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Archive for May, 2013

First off – I apologize. This blog will cover only Jan – March. My b. Ok, back to scheduled programming…

 

As in all tropical areas, there are two seasons in Panama: rainy and dry. The rainy season means that it rains. Hard. For at least for an hour a day. So hard that my entire community is basically a mud pit and I can only walk around in rubber boots. The dry season literally has no rain. The whole community looks like a desert.  Yeah, Panama doesn’t do moderation. This year, the dry season was surprisingly short and productive. I say “was” because it seems to have ended in April. Normally, the dry season should be from December through April or May.  Thank you, global warming, now Panama rains about ¾ of the year. Fabulous.

 

IN ANY CASE, this particular dry season was crazy productive. It is the only time where Panamanians like to work. They’re surprisingly scared of getting rained on. It started with the compost latrine in my neighbor, Amber’s, site on New Year’s. After that I held a seminar in my site about the new water system. There’s still some problems with the system but the seminar went pretty well. More on the water system next blog post.

 

Then I went straight to the absolute best experience I’ve had in Peace Corps so far: GAD Camp!! 

GAD stands for Gender and Development and it is an organization within Peace Corps that focuses explicitly on sexual health, gender roles and empowering women, so obviously right up my ally. Every year in Panama we put on a week-long camp for two youth between the ages of 12 and 17 from every Peace Corps community. This year there were so many applicants they actually had to turn a significant number of people down, as well as facilitators. I was lucky enough to be chosen to attend.

This is my team at GAD camp:

Image 

So in just 5 days, 7 other facilitators and I spent all week with 40 youth from all over Panama. There were indigenous kids as well as latinos, kids that traveled an hour and kids that traveled days to get to the camp. Some of the kids had never left their small villages before. It was great to see the camp relationships form over the course of the week. Throughout the week we worked with the kids on life skills: organization, goal –setting, resume- building as well as extensively covering sexual education.

 

It was by far the most exhausting and productive week of my service so far. We literally were with the kids starting at 6am until 10pm every day – always trying to teach them, keep their interest, and (of course) keep them out of trouble. We even had one little camp romance by the end of the 5 days (how is that even possible?!). One highlight for me was to see the indigenous girls get really involved. There is a lot of racism between the latinos and the indigenous. By the end of the week, the latino kids were asking about Embera traditions and basic phrases in the language.

This is the boy that I brought with me to camp:Image

AND you can check out the GAD Camp video – https://vimeo.com/57813660 

 

Anyway, following the Best Week Ever was my Best Idea Ever: I built my very own compost latrine at my house. With the help of my neighbors (that will be sharing the latrine with me), PCVs from Panama and a very special guest appearance from an RPCV from Zambia, we completed the project in about a month. It was the Best Idea Ever because:

  1. People actually believe me when I tell them I’m an engineer.
  2. My people think I’m strong (it was a nice self-esteem boost)
  3. I don’t have a poop in a hole any more – I have a nice fancy concrete box!
  4. People actually believe me when I tell them I’m an engineer (did I mention that one?)

 Image

My neighbor/adopted child helped too :) 

 

But really, it was the best idea because since then, two other families have started construction of their own latrines – with their own funds! I’ve only been helping them with the design and education and they’re doing everything else on their own. This is really the most important part of my job –  that what I do is sustainable, such that my community no longer will need me. I literally am trying to work myself out of a job.  The more my community can do for themselves, and the less I bring in outside resources, the better. 

 

Until next time! We get to start talking about Lajas Blancas’s very first Ultimate Frisbee Club! Get excited!

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