Kate Lincoln - Peace Corps Panama.

Agroforestry Extentionist.

Undergraduate at the University of Nebraska in Horticulture with a Focus in Landscape Design.

.


Kate is both a Peace Corps Volunteer and a graduate student in the Loret Miller Ruppe Peace Corps Masters International Program at Michigan Tech. Find out more about this program at http://peacecorps.mtu.edu/ .


Week Number One in Panama - Mid-May.

The climate in Panama is very nice, especially coming from houghton, where i nearly froze to death this winter. i like the hot weather, so that has been actually a welcome change for me. the rainy season has just begun, and it rains nearly every afternoon. they say you could set your watch to it, but these first rains have been pretty sporadic. the rain feels great after sweating all day

.
there are all kinds of fun animals and plants here. i especially like all the fruit trees EVERYWHERE and our neighbors pet monkey. my family had a parrot but it flew off last sunday and hasn´t been back. yes, russ and i live with a family. this is somewhat strange for me, but i understand that it is a good way to get to know the culture. our family has a stay at home mom, a dad that works for the health department (so we are relatively rich) and four sisters, Mili who is 13, estephanie who is 8 and two twins(4 year olds) i only know currently as the ¨bebes¨because that is what everyone calls them. no one can remeber russ´s name in our family and my name is ¨keti¨ to them.


our family lives behind our host mom´s parents. her dad is the representative of our district so he is muy importante. we have a very nice new latrine, (not smelly) and an actual shower outside. the other trainees have buckets they have to pour over their heads, but our water flow is strong enough to have a vertical pipe taller than our heads. it is very good. russ and i both shower in the morning and at night, russ sometimes showers during our lunch hour.


pretty much our days this week have consisted of language training. our trainers are very organized and follow a calendar of events they gave us to the letter. the language training is going very well.


i am trying to adjust to meat and rice for every meal. we have hot meat (chicken, beef, etc..) and rice for every meal even breakfast. it wasn´t bad this week, but i am tiring of it, i will have to get creative with spices i think.


14 June 2002.

panama has cooled down a lot as the rainy season is now in full swing. not cool as in i need to wear a shirt with sleeves or anything, but much cooler than the 'i could fry an egg on this giant cocroaches' back' kinda heat.


this week, russ and i and four other trainees went to an indigenous community for a visit. all of us who went will be living and working with the indigeous people of panama. all i can really say about the experience is that you think you are prepared to see poverty until you truly see poverty. i know you have all seen children who are malnurished and have no clothes on t.v. but it is not the same in person, believe me. i think i lost 5 pounds in this week alone, as we had to hike into the site and walk every day and only ate rice the entire time. i mean ONLY rice. and the last day my family ran out of rice so we ate fried flour. the people did not know what to think of us 'gringos' and i don{t blame them. they have no concept of our world, no concept of things like plumbing or matresses or even doors on their houses. the children were always around staring and if you said hi, they still just stared, never spoke. a few got brave and spoke to us, but then only to ask for money and gifts from us. we had a ceremony that was a 'cross-cultural' exchange sort of thing and the women let us girls wear some of their traditional dresses, which are very colorful and beautiful, but really simple designed and made from cotton. afterwords we were all asked if we wanted to buy the dresses and when we asked how much they told us 60 dollars! because they think we have all kinds of money. i haven{t seen sixty dollars since i left the U.S.



1 October 2002

wow! alot has happened.


i knew our house in tole' was too good to be true, not that i liked the place so much, just the thought of not moving for TWO WHOLE YEARS. i haven`t stayed in one house that long i don`t think in my entire life!!!!!!


but alas, russ and i are moving. why? you may ask? well it really all boils down to the catholic church (sorry bro). really, though. a group of padres at the catholic church in tole' run the learning farm that russ and i were assigned to work on in tole'. among other responsibilities (which were minimal compared to this one) russ and i were to work at the granja, as it is called and help these men who come down from their homes in the mountains to learn about new techniques in agriculture. these include rice tanks, contour farming, composting, worm boxes, tree and plant nurseries, and incorporating animals into the system. bored yet?
the point is this project was really cool, and we were preceded by two other pcv's so the peace corps had been working with these people for four years. then, one bright and sunny day, one padre (one very mean and nasty padre) decided he doesn't want to work with peace corps anymore and poof! russ and i are out of a job. now, we could have stayed in tole' -- we had taught a few classes at the school and knew many people in town, but our heart were with the granja and frankly, i just wasn`t interested anymore in fighting off my drunk neighbor from trying to attack me, or the fifty other CONSTANTLY drunk men in tole' following me around calling me "hey baby" some phrase they obviously picked up from stupid american movies they get here, and we actually had an "incident" as peace corps likes to call it with me and my drunk neighbor one dark and stormy night where I was a wee bit scared .


to make a long story longer, our friend jessica lives in a tiny community (compared to tole') called Quebrada Tula in Bocas Del Toro, the most beautiful part of Panama. she has been having "safety concerns" as the office calls it and the office wanted to know if hey, do we want to move there? she replaced a married couple and originally another married couple was supposed to go there, because it is just to remote for one person. here's why


to get to Quebrada Tula, or Tula for short (a quebrada is a small river or stream) one must take a bus from David, the second largest city in Panama, over the mountain range that cuts the country in half. the bus ride is two hours winding up up up through beautiful mountains and mist-filled forest and then down down down again to the other side. we arrive in Chiriqui Grande, a port town that is all a typical sleezy port town is and more, to take a boat to our site. the boat is actually a 30 foot long dugout canoe that has a 15hp motor attached. we take this for a ride across the ocean for 1 and a half hours and then turn up the Guarivara river. from there, it is a twisting turning ride through thick rainforest where we have to get out and push sometimes to get the canoe past the strong current because we only have a 15hp motor (sucks). finally after about 3 more hours (yes that`s four and a half total) we arrive at caño susiso and relax for a couple minutes before hiking half an hour in to Tula. the hike is through knee-deep mud and crosses yet another river and believe me it takes a while when every step you nearly lose your boot in the mud.


the journey is totally worth it, and russ and i are moving there we have decided. the community is the hub town for 9 other communities that all live off the forest and are totally excited about improving methods and ways of life there. i know a lot of times people are excited about things and then aren't willing to work hard, but i am finally willing to work hard with them too. so i think it will be good and i am excited. no electricity, bad water and stick house that is raised off the ground--yay! this is what i thought when i thought peace corps.


5 November 2002 - Excerpts from a quarterly report.

Peace Corps Panama Training is in Caimito, a small community in the mountains one hour bus ride from a larger city; La Chorrera, and 2 hours from the capital; Panama. The town has roughly 600 residents, most of who travel to either La Chorrera or Panama on a daily or weekly basis for work. The work is as policemen, office workers, or construction. People who stay in Caimito to work have choices. There are 3 tiendas (small stores), one restaurant (2 tables), a health center, and a school. Some farms surround the area, so one can farm for $3 to $7 pay a day, which a lot of men do as well. The homes in Caimito are made mostly of concrete block and have zinc roofs. The community is used to having Peace Corps training here so most people are friendly or at least used to seeing gringos who don't speak a word of their language. The first week of training involves paperwork, evaluations of language and some basic outline of what to expect.
The second week we moved to Caimito and began language classes, with technical training in between. The tech training was permaculture training, consisting of building a compost pile of scrap materials - chicken poop, ash, fruit peels, dry and fresh grass, leaves of a tree called balo or bala a nitrogen fixer that our tech trainer loves to promote.
Later tech sessions includes construction of a seed bed of raw material, sand and poop; also construction of planting beds with compost mixed; these things were the training received by all of the group. Our "business" training was to raise 50 chickens from chicks and then sell them to see if we made a profit.
Other technical training:
- construction of contour lines
- planting corn and beans on contour
- building an "A" level
- plant identification (though very brief)
- melting of agencies (more on this)
- a session on value - added products
- lecture on agri-business techniques (budget, market analysis, etc.)
- planting of traditional root crops grown here in Panama
In addition we each had to plant our own garden at our host parents house and start a vivero of trees.

My first site was Tole. The community is a larger area of about 3,000 people and the town is fairly developed. They have a strong town government, 15 or so stores, 20 bars, a mayor's office, and even a post office. Tole is known as the gateway to the Comarca so for this reason many Ngabe indigenous people come down to shop here. The site is a 2 hour bus ride from Davio, the second largest city in Panama and buses leave for there every hour on the half-hour. My job description for Tole was as an agriculture extensionist. There is a granja (working community farm) in Tole that is run by the Padres of the Centro Missional in town. The Centro Missional is a catholic retreat and also a school for underprivileged kids.
The granja was set up first as a way to produce food for the Centro and also as a way to have farmers from the surrounding Ngabe communities come down and learn about new agriculture techniques. Every month, they hold a seminar to learn more techniques and work on projects at the granja. The granja has rice, corn, fish tanks, coffee, fruit trees, bananas, yucca, otoe, goats, pigs, chickens, ducks, and other things. This system is really good and for 4 years the Peace Corps had worked with these people in the granja and also by being agriculture extensionists and going out in to the fields with the farmers to make sure they were they were integrating the new techniques at home as well as teaching other people how to do these things.
Unfortunately, the Padres decided, a bit too late, that they no longer wanted Peace Corps help with the granja. They told Bruce Pahl, our predecessor, the day he left. Unfortunately Russ and I already lived in Tole. We had done a few other things to build relationships in the town. Like work with the school, but without the work at the granja I felt I wasn't fully contributing all I could to Peace Corps.
Our new site is in Chalite, in the province of Bocas Del Toro. The site is very different from Tole. The journey to the site starts again with a 2 hour bus ride from David, to Chiriqui Grande from there we take a boat for 2 hours on the ocean and another 2 hours up a river to our site. The town has roughly 250 people all indigenous Ngabe. Some people also speak Spanish, which is good, because I only know 2 or 3 Ngabe phrases at the moment. This town has a granja as well, but it is much smaller. The people of the town got funding for the granja by Patronatal de Nutricion. Some of these fail because the funding lasts five years and no training is given to sustaining the granja after the money runs out so when it does, the granja fails. It is my hope we can prevent this from happening by working and living in the community. In the 1980's a church group came to Chalite and built the community 20 houses around a common area (the soccer field). We will be living in one of these, number 13. The houses are great for here as they have poured concrete floors and three separate rooms. The houses are made from wood taken from the forest, mostly Laurel. Another project (though I don't know who did it, maybe the same organization), put in composting latrines at all the houses as well. Russ and I will be the first to use them in the whole town. There is a small school where they have agriculture class every Thursday and say they want help with veggies and flowers.
The soil here is horrible. It is always mud. It rains every day here and there is no place for it all to drain, it feels very clayish as well, although I am sure it is rich in organic content, because it is black. Trees don't produce much fruit here, I guess because of the constant wetness and it's hard to grow common crops like corn or beans. Most people eat boiled bananas and rice when it is harvested. This is the remote, poor, Peace Corps site I had in mind when I signed my little form in the states.

I don't know if I could say I liked training, but I didn't horribly dislike it; now that it's over. 2 of the best times were 4th of July and the three days after swear in at the beach. Especially there at the beautiful beach with it's white sand and glistening water, but even in Tole on my front porch or eating dinner with my Panamanian family I could look around me and say, hey, 'I may smell like sweat 24 hours a day, bathe in rivers, drink discolored water and only able to say 3 phrases of this language, but this is what I call living!'


3 December 2002

My thanksgiving was a little surreal, being at the beach and all. our training group all sat at a table together and went around saying what we were thankful for and all silently and not so silently missed our families. plenty of tears were shed during dinner, but it was a perfect night on the beach and the tears soon gave way to laughter as we held a talent show (where russ officially became a rock star) and then danced until dawn, literally, and went to the beach to watch the sunrise.

After this very long week and a half i was looking forward to going back to my site, Chalite, and resting on my porch and maybe collecting a few bananas. however, we are stuck in David still because where we live there has been huge rainstorms that have swept pieces of the road away and mudslides that have blocked the road in places. there was a report that the next river over from our river has flooded as well, and several homes have been lost. our river may be flooded too, but they won't report it because those people have no form of communication. i am worried for my neighbors and wish i could help them. i am also ready to get home, even if half my stuff is gone. it is so weird to be here in the city. after a while you really start to lose site of your goals and just wish you were back at home.

the holiday rush exists here in the city, too, and i have seen several christmas trees for sale even. i don't know who can afford to buy these things, the trees were 30.00 dollars a piece. my neighbors could eat for a year on 30 dollars.

i also have started getting a bit uncomfortable around latino panamanians. I have seen the way so many of them talk about and talk to the ngabe people, my people. they all seem to think the ngabe are poor because they are lazy and stupid. this is sometimes true, but it is out of circumstance. they are ignorant because people refuse to care enough to educate them, they are lazy because they have been taught that if you wait for the government to give you stuff, they always will. sure it will be gone as soon as you get it, but whatever. they have no self-confidence because the latinos treat them less than human. it is really sad. when did it become easier to hate than to love?


3 January 2003

Cooling down.

We have been working very hard on analysis of the community. We have drawn several maps on our own and shown them to community members for input. We have been visiting with neighbors and asking lots of questions. It is very difficult to receive answers to some of these. For example, "when was your community formed?" or "how many people live here?" these questions are so western culture, they don't know and they don't care. It is difficult for them to understand why we are there and why we care about these things. It makes it harder when they have had a lot of people come to our site and just give them food, or clothes, or money. Then we have to constantly explain that we don't do that. The information gathered is very contradictory as well. We have many answers for many things at this point, and are accepting that it takes time to live here and listen more in order to get answers.

 

Casa Communal:
Small Projects Assistance grants (SPA) have just been reinstated to panama after we lost them for a while. USAID provides money for these grants to assist in development projects. Since Panama lost its contract and then gained it back again we now have a lot of money allotted to us. My community has requested a casa communal to be built so we are going to work together to try to get a SPA for the materials. The "common house" has many justifications in Chalite; right now they have to hold their community meetings in the school rooms that are very small and as a result not everyone can fit in to go to the meeting. Also, the women's group would like an area to work in and hold meetings, so it could serve well for this. Last month we had a flood in our community, and people who live down river had their homes flood so came to Chalite to sleep. They were cramped in the school, so we felt they could also feel confidant in coming if they could stay in a larger area used for this purpose.
I held a meeting to get started with the project and explain some things about how we get the money. They have to match the amount of funds given by USAID from community contribution. This is certainly a very foreign concept for them. And they have had other agencies come in and build things in the community by bringing in workers and money to pay the community members. I am trying to explain that they will not be paid for carrying sand from the river and they will have to build this place for free, by working together as a community. It is going to take a lot of work but I am excited more about them learning these concepts of teamwork than the actual building of the building at this point so I hope my attitude stays this way.

English Class:
I was the one in Michigan and all throughout training that said I will not teach English. So now Russ and I teach English twice a week for an hour a day and I really like it. The students are so eager and fun, they laugh a lot and so do we, and it has been a great way to become more familiar with people in the community and even become friendly with them. It is also an excellent motivational tool. We had our first test last week so we will see if they want to continue or not, but we are really laid back and if people want to come they come, if not they don't. We do require that they bring notebooks and pencils to class and take notes, so some people don't come because they can't read and write. If I had a magical ability to due everything I wanted for these people one thing would be to teach them to read and write. But this may be a little out of my range at this point.

Women's Group:
I have started a women's artisan group in the community because they had some interest. We had an organizational meeting for them only which the men just could not grasp onto and peered into the windows the entire time, but they elected president, vp, etc. and I told them about a project going on throughout the whole entire province of Bocas del Toro where The Biological Corridor Project and some Panamanian organizations are providing funding for these women's groups to form a cooperative to better their quality of artisan work and to provide a market where they can sell. The Biological Corridor project is an international project to develop communities within this area called the biological corridor (panama is a corridor from South America to Central America). The funding I think is a branch of USAID or World Bank. The projects have to qualify as development projects that also sustain the natural environment or at least do not harm it in any way. It is discouraging bad practices on the rainforest like deforestation and use of chemicals for farming. This is such a wonderful opportunity for these women who have absolutely no way to sell their work in our community because there are no visitors to our sites and it costs them so much to go out to where there are roads. I hope they are as excited as I am; they are so reserved with me.

Hiking Around.


15 March 2003. Excerpts from Kate's Quarterly Report.

Women's Group:

We did a dying day for my women's group. We all got together and learned how to make dyes from plant extracts. We made a red from a vine, a pink from a bark, and orange from a seed of the achiote plant and a yellow from a root called sobru in their native language. It was a very informative session. They revealed some things about traditions of dying, and why it is being lost.

Two stories.

I have been out of the US for longer than I ever have before now, 10 months. As the link to the US grows longer and thinner, I find myself at times very nostalgic for my home and doing things for myself again. I was watching Gangs of New York the other day and thought, wow these people really had it rough, but I live in the same conditions as they did. The difference: I live there voluntarily. It isn't the lack of water or the rat poop on everything every morning (or sometimes it is) but more it is the fact that over the last few months I have grown resentful of my living conditions at times because while I chose to live there, I seem more interested at times at better my situation than my neighbors. I am not fighting the fight for myself, I fight for them. But they don't fight. Then I think what is the point. There are many mornings I wake up and want to go home. I know this is normal, and I cannot think of a person in PC who hasn't thought this, but the pull is stronger the more time I have away from the states. This will change, I know because the people who have been here longer than I seem to really love it here, at times I do too. How weird it is to wake up to a tear stained pillow missing home so much you don't want to get out of bed to that very afternoon planning on buying land on Bocas island and opening a coffee shop. Weird! Or what about the day I woke up on my 2and ½ inch thick foam pad on my concrete floor at 5 am to the sound of roosters, pulled on my rubber boots and went to the river to hail my boat. That very same night I was taking off my linen skirt to get into a giant puffy bed in my own private room complete with bath in a high rise condo in Panama City. Too much of that will drive you crazy which is why I try to stay away from the office. It is like going from here to the US and back in a week.

This is a typical Ngabe cultural norm here. I am at my friend Bob's house in another Ngabe community. We are making grilled cheese sandwiches when a little boy, 7 or 8 yrs. old comes up and stares. We say hello in Ngabe. He stands there. We make sandwiches. He says in Spanish (literally) "are you burning patacones?" First of all we are cooking not burning, and patacones are squashed green banana with salt on them (think waffle-style French fries made from banana, not bad with salt). But Bob cannot understand what he said, because as usual the boy is only mumbling under his breath, scared to speak aloud. Bob says, "what, there is a phone call for me?" because when the boy said 'quemando' burning, it sounded like 'llamando' which is calling. We finally figured out what he said and then said no, we were cooking bread. He stands there watching for three or so more minutes, and then casually mentions that he has limes at his house. This means he wants to sell you limes, but won't actually ever come out and ask if you want to buy some. Bob says he would like some limes, 20 of them, so the little kid who was so lethargic and motionless watching and watching us forever, suddenly becomes Speedy Gonzales and shoots off down the road to his house to get the limes. Bob says to me, "so that is what he wanted, finally he says something." And I say, "Yeah, it would have taken even longer if you actually did have a phone call."

Part of Peace Corps is waiting.


22 April 2003

Since last we left off on the great saga of Peace corps Panama, Russ and I have been in site for a month, every day growing more tired of boiled bananas and longing for a glass of ice in the heat of our (admittedly very brief) dry season.

We have had some interesting talks with the people of Panama about the war. mostly they are wondering why Russ is not going. This is always dificult to explain as they have no concept of the scale of the US and the people living there. But they are happy the US is ¨helping¨the Iraqis, after all they have a dictator history as well, don´t know if you all remember a little devil named Manuel Noriega who sits in a Florida jail to this day, but the Panamaians won´t soon forget. So they are supportive, thankfully and though the government is corrupt h e (where is it not?) they feel better off from the US presence and hope the iraqis will too. so we are safe here in our little isthmus, hope you all are too wherever you may be.

The whole of Panama was off, yet again, for Holy week last week. I swear, the US should take an example from these guys, they know how to take it easy for sure! Even my friends the Ngabe didn´t lift themselves off the hammock this week, ¨Milidi ese es semana santa, no hay trabajo¨ they would all say. ¨But you aren´t Christian¨I would plead (trying to get some work done) and they would say, ¨but we believe in Jesus¨yeah, they believe Jesus came to an elder of theirs in the 50´s on a motorcycle and told them that technology would destroy them. Who knows? I did get to eat some strange meat for the week though. Meat, always a commodity in our community, is served for special occasions and if they find something hunting. Conejo Pintado, or in English, Painted rabbit, is a weird little rodent thingy that lives in the forest. it is the size of a medium sized dog, like a beagle or something, and has little claws and a snout. It is brown in color! with white spots on it´s back. Since it is nocturnal I suppose hunting is just a matter of finding it´s sleeping spot in the day. The meat is actually very very tasty. or maybe i am just dissolutioned from lack of red meat in my diet, but i thought it was heaven. I can´t think of a close animal in the US, but in Australia they had animals close like the wombat or tazzie devil. Probably a cross between the two.

I found out in site that our five stores in town, which by the way sell exactly the same things, they are: sugar, coffee, oil, kerosine, matches, rice and warm soda and cookies. anyway, none of them take pennies. I have a ton of pennies, as one always does, and tried to buy some sugar the other day and they won´t take pennies. Then I was gonna buy some squash from a kid who grew it at home (YAY!) and I gave him the pennies and he threw them on the ground!!!! No serve' (pronounced no servay) they all say. I say it is money! they say no. I have seen this phenonmen in the US where people look at you testily if you pay with pennies, but come on! stuff is cheap here, and if I had no money at all i would sooner take a penny than nothing! right? weirdness, it really upset me that they wouldn´t take my pennies, i am rich with pennies but cannot spend them, and had nothing else so couldn´t buy sugar OR the squash. Then I knew I had to make a break for the city.


29 May 2003

just read some letters from my friend Greer in Togo (hi Greer!) (togo is in Africa, those of you who are unsure) and many sentiments of hers ring true to me. Often I have sat in my little house in Chalite pondering why these people would have ever asked for volunteers, they really don´t ever want to try new things. Then, ¡de repente! (all of the sudden) people want to work! YAY happy day to see people building gardens and women talking about planting their fiber plants so they have a constant supply and about using areas around their house to plant things they daily go to the forest to collect. of course, the barrage of questions continues...eg. how much did that cost? why is everyone rich in the US? why can´t they send money here for us? why don´t you give me your shoes/socks/bowl/spoon? Because I need it!

The saga continues with russ and cuts, he has another injury from machete- but not serious. but, speaking of machetes, we were planting the school garden (again, because everything we planted before washed away with the rain, woops! now building better drainage) and there were about 30 little kids aged 8 to 12 holding machetes when all of the sudden some rats were spotted-- so naturally they all had to make a mad dash to kill them! There were children running EVERYWHERE with 18" to 24" very sharp knives in hand to kill, some falling, all laughing, some tripping over others who had fallen--in general a nightmare to all of our parents who remided us on a daily basis not to run with scissors. Scissors, HA! these kids are indestrucable. it gave us a shock i must say however, luckily i missed most of it bent over planting with some very calm little girls, russ got the brunt of the massive chaos.

while always a challenge, boat riding has become more difficult with the decision of a few boat drivers to not take our river anymore. They just don´t want to go that way, so we have no way in or out of our site unless we hike an hour (crossing said river) the day or two days before to arrange transport. then to go in to site we have to beg someone to take our river and they have to have a certain number of passengers or we don´t go. it can be frustrating to not be able to get home.


6 August 2003. Excerpts from Kate's most recent quarterly report.

Women's Group:
Women's group had a meeting May 8. We had decided at a meeting in March to meet at Aida's house to have 2 hours of work a week on Sundays. But if I don't go to these meetings, they don't go. So every time I have to leave the community it falls apart. Meeting was more of me saying we need product in order for me to sell things for them and that I can't make them do this. They want beads to make bracelets and I agreed to buy them and after they sell some things I'll take the money back from their fund. Since the meeting, regular Sundays have occurred - at least when I am in town. I have started to make a chacara with them and they enjoy helping me when I need it and like my interest in their culture. I also bought some kiga "puro" at a fair in another volunteer's site and we spent one Sunday making this into string to make chacaras. I think things are starting to pick up with the group.

English Class:
Still a regular occurrence is English Class. 10 real strong students come almost every class, then 3 or 4 stragglers about every other or so. We have learned parts of the body, how to ask about 15 questions, 20 verbs and common nouns, conjugation of "to be" and starting future tense - simple. "I am going…" I don't know about future tense like "will do" or anything. Still I struggle with this class - should I do this? Sustainability? But the students love it and I make sure to learn what they know in English in Ngäbere, the native language, so this class helps my Spanish and my Ngabe. I just have to accept the fact that my most defined role is English teacher and accept that they see me this way. At least they don't say I do nothing, as some volunteers have trouble with in their sites. The role of PCV is so hard to define.
When school started I switched English Class to Friday and Saturday because at 4 p.m. - when we start class - school for kids is still in session. Fridays the teachers leave at noon to go to their homes until Sunday , so once again the school is mine. I am unsure I like the 2 day in a row - then nothing thing especially because Russ and I leave on the weekends a lot too. So then class is postponed for 2 entire weeks sometimes. But I can't start class late because we don't have electricity and it's dark in the classroom by 5:30 p.m. Some have expressed interest in separating the classes, because I teach age range from 16 to 60 and the younger ones study all day and are more advanced than the others, but the logistics of this unnerves me. So I am putting it off and encouraging the older students to study while I have given some magazines in English to the younger ones to keep their interests high.

School Garden:
This project is my shining star right now - what I pictured I would be doing in Peace Corps. Starting May 8th, we began a school garden project with grade 3-6. The 3rd and 5th grades come one Thursday morning and the 4th and 6the come the next. We started out like gangbusters, planting seeds that the teachers had brought and some Russ and I got from MIDA in Chiriqui Grande. José even had written a letter requesting seeds from a MINSA project all by himself. One day we gave him the name of the guy he should write to, some paper and a pen and whala! in the afternoon he gave us a letter requesting seeds and signed by all the teachers and the directive of "Padres de la Familia" which is like the PTO here. Unfortunately we haven't gotten seeds yet as the guy is still on vacation (big surprise!) and the office is in San Felix Chiriqui, a long journey for us to travel.
But, that first garden day we made 4 beds and planted green beans, red beans, cucumbers, radishes, and cabbage. Then we made a seedbed for tomato and green pepper. We even cleared a space to try carrots. Rain came that night and wiped out a lot of our crop. But we tried again with more cucumbers and beans. Now we have corn, beans cucumbers, tomatoes and green peppers. Every day we add more. It is great to work with the kids and explain what I love doing to them. We discuss what is growing and why and how - they talk about things like nitrogen uptake - it is wonderful. The teachers know nothing about planting these things so I run the show. Russ actually does more manual labor on the side and lets me teach the kids which is great because he already has the granja and I don't (more on this later). I am hoping this project does well, it is so hard to grow things in the climate so everything is grown on huge mounds with drainage canals dug all around. I like getting to know the kids better too, kids that are too shy to talk to us outside of school.

Granja:
Now I will say a bit about the granja. I have decided to leave the granja for Russ. The main reason is because one day I went to the granja alone (Russ was sick) and the men were planning something and all stopped talking and asked me what was I doing there. I said I had come to work, and they said, well we aren't working now we are planning something so we don't need you. That was when I realized that they don't see me as an ag. extensionist at all, they see me as a woman,. Women are "allowed" to work in the granja, but they never participate in planning or admin duties. I was so upset I cried and cried, but I realized this is not something I can change. If I were alone here, yes maybe I could change their view because I would be the only one they could turn to. But they see Russ as the technician and me as his wife and that is that. I won't stress over what I cannot change.
Now I go to the granja to work on special projects. I still have an experiment with leaf cutter ants there. I read that if you used cut up plastic bottles to encircle the tree base, the ants couldn't climb up it and as a result it protects the tree. It isn't working so well. I have 5 orange trees with the plastic on them, and haven't seen a decrease in damage. The technico from Chiriqui Grande apparently had little hope as well because on June 2nd he sprayed them with chemical pesticide so now I don't know if the decrease is that or my plastic. But I plant green manures (mani maniforejero) and soil stabilizers (valerian grass) and I helped Russ build a compost pile. I refuse to be their laborer, though, so I will not go to the granja unless I have a project to do. The men love to just cut weeds for absolutely no reason at all and call it work, so frustration with that now falls to Russ. I am still advising him and sharing ideas on how he should do things - this is enough for me.

Family Gardens:
Another seemingly successful work area has arisen in family gardens. Russ and I started a garden in front of our house and have gotten a lot of inquiries into what we are doing.
As a result, we have had many discussions with the locals on how to start their own garden and many have done so. A lot of people just ask for seeds but we gave seeds one day of tomatoes and all but 2 were lost. So now the rule is , you have to make a garden area - turn the soil, add sand and poop for drainage and nutrients - and then we will help you plant it. Russ has found some young guys who are really excited about this and have worked a lot to make their own garden and to help another kid make one. Such great news! Also, I have seen gardens pop upon their own, women mainly. My friend, Magdelena has one as well as my neighbor, Evelina. But they aren't great, no manure, no drainage. I will help them make better ones in months to come.
José Gonzales, also never ceasing to amaze us, came by June 10 and asked us to help planning his finca. We all sat down and planned with him a permaculture system, also looked through beets book at pictures. He is always excited about things and has had an extensive garden since before we got here. Whenever we feel dejected, José is always game for a discussion on development. He is a very smart man and wants for his community to understand their value and worth. I believe he is sincere in this desire, but he doesn't know how to accomplish it. So we all sit and discuss things we could do.

 

I was recently pictured, twice, in the National Newspaper, the Prensa. The first one is a picture of me standing at the fair in Pueblo Nuevo in May amongst a group of Ngabe at a little hut made from wood with palm-thatch roof. The article is about the "Ngabe Situation" and talks about what the government is doing to aid the poor Indians. An old man is quoted as saying "We don't receive any help at all!" as I stand in the picture like a white-skinned neon sign.

The other is the same photo, used again, in article about the rise of cases of malaria in Nokribo (our region) of the Comarca. (We have 15 cases of malaria in our little town of 250.) There I am again, talking away, oblivious to all the pains of the poor Ngabe people and instead having a great time at the fair! Thank goodness I didn't have a beer in my hand!


Mid-October 2003.

Women's Group

Before I left for vacation, chacaras came out of the woodwork for me to sell. Women were knocking at my door asking me to sell their bags whom I have never met. So I explained to them that I would take a percentage of the profit to give to the fund for the women's group. If they agreed to this, I took the chacara, if not, I didn't. Most agreed so I had a total of 15 chacaras to sell on vacation.
I did a pretty good job, mostly because Russ and I bought a lot of them as presents for friends and family. I sold/bought 13 and came home with close to 100 dollars. The women organized a meeting (a first!) and I distributed the money to each woman, explaining in turn what I had sold, for how much and how much would be given to the fund (ten percent of their individual sales). With money in hand, many seemed more motivated to work and make more bags. First, the needed to pay back the money they had lent from the Patronato granja fund to buy pita. So they decided, finally, that they would hold a day to harvest pita from the forest and make their own. They have tired of buying the pita- yay!
The day to gather the pita was a success, as most of the regulars from the group showed up. We cut about 1000 leaves total, stripped them of their spines and brought them back to the house. Over the next several days we stripped the fiber from the leaves, a process I have in detail in my journal. It takes 20 leaves to make fiber with a circumference of 3inches, about 3 feet in length. The women seemed satisfied they had done this, as many were learning from the older ones how to do this for the first time.

We need to organize to do the next step, dying the pita. This involves harvesting leaves and roots to dye, and we are waiting until October to when some of the roots are ready for harvest. Also, we have two children die recently and the women mourn day and night for an entire week when this happens. After dying, I hope to resume regular work days on Sundays. I am still working on getting beads, but am trying to steer them into the direction of using seeds and other natural products that seem to sell better. But the market is tighter still for chacara than for even the beaded stuff, as there are so many women making them. I also would like to try planting and selling louffa gourds. I have some seeds from ECHO of these, and have heard of success with the plant in the Darien, the province closest to Columbia. If they could dye the louffa with natural dye, we may have a viable product.

I gave the first test for English since Russ and I gave one the first month before leaving for vacation. It was five pages long. I told them whoever got a 70 or above would get a prize. Four people got it, one 76, one 84, and two 98's. I gave them English /Spanish dictionaries. They loved them. Another guy who didn't get a 70 wanted one, so we organized a trade- he cut us some wood to make a bed (we sleep on the concrete floor and I am tired of it) and I got him a dictionary. It was a very fair trade.



19 December 2003

"Dashing against the rocks, in a water-filled canoe" this is my xmas song I started to compose on the ride out from site this morning. December in Panama for most means the end of the rains and start of hot, dry, windy weather, but in Bocas we are in the rainiest month of the year. Last year our house flooded, this year we will be home most of xmas and hope to ward off the emerging pond forming in front of the casa. However the ocean is now "muy Bravo" (this means very mad, was it something I did?) which is to say it is very windy and wavy and not very fun in our little canoe to get to civilization. We laughed about it for awhile, then after an hour of rain pouring down soaking us to the skin and waves crashing the boat and giving us a double dose of salt water, Russ turns to me and says " you know, I don't find this very fun anymore." Neither did I.

Oh but xmas is near and all the one dollar blonde plastic dollies and hair clips you could ever want in the world are being sold by every single person i meet on the street here in David, a world apart from my little hamlet. But we will celebrate in our Hamlet this year too. Russ and I decided xmas would be more fun in site this year so we will have a fiesta where russ will play guitar and i will read night before xmas in Spanish and we will paint our toe nails (favorite activity with my women) and eat apples, grapes, and pears. This is tradition here to eat apples, grapes and pears for xmas. i have no idea. Also, we will provide soda crackers because our cacique (chief) says we should eat soda crackers to symbolize unleavened bread. Isn't that lent or something? I don't know, and he's Ngabe, so I humor him and will buy the crackers.

haven't started the garden contest yet. we think to propose the contest in January. The contest is to see who can build the best family garden with prizes and all. it is to generate interest in them planting home gardens and using the techniques we have talked their heads off about for over a year now. we can't start til drier weather comes so have just been celebrating a lot with the people and watching it rain all day every day for the past two weeks. Russ hurt himself over thanksgiving playing soccer so couldn't wear his rubber boots and I accidentally left mine at a friend's house, so work was out of the question without boots. When you step and your foot sinks into two feet of "who knows what" it is so weird i can hardly stand it. I am walking and thinking of the frogs, worms, and eel-like things we cleaned out of the fish ponds for the granja once and i need to go back home, NOW! we harvested cucumbers and beans fro! m our granja garden though. we divided the spoils up to all who were working that day, about 8 men, one girl. some had never seen cucumbers, most had never seen green beans. they were leery at first but most actually really liked them! of course the beans were hard to sell raw, even though russ and i were gobbling them up that way. we assured them they were better in soup or at least cooked, but one guy just flat out refused to take those crazy things home to his family! what will the gringoes think of next? eating raw beans! Please!

On a sad note, our Mixtli (cat) has gone to live in another community. We have had too many reports about him eating pollitos (little chicks) in the night. Some said they saw him. I have my doubts. One, because my best friend in town said she doesn't believe it, and two, after we gave him up they killed a boa (big white snake, I know you know that one!). This is like the third boa they have killed in two months and how could my cat have eaten more than one pollito at a time? they said 4 at once by one report. Boas could easily eat four pollitos in one swallow. its a snack, really. But we didn't want problemas with the people so we gave him to a guy to take to his wife in another town. I cried very much to say goodbye, but now i don't have to worry when we aren't there and i would have had to say goodbye eventually.... but he was my little kitty and I loved him.


so, russ and i spent xmas in our site. got there on xmas eve, actually, because couldn-t get a boat earlier. turns out that the community had gotten together and decided to have a xmas eve dinner with the last five chickens from the granja. PAtronato stopped giving the granja money because the people wern-t working together and they had spent other money they weren-t supposed to spend, so the technico will no longer come to chalite. So, lets kill all the chickens and have a party!
we started the cooking at 5 pm, but some guaro, fermented corn liqour, was being passed around, so the chicken killing didn-t even happen until 8pm. russ and i entertained with songs and night before xmas in spanish. it was great fun, but by the time 11>30 rolled around, the food still wasn-t ready and we were ready for bed, so we turned in. at about 2am we were awoken by a loud smacking sound followed by our house shaking violently for about a minute. we were very tired and disoriented *not exactly drunk, but this corn stuff makes you feel weird* and at first thought someone was shaking our house. but realized after it continued very violently that it was an earthquake!!! we later learned it was a 6.6 and centered in Puerto Amuerelles, about 60 miles as the crow flies from us, but over on the other side of the mountain range! it was the strongest quake we have felt here. Xmas day at noon, we had to pospone our party because the office was paging us URGENT to call them so they could tell if we were okay. since it is a four and a half hour round trip hike to phone and back, we got home tired and soaked around 4.30, showered and changed and started our party. the people were really excited, esp. the kids about coloring teddy bears and horses and santa and candy canes. i read grinch stole xmas in spanish and we sang some more and danced. one of our neighbors played a homemade instrument along with russ playing guitar, and one neighbor threw cut up pieces of paper on us, it was "snow". it was all great.
after the party, we went to our house and had a quiet dinner of potatoes and hot chocolate and drifted off to sleep with aftershocks rocking us like we were in a cradle.
surprisingly, not much damage was done to buildings here.


December 2003. Excerpts from December Quarterly Report.

Garden Contest: This is a new idea Russ and I have decided to try in town. After seeing how much work people will do for a competion and prizes, we decided to hold a family garden contest. The contest will be held during the months of February through May, and we will hold six different sessions of teaching during this time, beginning with green manures and organic fertilizers in January. We plan to give pretty hefty prizs, shovels and pick axes and other garden tools which we are solicting from agencies here. The idea is to teach these techniques - again-with generated interest through competition. The contest will be point-based, so even if an attack of bugs eats all your harvest you have a chance to win. Points can be earned by: attendance by family members at garden teaching sessions, attendance by family members at school garden work days, implementation of new techniques taught in garden sessions, and willingness to be creative and do more than is required. Russ and I will judge gardens once a month by visiting every one and talking to the family about it. We are also inviting experts from the agencies and our APCD to be guest judges. A ceremony at the end of contest will also consist of a session about how to cook and eat garden vegetables. We are hoping for at least 4 participants. This is going to be our main work for our next six months.

Chalite: In general in Chalite, things have been quite hectic. Everythng from the weird sentiments we received about the volunteer who was sent home to three deaths (now four- one more over xmas) of children, to many many illnesses, to school be let out of session for the year, to the centennial celebrations of Panama has happened this last quarter and is has been one thing after another that has interrupted daily work in our community. Hope to get back to normal next quarter.


March 2004.

The Comarca authorities have asked volunteers not to sell chacaras out of site anymore because it benefits women that have volunteers in their sites and no one else. So the business volunteers who live in more eaily accessed sites will have to get together and actually look for markets now. I am pleased with this because I have always hated this practice-it is unsustainable, it encourages the concept that we are just there to bring money, etc. The women in our community are very upset. They come up allthe time and ask why this is so. I tell them if they want to sell, get organized and send someone to the markets on the island.
The meeting I held with them to explain this was very hard. I passed around the letter from their government that said I couldn't sell their chacaras any more, and I passed around a price list that was formed by GTZ, the german organization based in san felix, that is to try to get a standard pricing started. It is a very fair pricing chart, different designs and sizes are different money, but doesn't take into account natural vs. store bought dyes or amount of color used in chacara or size of holes-but quality will be determined by market demand I suppose. My women do not understand this chart at all. Two women in my group know how to read, and this is at a maybe fourth grade level. The letter from the chiefs was over their head. How do I explain this in Ngabe, when I can barely say I am happy want to go to the farm and plant some thing with you? How do I explain this in Spanish when I use words that I am sure they are hearing for the first time? How much can my heart actually hurt before it breaks? Can I have ten more years here to help with adult education, teach them to read, build more self esteem, and teach business basics?

Planted the louffa, it is taking over. I don't want to encourage it if it is going to be invasive, but still want to gauge a reaction from the women and see if some of the dyes work on it. They won't be ready to harvest for a few more weeks.

Garden Contest:
This project has worked out very well. We started in January with compost seminar and 7 teams showed up. Of those, 5 have compost piles or some type of organic fertilizer (worms, green manure) started. We gave canavlia seeds at first one, and I helped plant them with two teams. Then we gave a seedbed charla, giving seeds of tomato, pepper, and cans tostart them. We used all natual materials to make a raised seedbed for the school. We even started an experiment to teach about the importance of mixing sand and compost with your soil by planting beans in several different mixes of soil, sand, and poop, and also one group of just soil. 3 of the 5 groups that showed up have raised seedbeds built, and 2 are growing seeds in cans. Most of the young plants are healthy. To my extreme surprise and pleasure, people are working on these things by themselves instead of coming to ask us to help and then making us do the whole thing for them. They are really showing initiative and spirit. And they are doing it right! So they seem to be listening.
We asked MIDA for tools for our prizes and they gave us four brand new tools, it was so great! We didn't have to beg or anything, we asked they gave. We are trying to get a representative to come out and be a judge in May or June, but travel logistics are difficult. Our last seminar had to be held indoors due to rain, it was how to build a planting bed with drainage canals and how much area they need. We gave seeds of squash and cucumber.

I had a chance to talk to Blair (my advisor for my masters) on the phone the other day and I said something about how my friend lived in a big town of about 1000 people, and he reminded me of how much my perception of life has changed. I come from a town of 6000 in the US and i thought that was about the smallest place on Earth when I lived there as a teen.

Was at breakfast this morning feeling overwhelmed and pretty useless because i didn't have the motivation to come in here and work on computer things today. Feeling like i hadn't accomplished much here, etc., when I ordered my food. The waitress was in shock and asked me where i was from. I told her and she told me how impressed she was with my Spanish. This has become automatic for me. I dont think of it as hard or easy , i simply don't even think of it. I struggle with Ngabe so much now that i think spanish is cake. To think how scared i was when i came here not knowing the language.

. I hope to go in to Chalite with bigs plans and motivation this time. Our friend Daniella is coming to visit, so it will be fun to show her where we live, as she lives on the other side of the country with a very different culture of indigenous.
I think we are going to kill Isabel!!! (this is our chicken) i want the food and plus we found out she is actually a rooster and we cannot have him crowing at the door at 4am, because that is reason enough to cut his throat. I will miss daily feedings though. My pets keep dwindling. I need to get a pet rock or something.


June 2004

I am standing on the edge of the river Guariviara, watching the fierce current scratch at the banks and yank down giant trees, pulling them desperately, deliberately into its clutches. It seems as if it is the only thing moving in the cool still morning. The sound drowns out all voices, the site mesmerizes, entrances, I cannot look away from the power of nature before me. It wants me too, for though I stand several feet from the edge of the bank, water spills over the top - running, rushing through the silent forest as it caresses my knees, promising, threatening, teasing, daring me to come along for the ride. I am not ready.

The river knows I cannot resist it, over these two years I have loved it so-loved as love should be- violently, silently, with pride and abandon, needing and fearing to need but accepting the challenge. It has been cleanser, refresher, teacher, master, hearing my secret cries and carrying my frustration and confusion to the ocean where they turn into the silent whispers of the sea.

The river links me to my life here at its banks, the only way in, the only way out is to accept its challenge. Most days it doesn't offer much of a fight, but others, like today, it seems to hold all of our lives in its power. This morning I am trying to leave my home for one of the last times, and the river doesn't want me to go. Or maybe I don't want to leave.

Its this duality of thought that has often plagued my days here. In this world, there is no black and white, except the blackness of the night sky and white white rapids of the river. Here I have not forgotten how to live as I used to, but I have abandoned it. I came here to accept many things and to question many others. I came here to teach and to learn, to speak and to listen. To be whole is to accept the duality of my life.

I have been smacked in the face with things here that made me want to crawl back to what I know. I crave comforts but embrace sacrifices. So many people I know back in comfort land are completely messed up. So many people I have met here are completely messed up. But differently. That is the point.

The river will soon take me away from the Ngabe life I have come to love forever. My tears have echoed on its banks along with my laughter. I have swam, fished, watched the power with friends and without. This place is a part of me now, as I am a part of it. Everything ends when I surrender myself to the river. Everything also begins. My friends will remain, but I will be carried out to join the whispers of the sea.


29 July 2004 - Excerpts from Quarterly Report.

Women's Group:
In March, I held some joint meetings with the women. Daniella Zanin (fellow PC and MTU-er) visited our site on the 19th and she shared some information about the Embera culture with the women. They thought that was really interesting.
On March 27, I held a women's meeting and we did a group PRA activity where I asked them to ask themselves the question "What is most important in my life?" and then after receiving answers from everyone (some were repeats) we as a group ranked them from most important to least. We did this with the "bean vote" activity. It went very well. The results were a little unsettling to me. In order of importance they were: money, food, children, health, husband, pregnancy prevention. I think pregnancy prevention was mentioned solely because they knew I was also going to talk to them about this. After the activity we discussed ways to enhance their lives with the things that are most important, and why these specific things were the most important things to them. We didn't vote again after the discussion but I wish I would have now, I think money would have taken a step down. After the activity, I gave a family planning talk, covering reasons good and bad to have kids, health of women in general, breast cancer, cervical cancer, how menstrual cycle works and ways to prevent pregnancy. It was a long, three hour talk but they asked lots of questions and no one left during it, so I took it as a success.

Community Center:
Finally we received the money for the community center project. I asked about it in April at the COS conference. They told me we still did not have the funds, but since it had been over 6 months since I turned in the proposal, they could send me what was in the account if I could amend the budget. So I went back to my town and told them we only had potentially 1500.00 and what could we do with that? We decided to build the center without walls or floor, basically a wooden frame holding a metal sheeting roof. I fixed the budget and we got the money the first week of June. Then we found out the price of metal roofing had gone up due to the reconstruction of Iraq and their need for the material. It jumped 6 dollars a sheet and we need 60 sheets. So we cut out even more from the budget and put in 75.00 of our own money in order to at least get the materials bought for the project. We barely made it. But now all the materials are bought and waiting in Chalite for the project to be built. I turned it over to Chad, the new volunteer.
The people are very excited and have started doing things though. We had to have a meeting because we found out where we wanted to put the building was school property and that if the Ministry of Education wanted to come and tear it down in the future they could. Nobody wanted that so we chose a new location. Then, Russ and Chad and our woodcutter went to buy the trees and cut them down. The men had a workday to haul the wood to the site before we left. I made Chad promise to send pictures of finished project.


1 June 2006 - out of Peace Corps and working for the University of the Virgin Islands.

So I've been here in St. Croix working in my new job as "Integrated Model Farm Manager" for the University of the Virgin Islands for awhile now and keep promising pics and updates, but haven't been very good about it. Just wanted to let you all know a little about life here and hope you all give an update on yourselves to me when you get the chance. Russ and I are generally happy with life here so far:

What is life like on "the big island" of St. Croix, USVI?
- I arrived here to 85 degree days and 75 degree nights in the height of the island's dry season. I let people shuttle me around for awhile until I found a beat up ol' 89 Nissan 4x4 that I fell in love with. It used to be the truck of a kayak company here called Virgin Kayaking and it pulled kayaks all around until the bed rusted out and they exchanged it- the dealer put a different bed on and voila! the ugliest truck on the island was born (see pic)! The test drive I took was the first time i ever drove here. This is significant because they drive on the LEFT here. it took a couple of minutes and the dealer was a little freaked but it went well. after that, for a week I drove around chanting my mantra "keep to the left, keep to the left" but now its second nature. At least its not like it was in Australia where I had to shift with my left hand too, all our cars have the steering on the right. The cops are super lax here so people drive around with beers all the time and the saying goes "if you are drunk and driving home, just stick your arm out your window and if you can still feel the grass and trees- you're fine!!!" woah! that's de island mon!

- as some of you who have been to the tropics know, life is slower here. Its the heat. it could also be our WORLD FAMOUS Cruzan Rum. Every gas station you go to here has the inevitable 5 or 6 drunken men outside and they are doing a variety of things depending on their respective culture. We are a very short 40 or so miles from Puerto Rico- so have a large Latin population and those guys are always playing dominoes. If they are Rasta, they are trying to sell you some salve or incense, some older men want to wash your car for 25 dollars and the young ones just stare at you like you are a very tasty mouse and they are a hungry tomcat. there is one gas station here that takes credit cards- everywhere else is pay before you pump cash only. practically everywhere else is cash as well.

- What is it like at my job??
well, to tell the truth, I really love it here at my job. it has been hard- guess what? I am one of only 3 women- AGAIN- and 2 of them work in the office and the other with animals. i work all day long with men and their egos, not thinking I can do things, thinking i am not capable of lifting heavy things or using tools- etc. but that crap wears off in a few months so I just have to let them get used to me and me to them. i actually had one of my employees tie my shoes for me the other day! can you imagine tying your boss's shoe? Like Russ always says it doesn't help much that I am short and have a baby voice and everyone wants to treat me like their child. it gets real old i tell ya.
what do I do? - well I come in at 6:30am and work in the field until noon every day.our farm is five acres with 1 ac. of rainwater catchment and one of fish and 3 of veggies. so work means harvesting veggies, right now we have cucumbers, squash, green beans, lettuce, chives, cilantro, sweet peppers, hot peppers (4 varieties), tomatoes, and eggplant in harvest stage. i can't have fruit trees on my land because its leased from the USDA and they want it back so no permanent structures. we also weed, mulch, compost, plant, fertilize, try to control pests as best we can, and more. you know- like gardening but on a bigger scale. I even mowed the other day! yes, still mowing, guess I am destined to do this for every job I ever have! I also get to practice my Spanish as my workers all speak spanish but then I have my usual problem sometimes wanting to use Spanish terms when I speak to people in english!!!!! - my afternoons are all english--
in the afternoons, I do orders and track labor, use of fertilizers and chemicals, keep an inventory of whats in the field and when we can harvest it, keep up on seeds and other supplies, do marketing with the store manager, and report to my bosses- which are all the project heads of the experiment station- one from animal science, one from horticulture, one from biotechnology, one from fish (the director) and several extension agents. i also need to be publishing data and info on my website and in journals so yeah, i am kinda busy.

I am also trying to create what the model farm was meant to be in the first design of the grant proposal. this means I am trying to reduce outside inputs in favor of local, organic alternatives. this is going okay for fertilizer, but wow- its tough to control those bugs, man! the loss of destruction to insects here is unbelievable. I am trying to create a greater microclimate on my area so i can maybe introduce some beneficial insects, and also will try more hot pepper/garlic/lemon grass mixes for insect repellants. but right now we're spraying and i tell ya its effective i have to say that. one thing i always have to think about is commercial scale. its one thing to compost your entire garden and forgo pesticides and quite another to do it commercially. i get lots of advice from people that garden and most of it just isn't feasible even on my small acreage. but i still welcome advice, any and all!

 

blah blah blah, enough about work-
what is my house/life like?
we live in a great place about a mile form the beach (see pic) and go there almost every afternoon. its great after work to relax in the ocean! that makes it all worth while. our dog peanut butter loves the beach and is doing very well after his harrowing journey from Portland.
we have lots of wildlife around our little place, which is an old plantation and has a great house where our landlord lives and four other places. we all have dogs and there are some wild guinea hens that run about all the time. our landlord said something about shooting a couple, but hasn't yet. we also have falcons that live on our deck ( pic of deck) and a frog that lives in our toilet tank- yes you read that right.

Halfpenny Beach

Peanut Butter

The porch




Panama Information:

Information on the web.

Also, Kate's web page on Solar Cooking.


Back to the Michigan Tech Peace Corps page.

Page created 28 June 2002.

Updated: 19 September 2006.

Page created and maintained by Blair Orr.