Monday, June 8, 2009

Kristin vs. Panamá: Panamá Wins!

It has been a difficult few days since my visit to the specialist on Friday... I think that I have had more emotions running through me than ever before. I am extremely sad to report that I will be coming home on Wednesday - Panamá has officially kicked my ass! The rehabilitation of my foot is going to be a slow process, and I am missing too much of training. As I said before, I am unable to go to the my site visit, and no one knows when I will be able to return to work. In addition, I had to go to the emergency room on Sunday morning for an eye infection. None of the doctors that were working spoke English, so I have no idea if I am putting poison in my eye or the correct medication. Needless to say, I believe that Panamá hates me and is begging me to go... so I am going! Part of me feels like such a failure, because I waited so long to be here in the Peace Corps, but I gave it my all. I think about how many times I fell in the states, and it is ridiculous to think that one fall here in Panamá resulted in this freak injury! Again, I have to remember that I gave it my all, but I am completely freaked out to return to the states... without a job, a car, a cell phone, etc.

Where I have been living for the past 2+ months... Hotel Costa Azul. Imagine the worst Super 8 in Nashville and drop it in the middle of Panamá City. But I had AC and a shower! The little things!

Another view of my room. Yes, I think that light is about a 20 volt light bulb! Ha ha!

This is the view from my room. I have been staring out at this for 2+ weeks. Trooper?! Yep, I think so!!!!

As I think about the wonderful people that I met here, I know that I was here (even though temporarily) for a reason; I have met some friends that I know I will stay in contact with for life. They have all been such a wonderful part of my life here in Panamá... they are the reason that I stayed as long as I did here all alone in the city for 2+ weeks. They are amazing people, and they will be AMAZING volunteers! Panamá is so lucky to have them here, and I know they are going to do awesome things in their communities. I wish I was able to stay and be a part of that experience.

Celebrating Don´s birthday this past Saturday night.

The girl that I am going to visit in CA when she finishes her PC experience... love Lindsay!

The weekend before last with Natalie and Marin. Awesome ladies!

Me with Don. We had a good week together while he was on medical leave for Verdigo... what?!!!

More pictures to come when I return to the states :(
Much love from Panamá for a few more days,

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Great Debate

After 2 weeks of intense physical therapy, I was happy to see my big toe move 1 cm. off the ground last Friday. For most, it would be sad, but for me, it was great progress! The bad news is that this week, I degressed a little, which my therapist told me was normal, considering the stress my foot was under working for 2 hours everyday. Needless to say, I back to the specialist on Friday, and I am still not medically cleared; I will need to continue therapy everyday, and it looks like I will not be able to go to visit my site a week from tomorrow. The specialist said that an injury like this could potentially take 3-6 months to regain complete feeling. I am unable to work anywhere where there is unlevel terrain... aka all of Panamá, except the city. All of that being said, the great debate is whether to stay or return to the states. I had a long discussion with my director yesterday after my appointment, and he basically said that I was missing some integral training (which I knew and was concerned about), and if I cannot go to my site visit, I will not be able to find my house, meet my counterparts, begin my job plan, etc. He has been wonderful and supportive during all of this, so it made hearing his concern more difficult. I am speaking with him again on Monday to make a decision... On a positive note, a bunch of other volunteers are coming in to the city today, and we are going to celebrate Don´s birthday, which is Monday. I am looking forward to a fun night/weekend with my friends... I need it!

I don´t have any additional photos of Panamá to share since I have just been stuck in the city, but I do want to share pictures of the beautiful babies that were born recently back home! I can´t believe I am not there to meet them!

Congratulations to Jennifer and Denver. Baby Annabelle Marie Bowers was born on May 12th. Precious little girl!

Congratulations to Emily and Kyle. Baby Garrison Robert Mitchell was born on May 31st. Sweet little boy! Hoping he can go home soon!

Congratulations to Meghan and Nathan. Baby Wyatt David Potter was born on June 4th. Lucky little boy!

Love from Panamá!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Limping around Panamá Bored... but able to Post Pictures!

Greetings from Panamá City. I´m here for the next two weeks going to physical therapy everyday. I saw a specialist at the end of last week, and I have some extensive nerve damage in my right foot. Needless to say, I cannot feel anything on the top of my foot (especially my big toe, which you don´t realize how useful that one toe is for walking!) and up past my ankle. I return to see the specialist tomorrow, but for now am hanging out in the city, taking cabs to and from therapy everyday, and trying to remember that, even though this sucks, I have AIR CONDITIONING AND A SHOWER in my hotel room. I haven´t felt this clean since I left the states! Love that!

Ok, so I don´t really have any other news since I was supposed to leave for technical week this past Saturday, and, clearly, the doctor said absolutely not. SO, here are some more long-overdue photos of random things that I feel like might give you all a better idea of my life here in Panamá. A little of this and a little of that, but I hope you enjoy! Sorry in advance for the poor layout... but the internet here is pretty dang slow, and I am growing impatient trying to fix them!

Here is right after the infamous incident when I fell on my volunteer visit. It was still funny at this point. This is one of the ¨tubes¨ where we waited in the pouring rain for a ride home.

The beach during my volunteer visit. It´s the pacific side, so the sand is more rocky and the water isn´t quite as clear, but it was still 4 days of heaven!!

This is one of the tiendas in Santa Clara, where we are training.
There are 3 and they all look more or less the same... I wish
I could take a picture of the meat fridge - you meat lovers might
even throw up! BUT, I don´t think that picture would be

Me with 2 of my friends, Donald and Natalie... relaxing after another long day of training. We kind of love this place!

This is my room! Yes, that is my mosquito net covering my bed, which I love, because not only does it keep the millions of bugs and BATS (yes, that is a new discovery!) off of me when I sleep, but it also is covered in something that kills the bugs that land on it... probably really stellar for my health, but when in Panamá!

These are 4 of the women in my family. The girl on the left is my neice who lives next door... she loves me and I think she is pretty great too! The smaller girl beside her is another neice, but she isn´t over as much. The next is a 16 year old neice... I think she is trouble waiting to happen, but she is HILARIOUS, when I can understand her that is. She talks a million miles a minute. Her mother is beside her in the green, my sister. Very sweet people. NOTE: that is my latrine in the background behind the rancho. And yes, that is one of my 10 roosters that crows at 3 am EVERY DAY!

The rancho where we have technical training everyday. Here we sit for 4 hours, usually dripping with sweat, although it is amazing how the ranchos they build are so much cooler than anywhere else... and they keep out all the rain. Pretty impressive if you ask me! My host dad just finished ours at home (completed in the photo above) - all by himself at age 71! Craziness!!

Long awaited, I know: MY HOUSE! This is where I live in Santa Clara. I am not sure if you can see this on your screen, but there are two doors on the front porch... the one on the left is my room, so that window you can see on the front to the left is my room. I actually have 2 windows, so I get a pretty nice cross-breeze at night. The rest of the house have 2 bedrooms, a large living room, and a kitchen (basically a stove and cabinets, since there is no running water inside and we wash dishes, etc. outside)

I have to give photo credit to my friend, Marin, on this one... this is the inside of a typical ¨dibajo rojo,¨ which is the public transportation here in Panamá. Here´s a better description - just think school bus meets the MTV show ¨Pimp my Ride.¨ I´m dead serious! The buses are airbrushed, named, stickered, detailed, etc. It is great! I´ll get a picture of the outside of a few soon! They are all different!

Hope everyone had a wonderful, long weekend! I didn´t even realize it was Memorial Day until I talked to some of you... not something you think of here! Lots of love from Panamá! Please keep me and my foot in your thoughts :)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

4 Weeks In... Spiders, Latrines, Infections, and the Well Running Dry

Hi Everyone! Apologies for not being able to post since I was in orientation, but training weeks are jam-packed and when I get a chance to get to the internet cafe, I barely have time to check my emails, let alone update this blog, because the buses take so long to get here and back and the computers are slow. BUT, I am doing well, and today I have some time to let all of you know what I have been doing for the past 4 weeks here in Panamá!

First of all, let me say that I am doing my very best to post some additional pictures, but something is wrong with my jump drive and until I can figure that whole thing out, pictures are out of the question... sorry!

We arrived in Santa Clara for training and were basically dumped off in front of each of our houses, suitcases and all. My family is a very nice one... an older couple (the mother is 60 and the father is 71). They have lots of children and grandkids that live in the houses around us, so our house is always open and they all come and go. Our house is a typical house for the Latino areas here... cement floors and walls with a zinc roof. Our ¨windows¨ are basically cut-outs in the walls, and there is about a 4 inch gap in between the roof and the ceiling... both allow wonderful access for all kind of insects to come inside! No, but seriously, I am very lucky to be with this family! I have my own room that locks and everything. You enter it off of the porch before you go into the rest of the house, so I have TONS of privacy, which is much needed after a long, stressful day of training, followed by grandchildren running around the house yelling ¨hola, kreeeesta!¨Don´t get me wrong, they are VERY cute kids, but time to yourself is both limited and PRECIOUS here!

It took me a week and a few emotional breakdowns, but I am officially getting relatively comfortable (as comfortable as one can be in this insane situation) with the daily bucket baths, lack of running water, and latrine usage. It is getting easier, but I still have to laugh at myself on a daily basis when I walk half asleep in the middle of the night to the latrine, headlamp on and TP in hand, dodging bugs, dogs, and roosters along the way... if I don´t laugh, I´ll probably cry, so it seems better this way!

Training is going well. My days are completely full... I have technical class in the mornings, a break for lunch, and then Spanish class in the afternoons, or vice-versa, depending on the week. My Spanish is improving, and I have to remind myself CONSTANTLY that I haven´t been here that long and that I will only continue to get better. Keep crossing for your fingers for me though! By the time I get home in the evening and do some studying, I am usually completely worn out and head to bed around 9, do pilates in my room, and journal every night. Yep... pretty lame life, I know!!!

Last Thursday we all left Santa Clara to visit different volunteers in their sites. I´m not sure that I can tell you where I went, but I can tell you that it was AMAZING! I was in heaven on the beach for 4 days... the people were friendly, the small town was beautiful, and the volunteer and I had a great time together. I was sad to come back to the reality of training. BUT... *** We find out our site placements this coming Wednesday, May 20th!*** So, in 3 days, I will know where I will be living for the next 2 years beginning in July. Crazy! All I know right now is that my APCD is in between two sites for me. Both are Latino communities +/- 10 minutes from the beach, have running water and electricity (THANK GOODNESS), cell phone service, and are either 30 minutes or an hour from a major city. One is about 1000 people and needs help developing tourism because they want it and tourists are starting to trickle in, but they need help actually developing it from the ground up. I would also work in the secondary school in town teaching English classes. The other site is bigger (about 2500) and already had a lot of tourism, so in this site I would be working with business professions that are already working on tourism in their community, helping them to further market their town, etc. I keep flipping back and forth on which one I think I would like better, so I am just going to see what happens! Wednesday will be a fun and exciting day!

Ok, so I will leave you with a few general descriptions and facts about my life for the past 4 weeks...
1) I have officially become a MASTER cockroach and beetle killer. I am no longer afraid of them. In fact, I welcome them in my room, because they just piss me off, and I can kill them regardless of how quick they think they are. I am not, however, as good at this as my host sister´s 5 year old son. He is insane! I love him, because he kills any bug that gets near me with him BARE FEET! It´s hilarious!
2) I saw my first ¨araña blanca¨ in our house a few weeks ago... basically, the biggest, ugliest, white tarantula you have ever imagined in your nightmares! My host brother tried to kill it with his machete but missed. We have no idea where it is now. Lovely!
3) I have painted my toes twice since I have been here. Both times, it takes between 1 and 3 hours for them to completely dry. Yep, the humidity is something special here. And you guys think Nashville summers are hot... ha ha!
4) I have discovered that baby wipes are the greatest invention EVER. I use them for everything from cleaning the cement like mud that is caked on my feet as soon as I walk out the day to wiping washing my face with them when I get home too late to go get water from outside. They are amazing. Who invented those?! I hope they are super rich, because they deserve it!
5) The well runs dry... yep! Here it does! Not the well, literally, but we rarely have water on the weekends for whatever reason. The day I left for my volunteer site visit, we were down to about 4 gallons of water left. Needless to say, bucket baths aren´t even an option those days. Another time when the baby wipes come in handy! Ha ha! Remember to think of my when you take your nice, hot shower tonight. I´m jealous, don´t worry!
6) I fell on my site visit and infected my knee. It is really something very special. I even took a picture because it is THAT BAD! But I went to the doctor, and he put me on 4 different medications. It is startiong to scab finally, but a lovely side-effect of the meds is that my foot and ankle have gone numb. It will come back once I am done with the medication, but for now, I am carrying my 500 pound foot around with me, clunking my happy butt around town.
7) During my site visit, the neighbors killed a snake in their house. We went to look at it... pretty much something I can go without seeing again, especially in MY house. Earlier that morning there was also a scorpion in the latrine. Good times.
8) I have been called ¨gringa¨ so many times that I think I am finally used to it... it´s just what I am here.
9) Panamanians love their novellas. I mean, I thought that my family was obsessed with All My Children... ha! It totally doesn´t compare to their love of Doña Barbara here! Even the kids watch it at night.
10) I might be technically living in the campo, but there is definitely not a shortage of stereo systems here. They LOVE their music, and they love it loud. Loud is actually the biggest understatement ever. You don´t even know!

I think that´s about all I can say for now. Life here is a roller coaster every single day, adn my emotions are up and down throughout, but I am getting adjusted slowly. I miss you all very much. As I leave this internet cafe, let me just say one more thing... CONGRATULATIONS, Mommy Jennifer and Daddy Denver! Annabelle is precious, and I cannot wait for more pictures. She is a lucky little girl!

Pictures to come as soon as someone helps me figure out my jump drive! Much love, Kristin

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Orientation Ends Tomorrow... Host Families Here We Come!

Hola from Panamá! We arrived safe and sound on Wednesday, after a very long day of traveling (beginning at 3 am). Orientation began as soon as we arrived, and Thursday and Friday were full of meetings, interviews/assessments, and information sessions. It has been a long few days! I know all of you are anxious for some pictures, so I will go ahead and show you a little bit of what I have been doing this week!

This is the Panamá Canal, which you can see from the entrance to the area where we have been staying for orientation. In the distance, you can see one of the political ad campaign signs for the upcoming election, which will take place next weekend.

This is the villa where we have been staying since we arrived in Panamá. There are 5 of us living here; this is me with Mary, another TEA volunteer and my current roommate. We have been trying to soak up every moment of free WiFi while we are here!

This is the sunrise from our villa the other morning. Pretty much all you can hear in the morning are millions of birds chirp
ing. Some of the other volunteers have been waking up to go bird watching early... obviously, I have not joined at 5:45 am!

This is one of the two buses that took us to the bus terminal/mall in Panamá City last night. We had dinner and then were able to
 shop for whatever last minute things we might have forgotten from home before we head out tomorrow. I bought a tote bag -
 hard for all of you to believe, I know!

Today we had a visit to a current PCV's site that is a TEA volunteer. It was an indigenous community about 1 1/2 hours from Panamá City - 1 hour by car plus a 30 minute boat ride. We took two boats, and the one I was on broke down 1/2 way there... imagine that!

But, the scenery on the ride was beautiful... TONS of banana trees!


This was the small, man-made cut through that the people made for their new home 2 years ago. This is where our rescue boat came to get us! Ha!

We finally made it to the village, which is a group of about 70 people who decided to create their own area 2 years ago. They are trying to improve their tourism and requested the current PCV to help them.

This is a typical hut in the site. Families live together in these. They do not have any running water or electricity. They are made from trees in the jungle; the volunteer we visited said his hut took 2 months to build and not a drop of rain comes through the roof! 

This is our TEA group! There are 19 of us (48 of us came to Panamá together, but there are 3 sectors: Tourism & English, Community Economic Conservation, and Sustainable Agriculture), but our trainers and the current volunteer are in this picture also. We have a GREAT group!

Yes, I was brave a held the spider monkey! But only for as long as it took to take this picture!


This is one of the precious little boys in the village. They were anxious to play with everyone, followed us on our tour around the area, and watched us curiously as we sat under this meeting area for discussions and a typical lunch (fish, rice, and lentils... I only had lentils, but they were good!). The children in this village have to take a 30 minute boat ride to school everyday, followed by a 15-20 minute bus ride - rain or shine! 

All in all, these last few days have been great! It has been nice meeting new people and learning more about what we will be doing as PCVs. Tomorrow, we will depart in the morning to meet our host families, who we will stay with for the next 10 weeks during training. TEA volunteers will be in Santa Clara. Training will be long and exhausting, I am sure, but I looking forward to it! I am not sure how my internet connection will be starting tomorrow, but I will continue to do my best to update as I can! Love to all... wherever you are!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

In DC... For a Few More Hours

Well, I finally made it to DC after a very long day of traveling. Long story short, my direct flight was canceled, so I was re-routed through Chicago. BUT, I made it in one piece with all my luggage, so I am not complaining! We did 4 hours of staging orientation stuff this afternoon, and then I went with some fellow PCTs to dinner in Germantown. We are here for a few more hours - leaving the hotel at 3 a.m. for the airport. Then we're off to Panamá! I'll have my cell phone until we depart from Miami around 1:30 p.m., so any last minute phone calls will have to be before then! I'm not sure when I will be able to update this again during the next few months of training, but I will do my very best! I am very excited, but I don't think it has completely sunk in yet that I will be out of the country this time tomorrow; an adventure that I cannot begin to imagine is about to begin! Goodbye for now! 

Monday, April 20, 2009

Miracles Happen!

IT IS OFFICIAL! After a week of packing, re-packing, and sorting through what I could and could not fit... I am packed! Yes, folks, it is a miracle! For those of you who doubted that I could fit everything into my bags for 27 months - here is the proof! I successfully cut my shoe supply down to 7 pairs... yes, I know that sounds like a lot, but it is NOT! I think I was pretty practical with my packing, but I did sneak in a few shirts that I probably will never wear, but they make me happy :) It's the little things, right?

Thanks to everyone for these last few weeks of lunches, dinners, get-togethers, and parties. I think that I have successfully inflated myself for the next few months, but it has been worth it! I will miss all of you dearly, but I am super excited to start on this adventure. Tomorrow morning I will head out very early to fly to DC for staging; Wednesday we will depart for Panamá! Please keep in touch with me while I am gone... I expect LOTS of emails and letters and pictures, pictures, pictures! Now, if you are reading this blog and crying - STOP! I will see you soon! Time flies... I'll be back before you know it! Just come see me when I can have visitors!