"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 conversation and it was impossibly awkward and uncomfortable for everyone involved. Wednesday was introductions for the counterpart on some of the PC rules and regs, then we did a bunch of sessions together talking about cultural barriers and what culture shock is so that the community counterpart can help explain to the rest of the community why their gringo/a is freaking out or being antisocial or sleeping all the time or sick or whatever. At 5pm the Darien crew put our luggage in a peace corps SUV and the 18 of us walked to the highway to catch a bus back to Panama City, where we stayed at a hotel for the night.

The high point of the evening was sitting on my bed with a real mattress in my air conditioned room after having taken a hot shower eating a fresh green apple drinking a coke, and talking to Emily from back home.

We woke up at 4am freezing to death because our AC was on full and we didn't know how to turn it down. Eventually I gave up on trying to sleep at 5:30 and we packed up and headed to the bus terminal to head out into the jungle. The little bus left at 8:30am and a loooooong time later we got to Agua Fria where we had to go through a border police checkpoint. This involves getting everyone and everything off the bus, having all bags searched, and presenting all proper official documention proving you have permission and a reason to be in the territory. I think someone from PC made a phone call for us on our behalf though because they came on the bus, asked if we were PC, when we said yes they made us stand off to the side of everyone else with our stuff and then let us get back on first without having to get searched. That was cool. (that was not the situation on the way back, but nbd)

I left the bus at my entrada with my counterpart and we hung out until we were able to flag down a taxi to take us the 30-40 min ride to my port. (if you can't find a taxi or a chiva its a 3hr walk) When then waited about half an hour until there was a boat to take us to my community. All of a sudden, sitting on my knees in a khaki skirt holding my backpack up out of the water in the bottom of the hollowed out tree log canoe, I looked up and saw the people that were going to be my friends and family for the next 2 years. I saw what the last 31 months of paperwork, interviews, paperwork, goodbyes, vaccines, doctor's appointments, paperwork, travel, training, spanish classes, hiking, and paperwork had been leading up to. It was less glamorous than you'd expect, haha. When I got off of the boat, some of the women doing laundry along the water's edge started talking to me and my counterpart, and I had absolutely no idea what they were saying.

I realized that no matter what I had already been through, that was nothing compared to what was coming next.


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