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

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

One Year Reunion

So we have officially been Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) for one year now.

This past weekend, we got together with others from our Group 59 at a hostel on an island in the Colón province (northern side) of Panamá to talk about how life was going; what we have accomplished; what we have yet to accomplish; who is going to quit early (just one, depending on grad school), finish two years and ya (ya is Spanish for enough, done, ready, etc; the majority were in this camp), and who is going to extend (several looking to be Regional Leaders and such); and get re-inspired for our second year. Here we are at our official lunch meeting to talk compost, environment, organic fertilizer, and other projects.

We took one formal picture too, on the dock nearby.

Getting to the island via a short 5-10 minute boat ride was nothing for us, although some other volunteers found out that boats are not their thing and they probably will not come to visit us.

The really interesting part of the trip there started on the bus from Panamá City to Colón City. We received information from the PC Office of a transportation strike (apparently not that uncommon, and they usually last just 3 to 24 hours, protesting the high cost of fuel, or food, or something) in Colón, which is already not a city for touring. When we got to the terminal, the police had arranged to bring all of us (seven had taken the train, six of us were on the bus, and about eight more were on later buses and managed to catch up with us too) to the police station for safekeeping.

We sat around their conference room, ate an inexpensive lunch from the police grill (a very tasty tipico meal of meat, lentils, rice, and even lettuce and a tomato), played Cranium, and wrote a letter of thank you, before finally being moved to a special bus they had arranged for us. The bus took us first to the supermarket and waited so we could pick up bread, cereal, PB and J, and such for the weekend, and ironically, the last of our group, coming in on later buses, caught up with us there. Then he drove us the hour-and-a-half out to the island. How wonderful, flexible, helpful and accomodating!

The island had a nice beach on one end, where April and I went snorkeling with our new gear (thank you Grandma Cropper) and shared with other volunteers. On the other end was a Gustave Eiffel-designed lighthouse, 94 steps high, with a great view over the island and the cove. Unfortunately, we didn't get pictures of all that, but hopefully other volunteers will send some to us.

It was a great chance to catch up with everyone, reminesce, and get inspiration for our next year.

We left on Sunday with a short boat ride and then a regular bus back to Colón City (we did see some amazing winds on the ride, with a roof blowing off a house as we drove by and at least one piece of the zinc spinning 200ft in the air), then a bus to Panamá City, a quick jaunt in a diablo rojo to our embassy host family to pick up some books we'd left there (and some great leftovers she pressed on me), then a bus to Santiago for the night, finally getting in about 11:30. Now we are finishing up some posts (including some stockpiling, now that Blogger lets you post-date posts to publish later, so even though we'll be on the island, you can read new adventures from Panamá), sending and checking mail, and buying groceries. We go back in to site tomorrow early.

Thus starts year two...

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