Sunday, January 15, 2012


I received a text this week: "Spending so much time with (volunteers) reminds me how tough things are for all of you on a day to day basis."

What I do isn't hard. It's an adjustment and it definitely isn't always easy, but it's not hard. I have a community of Panamanians, of Peace Corps volunteers, and of friends and family supporting me. My attitude dictates how difficult or easy any given day will be. I'm in control and have the skills and resources to do my job.

This weekend was an exciting one and not just because I visited a city where there are things like electricity and ice cream! My good friend Nikki received exciting news on Friday that she had been approved for an multiple organ transplant she desperately needed. And THEN she found out, within 12 hours, there was a match! She had a successful surgery on Saturday and is recovering. Of course there's a long way to go, but it's a much better situation to be in! You can read an article here.

Myself, Nikki, and Marie last summer.

I have so much respect and admiration for Nikki. She's not only amazingly strong and brave, but has a great attitude about all of this. Somethings in life are hard, but I don't feel that what I am doing is hard. It's a beautiful, beautiful opportunity that I have. Perspective is a marvelous thing.

Shameless plug: Nikki is fundraising to cover the costs of medical expenses not covered by her insurance, such as her anti-rejection medications, so if your pockets are feeling full consider donating here. :) All extra thoughts and prayers are also being accepted and can be directed to the Indiana University's Transplant Center!

Life is good. :)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Happy (Belated) New Year!

Panamanians are good at throwing a party. Just today someone asked me when the month of the US independence celebration. I told him we celebrate a day, not a month, and it’s July 4th. Maybe it’s because I’ve spent about the past 10 New Year’s in my aunt’s basement playing trivial pursuit, gorging on cookies, and throwing M&Ms, but I’ve always thought of New Year’s as a pretty laid back holiday.

We started out the morning with 2 hours of church which included the yearly baptisms. This was followed by a procession of saints to a few points in town and then chicken rice and potato salad back at the church. I took a nap so I could stay up past my normal bedtime of 8pm.

The first party started at sunset which seems reasonable seeing as it’s New Year’s and the main event is at midnight. We ate chicken rice and potato salad, the traditional party foods, and then I headed down the hill to party number two. This is where it got a little unreasonable. It would be at least a 30 minute hike up a rocky hill to my house whenever I got to leaving.

I had all intentions of heading home well before midnight and ringing in the New Year from the comfort of my bed, but you get roped into dancing a couple 15 minute long tipico songs and it’s midnight before you know it! And you can’t pass up more party food!

As a representation of the old year, a life size doll of a man is made, el muneco viejo, with a gourd for a head and stuffed with dried grass and fire crackers. He’s set on fire at midnight to represent moving on to the New Year. Did I mention he has fire crackers in his belly?!?!

I don’t know if you were counting, but that’s three meals of chicken rice and potato salad (plus a breakfast and early dinner). It’s probably a good thing there was a hike involved!

The hike back up was actually really neat; even though I was tired. Since we were hiking in a valley, the music from our party accompanied us all the way up the hill. We stopped a few times to just look out at the fireworks over the city down below and in neighboring communities on other ridges. There were faint flashes of light from behind the hills that were the telltale sign of more celebrations. It was like we were sharing in the celebration of the New Year with thousands of our closest neighbors – maybe that’s what it’s like at Times Square… but without the cages!

Wishing you all a very happy and prosperous New Year!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Snippets: City Slickers

Erica and I headed to the city for a couple days after Christmas. One day we took a walk down to Casco Viejo with a stop at the renowned fish market on the way. It was pretty huge – like a craft bazaar except the nice old ladies were men with white boots and the crocheted doilies were tuna and shrimp. Erica automatically recognized the scenes from a food network show and we reenacted this with the eating of some delicious ceviche – raw fish, onions, and lemon juice. I wasn’t really a fan before, but I think I fell for it that day!

Turns out our friend was in the hospital with an infection while we were in the city, but we didn’t visit (because we’re bad friends obviously) until our other friends showed up. The nurse on the elevator knew exactly what room we were headed to… 418. You mean to say there aren’t a whole lot of white kids with big backpacks here?!

Christmas Revisited

(Yup, giraffes and penguins at the nativity!)

La Posada. It starts about 10 days before Christmas and happens every evening. The youth of the church meet up and then head out singing carols as they walk to a house. When they arrive at the house the door is closed, but they march up to the door beating their drum, banging their tambourine and a singing battle ensues between the people outside and the people inside (who knew the carolers were coming).

Carolers: Let us in.
Responsible Homeowners: No.
Rowdy teenage carolers: Let. Us. In!
Homeowners: How do we know you aren’t bad people?
Carolers: Because we say so.
Homeowners: Right…
Carolers: We’re Mary and Joesph.
Homeowners: Well why didn’t you say so?! Come on in!

(Disclaimer: I may have only loosely translated the lyrics, but the idea remains the same)

Everyone files in along with the statue of Mary. More songs are sung, prayers are said, passages read, and then a delicious snack is fed to all!