Archive for March, 2010

washing machines

I wish i had a washing maching, i could easily live with cold outside showers, smelly pit toilets, and sweltering nights … if i had a washing machine

We finally caught all of a crabs and put them in live cages, which is awesome.. we´ve started working on shrimp, which is not …

Freshwater shrimp are not the attractive little red and white ones that you see on the discovery channel… they kind of look like creatures from outer space, their eyes glow red, and their bodies are semi-transparent, but they have opaque colored pinchers that are like as long as their entire body … super creapy … ´they probably eat children´

i dont like shrimp, except in the cocktail form

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Boquette Ziplining

Boquette was amazing, ziplining was amazing, partying with abuelo was amazing …

…you never know who you´ll run into on the panamerican highway

…´i just steped out for a smoke, the ladies are in the room´

…sometimes the journey (to the hotsprings) is better than the endpoint

…rocks rocks rocks rocks rocks rocks, everybody

…chocolate chip pancakes can make anyone´s day

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Nini is the best pet monkey a boy could ever ask for

A lot to update.

A few weeks ago our class went on an excursion to Kuna Yala, a semiautonomous indigenous community on the Caribbean coast of Panama near Colombia.  It was fun seeing how other people lived, but I couldn´t help but feel like the whole thing was a bit of a performance.  Afterwords we went and briefly toured Panama City, and got to see some old churches as well as ruins of the colonial city.  We returned to La MICA and began working on our biology projects in earnest.  I have been getting frustrated with mine, as my Berlese funnels have not been very effective, and I think I may have to shift my project to something completely different.  There´s still time, but with over half the trip already in the books I have yet to collect a single piece of data.

After Kuna Yala we had a couple free days, so some people went out to Boquete in western Panama for a bit.  Will, Ethan, and I climbed to the highpoint of Panama, Volcan Baru, but unfortunately visibility was limited.  I keep hearing about how you can see both oceans from the peaks of the Central Cordillera, but we haven´t had a clear day at high elevation yet in Panama, so it´s hard to tell.

For about 4 days we spent time in Santa Marta, a small rural community a few miles east of El Cope.  Chris and I lived with a family in their home, and we got to play with the pet monkey.  We also hiked to the wreckage of Omar Torrijos´ plane from 1981, and to several beautiful waterfalls in the area.  All in all a very fulfilling trip.

Today is some of the nicest weather we´ve had- cool, clear, and breezy.

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hump day

So hump day has come and gone.  If feels like we’ve been here for much longer than three weeks. We were in Santa Marta last week, staying with different families in the community.  The trip was prefaced in Kirksville with the message that we were going to a community without electricity or English for a week.  At the time I remember thinking how exotic it was going to be, staying somewhere without electricity for that amount of time.  It was hard to imagine that kind of life, because things like running water and electricity are often taken for granted, and it’s almost unimaginable to think of someone living without them.

However, after living in Panama for three weeks, most of the time without electricity readily available and without the guarantee of a supply of fresh water, the trip to Santa Marta didn’t seem nearly as daunting.  It turned out to not be much of a change at all.  Although by standards in America, the community would probably be classified as below the poverty line, they have more fulfilling lives than those of many middle and upper class Americans.

In the mornings they wake up with the light of the sun and prepare the food they’ve grown with their own hands.  The community is full of hard working people, who all seem to strive toward a common goal.  They place there family above the material possessions that we think we need, and spend the time with each other that we spend in front of the TV or on the internet. Their houses are simple, but beautiful, and were built with their own hands. Our house was completely surrounded with lush vegetation, including a mandarin tree that the kids climbed up and tossed down the mandarins to us. They also are surrounded by their family, and often the house was full of nieces and nephews coming to visit.

Overall the visit left me feeling enlightened, and enthusiastic about life.  I feel now that poverty is more of an outlook on life than an economic status, and that whatever state you’re given in life it can be fulfilling as long as you see it that way.

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climbing elijah peak

After eating lunch in Cope, I set out on a really neat hike. I followed the road past the bakery on the way to Bajo Grande. I traveled up over the ridge and made my way down into the next valley. The land was a stark contrast to that of the Cope area. It was as arid as could be, and the only trees were scattered pines. I climbed up a dirt road until it ended near a large pasture, and then flirted along the cliff on cattle paths all the way to the top. It truly was a spectacular panoramic, and an awesome feeling to get to the top.

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Mi familia de Panama!!!

Wow! We stayed in Santa Marta this past week and it was so amazing! It was a home stay so I got to see how they lived, worked, ate… the whole nine yards. One day we did a huge hike to a plane crash, it was a beastly hike! Lol. And another day we hiked to these amazing waterfalls and swam. It was so much fun! The soccer game with the children was one of my favorite parts! I love soccer, and playing against Panamanian ten year olds was no walk in the park! They take their futbol serious here! We also had a dance one night, the community threw a fiesta for us. I had a lot of fun seeing the authentic Panamanian dances. We got to help with work and see what their daily lives entail. That was a humbling experience. We also helped build a house, a mud house. With our feet!! HAha it was sooo much fun!!!

My family was so great! They welcomed us with open arms and made me feel at home. It was funny how everyone kept referring to the people they were staying with as ‘my dad’ or ‘my sister’ and it was nice to have some family time. My spanish isnt too great, but we did pretty well communicating. They played us the guitar and sang songs, and cooked awesome food! Overall I had a great time and the experience was very humbling. I hope to keep writing to my sister and maybe we will be pen pals for life! 🙂 Off for more adventures now, art in the park. Love and miss you all at home!!!!

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its hump day

today officially marks the half way mark of the trip.  feels like we have been here forever already.  thats  really all i have to say about that

We just got back from a trip to Santa Marta.  this is a small town that does not have electricity and does not want electricity.  we broke up into pairs and stayed with families in the community.  me and maeve shared a family and we were both a little nervous at first.  neither of us are all that great at spanish but  when we were trying to figure out what they were saying, if we both thought the same thing then we agreed that we were probably right.  the family that we stayed with was very quiet and shy.  they had two girls, 13 and 10.  there was some talking here and there but not much.  i think that it was about the thrid night that we were there is when we finally had a break through.  we pieced together a sentence saying that we wanted to learn some words in spanish and that was all it took.  they were  telling us about their garden and their religion and they sang for us and prayed with us and they were talking about sausage at one point i think.  seemed like they were holding it in.  i think that they did really like us though. at the end of the trip they gave us gifts and said that they were happy to have us there and that we were part of the family.

overall i just kind of felt proud about the trip.  i think that we had such a big impact on these families  which made us proud. i was proud of myself for climbing the mountain to see the plane. i was proud of the students that i taught english to when they were finally getting it.

i am out of time now but i have so much more to say. oh well im sure all of you reading this will get an ear full when i get back.  <i miss you all so much and i think its only about three weeks now that we have left here, thats nuts!!

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santa marta

Finally… some internet. Yesterday we got back from our homestays in Santa Marta which is a very small town without electricity about an hour away from El Cope. We arrived and got situated with our families who seemed very nervous to have us, I was nervous as well. Ashlee and I stayed with a family that had four kids. Two boys (15 and 4) and 2 girls (9 and 10). They were as nice as could be and made us feel extremely welcome. Even though we knew very little Spanish we were able to communicate basic things with them. They were very excited to teach us about their way of life and culture and were very happy when we complimented their food and finished our whole plate. I really think they wanted to impress us because they served us huge meals which were way more than I normally eat. The food was very good though and almost all of it was grown in their backyards or in the surrounding areas of their town. They had chickens, plantains, bananas, and more just around their house. I really enjoyed seeing their simple way of life. They owned very few possessions and didn’t have electricity so it seemed that they spent a lot of time with their family and friends. We always had visitors over our house. Ashlee and I actually became friends with 2 of the ladies that visited often and they invited us over for dinner one night. I was really happy to get to stay with a family for the four nights that we did because we have been away from our own families for a while now. All of us were acting like they were are real families and bragging that my dad is better and my mom cooks the best meals. It was nice to come home from doing things and have my mom and dad ask me what I did and to see my little brother get excited when I returned to the house. It made me miss my own family. We did a lot of hiking on the trip, most of the hikes were pretty hard but I love hiking so I didn’t mind and the views were breathtaking. We hiked three hours straight up a mountain one day to see the plane crash site of Omar Torijos who used to be the president of Panama. The hike was tough because Panama apparently hasn’t heard of switch backs so the trail was literally straight up the mountain. It was really cool when we got there because some of the men from Santa Marta came with us and one of them had been living there at the time of the crash. He told us a story of how he and his friends saw the crash happen and they were the first to arrive at the site. He said it took them half a day to get to it, the same amount of time it took us to get to it except that when they did it there was no trail so they were cutting through jungle to get there. Another day they took us to some waterfalls and a hot spring which they believe has healing powers. To me it didn’t even feel warm but I guess it was warmer than the rivers. The waterfalls were beautiful and we got to go swimming in them which was a lot of fun. One of the nights they had a dance for us and the whole community. They played traditional Panamanian music for us and we danced all night long. The last day they were really sad to see us go and kept asking when we would be back. It was really interesting to see how quickly they became attached to us. One of my favorite things about staying there and hiking around was that when we stopped to take breaks the men would climb a tree a pick a bunch of fresh oranges for us. Orange trees were everywhere and they were the best oranges I´ve ever had. Right now I´m in Penome checking up on emails and trying to figure out classes for next semester. I was going to put some pictures on facebook but my computer is not working right now so I don’t know if that will happen or not. Marc tells us it is hump day, the middle of our trip. Its hard to believe it. I hope everyone had fun on spring break this week, I can´t wait to hear about it!

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Hump Days :)

So this marks the middle of our trip! I can´t believe we are halfway through already! So much to share and so little time. So I´ll try to highlight the big points of the trip and then share the details and photographs later when I´m home!

Earlier this week we took a Chiva to Santa Marta where we had our first home stay experience! I lived with Jackie Kinealy (my awesome Truman sister for the week) and a family with a dad- Jose, a mom- (don´t know how to spell her name off the top of my head), and a little sister- Yaribeth.  The whole extended family lived on one street! We had such a great time with the family. Loved the food, loved the fiesta, and loved the opportunity to grow in my spanish speaking and understanding capabilities.  During our stay we did three really awesome things:

On day one we hiked hours up a mountain to the place where General Omar Torrijos´ plane crashed! It was a physically demanding day but once we made it back it was so rewarding! We learned a lot about Omar and how the Panamanians view him in their history. Way cool 🙂

On day two we volunteered in our community. I taught english in a classroom full of spanish speaking children! So hard but so cool at the same time! I heard later that all the kids ran home with their notebooks of English words and shared them with their families. The families really wanted their children to learn from us! It was an amazing experience all on its own. I´d love to talk about it sometime!

On day 3 we hiked again to the waterfalls and hot springs around Santa Marta! It was my first waterfall experience and I couldn´t have been more pleased! The area was soo beautiful and the water so crisp and refreshing after our long hikes! We we able to dive in from the ledge of the waterfall because the pool was deep enough! So amazing 🙂 We all took lots of photos.

Our first dancing experience also took place in Marta! I can´t wait for the next one that is coming up in a week!

Trying to keep the world posted about our ventures but its harder than it sounds! Stay tuned 🙂

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The homestays at Santa Marta were a great observational experience for me. My limited spanish rendered me a spectator, as our host father directed all of his comments and attention to Will, who was kind enough to throw me the occasional bone. Will tried to tell a stupid english joke in spanish, and it was even stipider, so nobody laughed. I just covered my face and layed on my stomach in the corner. My gullet loves having twenty-eight pounds of yucca trucked down it, and was sad when it found out that it won’t be gettting more for a while. I still have a lot of questions about Santa Marta and life in the Campo in general, so hopefully Marc can throw me a bone, or something. Regardless of what any of the whiners say, we are all better off because of our recent experiences.

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