Central America | Panama – HIV prevention seminar
After the trip to Silico Creek, but before I went back to Chami, I went to the Feria de David. It is a 10 day long fair for the third biggest city in Panama, and people come to it from all over the country. There is artesania from all over Central America, a livestock exhibition, but we went to the PH. Pub Herrerano are movable dance clubs that travel around the country, with the best music, tho it is deafening. I went with Panamanian friends from David, so got to partake in their culture for a while. We danced all night to bachata, merengue, and regaton. I showed them my pictures I took of the First Lady when she visited Chami. They were impressed, and all talked about the time they met her. You know it’s a small country when everyone knows the First Lady. There was a huge screen, like a movie screen, at the PH, and you could send a text message from a cell phone to it, and the message would appear on the screen. The screen was usually showing videos that went with the music, but we loved it the couple times our messages appeared. It was interesting, one friend I was with commented that his 30 year old brother was meeting his 15 year old daughter for the first time this week. Another then commented he met his dad when he was seven. It seemed everyone there had grown up in a single-mother home.
On the way to San Felix the next day, the bus was stopped by a cowboy in the road waving a big red flag. This is the symbol for cattle crossing the road, and then hundreds of cows poured across. All huge, pure white cows with a big hump on their backs, huge soft black eyes, and a dangling flap of skin under their necks.
Then I took a chiva up to Chami, still in wonder at the road being good all the was passed Oma. As we rose in elevation, the usually beautiful views were hazy with smoke. This is the time of the year the people slash and burn their land, getting it ready to plant when the rains come, which should be soon. Many of the rolling hills were now black. The hills go thru color changes: they are lush and green most of the year, brown in March and April because the grass dies from four months without rain, black from being burned in April, and when the rains begin sometime in April they will turn green again.
This week was my HIV Prevention Community Seminar for Hato Chami. Besides my latrines, it was my last project in Chami, and I was nervous about it. It was a three day long seminar, each day with a different health or development theme, and a different speaker coming each day. So there was potential that someone may not show up. But things went smoothly. (Viodelda, an elderly Ngabe friend, my star health promotor, and a midwife, told me the day before she didnt know if she could make it, because a woman was about to give birth, but she would try to come. And I was horrified, and told her, by all means, please be with the woman as long as she needed to!)
It was in the Chami cooperative (a concrete building that was built to be a coop, but is more like a store) and there were two cooks each day to make breakfast and lunch. It was good food for the Comarca- breakfast was hojaldre, eggs, and coffee. Lunch was chicken, rice, and beans.
The topic of the first day was HIV prevention, and Leonarda from the Red Cross made it to Chami. Rebecca, a friend of mine also came to help. I was scared community members wouldnt show, but they did! Twenty eight of them, from as far away as Cerro Tula, a two hour walk! The main point was HIV is prevented by being abstinent, being faithful, or using condoms. People were really interested in what Leaonarda said about HIV and prevention and even showed a little interest in condoms being sold at the coop. (They are available in the Health Center, but sporadically, and people are too embarrassed to ask for them.) And Viodelda was there! She said new mother and baby were fine. She seemed like she was falling asleep during the talk. I wondered if she had been up all night with the mother, but I remembered she also was falling asleep during the whole Home Health Seminar in San Felix last May.
The next day was on Project Design and Management. Greg and Kali were there to help. This was a little more difficult, because it was kind of tedious information, and we could have used more people helping.
The last day, Matt came up to Chami, and we had a hands-on practice how to make a latrine platform. Melida, Ramon, and their family, had already dug a deep hole, and we spent a few hours making the platform over it with a cement, gravel, and sand mix. Melida and Ramon could not contain their smiles by the end of the day. They had a new latrine! We took a group picture, and then handed out certificates, the seminar was over! Greg, Matt, and I celebrated that night over a dinner in Mireya’s restaurant.