Friday, February 29, 2008


This is SeƱor Rosa stiring the pot of sugar cane juice to make raspaduras. They cook it for hours and then they pour it into a mold and let it dry. They usually make about 14 per batch. They use trapichas run by horses to press the sugar cane and get the juice out.

Arroz en Fangueo (Rice Tanks)

This is some of the work that we did with the rice tank. The last picture shows most of the people in our group(we are proud to have men, women, and children participating), which became official yesterday when we had a visit from one of the government agencies. Sometimes it is hard to work with the agencies and people have to make multiple visits to their offices and write multiple letters to get things done, but we were lucky enough to have them come to us after just one letter and one visit. We had 2 representatives from the regional office and the national coordinator for the agency and Peace Corps. Our regional coordinator from Peace Corps came too. We heard that some people from the agency were coming out to talk about our upcoming project with Iguanas and Conejos Pintados (painted rabbits). They talked about that and a lot of other projects, got the names of everyone in the group, and they gave them some tools and some materials to start a tree nursery. They were so proud to have the agency come out and tell them that they are doing a good job and that they are going to help them get other projects started too.
With the rice tank, we made the hole, leveled the dirt by adding water and mixing the mud as we went and by dragging a board across it, and then we transplanted the rice from the semillero. It was more complicated than that but that is the concise version. We will control the water level, periodically raising and lowering it over the growing cycle to maximize growth and minimize weeds. We are in the dry season now so no one else is planting rice. Most of the farmers are cutting down trees and everything else and burning it in preparation to plant rice when the rainy season starts again. Hopefully this will show them that they do not have to do that next year.

Feed Me!

This is a carnivorous, Little Shop of Horrors plant that we have in our yard. Okay, it´s not carnivorous but it looks like it could be. Really it is called Achiote. They dry it, harvest the seed, and mix it with oil to use for cooking. The kids helped us harvest it.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Hike to San Miguelito

We had some visitors on Monday. Catie and Stephanie are volunteers in communities relatively nearby. They hiked 6 hours with 3 people from Catie´s site, Juan, Magdalena, and Miguelito to arrive at our site right after lunchtime. We had a nice visit and made some delicious campo foods like patacones (slices of plantains that you fry and smash. they taste kind of like french fries.) and rice and beans. We had a very non-campo drink: sweet, iced tea! There is no electricity in our site so we don´t have any ice but a truck brought some in for an activity that the community was having that day and they were nice enough to send a block of it up to our house so we could make our chicha nice and cold. Right when I saw it I knew what kind of chicha I was going to make. The only problem was that Lee was not home yet from his trip to talk to one of the agencies about our Iguana project. And I was about to make his favorite drink. I waited as long as I could before I put the ice in there and started pouring glasses for people but the ice was melting... And a couple of minutes later Lee arrived in the darkness and misty rain of evening and was greeted with a big glass of sweet, iced tea.
The next morning we left at about 8:00 to go see the rice tanks and fish tanks of a group of farmers in a community 2 hours away. We hiked for 2 hours, arrived in San Miguelito, asked for directions to the farmers´group, kept walking, entered a different community, then entered another San Miguelito (yes, there are 2 of them). Then we went ahead and got lost again in the new San Miguelito (we took a wrong turn and ended up walking up a steep hill with no shade only to find that the road ended at someone´s house). In the second picture Stephanie and Lee are at the top of the hill and are not happy about it.
The first picture shows Catie in front of a beautiful waterfall about 20 minutes from our destination. Yes, we did make it(walking a total of 4 hours) and we had a very productive day. Feliciano and Fidel came from our community and they got to see the rice tanks at each stage of production and talk to other Panamanian farmers about their experiences with the technique. We are going to plant rice in the first tank in our community next week!

Agribusiness Grant

So there is an awesome agribusiness seminar that I am going to help with. Through the Peace Corps Partnership Program you can donate money to help make it happen if you would like to. Here is the link: If you would like more specific information about how the money will be used you can leave a comment or e-mail me and I can send you a copy of the grant proposal.

The Door and the Parasol

One day we hiked out to the other side of town, about 45 minutes with a river crossing, and came back with a door for our house that the owners of the property had built. There was a group of 5 or so who took turns carrying the door and Angela and I carried our parasols. They are actually huge palm leaves that they use to make brooms out of but you may as well carry it above your head and have a little shade, right?


This is a bird cage shaped like a helicoptor. Rigoberto, the oldest son from our last host family, made it. I have also found drawings and etchings of helicoptors around town and most of them have traced back to him.


These are some bananas(primativos) that someone gave to us. That is as big as they get. They are tiny and delicious. This picture also features Lee being about a foot too tall for the rancho. The support beams are about 5 and a half feet tall, which is perfect for me and the Panamanians but too short for Lee... He has talked about digging a trench so he can walk through one part without ducking or hitting his head.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Night Parades

These pictures are from one of the night parades. It was pretty amazing. Each float has a queen and is accompanied by a live band and dancers.

Los Patos (the ducks)

These are our ducks. They do not know that they are our ducks yet because they keep running away and finding their way down to where they used to live but we hope that they will realize soon that they are our ducks.

Thanks so much to Nancy and John for thinking of everything, even the roof of our makeshift duck pen. Well, I think they intended it as a table cloth but it sure makes a good roof don´t you think? The children in the background are Sebastiana (Chana) and Feliciana (Chana). They are very good at catching ducks. It´s harder than you think...

Tuesday, February 5, 2008


These are 2 of the floats from the aquatic parade in our regional capitol. The 2nd one is from the Cucua of San Miguel Centro, a town near ours. They use the Cucua tree to make pretty much anything you can think of, including the clothing of the people on the float. And, yes, the floats move down the river with the help of people swimming along side and pushing. One of the floats was pulled by a boat this year but I like the other way better.