Friday, May 18, 2012

Sleep Talking Bri

I often find myself engulfed by the same sheer exhaustion that overtook me during many a night of studying in college.  Normally it happens around 8pm here as opposed to 12am.  I normally just stumble from my hammock to my bed as opposed to refusing to admit that I’m not going to complete anymore for the night and forcing Evie to be the one to unbury me from a thousand pages of wastewater text, cover me up, and turn off the light… oh ya, AND fight with Sleep Talking Bri about setting her alarm.

 It might start out with a nice question such as, “Hey Bri, did you set your alarm?” She (Sleep Talking Bri, not me) is a clever one and knows which response requires movement and which does not so she’ll respond “Ya.” And probably even add, “Thanks” to be more convincing.  Noticing the lack of a little red button light illuminated next to the word “alarm” on my brown 1980s clock Evie’ll shoot back, “I can see your clock.  It’s not set.”

“It is,” Sleep Talking Bri responds in what is probably best described as a whine.

Now Evie has a choice to make, she can ask what time I want it set for and set it herself, but chances are the answer won’t be accurate as Sleep Talking Bri’s only objective is to avoid stirring, clear distractions (Evie), and get to the REM cycle as fast as possible; not to keep track of my class schedule.  Or Evie can prod me, unsuccessfully, a little more, but not get anywhere.  Sleep Talking Bri is good at what she does!  Either way, having come in with the sweetest of intentions, Evie will most likely leave frustrated and a little bitter.  Maybe even half hoping I do sleep through my first class, as a lesson, so I’ll just set my alarm the next time she asks.  (I gave you the abridged version of our discussion.  Evie has the right to be frustrated!)
Evie will go to bed and wake up with residual frustration toward me.  I (Real Bri, not Sleep Talking Bri) will wake up oblivious to the entire situation and probably extra chipper (I love mornings!) seeing as I went to bed (read: fell asleep) earlier than planned.  I probably then will go into Evie’s room to say good morning by singing the Good Morning song (which she actually came to like when I let her add a verse on the end where she “opens her eyes, rolls out of bed, opens the window, and shoots them birds dead”) or by just crawling in her bed and saying excitedly “Don’t you just love mornings?!”

Since Evie is a kind and patient person, we’re still friends.  But I would like to issue a public apology to all of those that have been offended by Sleep Talking Bri.  Especially to Lauren, for hitting you in the face.  And Erica too… for hitting you in the face.

So here in Panama, I nod off in my hammock at 8pm and drag myself to bed.  Not suffering from a college-induced sleep debt, my body snaps awake after 8 hours… at 4am.  At least the roosters are up too?!  It’s 4am.  Why are the roosters awake?  Why am I awake?

My Day Job

The Peace Corps' mission has three goals:
1. Helping the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.
2. Helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
3. Helping promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.

First of all, I would like to remind you all that two out of three goals of the Peace Corps are essentially hanging out and sharing your culture (aka teaching people how to make banana bread).  So I have been shaking hands and kissing babies for the last six months and you should know that I'm getting really good at it.

The other weekend I went to visit my friends in the Comarca Ngabe-Bugle and help out with Carolyn's water seminar.  Water seminars are designed to teach about the mechanics and technical aspects of a gravity flow aqueduct system as well as the budgeting of funds, contamination, and organization.

One of the first activities we did was a community map.  This is a great way for people to visualize the information they already have on their aqueduct system and figure out where the gaps are. 

Another teaching tool we use is the moqueduct or model aqueduct constructed from a few 5 gallon pails, a bunch of clear tubing, and a pinch of creativity.  We use it to show how changes in altitude, distance, and tube size affect flow.  Also how sediment can enter and clog the system and where to look for air blocks.

Remember how you used to give presentations using Power Point and one of those fancy clickers that no one actually knows how to use?!  That is a faint memory for me.  Charla paper is what we call it here.  A charla is any sort of informational talk and charla paper is just blank newspaper on which we draw pictures with a normally limited amount of skill and marker color choices.

Back in Limón, we started work days the other week and we are currently digging ditches for our pipeline from the spring to the storage tank.  It is currently buried about 6 inches deep and we’re moving toward over two feet deep because the owner of the land is looking to turn the land into a cow pasture.  This week we were working in an area where the pipe is under a lot of pressure and it just kept exploding at the seams… all week.  Which makes a girl like me scream bloody murder and run in the opposite direction.
We got water back on Thursday, but not after a lot of frustration on Wednesday.  My everything is sore.  I didn’t have the patience to watch a 16 year old with a 6-pack nudge some dirt around, so I borrowed his shovel and showed him how it was done. 

Other things on our list include putting up a fence around our storage tank, building concrete tapstands at homes, and creating a set of rules or a managing document for our aqueduct.

A tapstand in the making!

In an ideal world, my job is to work myself out of a job.  I am training people to be able to train other people in the same way that I'm doing.  Sometimes I see glimmering rays of hope as people in my community take the words out of my mouth and other days I see people burning PVC pipe.  It's a marathon, not a sprint.  :)

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Found It!

So you know how when you found out I was going to Panamá for Peace Corps, you did the math:

Area of Panamá (mi^2)    =  2 year beach vacation
miles of coastline

Now there are some volunteers that live in beautiful beach communities, but we’re not friends with them for obvious reasons.  ;)  The rest of us spend most of our time tucked away on a mountain, in the deforested Darien, on a river that is used for bathing as well as latrine-ing, or in a fake beach site (it’s not a beach, it’s mangroves!).  We flood to the coast every few weeks to get our required intake of sand and sun.  I’ve heard the beaches are gorgeous in Bocas del Toro and the Sanblas Islands, but I haven’t been there yet.  The beaches in Coclé and Chiriqui aren’t ugly, but they don’t scream “Paradise!”

When Luke came to visit we were limited in our travel options by protests of the Ngabes on the Interamerican Highway.  A friend suggested Santa Catalina, which I had never heard of, and we said “why not?!”  We got there by way of a bus that only runs 3 times a day and when we popped out on the other side it was a surfer Twilight Zone; packed with gringos and little beachside hotels.  The shores were super rocky, but there were two sandy beaches.  We took surf lessons and I was a natural!

(We’ll see if Luke actually reads my blog!)

We also went snorkeling at Coiba National Park.  Gorgeous!
It was awesome!  If you’ve ever had the privilege of being around me when I try to enter deep, dark water you probably wouldn’t use the word “awesome” to describe the experience, but I was surprisingly calm.  Even when I saw FOUR sharks, couldn’t see the bottom, and got stung by little baby jellyfish!  The reefs, jumping manta rays, sea turtles, Nemos, Scarfaces, and other Pixar fish made up for it!

I could do that again!  :)


Saturday, May 5, 2012

Coming Soon to a Mailbox Near You!

Drawing is a favorite activity of kids when they visit my house; along with reading books, doing puzzles, playing cards, and thanks to B, playing with the singing cow…

For a while there were some stencil books that were a big hit – butterflies, flowers, and farm animals were among the choices.  After receiving numerous tracings of the same duck –horse-daffodil combo I decided to acknowledge really creative non-traced drawings by taping them on my wall. 

The desired effect was not achieved, so I made the books “disappear”. (I think I’m a great parent in the making!)  The quality of drawings improved dramatically and the requests to have their drawing taped on the wall increased exponentially.  So now my house looks like the daycare it feels like, but at least I’m never lonely!

Some may call it child labor, but I prefer to call it a “reallocation of resources.”  I’ve launched an original line of notecards, handmade by actual children in Panamá.  Most of them feature drawings of our town of Limón with the characteristic green zig-zag mountains at the top, a tree, a house or two, and recent ones will include a rain cloud as we shift back into the rainy season (yes, already).

Though a brave few do venture out – recently I got one with a bicycle AND a machine gun!

We aren’t doing bulk orders at this point, but if you want to receive a one-of-a-kind work of art, e-mail your address to yours truly and I’ll hook you up!