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