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. :)