Last week we went stayed for a week in a site close to our training community for something called “tech week.” Aka summer camp for Peace Corps Trainees. We did all sorts of group activities and lots of hands on activities. We got to work with teachers and teach in a classroom! I taught with two other volunteers; to a class of 1st, 4th and 5th graders (called a multigrado classroom). We taught about habitats and had all the kids draw ads for a newspaper helping animals find their perfect home/habitat. At the end we gave them all badges that said “guardia de los animales,” to reward them for their good work! We also put on an “escuela de campo,” (which is a hands on teaching activity geared towards adults) about compost. The volunteer who lives there took us to the river one afternoon, and another afternoon we climbed to the top of a loma that overlooks all of the community. The view was incredible! Speaking of views, the view from my “shower,” aka a sink and a bucket, was amazing. It looked out over a field of cows and horses and orange trees and beautiful hills. At night, it was covered in hundreds of fireflies. There was no electricity, so the fireflies were even more vibrant (no light pollution!). A lot of the families have solar panels, so they can have lights and various things like that.

On a more exciting note, we had site announcement today!! I have been placed in the community I was just describing above! I have a great impression to go off of and I am really excited to get to know the community better. 


A hike in the Valle de Anton.

Brittany, Julian, and Miguel.

This past week, on wednesday, after spanish class, a few of my classmates and I decided to bake cookies! We bought all the ingredients and went to my house. They took a really long time to bake because we had the oven on really low. It was so much fun and so delicious. Before we started baking, the oven started smoking because some grease caught on fire, so that really set the mood. My host mother and brothers watched us while we were making them and asked questions and laughed when we did things like fill the kitchen with smoke. After they were finally ready, I gave a cookie to everyone in my family, and the uncle of my friend Lauren´s host family, and the neighbors. Lauren´s host mother´s uncle was there to inject the dog my host family has with medication for an ear infection, so we all got to witness that. After the cookies and watching the injection (I was happy to see they go out of their way to buy medicine for the dogs, vets are not really common here), we played dominoes with my host family! A few other aspirantes came over and my host mother and brothers taught them how to play. OH, one more thing. My host family brought home a baby ñeque from their trip during Semana Santa, and my host father keeps telling everyone it is a bengal tiger. A great comedian. The baby ñeque was there to entertain us as well. They can jump really high! All in all that was a great day.


Salta salta!

This is the first jumping picture I have been a part of in Panama! If you glimpse down below the loma, that is my home for the next two years! Image


Exciting training sessions this week! We learned all about compost on Monday: how it works, what you can use to make it, why it´s awesome, etc.. The kind my group worked on was made out of chicken poop, sawdust, ash, rice dust, rice and or coffee husks, and top soil. The dry materials are mixed together first, then a mixture of sugar (1 bag), water (about a tanque, which is a large bucket), and yeast (1 packet), is sprinkled in bit by bit as you continue to mix the dry materials together. The mixture has to be wet, but not too wet. If you grap a bunch with your fist and squeeze it, you should not see drops of water, but the mixture should clump in your hand. After that, you cover it with a tarp. Every day for the next 10 days, you test it to see how hot is is getting. This can be done with a machete by sticking it inside, removing it, and touching the part that was in the middle. If it is really hot or really dry, you can mix in more water. So, everyday you mix it again and sprinkle in water until it is back to the consistency mentioned above. After 10 days it should be ready to use! This was definitely one of my favorite training days so far.

Yesterday we worked on making seed beds for seedlings. We split into four groups and all designed areas for seedlings with various materials. My group made hanging seed beds with plastic bottles. We cut them in half and strung them from trees and between pillars on the school. We put holes in the bottom for drainage. We also, as a whole group, mixed pre made compost, river silt, and rice/coffee husks to use for the seedlings. The coffee/rice husks add air pockets and the river silt and compost add tons of delicious nutrients. 

It has been really great to be outside doing a lot of hands on work. The information we are learning indoors will definitely be useful and is important, but it was great to get creative and actually make compost and seed beds. 


I cannot get the pictures to upload right now but I will try again later in the week!

Fruit of the week: Maracuya! (passion fruit)

Digging for Tierra Negra.


One of our homework assignments this weekend is to gather materials to use in our garden next week! Here are some pictures of us digging for tierra negra underneath the ash pile while my host family looks on!! ImageImageHave I mentioned that there is another Joan?? She is the one in the white shirt in the picture above. I have never met another Joan my age, it is awesome. We are in the same sector (Community Environmental Conservation) and in the same Spanish class (I go by Rose and she goes by Joanie).

Next week we start work on the garden, as I mentioned. This past week we learned how to build an incinerator with a metal tank/drum, concrete blocks, and re-bar. A lot of communities here burn their trash, so the incinerator is a way of burning trash that reduces the smoke inhaled and provides a space to do it. We also learned how to make concrete blocks with batteries inside to serve as battery deposits so that the juices do not seep down into the earth. 

I <3 Aguacate.

Alright, here is another update.

My family here usually gets up around 5am, when the rooster starts crowing. I wish that were 100% true, but the roosters crow all through the night with no regard for when “dawn” actually is. I wonder if I’ll ever get used to that. Usually I sleep through it, but when they start really early in the morning sometimes I just lay there listening to them and I know it must be at least 5am. I don’t mind getting up early (I usually sleep until 6:30 or so, we don’t have spanish class until 8am). It is much cooler in the morning, so that’s a plus! I am so tired by the end of the day I usually go to bed at 9pm anyway!

The family I am staying with likes watching movies. Last week was Alien Vs. Predator week! In spanish, of course. This week the tv channel of movies they watch is playing a lot of cowboy movies. When I got back from my trip to visit a volunteer, I showed them what I learned — how to make bags out of chiwi (junk food bags, essentially). I showed the mother first, and then the two sons started watching and both tried to figure out how to do it too. When I came home today they were all working on it again! I was really glad I could share that with them. The people I have met here have all been incredibly generous, which is inspiring. Anyway, I will have to learn how to complete the chiwi bags so I can teach them how to do that too. When I came home from training yesterday the son had more chiwi bags and I worked on more with the mother! I love the recycled jewlery and bags I have seen people making here, so I hope I can be a part of that.

Some more highlights: there are a lot of animals here! They have a lot of chickens. First, there are “patio” chickens, that have a fenced in area all for them and they are free to roam in there. They climb up a ladder at night and sleep in the trees! Then, then have “jaula” chickens, that live in a cage. These chickens are less active (and I think they might use hormones for those chickens to spead up the process) but are ready to sell faster and sell for less money than the patio chickens. Next, they have 2 parrokeets and 1 parrot. They also have two baby parrokeets that they are raising, a handful of chicks, and two other baby birds they are raising, names of which I do not recall. They have a pet bunny, too! It is white with red eyes and hops about in its little cage a lot.

We are doing a big research project for our Spanish class so today we spent a lot of time walking around talking to community members. I am investigating the history and usage of medicianl plants! It is quite interesting. Someone told me today that every single tree here has a use. I definitely believe it. That’s probably true of most trees all over the world.

I have definitely just been writing sporadically and jotting things down when they come to me, so hopefully I am making sense and conveying something.

TODAY was a great day because we had avocados with lunch. AND we had some with dinner last night. I can live with that. Oh yes, my host father likes to make jokes and today at lunch he tried to get me to believe we were eating mangos not avocados, but of course I was not fooled! Haha. I told him I am no longer going to believe anything he tells me.


Alright, where do I start!? Here are some highlights of my experience so far:

In training last week we learned how to use machetes properly (and safely), as well as how to use other garden tools and tools to put in fence posts. That was our first hands on session and it was really exhilarating to get outside and do some work. We have Spanish classes in the morning and technical sessions in the afternoon. We are starting a community investigation project/ research paper in our Spanish class. We are going to investigate natural medicines people use and the historical context, as well as what they eat and why. They eat a lot of rice, that’s for sure!

Second highlight: my trip to Los Santos! Everyone went on a volunteer visit. The community I visited was very small, about 55 people total. I think I met half of them! They were very welcoming and willing to share. On Saturday we cooked arroz con pollo with the women in the community for the volunteer’s birthday. The women know how to chop up the vegetables into very small pieces – they had to show me how to do that right but I definitely did not get the technique down exactly. Then, the chicken gets shredded into small pieces (it is already cooked at this point). All of this gets mixed together and put in giant pot and cooked over a fire for a few hours. OH, they also add spices and a seed that gives the rice a yellow coloring. I also got to see the recycling group make jewelry from recycled materials. They taught me how to make bags out of snack bag wrappers.  They make beautiful things. The volunteer, Emily, also helps out with a tree nursery group. They were making compost the day I got there, so that was really neat to see. I took a lot of pictures, so I’ll put those here now — they say so much more than words!