Monday, December 15, 2008


This is a restaurant out over the water that we ate at when we were at Isla Grande.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Canal Railway

This was taken on the train that runs along the canal.  Grandma would have loved this.  (Sorry we could not fit that in when our special visitors(the Gatlins) were down here... That just means you have to come back.)  The whole car is a window so you can see out on all sides.  And don't worry; I lost my awesome JLo sunglasses so you will not see them again.  I know they are a bit much but they were cheap and I needed sunglasses.

A Perfect Day

This is just a picture of a beautiful day in our site.  I took this on the way to the river after the seminar.  It was a perfect day for a swim.

Agribusiness in site

This is from the agribusiness seminar we did in our site.  We had a good turnout.  There were about 15 people who participated both Saturdays.  I believe I am laying some accounting knowledge on them in this picture.  Looks like a spreadsheet, eh?

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Advance Cleaning

This is the kind of toothpaste that Lee likes and he can´t find it here in Panama. Our favorite thing to get from people is letters but if anyone feels like sending a little something with a letter you could get a bigger envelope and drop a tube of toothpaste in there and I know Lee would greatly appreciate it.


This is a baby hummingbird. They said that the egg she hatched out of was about the size of a jelly bean. We see hummingbirds just about every day but this was the first time I had ever seen a nest.

Los Patronales

In Panama most or all towns have a patron saint. Ours is San Antonio de Padua. Every saint has his or her day of the year. The nine days leading up to this day are called the novena and they have church in a different part of town every evening leading up to the big day. On the big day they have church in the morning and activities the rest of the day. For us the next activity was the feria. The first picture shows all of the fruits, vegetables, and other produce that people brought to sell at the feria. This was the nicest one we have seen in our community. Usually they all show up with their stuff in bags and then they just pass them back and forth because they know who wants what and then everything is gone and Lee and I are left trying to figure out what just happened. This time we could tell when it had started and Lee got up there in time to get some avacados and a papaya.

This is the after picture. Everything was sold, even the bananas and platanos that were left hanging
After the feria there is a little parade through the center of town. They were really excited that we were taking pictures of it because they have never had pictures of it before so we are going to print some out for them.

Santa Fe

We just finished a series of seminars in a town called Santa Fe. We did 3 days of Leadership and Project Management, 3 days of accounting, marketing, and contracts, and 3 days of farm planning market analysis, quality control, etc. There were 2 weeks between each 3 day chunk. The last afternoon we had a little closing ceremony where we presnted gifts to the people who had helped make it happen. Lee was asked to paint bateas and a gourd instrument. As usual, everyone was very impressed with his work.

The first picture is of the hostel where the Peace Corps facilitators stayed each week. We also used a rancho on the property as the classroom.

The second set is the coffee made by the coffee beneficio in Santa Fe.

The final one is a gourd that has a ridged part and comes with a fork-like thing with long skinny tines that you rub across the ridged part for rhythm. The band is called Conjunto Folklorico Benjamin Rodriguez. They played at a culture night that we had the first week and the afternoon of the closing ceremony. Some of them had made their own instruments. In the background of this picture you can see how they do their floors sometimes. That is just cement but on the top layer they make it smooth and add colors. I have seen green, red, and yellow.

This is Lee dancing the cumbia at the closing ceremony. Dancing and music are a big part of the culture here in Panama. If you had lived in Panama for a year you would dance the cumbia too. Everyone just moves in a circle dancing with the man on the inside and the lady on the outside so she will have room to swing her skirt like the lady on the far left. Every couple of minutes the music changes up and then it is time to spin and revolve around your partner. Then it settles back to shuffling in a circle. Lee is also wearing the awesome baseball hats that we had made for the seminar. It has the Peace Corps logo and a logo that Lee created for the agribusiness program.

The Comarca (Reservation)

We went to a feria (a farmer´s market plus other activities) in Stephanie´s site and then we hiked to Nate´s site. This is a view from the hike. I wish I could say that our destination was where the sun´s rays are falling but it was not. The hike to Nate´s site is 2 hours like ours. He is at a higher altitude and there are fewer trees. He lives in the Ngobe-Bugle reservation. These indigenous groups used to live in the Azuero region but the fled to the highest mountains after the arrival of the conquistadores.
This is Lee with Nate and some of the kids in front of Nate´s house. Nate told the little boy to act like he was punching Lee.

Nate´s gas tank had run out a few days before we arrived so we made little camp fires outside to cook over. We made a mixture of rice, raman noodles, beans, soya, etc. and fried eggs for supper. We made pancakes from scratch for breakfast.

This is Stephanie with one of her friends These are the dresses that the Ngobe women and girls wear. They come in all colors but they are all the same design. Oh, and they are looking at pictures they just took on the digital camera. People here love to do that.

June 22 and classic Lee

Lee and I celebrate birthday eve´s now so I got to go to my favorite restaurant in Panama, and possibly in the world, for my birthday eve. It is in El Valle de Anton about a 4 hour hike from where we live. From our site you can see the Mountains that line the crater where the town sits. We did not hike there though. We did the 2 hour hike and took chivas and buses. The food was amazing as always and I love the atmosphere there.
On my birthday morning we went to see one of the waterfalls. There is about a 5 minute hike to get there and they give you a walking stick so you do not slip on the rocks.
Birthday afternoon was at the beach. I love the beach rain or shine, cold or hot. I will let you guess whether Lee feels the same way or not. I took this picture on my way into the water. It was sprinkling and a little cool but the water was nice and warm. We ate supper at the restaurant behind Lee in this picture. The seafood was fresh and delicous like it usually is in Panama.

Here is the link to Lee´s blog. He takes good pictures and has an eye for things that are interesting, beautiful, and-or weird. Those of you who know Lee will not be surprised to find that his blog has fewer words than mine. By fewer I mean none other than the titles of the pictures. Classic Lee.

Mister Johnny and Sweet Pea?

We got 2 sweet little kittens from our closest volunteer, Melissa, who lives in Vaquilla. This is Lee holding them after their first night at our house. Melissa hiked them in. She carried them in a cat carrier in the rain. We thought she was not coming when it got dark and she had not arrived but it turns out the river had crested and she had to wait until it was safe to cross. Water was getting into the cat carrier so she started moving clothes from her backpack in there to help protect them from the rain. They survived the journey, all 3 of them, and the kittens were even okay with meeting our dog friends that night. Canela comes by a few times a day just to say hola and look for food. Oso comes and hangs out and usually spends the night on the porch when we are there. He is one of the best-fed dogs in Panama and we hardly ever give him any food. He just comes to hang out.
The kitties liked to sleep on Lee´s chair when they were still allowed in the quincha house.

They like sleeping on their food bucket too.

They were sleeping on the window sill yesterday. Above the window is a piece of zinc that Lee put up to cover the hole that the kitties were using to get in at night. Last night we only heard them bump into it one time and meow a little bit before they went to sleep.

The orange and black one is named Mister Johnny in honor of one of Lee´s former co-workers at Publix in Albany, Georgia. If anyone from Albany reads this can you pass along the story to him. Lee really enjoyed working with him and he still tells Mr. Johnny stories. Oh, she did turn out to be a girl though so we shorten it to Johnny most of the time. The other one with more white fur is a girl too but we are still working on her name. There are a few Spanish names still in the runnig but this would be a good chance to teach our community another English name. I have called her Sweet Pea a few times and that might stick... We´ll see. I was singing that song on the porch yesterday when Severiano came to visit. Lee saw him approaching and did not warn me so I turned around mid baw-chica-baw-chica-na-na-na to see Severiano arriving in our yard and laughing at me. It seemed appropriate though because we always laugh with him and his family. He laughed really hard later when we were explaining the postal system in the U.S. to him and Lee acted out how some of the rural delivery people sit on the right side of the car and put the mail in the boxes (which they do not have here) while driving with their left arm and left leg.

The Ambassador´s House

We went to a reception at the Ambassador´s house to celebrate 45 years of Peace Corps in Panama.

These first 2 pictures show the inside of the house. The first one is the room where we hung out by the food tables. They kept bringing out different kinds of delicious finger foods and they went fast. The second one is just an area where people were milling around. Just before the reception the new group had their swearing-in ceremony. There were about 50 new voluneers, the director of Peace Corps (worldwide), the Ambassador, a lot of RPCV´s (returned Peace Corps Volunteers) from the last 45 years, and a handful of current voluneers.

This is me with the Ambassador, William Eaton.

Then we have the fancy outfits. I had to get a dress because I did not have anything nice enough to wear. I even wore high-healed shoes for the first time in years. Lee is looking schnazzy in his picture with a Great Dane and a Chihuahua. We did not get any good pictures of the two of us the night of the reception so I put my outfit on the next morning for a picure. Lee did not so we will have to settle for this picure of Lee missing half his head featuring a comical pairing of dogs.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

My hero

This is our first host mom in site, Angela.  On the end of her stick is the scorpion that stung me.  Lee was not there at the time but some of the kids were on the porch and I was taking a shower.  I grabbed my towel without looking at it and a scorpion stung me.  When I pulled the towel away it dropped off and ran out of the shower.  I asked the kids where the scorpions make their homes and the came right back there with machetes cutting back the grass to look for him.  They could not find him but over the next couple of hours 4 or 5 different people from the community visited me and brought me the herbal remedies that they use.  Oh, and they sat with me for the first 3o minutes or so after the sting because that is when you find out if you are going to get violently ill or not.  We have 2 main types of scorpions in our site and I was pretty sure it was not the bad one but since nobody got a good look at it they wanted to make sure.  When Angela came by to check on me she asked where it had happened I took her back there and showed her and she said, "Sometimes they get right under here" as she grabbed a stick and started poking.  After about 4 jabs she came up with a scorpion on the end of her stick and asked if that was it.  That was it indeed.  I took a picture and that is the day she became my hero.

Volunteer Visit

Here are some photos from when we hosted a volunteer visit.  At about week 3 in training they send all of the trainees out to visit volunteers.  You find your way there by yourself and you spend about 4 days seeing what volunteer life is really like.  We had a couple, Isaac and Melissa, visit and it was pretty awesome.  We made a different type of compost pile, we visited some farms, talked to a lot of people from the community, and we found time to go swimming.  We did a lot of hiking but I think they enjoyed it.  I thought the hike in might scare them a little so I arranged for the car to bring them in.  I was coming back from Santa Fe that day too so I met them on the chiva.  When we got to the store, they had taken the car to run an errand so we went to eat lunch at a fonda (small restaurant) and came back to check.  The car still was not there and they seemed to want to do part of the hike so I told him we would go ahead and start walking and the car could just catch up with us when he got back.  Melissa grabbed her backpack but Isaac and I left all of our stuff there for the truck to bring.  About 10 minutes into the hike it started raining.  It was kind of nice because I would have been wet with sweat anyway and this way I was cooler.  I kept thinking that we would hear the car coming any minute but we never did.  Before I knew it we were arriving at the house.  We started cooking supper and waiting for the truck but by about 5:00 when it still had not shown up I was starting to get worried.  I had the phone # to the tienda of the owners of the car but it was in my bag that I had left at the tienda.  We started asking around the community to see if anyone knew the number but they didn't.  Finally, I had the idea to call our regional leader and tell him the situation and see if he could get ahold of them.  That is definitely above and beyond the call of duty of the regional leader but Brandon is awesome and he was willing to help us out.  After a series of phone calls and misunderstandings things were taken care of.  The truck came at about 6:30 the next morning and everything was fine.  All of this may have been a little traumatic for some trainees but these guys seemed to take it all in stride.  We jumped right in the first day and gathered materials and made the awesome compost pile in the first picture.  We have never made one like this on a raised floor before but it is supposed to create a convection current and allow the compost to, well...compost faster.

The second picture shows Lee and Melissa with a Panamanian family in the background.  Lee is holding the tool they use to make pilones.  Pilones are what they use to pilar rice and coffee.  Sorry, I do not know the noun or the verb in English.  It is a huge wooden thing about waist high.  They use a big bat-like thing to beat the rice or coffee out of their shells.

The third picture shows Isaac and Melissa with a tiny Panamanian family we went to visit.  They really do not seem that short in person but they look tiny compared to North Americans.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Chuleta! I forgot about the tide!

These are from a camp that we had. There were about 8 volunteers and somewhere around 30 kids. The first picture shows Lee on the hike back from the beach. The area in the background is where they dropped the Man vs. Wild guy when they filmed the Panamá mangrove episode. The second picture shows Lee pointing at John Wayne Island. Why do they call it John Wayne Island, you might ask. Well, it was John Wayne´s Island, that´s why. It is now owned by the John Wayne foundation or something like that. The third picture is an attempt to capture how treacherous the hike back was. My favorite quote from camp: Chuleta! I forgot about the tide! The kids were finishing up with lunch when Stephen said that. I guess the tide was about halfway up. We just had to scale a little higher and wade through some parts. It was an adventure. The kids were awesome. They never complained or got scared. I was a little scared but Stephen and a girl from his site hung back to help Lee and I bring up the rear.

The Arrival of the Hamburglar, Ronald, and Ronald

This is an older picture but I think it slipped through the cracks without getting posted. Everyone puts up some sort of nativity in our site in early December the wise men start their journey and they move them a little closer each day until they arrive. This is the arrival. No, your eyes do not deceive you. From left to right that is the Hamburgler, Ronald McDonald, and, yes, you guessed it, Ronald McDonald. The family was surprised when we recognized them. I do not know where they got them from but they had never heard of McDonald´s.

Bridges Schmridges

The first picture is of some of the kids who come by and visit after school sometimes. They are in Kindergarten, 1st , and 2nd grades. The second shows the Gatlin family river crossing. Who needs bridges, right? The third picture is Lee and his dad with Oso. Can you tell he likes to hang out with us? He is a pretty awesome dog.

Kari, Antonio, y Carolina

The first picture was taken on the chiva. It wasn´t too scary was it? The second picture shows Kari in what is now known by the community as Kari´s hammock. I think some of them think she brought it from the States because it showed up the same day she did. Chana is on the left and another nice little girl who´s name escapes me is on the right. Chana asks about Kari just about every time we see her. She asks about Antonio and Carolina too.

El Mercado

After our adventure in the city we went to El Valle for a cooler climate, a more laid-back atmosphere, and an amazing market (el mercado). The first picture shows part of the market. They sell everything there from orchids to vegetables to indigenous art. There are some stores around the market too and that is where Lee´s dad found a friend. Buhuhuhuuu! That is my atempt to spell a Gatlin family sound of disgust. Everyone who knows them should know what I am talking about.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Mono Perezoso

This is Kari, Lee´s sister, holding the cutest little baby sloth in the world. She lives at the hotel beside the one we stayed at in El Valle. She is about 2 months old and they take her out of her cage to hold her every day so she will have contact with other animals. That helps her stay healthy. We were coming back from the market and we saw a guy holding her so we just asked if we could hold her too. Oh, and the Spanish for sloth, mono perezoso, literally translates to lazy monkey. I thought that was pretty funny for a while but, if you think about it, us calling them sloths is kind of funny too.

Our hotel had some interesting pets too but we did not hold them. They had a Tucan and some golden frogs.

Just a side note while I am waiting for the picture to load... Lee and I will have spent a total of over 8 hours each on the computer today by the time we are finished. I never would have imagined that we would use computers so much in the Peace Corps, but we do a lot of paper work. We are helping with the training of the new group of volunteers in a couple of weeks so we worked on that for a while. We did thank-you letters to agency members who came out to our community. Lee worked on the cover for an educational video, using inadequate software. I have spent hours on work-related e-mails. I have not even sent one personal e-mail today. Sorry to everyone waiting for responses... And after a cummulative effort of about 2 hours I will have completed one new post for the blog if/when this picture finishes loading. I really do not mind the work, even the quarterly reports we have to do, which are a little tedious at times. I actually love the work. What is so frustrating is using computers that may or may not have the software you need and may or may not have issues so that it may or may not take you 2 hours to finish a post that should take about 5 minutes. Okay, I am finished venting and the picture is finished loading. Sorry about that; I try to keep this fun and informative but I slipped up with a little rant. Hopefully I will be able to try this again tomorrow. I have lots more awesome pictures from Lee´s family´s trip down here to visit us and if they load fast enough tomorrow I will not have time for any more rants...

Monday, March 24, 2008


We had our quarterly fiesta Saturday. This was our second one. We started them because Julio was coming and helping with seminars, projects, and everything else and he wanted to have a day where everyone who was working so hard could come together just to have fun and spend time together. The first one was good and this one was even better. They built the rancho in the first picture the day of the event. That is not how they build them if they want them to last a long time but they use that style when they just need shade during the summer time. They are planning to build a permanent one though. Lee and I made the piñata. Around these parts we call him Esponga Bob.
The second picture shows Lee almost winning the sack race. Can you believe the altitude of that hop? He says that if he would not have relaxed a little in the middle of the race he would have won. Julio is really competitive though... We will have to wait 3 months for the rematch.
And the 3rd picture shows me being the M.C. Don´t you think that someone with Spanish as a first language would have been a better choice? I was a little nervous but I think it went well. I had a little help from the menacing figure lurking behind the bushes. He is not really menacing. It just sort of looks that way from the photo. He is actually the father(Severiano, I know, the name seems kind of menacing too...) from our 3rd host family. He wanted me to narrate the smashing of the piñata too. He would tell me to say things like: The piñata no longer has feet. It sounds better in Spanish. The other guy in the photo is Eugenio. The violin that he played was made in a nearby community. He taught himself to play it.
We also had a decima singer, a harmonica player, a salomar contest, and a guy who sang and played guitar. The decima is a type of song that you hear a lot here in Panama´. It has a certain type of rhythm and there are rules about the rhyme scheme. They can be prewritten or improvised. Victoriano improvised and Lee and I got our names mentioned. Also, there are certain guitar stylings that have to accompany the singer. One of them is called Storm of the Rooster. I think they are also supposed to use the mejorana (sort of like a guitar) for this too but we did not have one. Also, the singer should be wearing a sombrero pintado. We just learned that that is very important.
Salomaring is a type of call that is sort of like a cross between the scream when that cartoon coyote falls of a cliff, yodelling, and the noises people make when they are trying to move large farm animals like cows or horses. It is one of my favorite things about Panamanian culture. The first person salomars and the second person answers by trying to match the first one. It is actually pretty hard to describe. You just have to come to Panama´to experience it.