Sunday, November 11, 2012

This I Have Learned...

… that people are really asking “How did you wake up?” (¿Cómo amaneció?) and not “How was your birth?”(¿Cómo se nació?), like I went around saying for a while.

… that I can sleep anywhere.

… the difference between the two seemingly identical plants of escoba (used to make brooms) and bellota (used to make sombreros).

… that it’s ok to hike out laundry and go to the Laundromat.  In fact, it’s favorable because my hand washing skills are subpar and I’d rather not be the smelly kid.   

... how not to compost poop, but rather how to start a large, organized colony of maggots in a bucket.

... the time to molding for many un-refrigerated items including, but not limited to, butter, salsa, jam, cheese, and bread.

… that pouring urine on the ant hill on my front porch does indeed make the ants leave as promised, but also makes my front porch smell like urine.  It’s a pot of boiling water for you next time, ants.

Coming Soon: This I Have Accepted...

My New Favorite Neighbors

As mentioned, I have abandoned my communal latrine and instead have thrown myself at my unsuspecting neighbors, the Valdez family.  I head to their house and walk through the back porch area between the house and kitchen where people congregate, with my roll of toilet paper in hand.  We end up seeing a lot of each other which is only building our relationship.  :)

Another reason this is awesome is that they have the cutest baby in town.  His name's Alberto or Toti and he's 8 months old.

AND a lot of randomly cool animals.  They just stole a wild baby pig from it's jungle home and are keeping it in a cage.  I guess it bites.

The other week they also had the pelt of an ocelot hanging up.  The guys went out looking for it after it kept eating chickens.  They say they killed it down by the stream, a 10 minute walk, but the chickens live in the yard... I don't want to know.

Home Improvements

Just call me Bri “the Handywoman” Drake!  I've been making improvements to this Old House of mine!  Well… don’t give me too much credit yet.  Keep reading.

I got a solar shower!  A gift from my friend's parents, because unlike my own parents, they didn't believe me when I said I was going to make one… after a year of saying that.  Hot showers are amazing!  :)

I had my homeboy Vidal build me a table and chair!  I no longer write in my hammock.  Score!

I stopped using “my” (the church's) latrine and now go to my neighbor's house.  It’s not full of water which is fantastic!  And it's really clean.  I don't know if they always keep it that clean or if they don't want me judging them, but either way, it's great!  

Yes, as you may have noticed, my home improvement theme has been on the order of receiving help from other people, but it's keeping in line with my current goal of asking for help more.  So it works.  :)

Light My Fire!

We got a new director (slash only permanent teacher for 60 kids in 6 grades) at our school and she is AMAZING!  We really won the Ministry of Education lottery with this one. 

Adis and I worked with the parents of the school to apply for grant money for solar panels for the school.  Next we’ll look for funding for a television and a couple laptops.  She solicited for Telebasica, the middle school program our kids go to, for our community, and next year the 7th graders will be here in Limón for class instead of hiking an hour to the road, waiting for and then taking a bus for 15 minutes and then coming back every day.  She constantly gets on me about how she likes me teaching English in the school and that I should do it more; something that would be utterly annoying if I didn’t like her so much.  :) She’s driven and optimistic and as patient as they come.  She is not just here for a paycheck.  She is going down fighting to improve our school.  Heaven knows what’s lighting her fire, but I like it!  It’s motivating to be around motivated people.

She also set up a traditional dance group at the school.  There was a teacher that came in and taught them traditional Panamanian dances every Monday for a couple months.  In October they were able to bring 22 students to another community to participate in a cultural celebration with about 15 other schools.  I hadn’t really seen the kids dance before.  I passed by the school a couple days while they were doing lessons, but there was a crowd around the door.  I don’t know what I was expecting, but I was FLOORED when I saw them dance out onto the stage.  They were dancing with such confidence and coordination.  I was totally the proud parent in the crowd.  I just wanted to say “Look.  Look!  Those are MY kids!  Aren’t they great?!”  I still get goose bumps thinking about it.  :)

Workin' in the Field

I just got done doing the surveying of an aqueduct this week.  It was hot and involved a lot of hiking and it's not the most rewarding work.  It took 4 days to finish and the last two I found my mind wandering to the amazingness of field work that includes things like pick-up trucks… that have air conditioning!  I had a summer at the mine where Terry and I would go out in a red F-250 driving around for a couple hours, stopping every 20 minutes to take a water sample or better yet pick wild raspberries and blueberries.  We’d sing along to Queen of Hearts and if we’re having full disclosure, I may have napped in between some stops.  Those were the days! 

These guys were great though.  They caught on super quick and their wives fed me lunch and gave me fruit!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not that soft, I have had my fair share of borderline miserable fieldwork days, so I’m not complaining.  It wasn’t like the time Miriam made us hike up this giant hill in the blazing sun without water.  The following is not the most flattering picture I have of myself, but I think it very accurately portrays how I was feeling.  :)

And there was the time I ripped my pants stepping up onto a water tank, as illustrated in the following photo (thank goodness I wore spandex and carried athletic tape!), right before I slipped off a wet rock and slid head first down a hill.  That was one for the record books! 

Come to think of it, this work has been a breeze!  :)

Hello! My name is...

This is what I go by most.  I don't think I've been called Briana this much since probably elementary school.

To my Peace Corps Volunteer friends.  The guys at the post office get temporarily confused when mail comes addressed to Bri Drake as opposed to Briana.  :)

The name of the volunteer before me.  I respond to this equally well.

This is what my homegirl Laly calls me.  She's 2.

Like Bri-Annie.  There's one family in my community that calls me this.  I'm not sure if it's my own personal cutsie nickname or if they just never learned my name right.

Briana isn't a real popular name in Panama so often at restaurants I get people real excited that I share my name with a famous singer.  I also got this at the Pizza Hut in Hibbing, Minnesota - not just a Panama thing.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Election time!

Drea: I think it's really great that we have this opportunity to watch election coverage in Spanish (on CÑÑ).  When else would we do this?  Because we sure wouldn't choose this.  It's terrible.

We debated pulling out body paint or fireworks to express our American-ness, but settled for chicken nuggets with barbecue sauce!  Mmmm!