Thursday, June 30, 2011


Hi everyone,

As most of you who are reading this already know, I live in the jungle in Panama with an indigenous community called the Embera. We have been trying to implement new ideas and projects to try and improve the quality of life and business in the village along with furthering education opportunities among the youth.

Our current project(among others) that we're focusing on is the construction of a fish tank to grow Tilapia. The main source of income among the people is through tourism, and part of the package is us feeding the guest fresh fried Tilapia and Patacones. This is where the tank comes in. We get up to 140 tourist a day during the high season which is a lot of people to feed. There are not enough adults living in the village to both fish for the food we give tourist as well as keep food in their own homes for their families. In turn we often buy the Tilapia from the fishermen on the lake, causing profits to decrease since the money is taken out of the tourism payment.

After a training course where a guest PCV came to teach the community how to build and maintain a fish tank, myself along with the rest of the village came together to implement what we see as a very beneficial project. After digging the 3 tanks to appropriately breed, grow and maintain mature Tilapia, we assessed that the project could be drastically improved if we were to add a few advancements. This includes a pump that requires no motor or gas to pump water from the river to the flow into the tanks, extra tubing to attach to the pump along with a few "llaves" to open and close the water spouts connecting the 3 tanks.

We´re in the process of covering the cost and installing all of the advancements, and I'll update everyone with a post once this is complete and we have little fishies growing.

Thanks everyone for reading!

The group almost done digging!

The chief pick axing away. The back of his shirt says "life is not a spectator sport." awesome.

Installing a drainage tube.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

There's a mystery hen laying her mystery eggs...

About a month ago my good friend in the community, Juan Carlos(or Juanca for short) bestowed upon me my first ever very own baby chickens! The original plan was for just 2 chicks, but at the last minute he added a third younger chick from an entirely different group just for good measure. I was feeling pretty enthusiastic about the prospect of fresh eggs from my own crop, despite the fact I still have a few months to go until they start poppin' 'em out, and so I immediately began building their future egg laying house. The fence to the house came later, and so for about a week or so the nesting boxes were open to any hen that chose to make it her egg laying hideout. Day 2 of the boxes being around, there appeared an egg, but no hen. Day 4, there was a second egg, no hen to be seen. Day 6, egg number 3 appeared. Because there are around 20 hens that frequent the area beneath my house it was impossible to decide who was the mystery hen(or hens) laying their mystery eggs. I also was not sure if the eggs were technically mine or not. On the one hand, they DID lay their eggs in my house, but on the other hand, they were not my hens. What a conundrum. Anyways, two eggs ended up disappearing on their own, and the third i dropped off in a random hens roost at a neighbors house. The area is fenced in and no new eggs will appear until my little ladies are ready.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The roof is on fire!

Literally. I got a new roof(or at least, 1/2 of a new roof) last week and the only thing to do with the remains of my old one was to set it on fire! A few weeks back some neighbors of mine and myself stood around contemplating how many leaves it would take to replace my entire roof. It's been leaking in around 14 different areas throughout the entire thing, and it seemed like the best time to take care of a problem that mother nature was only going to make worse. At first, they said, "400! that'll do the job for sure!" Then after a few minutes, they went up to 450 leaves, and by the end we settles on 500 just to be extra safe. The type of leave I bought is called Wagara and is given the title of best leaf available out of the 3 they use to make roofs.

So, my 500 leaves of Wagara come piling in one day and suddenly all the men are standing around a little nervous saying, "ohhhh....that might not be enough." A week goes by and finally, when we're half way done with putting up my class A roof, we run out. Go figure, HALF WAY. Oh well, at least we didn't tear the whole thing down but instead went little by little sort of knowing in the back of our minds it wouldn't last to the end. To finish the thing I need another 400 leaves, and I'm just not sure that's going to happen. The rain is back and the dry summer is saying goodbye. I'm also not super wealthy, and Wagara is not super cheap. I have about another week to decide for sure if I'm gonna go for it, so may the roof gods smile upon me and grant me some grand roof discount. In the mean time, enjoy my fire and leaf photos.

Boating in the 4,000 or so leaves ordered in the bunch between community members. Also, in case you were wondering, yes, they all ran out early too.
Lying in oja heaven.

Emiliano wanted me to take his photo in front of the fire with his youngest Liliana.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sara's Ark

A lot has happened in the last month, but I don't think anyone would have the patience to actually read all that there is write so I'll limit it to one story. Here goes...

The main even that took place was the flooding of my community during record setting rains on Mothers Day. The river rose around 35 feet or so in a 36 hour period, but it was a combined effort of past rain saturating the soil and extreme rain in the last hours leading up to the water invasion. I had made it back to site the night of the 7th in possibly a questionable trip across the lake and up the river to find that the water level was already high enough to be lapping at the post of my neighbors house. I changed into warm clothes and went to bed thinking that all the water would subside by morning....and then 5am came along. I woke up to voices speaking in the Embera dialect and got up knowing there would be only one reason for this kind of stirring. The water had rose all the way up to my post and had entered the house of my neighbors, Poliester and Dina. Around 8 people were busy evacuating both the people from the flooding house as well as all of the belongings possible. Around 7am it looked like the water was going back down, so I went back to bed to grab another couple of hours of sleep. Wrong, I woke up an hour later to voices ycalling my name telling me to get up because my house was going to go under. So I got up to find that the water was only around 2 feet under my floor and it was still raining like mad with little likelihood of clearing up. I grabbed the most important things I had and stuffed them in a backpack and with my cat under one arm I jumped out of my house into almost waist high water to get to dryer ground. Within an hour it became clear that the water was going to enter my house and it only took one exchanged glance with my main counterpart for him to yell out "La casa de sara! Vamos! Vamos!" This meant that we got into a canoe and boated over to my place to evacuate my belongings. If my house was going to flood and possibly get swept away by the river, no one wanted to see my stuff go with it.

After all was cleared out an on higher ground, a couple of us stayed in the house to make sure the floor did not float away. Luckily by 2pm or so the water level began to drop and by 5pm the river had lowered out of all houses and left them relatively in tact as well. I was a little hesitant to move back into my abode, but with the rain only at a heavy drizzle it looked clear. I lost some food and a few books and such, but all of the important stuff was safe and just a little moist(or in some cases soaking, dripping wet). I can't say I slept well for the days or weeks following due to more incessant rain, but I think it won't come back like it did on Mother's Day.

An interesting fact is that the Canal closed down due to rainfall for the first time since it opened 100 years ago. That is a lot of rain.
A view of Chevo and Liseth's house from my house.
Diego, Zuleica, Lucho and myself holding the floor down.
This is my closest neighbor. Luckily their house is not floating away as it looks.
Here we have my neighbor's house being evacuated, that of Emiliano and Diana.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

So the longer I'm here the more normal my life seems to become. And by that i mean the less strange things feel. When people ask me what's new, I have no more good stories to tell. Maybe its just not weird anymore to wake up and find an egg under my hammock. I mean, a chickens gotta lay the thing somewhere after all. Or how about the other day when I fell asleep against a convenient store wall laying on my bag and an old man came over and poked me and told me I wasn't allowed to sleep there, it wasn't out of the ordinary. And what's strange about a 5 year old kid climbing to the top of a 6 story tall tree and jumping into the river below,which is only about 10 feet deep. I was a little surprised the other day though when I got some spaghetti and they didn't serve it on top of a huge plate of rice! I was just getting used to that too...oh well.

Life is very good here. My community is just completing it's first project which is a water en-catchment system as well as a kitchen for the school. After being approved for a grant(thanks again Michael!!!) my people were given much more motivation to donate their labor in order to get this project completed by mothers day, which here in Panama is on December 8th. As usual, the gift we are giving the moms is one that helps them work for us even easier. I will be making a post upon the completion of the project, including a video hopefully, so stay tuned!

Also included here is a photo that was taken by some guys who showed up randomly one day in a helicopter! They took a lot of pictures then sent them to Anne, one of our tour guides, who then sent them to me.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

street meat. it's so freakin' delicious.

Now for more on Panamanian fun. The newest hippest style shirt to wear these days in Panama is the extreme graphic tee. The formula for a good graphic tee is Human Skull + Angel Wings + Obscure Words in English. My latest fave? It included the required skull and angel wings, but the words were what really moved me. It went like this, sorta like a grocery list:


Pretty solid if you ask me.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Bad news, my external hard drive and my camera memory card have a virus. No new pictures for a while, even though I have some good ones if I can salvage the infected files.

Good news? My mom comes today! Also, pumpkin pie and turkey in 2 weeks!

And for all those who are big time Diablo Rojo fans like myself, here's what it said on the rearview mirror of my bus this morning:

"You sleep with him, but you dream about me."

More bloggin' to come at a later date.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Monday, September 27, 2010

Well, my old camera kicked the bucket, so I got a new one yesterday. I'm real excited, and that's all I'm gonna say. Also, the other night I was roaming around near my house and I heard the sound of a dear little frog. I'm not entirely sure what class of frog it is, but it's green and layed eggs in a little pool next to my pad. Then I proceeded to take them in as my own personal pets and have been monitering their safety for over a week now. One way I've possible ensured their survival(or made them weaker, who knows), is I've been adding water to their pool. It hasn't rained in over a week(I mean, I live in the middle of the rain forest in the damn rainy season, where is all this rain I was promised??), so their pool keeps becoming this sad little mud spot on the ground. So I grab my 5 gallon bucket and add around 12 gallons of water to their little ecosystem. Good fun really, don't tell mother nature.

Hi Carmen!

The style of hammock I so desire to obtain(but are not made here).


The kids. (By the way that is a cacao fruit in the water there. You know, where chocolate comes from.)

Friday, September 17, 2010

So the first photo is just a pretty picture of the sun coming up during the boat ride. The second photo contains excactly what every person between the ages of 3-11, as well as perhaps most rural Peace Corps Volunteers dream about: a suspended toilet. That's right, it's almost like doing your #1 business on a swing. Also, I dare any of you guys to guess which bucket holds my linens and which contains my #2 business.