Central America | Panama – gardens and latrines
Senayda asked me if I wanted to help work with her on her garden again one day, and I accepted. When I arrived the next day, they had so much more than a nursery, she and her many kids and sisters had cleared a huge area of tall grass, with machetes. It was all on a rolling, sloping hill. They were now raking the grass together and burning it. I helped, altho uncomfortable with the situation- was I participating in slash-and-burn agriculture?! After the seeds sprouted, she told me, they were going to transplant them here. I couldn’t believe how big the garden was. I felt guilty and overwhelmed that I would never be able to help her make this a beautiful garden. She was trying so hard! And just wants to feed her kids! I accepted chicha de maiz from her. I usually try not to drink things here, but I didn’t want to be rude in this case. It was a beautiful view from the garden. We could see up to the top of the cordillera in the north, and so far east I swear we could see Veraguas.
Trisha and I had our last meeting with MINSA (the ministry of health) set up for the 10th of May, exactly two weeks before the Home Health Conference! (The conference is actually the first of a series of three, the next two in Bocas and Darian, funded by USAID money. Our San Felix seminar was first, and would be used as a model for the next two) At this meeting, we we’re supposed to get everything squared away.
Then I was shocked when Daniel told me the Comite de Salud meeting was the 9th! I had to go, but that was cutting it close. If these was no transportation after the Comite meeting, I would have to walk out! Imagine my surprise when MIDA (ministry of agricultural development) called, and were finally answering my request for home garden help, and it had to be on the 11th and 12th in Chami! I would be doing a lot of traveling!
The Comite meeting went good. We didn’t get around to setting up dates for a Chami-PDM, but we did set up dates for a follow up after the Home Health Seminar, and a day for Andre (a business volunteer) to visit and teach accounting to the Directiva of the Comite de Salud, like they had asked for. So those were small achievements. Then there was the fiercest aguacero for a couple hours. The rainy season is back! But when it let up, I did get a ride down. The meeting with MINSA did go well, too. Almost everything is squared away for the May 24-27 conference in San Felix. All the Comarca volunteers on this side of the cordillera are sending two health promoters, who are supposed to take the information back and teach it to thier villages. I am bringing Vielka and Felicita.
I spent that whole evening writing my SPA grant, and forgot to call MIDA to ask for a ride up to my own site. So I missed them, and had to wait a couple hours for a chiva. I was so embarrassed they got to Chami before me. The hostess missed the beginning of her own event. But they were nice about it. Miguel talked with people who owned cattle. Alexis and Julio Martinez talked all about gardens and raising chickens. Chabe also knew all about gardens and chickens, and is Ngabe, so translated everything into Ngabe for the people who don’t fully understand Spanish. The activities were for two days, and went great. Later, Albercio thanked me for bringing them, and said I was very active. I was so flattered. I reminded him it was all part of the big project we had voted on back in January, when they elected Nutrition, and he seemed proud. “This is the project we chose!” he said.
Overall, I am very happy right now. After eight months in site, I finally have a house (mas o menos) and work is going good. I found good counterparts- Eugenio and Daniel. (The counterparts Peace Corps assigned me didn’t work out.) I never thought I would get to this point!
I got Eugenio to sign his forms for the SPA grant for latrines, and this time, I got a ride downhill from MIDA. I had to finish the grant up, it was due June 1st.
I don’t know if it was Senayda’s juice or what, but I then came down with terrible stomach problems and a fever. So, while I should have been finishing the grant up, I was sitting around Cattan clinic in David for hours, waiting for someone to fix the pain in my stomach. What terrible timing! I noticed the date on my watch- Friday the 13th. Of course.
When I was finally able to get to internet, I wanted to double check to make sure I had all the forms (there are several) but I couldn’t access the website. Maybe I had it wrong. I called around, but no one, not volunteers, regional leaders, not even the Peace Corps Panama office in Panama City seemed to know the website for Peace Corps Panama. Someone eventually found it for me, and wouldn’t you know, the site was down. They were switching computer systems or something like that in the office. But Itza described the forms I should have, and I think I have them all. I hope this works out!