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Showing posts from July, 2012

Earning Stripes

They say every experience as a Volunteer teaches you something, and I feel like in the last week I have learned a lot about myself and Panama.

A week ago Thursday, I got hit with a chest cold like a brick. Sunday, my eye was so gooey I couldn't open it, and had to make a trip back to the city for pink eye antibiotics. Back in site Tuesday, I did nothing but sleep and use the latrine until I 'cried uncle' on Thursday and came back to the city AGAIN. This time a bacterial infection in my digestive system.

Hey, when I get sick, I don't mess around. Don't worry, I am currently on the mend and feeling like a human for the first time in about 10 days and am excited to see Panama from the other side. Cuz when you're sick, this country can suck. But then again, what country doesn't when you're sick?

Regardless, I learned stuff. And that's important.

I learned how much my host family in site genuinely cares about me- each time I said I needed to get out of s…

Growing Pains

Written on July 21, 2012

Looking back on it, no one ever sayd that middle school was easy. It may have been fun at times but mostly it was uncomfortable. Your body is doing weird things you don't understand, you aren't really sure where you fit in or how, and when your rational and logical side prevails and tells you to just be yourself? Well, you discover that in this foreign environment you don't really know what or who that is anymore.

Let's not pretend this metaphor is really about middle school. Campo life, 24/7...is rough.

The heat. The humidity. The bugs. The sweat. The lack of electricity, and therefore lack of anything and everything that goes along with that. The lack of running water. The lack of latrines. The wooden table that is my bed. The wooden benches that 'furnish' living rooms, if they have them at all. The way dogs are (mis)treated. The horses, pigs, goats, chickens, dogs, and wtf-was-that running loose through the community. The lack of Eng…

'A Few Minor Adjustments'

A Handbook for Volunteers that we receive during the application process discussing the challenges we encoutner during surface. I was having a rough day and decided to peruse it. I found a variety of quotes entertaining, and acknowledge that they are blatantly copied and property of the Peace Corps:

'Many Volunteers find their living conditions plusher than they imagined, that they aren't going to be coping with the dreaded hardships they had anticipated and steeled themselves against, like having to read by candlelight and bathe in the river.'

...no comment.

'This isn't to say that the sacrifices aren't part of the PC package. It's just that sometimes they aren't as obvious, dramatic, or romantic as warding off bat-sized insects and enduring weeks of plain rice.'

...well, at least I can say that my life has never lacked drama. And the bugs are not quite that big.

'Cultural acceptance- it does not mean likeing or approving, and especially not ad…

Little Victories

Written on July 16, 2012

On my way home from pasear-ing... (oh! 'pasear'- to walk around to other people's houses to chat and eat/drink whatever they give you and explain who I am and what I am doing here. aka what I spend almost all of my days doing right now as I get to know the people of my community) Anway. On my way home from pasearing, 3 little kids about 5 years old start yelling my name so I walk over to say hello and teach them how to 'Da me cinco' (gimme 5) But they are really distracted and excited about something and suddenly take off running telling me to follow. They were headed towards our composting latrine. I  was so confused. The gate to the office was open and the door to the actual latrine to the side to it was unlatched- both of which are normally closed up. My first thought was that the kids had thrown something or someone in it. They are 5 years old, and if it were me, that's what I would do. So I started getting really concerned. I prote…

Posh Corps/Beach Corps...

My favorite things abour Swear In Week:
-Getting to sleep in a REAL *QUEEN SIZED* bed with FOUR pillows all to myself for 3 nights

-Having A/C in my hotel room so effective I could snuggle under the blankets

-Having access to hot water for hot showers and hot tea when I got a cold and lost my voice because my body wasn't used to air conditioning

-The Pool

-Having a lot of down time to hang out with my fellow trainees

-Being able to video skype SO MANY of my favorite people and actually *SEE* their beautiful faces!

-The food from Niko's cafe...omg lasagna

-Using an elevator to move my stuff

-Getting all dressed up, doing my hair and makeup and nails (for maybe the last time in 2 years)

-Having a conversation with the US Ambassador

-Taking pictures of the Panama skyline with lots of snazzy, brand new Volunteers

-SUSHI

-Beer that is not Atlas, Panama, or Balboa

-The Cultural activity in my host community right before we left

-Baking homemade chocolate chip cookies in an oven that…

Soy una Voluntaria del Cuerpo de Paz!

'I, Amber Naylor, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, domestic and foreign, that I take this obligation freely and without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge my duties in the Peace Corps by working with the people of Panama as partners in friendship and peace.'

Thus training ends, and the real adventure begins.

Becoming a Djabawera

Djaba- (pronounced Jabba, like the hut) means brother or friend that is a male
Wera- (where-uh) means woman
Djabawera- means sister or friend that is female

Those first 6 days I spent in my community are a blur. My mind was constantly in overdrive, trying to reteach itself how to do just about everything. The second I woke up it started: how to get out of bed whilst disturbing as little of the mosquito net as possible. Remembering to take toilet paper and hand sanitizer with me when I crossed town to use the latrine. How to wear a peruma. How to then do everything else that day in a peruma. How to say hello. How to eat (insert anything here). How to brush my teeth without water. How to wipe mud off of my feet to enter someone else's hut. How to sit in a hammock in a peruma. How say (insert about a million different phrases here) in Embera. How to teach someone how to make the 'th' sound when saying an english world like bathe or this or theatre. How to climb the 'stairs&…

"It's a dangerous business going out your door. If you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you will be swept off to." -Bilbo Baggins, The Hobbit

My adventure to meet my community of the next 2 years started out on Tuesday the 19th by bribing another trainee, Jordan, with a duro (fruit popsicle) to help me and my host mom carry my stuff across Santa Rita to the bus. I am convinced it was of course the hottest day in Panama thus far. The place we stayed for the conference was an hour and half west of Santa Rita at an agricultural conference center. The dorms were like classrooms with beds in them. The women's room had 10 beds in it and 2 air conditioning units. Whose cords were 3' too short to reach the power outlet. This was apparently the same situation in the guy's rooms so Nathan walked idk how far to a tienda to buy an extension. When he returned, he got his AC plugged in, and the power to it turned on. However, to make it actually blow air, you need to use a remote. Which no one had. GAH!

I met my counterpart from my community, Jose, the 24 year old son of the tribal leader. We had 2 hours to make introductory …