Monday, March 21, 2011

Time is Running Out

Just finished my Close of Service conference and have all of the necessary information to complete my Peace Corps experience.

It was a weird couple of days with all of the friends I have made during my 2 years of service. We spent the 3 days in a room learning all of the forms we need to fill out and all of the medical appointments we need to make in order to leave the country healthy and happy. Most importantly we learned how we are going to sell our service when we return back to the states. Finally we learned how much money we were going to receive and when we could expect to get that money.

When we learned our COS date and had to decide whether or not we were going to fly home or take money in lieu. I was up in the air but it took some convincing for me to decide that I am going to go on a short trip after finishing in order to get some time to really relax before I have to get to work. Instead of returning home I am going go to Columbia for a week with Gretchen and my friend Donald. We are going to Cartagena and Medellin. It should be a trip of a lifetime and I know that I regret not going when I have the time.

As for work I will be able to finish all that I set to finish. I have a couple of hard days of work left but with the success we have had in the past I will be done quick. I know that I will miss this country and I don't want to regret seeing everything, spending time with the friends I have made, or not finishing the projects I set out to finish. I work hard and will finish my work but at the same time I like to have fun and will regret both if I don't get to enjoy the time I have.

Time is Running Out. I have about 2 months left and feel the end coming quick. My feelings about the end are constantly changing. I am ready to go one day and then the next day I can't stop thinking about all of the friends I have made and how comfortable I have become here in Panama. There is nothing I can do, the end is going to come, I have to move on and am preparing myself for that next step. What that next step is will start with Lifeguarding but after that it will be up the firefighting agencies to decide whether or not I have to change my plan.

Ready or not here I come USA.

Friday, February 18, 2011

A couple Projects Photos

The two sets of photos are from a project in my site and another one where I assisted my fellow volunteer Derek Bloor. The world Map was a project that we painted at the School in Milla 10. Many people don't know what a map of the world looks like, let alone can show you where Panama is located. Therefore Derek decided to paint a map on a school wall in order to help with the education in the schools.

The second set of photos is of the aqueduct that I am putting together in my community. Derek is assisting my aqueduct group and myself with the digging of trenches in order to bury the tubes for protection. Secondly the old tubes that were left are being used to connect tubes to more houses. A lot of manual labor but the project is coming along and I am proud of the community involvement in the project.

Life after Peace Corps

As my time comes to an end, I am starting to think about what I would like to do once I am home. When I say that I am thinking about what I want to do, in this instance I am not referring to my future, although I have thought of that, but rather the activities I would like to do for enjoyment. Being in the Peace Corps for two years has seen my life revolve around simplicity.

The other day I was sitting in my town on a hot day and all I wanted was a pool. I dream of a hot summer day in California. No work and a bunch of friends and family surrounding the pool in my backyard. I dream of a barbecue cooking burgers and hot dogs with a bag of chips surrounding fresh guacamole, a cooler full of corona and music playing in the background. As the day moves on it gets too hot to handle and I am forced to do a front flip into the deep end of the pool to cool off. Although it rains a lot here in Panama I was unfortunate enough to be placed in a community that doesn’t have a large river. There are several creeks that flow throughout the town but not one of them deeper than two feet. For this reason I dream of a pool. I grew up around the water and there is nothing more refreshing to me than to submerge myself completely in cool water on a hot summer day.

I want to go on a bike ride. In the middle of my service the government came and gave all of the children in the school new bikes. They obviously ruined them within a couple months but still I was jealous. I am allowed to ride a bike here but never thought it to be a reasonable purchase. Likewise I want to drive a car. I have gotten into going on long walks because it is the only form of transportation I have in which I don’t have to wait on slow, lazy, Panamanians. I dream of the ability to go where I want to go when I want to go there. The hours of my day could be so much more usefully if I had my own car.

SURF. I WANT TO SURF! It has been hard being here because I can’t surf when the waves are good. I missed a great El nino right when I got down here and was forced to hear about all of the great waves I was missing. Secondly, I was placed within an hour of an island that does have some good waves, only to be able to visit this island once every three months. Don’t get me wrong, I have surfed a few times and I did get lucky with some good waves but compared to the amount I used to surf I am hurting on water time. I want to surf. I can’t wait to get home in June and go straight to the beach. I don’t care how small the waves are, if there are waves I am going to surf.

I also look forward to the ocean in general. I am going to spend all of the time I can at the ocean. If there is no surf I am going to go fishing, diving, or swimming, whatever I want to do. I am going to enjoy the ocean and all of its glory. Being here has made me realize that when I finally settle down I am going to have to live near the ocean.

Those are a couple of the things that I want to do. I want to enjoy the things that I miss the most in Panama. I want to return to the life I had before I came to Panama. I know that I have changed as a person and will return to the United States stronger and smarter but my desires and the activities I enjoy haven’t changed. Being without the ocean and water for two years has been a strain on me. It was one of the things that I never thought would get to me the way it has. I was raised in the water and I will always be around some sort of water.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Sick Days

I was trying to determine whether or not I was going to write about my recent visit in the hospital. You see, my Mom is one of those that can't help but worry about everything. Seeing that I am in another country that has all sort of venomous animals, mosquito spread diseases and gastrointestinal track illnesses you can imagine that she is constantly worried about the state of my health. I had stayed on the side of no, to save her a few early grey hairs until my younger brother Duncan let it slip and she called me the other day.

So now that she knows, I can explain the reason for my recent 4 day stay at Hospital Cattan in David.

To start, a few weeks ago I had a full body reaction to something... still don't know, food, bugs, or plant. Anyway, I had a full body rash that started at night and lasted throughout the following day until I reached the clinic that conveniently opened at 3 in the afternoon. The doctor agreed that I had an allergic reaction and gave me enough medication to get the itchy red rash to go away. The following two mornings the rash returned in the morning, although to a lesser extent, only to go away by noon. At the end of the third day I had worked on the aqueduct for 5 hours and had a pretty normal rest of my day. Ate some food, nothing new, brushed my teeth and laid down to read a book and go to bed. While reading my book I slowly developed a headache and decided to stop reading and just try and sleep. I immediately got freezing cold. It was not cold out either, I put on a sweatshirt, pants, socks, and was under my covers. I was violently shaking and unable to raise my temperature, I even was having trouble just using the toilet. This was then followed by a complete reverse in temperature. I stripped all of my clothes and could not cool down. I was in and out of sleep all night and when the morning finally arrived I had no motivation to get up and my entire body was sore. I couldn't open my eyes for more than a minute and had no energy to get out of bed.

That morning I called Lordes our wonderful medical officer and she informed me that I might have Dengue and if I could get to David, a 5 hour bus, it would be best for me. I built up the guts and lived through the long bus ride with the help of a friend and made it to the Hosptital in David. On my arrival I had no fever but my lower back, head, and cheeks were still giving me pain. The doctor had no idea what had happened and decided to hospitalize me just to be safe. That night I had a recurrence of the chills followed by a high fever. The fever the second night was considerably worse than the first night and after the worst of it had broken the nurse measured my temp at 39C or 103F. I know that it had gotten higher than that because during the worst I was lying as spread out as I could on my bed pouring sweat. Definitely the worst I have ever felt in my life. During the second fit I also had one bout of vomiting and started to have diarrhea.

From then on the doctor referred me to an internal digestion specialist because one of my blood tests reported that my white blood cell count was 13,000 when a high normal level is 10,000. His determination was that I had an intestinal infection and my body was fighting very hard to try and fight that infection. Once this was the determination I had an IV of saline and antibiotics in me 24 hours a day. It turned out to be what was needed because the following two nights I didn't have a recurrence of the chills or fever. I still am not pooping well but my fever is under control. Also a final blood test showed that my white blood cell count had leveled off to 6,700.

In the end it turned out to be an infection... I guess. I was given three types of medication to take for varying amounts of time and told not to eat anything exiting and to keep resting. I am glad the whole thing is over. I am definitely thankful that I came to David the night I did and that Lordes was so caring and on top of it the entire time. All and all I guess it is just another day in the Peace Corps, but it is a day in the Peace Corps that I could go without.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

It has been a while.

My last post was September 17... what have I been up to since then?

A lot has happened in the last 3 months. My projects are still coming along slowly, that is the fault of Panama not mine. Too many false promises from governement agencies and delays from community member laziness (or theft). Although I have had many different delays with my aqueduct we are finally able to perform our primary goal. Wednesday we have our first work day planned in order to start the digging required to bury the 600ft of PVC. This will require a couple days of work so I am looking forward to the blisters I will have on my hands after we finish.

My other projects, teaching, sustainable farming, and world map are also coming along well. The school schedule here is opposite to the United States and therefore they are enjoying a two month summer vacation. My finquita is also growing slowly. Using the organic ferilizers is a slow process which requires a lot of preperation but over time my plants have started to thrive. My six types are trees are growing at different rates but all look healthy. All of my food plants (sugar cane, yucca, banana, plantain, daschin, and otoi) all will be harvestable for when I have my despedida or going away party in a couple of months. The final project that I have been working on is a world map. This is a project a fellow volunteer is performing in a site only 45 min away from mine. The map is 6ft by 8ft. It has been a great project and because he chose to place it in the school we hope that it will be useful to the teachers in the years to come.

As for other Peace corps activities we had our All Volunteer Conference. It was great to see all of the friends that were placed on other side of the country. Although it was great to see friends, as usual it included a lot of boring conferences that were a waste of time. Information that doesn't pertain to my site or my projects. Oh well, I got paid to be there and got to see some friends.

What have I done for fun?
There have been many holidays that have passed.
My B-day:
A lot of fun, we went out to the Festival de la Mejorana and spent some time at the beutiful beaches in Los Santos. We rented a car and it was great to have the freedom that we grew up with. Leaving when I want to leave and going where I want to go without have a person sitting on my shoulder or playing their music really loud was amazing.
We spent Thanksgiving in the mountains of Panama. Over 140 volunteers got together in Cerro Punto to celebrate the day of thanks. We had a fellow volunteer cook a lot of great food. I ate my self sick and don't regret my decison for a second. Once again it was great to see a lot of volunteers. I have some good friends in my community but it is great to be able to speak english and identify with other americans once and a while.
I went to USA! Amazing. Gretchen and I got to enjoy a week with the family in California. It rained for a second but the weather was great for the majority of our trip. I gained 5 pounds in a week so you can imagine how much good food I consumed. Sushi, steak, fast food, mexican, whatever type of food I could find I ate as much as possible. I got to surf, went to a hockey game and just enjoyed the company of my family. My younger brother Duncan also got back from the war in Afghanistan so it was great to hug him and tell him how much I missed him.
New Years:
We got back to Panama on the afternoon of the 30th so we ended up spending the night in the city with all the other volunteers that had just returned from their trips home. It was fun, we ate, drank, and danced. Pretty much your classic New Years celebration.

What do I have to look forward to?
Work. Work. Work.
A lot of my work is going to revolve around motivation. It is going to take me a lot of effort to get the members of my community motivated enough to work for a couple days digging. This doesn't sound hard but when the work benefits others in the community than them they can be very selfish and choose the hammock very easily.
I also will be assisting my neighbor in the painting of the world map at the school in Milla 10
There aren't any good celebrations to look forward to though. Although if the Packers keep playing so well I will have to get out to keep watching the playoffs.
GO Pack GO!

I will try to stay more up to date on my posts from now on.
countdown= 5 months

Friday, September 17, 2010


Well hello there. How are you doing?

Me? Oh I am doing well. Just trying to trudge through the life that is Peace Corps.

What? My project? It is gong well. I have run into a few problems here and there but still pushing along.

What problems you ask? Well initially I was trying to obtain funding from the government agencies here in order to complete my project. I was working with Panamanian equivalents of the EPA and the Health Administration. Both of the agencies told me all of these steps I had to take in order to obtain the funding needed in order to enlarge my aqueduct and therefore bring clean water to the larger population of the community. Well after jumping through all of these hoops they both told me the money had "disappeared" and therefore they were unable to help me.

Disappeared? Yeah I know. What the heck does that mean? In my opinion it means that some official that has the powers of magic made the money disappear into his pocket. That or into the new rims that are on his car. Just a thought but highly likely.

Can I write you a check? No, thanks though. I don't believe in giving gifts to my community. I want my project to be sustainable and therefore I can't take money from you guys in order to compete something the host country or community should be able to do by themselves.

What now? We have already started to raise money within the community. We have also separated the the one large aqueduct project into smaller goals that we are more likely to be able to accomplish. Therefore we are on our way. Little by little we are raising the money to buy the tubes we need to bring water to hundreds of people. Also I am slowly training the people in my town how to work together and that if the work hard they can accomplish the goals they set. Sustainability is my goal and hopefully when I leave we will have a lot new families with clean water and a functioning group that works well together.

Huh, what did you say? Why Thank you. I know it is a noble thing to do. Thanks for being so proud of me. Yes, yes it is really hard having to work with people that don't know the basics of organization or group dynamics. No, I won't give up. Yes I do look forward to being home and I will be home soon.