that I could understand...so I am not just making things up.) We walked around looking at were things are and saying "Hi" to everyone we met. We studied Spanish. We learned how to harvest rice. We visited the water source for the community that we are living in.
I made friends with the dogs. I saw my first snake...a 4 foot boa in a tree...and then watched it be killed. (yup...I will be thinking long and hard about how to be respectful of the people and still ask for less killing of local animals). I found a scorpion in the wall of our room (there are gaps in the motar between blocks sometimes) and watched it be killed. Have a photo of it to share when I get the cable. It was about 5 inches long including tail. It didn´t sting anyone. We went swimming and playing in the Gulf with some kids...some of whom were too shy to talk to us directly.
I did laundry twice by hand. I wrote in my diary. I re-read book 5 of Harry Potter so I can re-read book 6 so I can start book 7. We have HP 7 but have not started it. DON´T TELL US ANYTHING ABOUT IT!!! I am thanking God everyday that we are in a place were no one else has read them and can spoil the ending for us. I don´t think that we will start HP7 for another 2 months-when we get our own house. This is because I know once we start it we will want to read a bunch...and that doesn´t seem like a good idea right now while living with families. Plus, we will read it outloud for the first time...and that could look a little wierd to others.
So, there were busy times and times when I would say to Kevin "Now what?". There were moments when I found Spanish to be easy, and moments where we used the dictionary frequently. We had moments were we were sweaty and stinky, and moments when we were a bit chilly in the breeze (yup, you CAN be chilly in Panama - especially in the movie theaters and long distance buses). There were moments of real admiration for the way Panamanians do things, and moments of not understanding how or why they do things as they do. There were moments of no insects, and moments of many bites, but not horrible. There were moments of real fustration due to lack of clear information or understanding of Spanish. There were moments of just enjoying the beauty of where we are living.
All in all, they were two good weeks...not easy, but good. I think that it will just get better over time...but it will be as slow as my progress with Spanish (which means a decent speed but never feeling fast enough for me.)
Hope everyone reading this is doing well. Please go enjoy a good chocolate ice cream or some good cheese in my honor. Both are rare in Panama as a whole, but non-existant on the island. Love to all,