There are a lot of similarities between Peace Corps service and mountain climbing. Here are just a few of them:
- There are easy paths and difficult ones
- It’s way better to have a team with you
- There are lots of bugs involved
- It’s probably helpful to have a machete
I’m the small brown speck in the picture above. You can’t see my face but at this point in the hike I was debating if I really had to go all the way to the top crest of this mountain. From below it looked crazy steep and it definitely seemed like there would be some mild rock climbing involved. I was tired and pretty gross and some people had already decided to hang back so it would’ve been so easy to not do it. I decided to go up just a little further and see what it looked like up close. The rocks that had to be climbed ended up being a lot bigger than they had looked from my brown-speck-spot; easier to imagine as stairs that required both your hands and feet. So rock by rock I made my way up to the 670 meters that the mountain Orarí stands at and once I got to the top I shouted into the valley below because I couldn’t believe I had done it!
Orarí wasn’t the only mountain I overcame this month. I also saw the culmination of over 6 months worth of work in my Ultimate Frisbee and Leadership Camp! With a grant amount of just over $2,000, 48 amazing youth from all over Panama, around 15 different facilitators, and the overwhelming support of my high school, we were able to create an experience that I know I will never forget. Kids that had never played frisbee before were throwing discs like it was second nature and everyone was having fun. Throughout the course of the week I saw indigenous girls that barely spoke to anyone they didn’t know starting to cheer on their teammates and help people with their throws. Boys who were used to the highly competitive nature of soccer started congratulating their opponents on games well-played. Friendships were made, culture was shared, and we learned about how the skills that Ultimate Frisbee teaches us can apply to our daily lives by using socio-dramas to demonstrate things like, supporting one another, pivoting and thinking before making decisions, and always remembering the spirit of the game. Since the camp ended I keep hearing from volunteers about frisbee clubs that are now forming in their communities and I’ve started to see a group slowly form here as well. Not only that but Dionara, the winner of the spirit award, went back to her family in the indigenous Comarca Nägbe-Bugle and taught her mom to throw a frisbee!
After the camp I had about a week to relax before heading to the city for my Mid-service training. My entire group was together for the first time since last year! MST is basically a lot of medical appointments and a little bit of training. I’m happy (and surprised) to report that I have no cavities! In our two days of training we were given lots of time to reflect on our service so far. Looking back, I’ve done quite a bit! I’ve had two adult English courses, one kid’s English course, and a national camp in my community. I’ve gone to medical gira’s, youth leadership and sexual health seminars, and youth camp’s in my friends’ communities. I’ve given TESOL presentations in Panama City and led teacher seminars in my local capital. As time goes by it’s easy to forget all of those things and feel like I’ve done nothing so I was glad to sit back and ruminate a little on how far I’ve come. We were also given the opportunity to start thinking about our future’s. Will we be going to graduate school or looking for jobs? Will we be trying to extend our service in Panama? Or, will we maybe decide to ship off for Peace Corps Response in another country? Maybe we won’t do any of that and we’ll take some time to travel. There are a lot of options on the horizon.
So after my frisbee camp and MST I think Jo’s song “Astonishing” from Little Women is very fitting. As she sings:
Here I goAnd there’s no turning backMy great adventure has begunI may be smallBut I’ve got giant plansTo shine as brightly as the sunI will blaze until I find my time and placeI will be fearless,Surrendering modesty and graceI will not disappear without a trace