Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas is...

... a state of mind. :)

I had a very nice Christmas celebration in my site. Not that I didn't miss being home, but I thought it was going to be harder missing Christmas. Turns out some homemade pizza and chocolate cake can really curb my perception! My friend Erica came to visit and we broke in my future house with decorations, good food, and some holiday music. Thanks to friends and family back home I had Christmas cards, Charlie Brown wall clings, a small tree with decorations, and a picture of Mr. Holiday Cheer himself, Aaron Rodgers, to spruce up the place!

I am so thankful to have such wonderful people in community. They have taken me under their wing and I really feel like a part of the family. These girls are the little isters my parents never gave me. I'm planning to take lessons in nail polish design from them soon!

Juan had made a Santa pinata for the kids' celebration. I've learned all the tricks and plan on mastering the art before I leave - think of your requests for the birthday circuit 2014!

Erica's birthday is the 24th so we had lots to celebrate! And "no celebration is complete without a pinata" is my new life motto.

We headed to the city on Christmas Day to meet up with a couple of friends. There we hit up the Chinese Circus from Mexico. There were only about 30 people in the audience so it was almost like a personal show. Merry Christmas to us!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Anatomy of a Tamale

Happy Belated Mothers’ Day! Panamanian’s celebrate on December 8th; probably to fill the gap between Independence celebrations throughout November and the Christmas holiday. I mean if you’re already celebrating, might as well keep the ball rolling.

I woke up at 6:30am, but Paulino, my current host dad, had already been up for two and a half hours grinding the corn and putting pots on the fire. Now that’s the kind of dedication I’m looking for with breakfast in bed!

Everyone had their jobs:

Mixing the salsa with the corn mush

Cutting banana leaves

Entertaining themselves (she's actually nice, just not photogenic!)

Tying straw together to hold the finished tamales together

I was assignedthe last job. And as much as I love tedious work right after I roll out of bed, all I could think was that it was nice we were doing all this cooking, but who made the coffee and where can I get some? Don’t worry, there really was coffee waiting!

Assemble from the bottom up. Faldo leaf on the outside. (Not exactly sure what this is.) Chunk of banana leaf on top of that. Pile of corn mush. Giso – cooked onions and seasonings with tomato sauce. Chicken!

Tie it up and then boil the finished product some more.

Unwrap and enjoy!! Mmmm nom nom!

Dear Grandma and Grandpa

I recently wrote snail mail letters to my grandparents giving them an overview of my life in my community, something I haven’t really done for you! Enjoy!

Dear Grandma and Grandpa,

Greetings from Panama! We’re in the middle of winter here and it gets cold when it rains at night so I know how you’re feeling. It’s probably getting down to 60°F! :) I’m not freezing, but it’s close. It’s been raining on and off for at least part of every day. The rainy season continues through December and then we’ll have 4 months without rain. Our drinking water source is a spring on one of the mountains and I’m interested to see if it produces enough water for the community through the dry season.

The community I live in is called El Limón and is in the mountains west of Panama City. It takes me an hour to hike in on a muddy, hilly road. They say that sometimes trucks can get in during the dry season. We’ll see! It’s a town of 250 people. Almost every family here weaves the traditional painted sombreros. I’m learning…. slowly! They are also subsistence farmers of rice, corn, coffee, bananas, oranges, chickens, name (like a potato), and yucca. Rice is by far the most common food I eat. I normally have it for at least two meals a day. Most volunteers complain about the rice, but I really enjoy it. Fresh rice is so much tastier – if plain, white rice can be tasty?! I have it good though – I normally get meat, beans, or fried bananas with my rice. Some of my friends are in indigenous communities and they’re more likely to be eating bowl after bowl of plain white rice or some boiled green bananas.

--Someone just walked past with a machete. He said someone saw a snake on the trail. There’s only been one snake bite since I’ve been here! Not too bad.

Coffee is really big here. They grow and harvest it on their land. To make it stretch further they make it really weak and add a LOT of sugar.

I’m living with host families through January, but then I have a concrete block house waiting for me in the center of town. I also have a large paila (pot?) to use as a dutch oven on my stove top to make cookies, banana bread, and apple pie! I’ll have to take my machete out and cut me down a rolling pin!

Take care! Love, Bri

Thursday, November 24, 2011

My New Best Frenemy

Mud. It's become an integral part of my days and decision making process. People ask about it. I normally wear it. We're really starting to build a relationship!

Yesterday morning I had the great idea to wake up real early and hike out to meet my friends for Thanksgiving. I was just too excited to wait any longer! I started a little after 5am so the sun was no help. I was going to have to travel by the light of my headlamp. Now, I'll admit, I didn't really think this one through all the way. It was dark, middle of the rainy season, and I don't know the trail all that well. Now it's not that I was going to get lost because the hike out is essentially on a dirt road that's just impassable by trucks in the rainy season. There was just the possibility that I may end up on the wrong side of the trail, knee deep in a mud pit.

That's essentially what happened. I had my umbrella/walking stick combo to help me out. No shoes were lost in the trek, but it was close! And a nice man gave me a hand up when I missed the on-ramp for the high and dry trail. I escaped with all damages washed off in the stream. Until next time dear Mud, until next time.

There is a system. I just haven't figured it out yet. Take a look at the following mud puddle:

Where would you step? Thankfully some nice people have embedded strategically placed rocks, but with muddy foot prints on them they're kind of hard to see.

This is all fine and dandy when I'm following someone more experienced than I or when I have time and adequate lighting to scope it out and determine where to go. It's another story at 5 in the morning with my headlamp... :)

And if you happen to get dirty, there's an art to shoe/foot washing. I'm not a huge an of this and I normally just practice it when there is a stream conveniently located. Some people, like my host mom from training, Thelma, go to great lengths to make sure their feet are presentation worthy after a muddy hike!
I'm learning lots!!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Two Weeks Down!

Two weeks down and I'm feeling good. The lack of electricity is a transition. Not so much for having lights, but for doing things like recharging my cellphone battery. Even though I'm living in the sticks, it's still comforting to know that I could call civilization on a whim!

The Peace Corps describes the first three months as Proyecto Amistad or Project Friendship. Make friends, learn about your community, just be. But since using the word project too early is a bit taboo, I'm going to call it Operation: Friendship. It's a bit more adventurous that way. Like everyday I need to be hiding behind bushes and sneaking around at night! Ya, that's how I'll get integrated!

Things I've been doing:

Learning to tejer sombreros pintados, the traditional Panama hat.

Pilar-ing rice. Busting it up to make the husk (is that the right word?) fall off.

Collecting the jokes from these hard candies - like Laffy Taffy jokes - and practicing them so I can be funny! Ha!

Trail running? Ya, I'll let you know how that goes.

Learning to do my hair. Or teaching about cheap Halloween costumes - Cousin It?!

Exploring! I think this might be my favorite rock so far to go sit on!

Life is pretty good. I can't complain. I'm eating lots of rice, but have come to find that I really enjoy eating rice. Especially with fried banana on top?! Mmmm!

Orange you glad I....

...didn't say banana?!

It's the middle of winter here and that means there are OrAnGeS! (We've got bananas too!) So I headed out with my host family to fill our baskets to the brim. We threw on our boots, or at least I did. I felt it was a safer option than Crocs or going barefoot like my host grandma... I'm not that acclimated. We hiked to their farm plot and then proceeded to hike down it to the bottom where the oranges obviously grow.

Graceful as I am, I couldn't manage to make it down without falling. Or ripping a pair of jeans. No surprise there. We got to the bottom and got started!

Before I knew it, Grandma was helping Omayra up into a tree and Lupe was shimmying up a tree not thicker than I. Omayra swayed back and forth, climbing around in her tree.

I'm never one to pass on tree climbing, but I've made new rules about how thick trees need to be for me to climb them. And I wasn't about to shed my boots to go barefoot on a tree with ants the size of Hot Wheel cars. No thanks! I stuck to the ground jobs of catching oranges dropped from above and hoisting Lupe on my shoulders to reach branches.

I told the girls they looked like monkeys up in those threes and they tried to look the part!

But let's be real. It was all about the fruits of our labors which were de-lish-us!
Oh and ya, oranges aren't really orange here. They're more like greenish yellows!

On the hike up we got smart. We looped the tree climbing rope around a fence post and helped each other up. The system wasn't fool proof. The first time Omayra was at the top helping me up and then when I reached the top and let go Omayra was still counterbalancing me and that's how she ended up back at the bottom. But as you can see, we still had issues...

Story of my life. :)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Real Deal!

Swear-In was a success! I am officially a Peace Corps volunteer. (What were you before? You might be asking yourself. It's not important.) What it is, is exciting to finally be getting started!

Everyone really pulled it together and cleaned up nicely. We traded out the rubber boots, but there wasn't much I could do to cover up the real battle scars. A bruise from a flu shot, Chaco tan lines, scrapes, and some weird bites that remind me of the chigger bites I got a month ago... but bigger. When I met my new host family in my site they told me I was lucky that the bites weren't on my face! And other volunteers say the bugs stop biting after 6 months. We'll see.

The ladies at swear-in!

I had a very welcoming visit to my community two weeks ago (minus them thinking I have some contagious skin disease) and am very excited to head back! And it's the middle of orange season so that's something to look forward to as well.

It's exciting to actually get started. It hasn't really sunk in yet that I won't be headed back to meet up with my group in a week. I remember receiving the information packet for Panama where it said "Sites are 2-16 hours from Panama City". And I was thinking "Panama isn't that big AND Panama City is in the middle." But sure enough, there's a guy that's 15 hours from the capital. And that doesn't account for the time required for waiting for transportation to show up.
The provided structure has officially been removed from my life. I am making my own schedule. Am I qualified to do this?! :)

So this is it. I'm signing off for a couple weeks. Unless the big hairy spiders get into my peanut butter and I need to escape to find more! Wish me luck!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Dear Ants...

Dear Ants,

What did you think was going to happen when you snuck into my peanut butter? Did you think I would find you, maybe shed a tear or two, and surrender that easily? Just hand over my treasured possession? Silly, ants. As I picked your little bodies out of my peanut butter half of you were motionless, passed out and not moving from an overdose on creamy, protein-y goodness. You couldn’t even have the decency to pace yourselves?!

Nice try, but you’re going to have to call some of your more disgusting friends next time. Bring a large-ish hairy spider and maybe I’ll reconsider.



The Fox, the Rock, and the Mango Tree

The other night I was reading in my room when the dogs started barking and Olvis yelled “BRiAnA!” I scuttled out of the house and soon there were eight of us standing around the mango tree in front of the house with our flashlights all shining to find the zorra (fox) that the dogs had chased up the tree. Seven women, Lupe to Anabel, 12-27 years-old anxiously stood around this tree with girly screams and scampers (normally started by me) shooting through the crowd at the slightest sound. Olvis, our token male, led the charge with throwing large rocks up into the tree to try and knock the fox out.

I asked how we were planning to kill it once we managed to get it out of the tree. My vision of it running at me and biting my ankles wasn’t soothed when the response was “with a rock.” So we’re expecting it to die when it falls from the tree? “No.” I was still confused, but ok.

Rock throwing proved ineffective, so Olvis continued his zorra slaying duties as he climbed up the mango tree. Skin and bones 12-year-old Lupe laughed along with the crew as she hit the palo (the thing we use at home to break the ice on the sidewalk – a straight hoe?) on the ground. Maybe she’d be chasing this thing down to end its days (or nights rather) of ruthless chicken eating?

Olvis violently started shaking tree branches. The sound of something hitting the ground was followed by all of the flashlights snapping to the ground. Just a branch. More shaking. More branches. Wave of girly shrieks. More shaking. ZoRrA! Before I had time to save my ankles by jumping on a chair, the dogs, who had been patiently and silently waiting, pounced on the chicken eater until it stopped squirming. At which point the dogs became increasingly less interested. Olvis climbed down, covered in ants, and finished the job with the palo.

THE Cultural Day.

A couple weeks ago our language teachers hosted an event to display the different cultures around Panama to out training group.

Someone messed up the dress box and I ended up with a dress from “Chiriqui” that was clearly just visiting from its Little House on the Prairie. :) Normally the dresses from Chiriqui look just like mine, but the top is made of white. I don’t blame them though. They probably had 2 extra yards of material which means they were 8 yards short of making another one of those skirts!

My Spanish class was definitely the prettiest in the group (aka no boys – gross!). From left to right: Erica is adorned in the traditional dress of the Kuna Yala, an indigenous group on the northeast shore. The design on the front of her shirt is called a mola and always come as a set of two semi-identical pieces. The other is on her back. Kenia, our teacher, is wearing the white top of a Chiriqui outfit. I’m wearing a dress from Chiriqui in the west. Kristen has on a super fun dress from the Conga region of Colon in the north central part of the country.

We also learned some pretty sweet dances. My favorite is from the Conga region in the province of Colon. It is pretty hilarious. The woman dances with a platter hypothetically with baked goods – we’ll say Sandy Siegel’s brownies with chocolate frosting and a scoop of ice cream! The man chases after her trying to get a hold of some deliciousness, but she’s too quick, her hips too suave, and she always gets away with all of the chocolaty goodness for herself and her more awesome girlfriends. Erik King and I won the dance contest among the volunteers. He attributed it to my skirt flip at the end. I think it had more to do with his enthusiasm and the crazed look in his eye as he jumped along behind me.

Check it out:

On top of that, as if it could get better, we cooked up some traditional Panamanian party food. The go-to is fried rice with chicken and potato salad. We also had tamales, some sort of milk pudding, orange juice, and pineapple.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Site Placement!

I received my site placement on Wednesday. Kind of a big deal! We arm wrestled for the beach sites. Just kidding!

I made it very clear to my boss that I’m hardcore. I gave him good examples too – the time that I single handedly killed a medium to large sized spider with my flippy floppy, the summer I survived the truck shop, and the time I swam in the lake alone… at night (ha! I’m not that hardcore!). So I was a bit surprised when I was placed in Cocle, the closest site to Panama from our group. :) To get there it’s about 2 hours on a bus, one hour in a truck, and one hour hiking. It’s a great site though! (And don’t worry, it’s not too yay yay – I won’t have electricity or indoor plumbing.) This is the site we visited our first week in Panama. The volunteer before me is really cool (she reminds me of my friend Jill!) and I’m pretty sure she didn’t leave too many bad gringa stereotypes behind for me to deal with! She was a rockstar volunteer so I’ll have big shoes to fill. Thank goodness I have big feet!

It’s a community of about 250 people that’s in the center of 3 more towns a little smaller than this that are interested in Environmental Health projects as well, so I have the potential to stay pretty busy!

Peace Corps is supposed to be difficult. Maybe my boss just thought I was too ready to live in the mountains and wear a nagua (muu muu) every day. It will be a challenge for me to live in a community that highly values appearance for two years. I might have to go shopping…. I think I’m going to dive in head first and buy some skinny jeans with rhinestones. The skinnier the jeans, the better they tuck into your rubber boots!

I’ve updated my new address on the right. It may look sketch. Like you’re sending a letter to:
Bri Drake
Houghton, MI 49931
But as Evie found out, that’ll get there too! It’s no more sketch than anything else in Panama. Just roll with it! :)

The view from the school at my new site!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Marie asked me last week for more “stories” and Luke asked me “what’s one thing you learned in the last week?” Both of which I didn’t have good answers to at the time. Many of the things that would normally be a “good story” from a regular trip are simply turning into the norm around here. And let’s be real, I am constantly learning. Everything is new, which makes nothing seem new because nothing is old since I just didn’t know before?!?!?!

The creek was gushing full with rain water and Erica Jones single handedly saved a small boy and his dog. I was oblivious. I thought the wave meant she made it across safely… No big deal.

This week was full of working with aqueducts, surveying, concrete mixing techniques, and bridge building. The coolest thing I learned about though was thermoforming PVC pipes. First off, I don’t know how I never knew about this because it’s pretty amazing. If you heat up a pot of vegetable oil and dip PVC pipe into the oil it becomes super malleable. You can create bells and connections as well as end caps and reductions which then are just quenched in a bucket of cold water to seal the deal. We even made the pipe flat so we had a sheet of PVC that we cut circular flow reducers out of. I didn’t seem to take a picture, probably because I was too awestruck! The best part is that if you mess up, you can just put the pipe right back into the oil and it will snap back to its original size and shape.

Back to the stories. I was thinking about Marie’s question as I was hiking down a rocky clay hill with 315 feet of elevation change in the pouring rain with the equivalent of a 5 gallon bag of gravel on my shoulders/back of my neck. Know what makes you unbalanced? That. Know what you need extra balance for? Crossing the stream with quick knee deep water. It’s a dangerous combination, but those construction supplies won’t haul themselves!

My host mom Thelma came to the table with a plate today while I was studying. She made is sound like dinner was ready but really, she just had a plate with a cooked chicken head and neck on it. That wasn’t about to be my dinner. She tried explaining what part of the chicken it was, which was confusing because it was obviously the HEAD. Couldn’t she see that?! I told her I wasn’t hungry anymore, which she thought was pretty hilarious. I became unconcerned when I asked her who was going to eat the head and she said no one. Turns out they cleaned out the neck and stuffed it with some chicken parts (still questionable, right?!), onions, and celery and cooked it. So then we ate slices of “Neck Stuffing Log”, which was actually pretty darn delicious!

Other than that the week was pretty calm; I took a gnarly digger in front of a crowd of people, had hornets making a nest in my room, saw a (thankfully) dead tarantula, learned some Panamanian dances, and discovered a new fruit that tastes like a mango but grows in a month other than May.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

“It’s just an itzee bitzee teenie weenie Yellow Fever vaccineenie!” -Erica Jones

I’m making lot of new friends… and then getting rid of them! I killed one scorpion and two cockroaches in my bedroom this week. They finally came out to say hello! Just when they thought they were safe…

I had a most wonderful birthday spent building a latrine platform! AND my host family threw me a party. Complete with CAKE!

I’ll be spending the next week in the Comarca Ngobe-Bugle for some hands on technical training! Rumor has it the place we’re going is even cold (60s at night)! :D

If there is anything you’re itching (ha!) to know about – let me know! I’ll leave you with a treat from one of the guys in my group:

A Sanitation Haiku
By: John Byron Caraway III

A rumble within.
Is that you, Giardia?
If so, be gentle.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Oh Holla!

Hojaldra. (Oh-holl-druh) Pretty much the best fried invention since the bloomin’ onion! It’s my new favorite breakfast food as a complement to scrambled eggs with onions or an egg sunny side up. It’s simply a fried dough creation that is equivalent to a softer elephant ear without the sugar. My host mom, Thelma, tells all of her friends about how I LOVE her hojaldra – this is exciting stuff from the heart of Panama! ;)

Mmmm nom nom!

To make this goodness in your own home: (Get Excited!)

Mix a couple cups of flour with a couple pinches of salt and then mix in some water and make a slightly moist dough. I made up measurements, but let’s be real, you wouldn’t trust me with cooking advice in the US, you shouldn’t do so with this. You’ll know when it’s right – I have confianza!

Let it sit covered overnight if you want! (I don’t actually think this step is essential... we just made it the night before)

In the morning, as you’re sipping your deliciously brewed coffee, pull out that dough and break it into balls about the size of a small egg?

These need to be pulled out into flat-ish disks. Throw some oil in a pan and heat it up – make it crackle! Fry each of the disks until it turns a deliciously delectable golden color.

If you try it out – let me know what you think!


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Mountain woMan

I had an awesome volunteer visit to the Comarca Ngobe-Bugle in western Panama. I visited a volunteer who is finishing up her service in Cerro Ceniza where she completed very successful latrine and aqueduct projects. Our program director made a cryptic comment about how he strategically chose our visit locations. I hope mine wasn’t to drive home the point that it’s not ok to spend ALL day in my hammock reading books and sipping a variety of exotic citrus juices… Can he read my mind?!

It was a two hour hike up the mountain to her community. Cerro means hill, but I think that’s an understatement. My Coloradian (made that up) friends may contest, but it was a mountain by Wisconsin standards!

Aleah’s house made of bamboo and a thatched roof.

I personally think that the view out of your bathroom/latrine window is always a good indication of how beautiful of a place you live in. ;)

The traditional dress of the Ngobe women is the nagua. It’s amazing for a few reasons: 1. You never have to think about what you’re going to wear. 2. You never feel like you look fat even after eating two bowls of rice and 6 boiled green bananas. 3. What’s more hardcore than hiking through the mud and swinging your machete in the field while wearing a dress? Rumor has it the Embera in eastern Panama are crazy about basketball and wear neon miniskirts. It sounds straight out of the dreams of Bri Drake! Either way, my fashion potential is HIGH!

We hiked out to meet up with some other volunteers and visit a sweet waterfall. You probably know how much I “love” lakes, so you’ll be very impressed to know that I willingly headed into the pool, swam across and climbed behind the waterfall and jumped through it into the pool several times. It was like jumping in a pile of leaves – I couldn’t quit!

Overall it was a great experience to spend some time with another volunteer and pick her brain. I also learned how to make chocolate cake in a pot on the stove, how to press sugar cane, and the best way to open a coconut with a machete! AND that I don’t know anything about spiders…. I found a large one with hairy legs in my bag, so I appropriately freaked out. In the midst of it I may have said, “That’s the biggest spider I’ve ever seen”. When Aleah went to kill it with her machete she saw it and just started laughing. Not a good sign…

Thursday, September 1, 2011

I’m headed out to visit another Environmental Health Volunteer in Cerro Cizna in the Comarca Ngobe-Bugle indigenous area for the next week. Here are a few pictures of my training community!

My open air classroom where I spend most of my afternoons!

The view out the far side of the classroom.

My 4 year old host niece Aeryn (pronounced Irene!) and her disgusting tiny dog on the patio at our house.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Training Update

They are keeping us busier than a one legged man in a *butt* kicking competition! My Spanish is improving exponentially, and I can almost have real conversations with my new best friend Ariel. He’s 6. We’ve been out hiking to visit the water system in our community and spent an afternoon digging a drainage ditch. The town of Los Mortales is so so welcoming and it’s been a pleasure being here so far! My only complaint is that boys wearing Crocs shouldn’t be allowed to school me at soccer!

We’re stuck between a rock and the middle of nowhere, so if you were wondering, I didn’t fall off the face of the earth! I’m doing well and trucking on! :)

Next week I’m headed out to spend 4 days with another environmental health volunteer in her site in the Comarca Ngobe Bugle on the east side of the country! Reality check here I come!

The Little Chicken that Did

Last Wednesday started like any other. I woke up and went running – Erica’s motivation surpassed mine and I gave in and sprinted up the last hill… twice. I came home and put on my Saturday underwear from my limited array of clean options. Washed some clothes and put them out to dry… but it rained before I got back from class. But then my day turned around and the Gods smiled my way. Sean, one of the other volunteers, and his host brother were headed home and what was in his brother’s bag? A live chicken. Yes indeed, they were headed home to kill it. Ummm, heck YES I’ll go and watch! (Not that I like seeing things die – because I really don’t but I’m always up for a new experience!) Poor guy knew what he had coming and just couldn’t do anything about it. Except try to bite Sean’s hands. He knew better than to mess with Bri Drake.

Our good friend Javier tied his feet and hung him upside down from a tree. He took the machete and brought dinner one step closer to the table. Mmmya!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Host Family Stay!

We are leaving shortly to move in with our host families for the next 3 months. So.... I'm pretty excited because my family fact sheet says we'll have 2 dogs, 1 parrot, 3 parakeets, 30 chickens, and a monkey! I'm not going to lie, I'm pretty pumped! We're moving to the land of no internet, but I'll put up pictures when possible!
Yesterday was our first visit to a volunteer's site. It was really interesting to see the spring catchment area she constructed and the aqueduct in process of being replaced. It was also cool hiking uphill out of town for about a half hour in the pouring rain. I was glad I packed a raincoat!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Holy WoWzA!

I made it to Panama safe and sound! My training group of Environmental Health volunteers is 17 people who I've already become very close to. I never thought two days could seem so LONG! Definitely in a very good way, but we sure have covered a lot so far! The training staff in Panama have been so welcoming and seem very supportive and on top of their game. I'm in good hands!

We're headed out to visit an environmental health volunteer's village bright and early tomorrow morning. It will be a great opportunity to give us sneak peak of what our life could be like in 9 short weeks! :D

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Adventure Begins!

Panama is in my sights! I'm in Virginia this weekend to spend some time with my brother, sister-in-law, and some college friends before meeting up with the rest of the Panama Peace Corps Environmental Health crew (17 of us) in D.C. Then we'll all fly out together on the 17th.

3 months of language, cultural, and technical skill training is in store and then this fall I will move to the community I will call home for the next two years!

I'm going to try to keep this blog interesting - criticisms accepted - so you'll enjoy reading it! Let me know if you are curious about anything in particular!

Thank you so much for your support. I sure do have an awesome group of friends and family! Here we go!

What is Peace Corps?

The Peace Corps was created in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy when the first volunteers served as teachers in Ghana. Over the last 50 years, 200,000 volunteers have served all over the world in fields relating to agriculture, economic development, youth programs, public health, and education.

All Peace Corps service is a 27 month commitment; 3 months of training and 2 years working at a specific site.

I will be serving as an Environmental Health volunteer in Panama. All I know is what I’ve read in the volunteer description, and what I’ve been told is that the volunteer description can’t be trusted! That being said, I will most likely be living in a rural or indigenous community where I will work on water and sanitation projects as well as community health outreach. I will also be completing a research project to finish up my Masters’ degree program at Michigan Tech.

To learn more about the Peace Corps, check out their website!

“Peace Corps is a special job. There is an emphasis on development, but a focus on understanding the people with whom we are living. It is when people know us and trust us that we are able to be our most effective.”

-Chris Morrill, Volunteer in El Salvador and Bolivia