A teacher that I know invited me to come to the playa salad0, aka the salt beach, with her and a friend. Playa salado really isn’t a swimming beach because of the major tidal changes that happen there. When the tide goes far out tidal pools are formed and you can find hermit crabs and fish in the pools. Unfortunately, because the tidal changes happen so quickly, some animals get beached. We saw two sting rays beached under a bunch of mangrove trees while we were visiting.
As promised here are the petroglyphs in my site! The petroglyphs were carved by indigenous people a long time ago(though no one seems to know how long ago). My favorite is the elephant. It’s also the most confusing to me because there are no elephants in Panama. If I was better at geology I’d try to carbon date them but unfortunately I was never good at that part. To get to the petroglyphs you take a chiva out about 10 minutes and then you have to ask for permission to cross a family’s property to get to them. We had quite the adventure! We crossed quebradas(creeks), fended off dangerous stinging plants, and I only fell once!
“I got life, mother
I got laughs, sister
I got freedom, brother
I got good times, man
I got crazy ways, daughter
I got million-dollar charm, cousin
I got headaches and toothaches
And bad times too
This is how one of my favorite songs from the musical “Hair” begins. Throughout high school and early college “Hair” was my favorite musical. I loved the counter-culture themes and I pretty much dreamed of being a hippie when I grew up (Mission accomplished courtesy of JFK). This song is also a great metaphor for Peace Corps service. I got a great piece of advice from one of my fellow volunteers when we were chatting about volunteers going home early. He said “this is pretty much the only time in your life where, if things get hard, you can just get a ticket home. You’re going to have bad days here but you would have bad days at home too.” Luckily, for me right now, my good days tend to outnumber the bad.
As usual a lot has happened over the past month! We just welcomed 8 new volunteers to Coclé and I’m excited to get to know them all. We had a big folclórico event at my school that I featured in a photo Friday post. I also went to training for two weeks.
Training was overall pretty good. During our first week we were with CEC and then we split during week two so that we could focus on more technical skills. Week one consisted of a lot of refresher information on things like safety and security and medical. In the evenings we had movie nights, played capture the flag, and played man hunt. I felt like I got to really connect with some volunteers that I hadn’t connected with before. I also got to know the girls in my province a little bit more. We learned that we’ll be getting a new Coclesana too! A girl from our group is moving to Coclé so it’ll be cool to have someone else to collaborate with too.During week one we worked with the people in our province to modify a seminar. On Monday in week two we gave a seminar to university students that were studying English. Our session was on making professional PowerPoint presentations which focuses on the “life skills” part of the TELLS (teaching English, leadership, and life skills for those who forget) program. In week two we did something similar-we worked within our provincial groups to plan our own seminar that we would then give to university professors. To make the group sizes more manageable though they took Vanessa from our group and put her in a “power-combo” group with two other volunteers. The rest of us coclesanas designed a seminar entitled “dynamic activities to promote creativity in the classroom.” It went really well! We plan on expanding it into a longer seminar and presenting it to teachers. It’s hard to tackle the question “what is creativity?” in a one hour seminar but based on the activities that we had the teachers create in small groups I think they got it. One of the activities was super impressive and something I plan on using in the future. The group drew a duck and asked the “class” to give them words to talk about the duck (it has feathers, it says cua-cua etc.). After that the class developed a story using those key vocab words. What a great activity!
After training Bennett came to hang out with me in la pintada! Luckily we had my grind David. He picked us up in penonome with all of our crap and drove us back to my house. We helped him to edit what is basically his senior thesis for university. He had two 40 page documents on English phonetics and pronunciation and grammar. It was really helpful for me to read his paper on phonetics because he addressed a lot of the issues that Spanish speakers face when learning English. He also drove us to and from the grocery store later which was so amazing and super nice! I’m hoping that he and I get the opportunity to hang out more.
Bennett went with me to get my kittens fixed and I’m so glad she did! I felt so bad seeing them after the surgery. They were both so tired from the anesthesia and Valentine threw up a few times. After we got home they just wanted to sit on my lap and sleep despite the fact that I made them a soft bed. The cats weren’t the only ones to get surgery during the week though!
I purchased an airmattress off a friend and I got a pump that I was told would work to inflate the air mattress from a store in penonome. It didn’t. It didn’t have the correct nozzle. So, in a moment of ingenuity I realized that a Coke bottle could probably fit around the nozzle. I figured that if we cut a hole in the bottom of the Coke bottle we could attach the pump to that and it would work. So I started on the bottle with my leatherman. The knife slipped once and Bennett told me “be careful-you’re scaring me with that.” My immediate reply was “oh I’m fine!” The universe’s immediate reply was to prove me wrong. The knife slipped and I had to get stitches. I get them taken out Tuesday!
The week wasn’t all stitches and minor surgery though! We also checked out some of the cool spots in my site. We did a tour of the one-room cigar factory and visited the petroglyphs! The cigar factory is really cool and I learned more than the last time I was there. The cigars are made from 100% tobacco. They’re even wrapped in tobbacco! Now maybe this isn’t surprising to some people but I was amazed. Dried tobbacco also feels surprisingly soft-almost like leather. I expected it to feel like paper and when I told the owner of the factory that she laughed at me.
I have so many pictures of the petroglyphs so I’ll feature them in this weeks photo Friday. I’ll leave you all with this amazing laughing shot that our guide got because he kept making jokes while taking our picture. I’ll also leave you with the closing lines of the song:
“And I’m going to spread it around the world, mother
I’m going to spread it around the world, sister
I’m going to spread it around the world, my brother
So everybody knows what I got”
I got to catch up with two of my favorite people! Paul and Bennett (or Chatigon and Betchigon as they’re known in Ngäbe) traveled all the way from Bocas del Toro for training. We visited the rio by the Eco-hotel that we stayed at and Paul took us to one of the spots he discovered. We basically just sat around and threatened to throw Paul into the river for his bad/existential jokes.
Today’s photo Friday is an appreciation of all things tipico! I’m talking polleras, sombreros pintao’s, and sometimes even machetes! Tipico is the traditional dance in Panama and there are so many variations on it that I don’t know how they keep track.
We had a feria at my school and groups of students came to dance tipico and present folclórico. My students are the one in the polleras(the dresses) with the rainbow stripes. Polleras are typically worn in Panama to dance tipico and they’re generally made completely by hand!
The girls all wear timbliques in their hair-the more the better! They also keep their hair in the traditional braids. The boys wear the sombreros and some carry machetes that they use during the dance to represent the cutting of rice and sugarcane.
Some other schools came to participate as well! All of the dancing was so impressive! Students generally practice folclórico at the school once a week.