I've been busy writing my resume, description of service, site report, holiday emails, and working on other manuals. I don't want to write very much more, but I do want this blog to be a bit more up-to-date. So here goes...
Panama was an amazing trip! It all started because of my friend Carolyn, who lived across the hall from me during freshman year, got stationed in Panama for her Peace Corps service. Carolyn was assigned to be a environmental health volunteer. Eventually, she found out her site would be a rural indigenous village. To read more about her service click here. Once I got my invitation to serve in Nicaragua, we promised to meet up and explore each others countries since they are so close to each other.
The trip began just as Carolyn was getting ready to finish up her service. I used the very comfortable and very friendly Ticabus. The ride was about 30hours long but I was fed well along the way and slept in the whole row of seats that I had to myself. In short, I was more than content.
The first couple of days were spent in Panama City. I met other PCVs from Carolyn's group, took a tour of the city, and even went out salsa dancing to a great live band. The capital was so.. modern, metropolitan. It was a refreshing change from the grunge of Managua. We walked by the fish market, did a little last minute souvenir shopping and hung out with other PCVs.
|Panama City has Skyscrapers.. That was just one difference between the capital cities...|
|Casco Viejo. The "Vintage" part of Panama City|
|Some parts are still under-construction...|
|Peace Corps Panama PCVs|
We spent the weekend traveling through the center of the country. There was a feria de sombrero pintado, painted hat festival. These traditional hats are woven in this region of Panama and really popular. So much so, in fact, that there was a huge gathering of people that came out for this festival and a parade. All the floats were beautifully done, and most floats passed along with Panamanians doing a traditional dance alongside the float. It seemed like a basic 2 step dance, just to a upbeat, lively music. Everyone was literally dancing in the streets wearing their favorite hat. I don't know that we have a similar festival in Nicaragua so it was really interesting to be apart of that experience.
Sidenote- Walking from the festival we passed a Jumbo Store. They sell grains and sugar wholesale. We had talked about it earlier in the trip but I didn't really understand it until I saw it for myself. I also realized how much Carolyn loves rice and that Jumbo maybe a contender for her favorite place to buy rice.
|Sombrero Pintado Festival in Penenome|
|Carolyns favorite store?|
During the planning stages of the trip we had talked about visiting each others volunteer sites. Weeelllllll, considering that Carolyn had moved out of her site 2 weeks before, it wouldve been a bit weird to just reappear when she was supposed to be long gone. So we visited a similar site of a another volunteer in her group.
We wore the traditional garb, carried our necessities in the bag, and trekked through the mud. The campo life of Panama is much different than my experience in a city. Her village built her living space. I live in an apartment. Rice was involved in most of her meals. A sushi place just opened up and we have Burger King. She had no sitemates (other PCVs living in the same site). I have 3 sitemates and we all live on the same block. The list goes on.
Here are some photos from our day with Ngobe:
|A day in Ngobe land!|
|Working on a Community Garden|
|Making a quick call on the town phone|
The last leg of the of the trip was to the Caribbean side of Panama in a town called Bocas del Toro. Its a slice of paradise. Having just visited the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua there were many similarities that I saw, the biggest 2 being the presence of English speakers and darker skinned Panamanians. We spent a few days soaking up the sun, snorkeling, swimming, dancing to live bands, enjoying seafood, and loving the beauty of the coast.
|Welcome to the Caribbean side of Panama!|
|Getting ready to...|
|...Snorkel in the Atlantic!!!|
|Relaxing at our hostal in Bocas...|
Our last day in Panama we ate a delicious breakfast before taking our last steps on Panamanian territory.
|Beef with caramelized onion in a delicious sauce and a Panamanian tortilla|
|Carolyn taking her final steps out of Panama =(|