10 Things I coexist with as a Peace Corps volunteer in Panama:
1. Dogs – they usually casually stop by the house to say hello and see if I´m in a good mood (if I´m in a good mood I might throw them some stale bread or leftovers of some sort. Conveniently for them there are no refrigerators and I´m still perfecting the art of cooking exactly-the-amount-of-food-I-want, no more, no less, so there is usually something for them). A couple of weeks ago one dog (Coral) actually slept outside my house all night. I thought that was very nice of him, until he started barking with the chorus of dogs and chickens that always start singing at night, and then I just thought that was rude. Below is a picture of the culprit. You can´t resist that face!
2. Chiggers – almost microscopic, red, evil bugs. I am learning from them to be very patient and NOT ITCH. I think they´re trying to teach me a lesson in self-control. A woman in my community once helped me pick them off my legs. First she picked them off her kids, then off of me. I think we bonded.
3. Mosquitoes – okay, so these are supposed to be the worst, right? Well, thanks to my mosquito net they usually don´t bother me when I´m sleeping. After about 6pm they can get angry, but I still think I´ve been bitten far worse during NYC summers, ie in Sheepshead bay after 6pm or in 4F when they were all lurking in the corner of the ceiling waiting to eat alive the poor souls that slept there.
4. Fungus – Yep, I had a fungus on my skin. I have just accepted funky skin things as a part of my life. It was really annoying when I was sweating, which, in Panamá, I´m sweating almost 100% of the time. The med office prescribed me some pills to kill it and I think it´s gone now. We´ll see if there is a comeback.
5. Spiders – I love spiders. I wish there were more spiders in my house. They eat cockroaches. I saw one with these giant pincer looking things on its face devouring a cockroach, it was beautiful. The cockroach was halfway inside of the spiders mouth. It seemed like the cockroach was bigger than the spider, so they must have some serious digestive aids to get those things down. I wanted to give it (the spider) a high-five or a hug, but alas spiders don´t have arms made for hugging.
6. Cockroaches – I despise cockroaches. In 7 months of living in Panama I´ve seen more cockroaches than I saw living in NYC for 5 years (and there are supposed to be a lot of cockroaches in NYC, right??). I found a bunch living inside an empty jar that wasn´t closed all the way, and I quickly filled it with water and sealed the lid tight. In the morning there were about 10 dead cockroaches in there. That was very satisfying. I have smashed a lot with my sandals, too. It´s helping improve my reflexes. They reproduce too quickly though! Every once and a while I´ll just see all these little miniature cockroaches popping up out of no where! They´re everywhere! Inside, outside, and halfway between the two. I saw one just chilling on the street eating a piece of bread like, “no big deal I own the place, just chewing on some bread someone left here, carry on with your day” OH YEAH?? Whatever, superior survival skills. Maybe we should learn from them.
7. People – This one is obvious. People are everywhere. I love them. There are some differences to be noted. Living in a community in Panama means that people will always stop by your house at all hours of the day (especially if you have good cell phone service on your windowsill, like I do), to say hello, to ask you about your celery plant, to ask for help using their cellphone. Adults will usually receive coffee if they stay long enough to let me make some. Children will stop by your house, try to run inside and ask about everything, ask to color, not ask to touch things, usually listen to you when you tell them to please go sit outside, and quickly lose interest and carry on with their day. Sometimes they´ll stay longer than you want them too and you´ll end up feeding them spaghetti. I usually have books on hand to let them read or to read to them. I almost always enjoy the company.
8. Trees – I had to throw this in here. I love trees. There are lots of them. Sometimes people knock them down. They build houses, stools, bridges, and latrines with trees. Other times people put signs up on them or eat their fruit. People breathe oxygen from trees. I like to just look at them, mostly. I also like eating their fruit. I like trying to grow them. I am having some success with this. I like trying to get people excited about trees. I ask a lot of questions about trees in my community. Trees are mysterious and powerful. The tree below is one of my favorite trees to look at. Bask in its glory!
9. Sweat – I sweat a lot. There is always sweat on my body here. I like to take showers, I shower at least twice a day. I like to think I´m getting used to all this humidity, but some days I am pretty sure I just tell myself that to make my self feel better.
10. Darkness – It gets really dark at night, especially when there are no lights! When the sky is clear of clouds, the stars are so beautiful and numerous! I would say I enjoy looking at stars even more than I enjoy looking at clouds. People sometimes walk by my house at night on the way to the store, and I play a little game with myself trying to guess who it is (usually I cannot see anything other than their flashlight). I´m getting better at this. The darkness also seems to bring out the cockroaches. I think they fear light. Only the bold show their faces during the day.