The Embassy Host Family Program is a program between Peace Corps and the US Embassy here in Panama that matches up folks from the two organizations. It promotes understanding of Panamas culture and the US presence in Panama through sharing our unique perspectives through visits.
From the PCV point of view having a host family has made trips to the city much much easier as our host family knows all about shopping and local organizations. They also have generously invited us to stay overnight with them when we are in town...eliminating the horrible ordeal of trying to find a safe hotel at PCV friendly prices, a task that gets more difficult every week.
From the host family point of view (as best as I can guess based on our interactions) it is continuously amusing to see the things that make us poor PVCs happy...a little internet, a bed and warm shower, access to an oven, and of course the most important: National Public Radio downloads. Brian regularly chuckles about the simple things that we enjoy. He has said that when he drops us off at the PC office in the morning he wants to ask "Do you have your lunch money?" It also seems to be interesting to them to hear about the realities that we face daily while living in a Panamanian community and working alongside host country nationals. While we are not of dramatically different ages, we each have a dramatically different perspective of Panama to share with each other.
Our embassy host family invited us to help put up their Christmas tree with them this year. We put a pot of orange peal and spices on the stove to get the Christmas smell. The artificial tree (real ones dry out FAST in this heat...I mean dead and crispy brown) came complete with a generous supply of lights. Devon has an amazing collection of glass ornaments bows and glittery snowflakes. The gorgeous glass eggs in her collection made us a bit nervous to handle them at all...especially since Brian says he is not allowed to touch the tree at all. The end result was stunning. But our camera just couldn't capture it quite clearly.
We also worked all together to make a spiral cut ham, green bean casserole (poor Devon graciously put up with our dated desire for green bean casserole) and wild rice with foie gras. It was a true holiday meal that left us with that unfortunate "Wow, I ate too much again even though I tried not to" feeling that seems to mark a good holiday meal.
While the tree didn't have that wonderful pine smell (we came real close with a spray tree smell), listening to carols and seeing the lights at night certainly gave us a feeling of the season. Thanks once again to Brian and Devon!