Archive for May, 2010

Summer, again?

Packing up to move out of this house all over again feels weird. We just got back here! I’m super excited for being free of school for a while, though I don’t think this semester felt real.

Next semester is going to be a shock. Real scheduled classes, a 5-day long school week, more than 2 professors, classrooms with 4 walls and electricity…

So, who wants to go back?

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Processing Panama…still

These couple weeks back were initially too busy with work to let me breathe, let alone really think about the lasting effects Panama will have on my life. For some reason, maybe because I’m finally wrapping up and have time to ponder, Panama has been on my mind a lot in the past couple days.

I seem to be less patient. Sitting still and being inside is hard. Putting up with other people’s stress and petty drama is even harder. My current way of dealing with this is taking long, aimless walks and seeing if I can get lost. It’s made me question my life here and whether I am really dying to re-assimilate as fast as possible or whether there are some things I’ve learned from our trip that I want to hold on to.

One of these lessons is the dose of reality that Panama gave me. It has made me take a harder look at what I actually want to achieve in my life and possible future career. La MICA taught me that to have an idealistic goal turn into a realistic project and eventual positive change takes every ounce of effort and dedication that you have, and then some. Success doesn’t just naturally happen because of a worthy cause or good intentions. And a lot of things don’t work out.

I’m not necessarily a cynic now, or anything. I think I’ve just received a bit more realism in my life. There is no prescribed path that will take me where I want to go, and I’ll probably wander into many dead ends before finding my ‘calling.’ I think I’m more at peace with this idea now, but I am also expecting more from myself. It is a privilege to have a wide open future with endless options, and I need to be active in the process of finding my way. I can’t expect things to just fall into my lap. I need to seek out things that I care strongly about, and stick with them.

This currently consists of figuring out what the heck “sustainable development” even means in the real world. I like it in theory, but I am so curious to learn about real people’s stories and projects. Does it ever work? How do you measure its success? What is the appropriate role of an outsider in inspiring local change within a community?

Currently reading Kicking off the Bootstraps: Environment, Development and Community Power in Puerto Rico by Déborah Berman Santana. We’ll see she gives me any answers.

Anyway, these are things I’ve been pondering. Thanks Panama 🙂

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Blog number 11

Isn’t 11 one more than we’re required to do? Then why am I writing it? I never do more than the bare minimum. Guess I’m just in a quirky mood.

Tonight is one of those nights when I wish I was back in Panama, sweating under a mosquito net waiting for the morning to come so I could get up and ride in the back of a Toyota Hilux to Parque Nacional Omar Torrijos. I would get off and head down the seldom used trail on the Pacific side of the park. Approximately 2 minutes in I would walk through a clearing on the hillside where the grass had now grown over my head; then, after a few meters on a well graded trail covered by thick canopy, I would emerge into the second and last clearing on the trail. I would take a left turn and descend a slippery grade down to the giant stump with the thorns growing out of it, and I would follow the barely discernable tread past the green, spiky vine and into the first dry streambed. I would turn left and follow the streambed down the hillside, making a right after 30 meters and taking up the narrow trail once again. I would drop into and climb out of one streambed, and then another. Just when the sound of rushing water was beginning to tease my earlobes, I would arrive at the sharp left turn that took me down a series of sharp, steep switchbacks, passing a particularly striking orange fungus on the right side. After 25 minutes of hiking through mist and fog (30 if I was feeling particularly brisk) I would arrive at a stream Macedonio had shown me over two months ago, one that the locals called the “Nombre de Dios.” It’s a quiet place; sitting beside it’s gurgling current, I would lay down on a rock and stare off into one of its many miniature waterfalls and watch the sunlight dance upon the falling droplets. Time and space would slip by imperceptibly as wind and water drowned out the voices of anything that mattered– voices of the people at LaMICA, voices of the people back home, the voices of all the burdens I left behind in Missouri.

And then, after I had received my fill of nothingness, I would rise and march down my transect to collect the litter sample for the day. Within a matter of hours, I would be back in the world of human-manufactured voices and human-manufactured problems–but for a couple of minutes, I would have peace, solitude, and isolation.

Right now I would give just about anything to have 30 minutes there again–lay on a rock, watch the mist twirl through the branches, and ponder the Name of God. The guy who figures out how to bottle and sell that place is going to be rich.

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