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

Friday, November 7, 2008

Sometimes nothing is easy

Well, I should be on a boat right now approaching the island where we live. I should be hot, hungry, and a bit cranky because I am almost finished with a three hour boat ride in the sun and I still have a full days worth of activities ahead of me and all I really want is a nap. That is what should be...that is what Kevin is experiencing at this moment....so why am I typing a blog in a computer lab (that sounds like an arcade from all the kids playing after school) instead?

Because nothing worthwhile is easy to accomplish.

This is true in the USA as well, but today it feels more evident than normal here in Panama. It often feels like it takes 4 steps to get something done that I feel like I should be able to accomplish with 2 steps. The main projects that I am working on this month are:

  • a trip with the kids and environmental volunteers to visit another PCVs community (we are going to learn about the sea turtles that lay eggs there) November 14-16th
  • a National Association of Interpretation (NAI) workshop about how to give interpretive programs (think national park ranger guided walk) that will be given in Parque Naciónal Coiba on Nov 16-22

Did you notice that the dates overlap... both projects are coming to a head at once...and of course that complicates matters. Scheduling the dates was complicated, and while I am not very happy about the way they overlap (as I have still not learned to be in two places at the same time) that was the only way that personal schedules, community schedules, agency schedules, and ocean tides all lined up to work together. Don't you want a job that is impacted by the schedule of the tides?

These projects have been very typical of why a Peace Corps volunteer needs or develops patience (or goes home early). A vezes, nothing is easy. For example, the reason that I am sitting here typing to you is because I need to get gasoline for the boat ride visit the other community. I need 15 gallons of gasoline, about $52.00 in value. The process of getting the gasoline has been interesting.

Months ago I started talking about this project to the local agencies. They liked it enough that I heard an agency member using this project as an example at a seminar of how we can work together. A month ago I wrote a letter asking for help with the costs of this project to a local agency. Letters are the official first step when dealing with Panama’s agencies.

I didn't get any reply from the agency, but kept hearing that they liked the project....so I went visiting. Visiting is the way to get things done here, well, after you make small talk you might get things done too. So I visited. We made small talk and we looked through their files for the letter and then printed a new copy. I was told that they wanted to help me and that I needed to stop back next week. That visit was on Friday.

Now, let us take a brief break to look at the holiday schedule for Panama:

Add those national holidays to regional celebrations...and about 1/2 of the days in November are dias libres. So the agencies were all closed on Mon, Tue, and Wed of this week. I wanted to be heading home on Thursday at the latest, but decided to stick around and see if I could get a promise of help. Good thing I did. When I visited late on Thursday I got walked from one office to the other and we made arrangements for when I was in port I would call and they would tell the gas vendor to give me 15 gallons and that they would pay for it.

Great, I had a promise that gas would be paid for...now I just need a tank to put it in (I didn’t know how any of this would work before it all got started.) So I called a different agency and asked to borrow a tank that I had seen in the past. That worked.

When I got to port the tank was too small, 12 gallons...so yet a third agency lent me a bigger one. Yeah! (This week represents quite a victory with agency relations for me.) I went to go fill the bigger tank and guess what? There is no gasoline in port, both venders have run out. They say that more gas will come in tomorrow... pero veo para creerlo (but i will believe it when I see it). So I am typing to you and going to visit a friend for the night.

Si Dios quiere, I will return to the island tomorrow....if not, the day after. I find it funny that Kevin and I both wrote blogs with a theme of patience in the same week without talking about it. What does that mean??? His entry will post soon.

Just remember, smelling the roses requires taking a deep breath.

1 comment:

Foy and Jeff said...

I am very impressed with your agency prowess. I have gotten the connecting through the embassy and NGOs down. But I think I have given up on agencies. But you make me think maybe I should look again.