Peace Corps Panama

Hello, welcome to my blog. I created this blog as I am preparing to leave to Panama for the next 27 months. I will be serving as a Sustainable Agriculture Systems Extension Agent. I will try to keep my blog as updated as possible. Come Visit and Stay tuned so that I can share this experience with you.

Hola, Bienvenidos a mi Blog. Me estoy preparando para ir a Panamá los próximos 27 meses. Voy a estar sirviendo como agente de Sistemas sostenibles de Agricultura. Tratare de mantener este blog lo más actualizado posible. Vénganme a visitar. Manténgase informados con mi blog para que pueda compartir estas experiencias con ustedes.


Sunday, November 8, 2009

New Blog

Hey guys, if you have been very very sad because you have not heard from Valeria in a while, that's because we have a new blog!

Make sure you put your email in the box on the top right to stay updated!


Friday, October 2, 2009

Panama tried to prepare me...

As I slowly crutched up the inclined streets of Santa Clara de Arriajan at 12 noon after Technical Training Class, I felt FRUSTRATED, HELPLESS, and EXHAUSTED. The incline seemed to get steeper and longer with each second that went by. As people in the community looked out their front porches at me struggling to get up to my Host house, I would smile at them and pretend that it looked a lot harder than it really was.

Deep down inside I just wanted to throw my crutches, ripped the walking boot off and go jump in an ICE POOL!

Little did I know that getting hurt in Panama would only be a glimpse of the uphill crutching that was to come. Here I am now feeling HELPLESS again. Never in the vision that I had for my life did I see myself depending on ANYONE for anything. I have always been very independent. But the hand that life has delt me now has humbled me once again, and made me realize that I can’t do everything MYSELF.

Now more than ever I am depending on Peter, my family and my friends to keep me going. Whenever people look at me as if I’m struggling, I just smile and pretend that everything is Fine. For those who know me well, they know how difficult accepting the I CAN'T do something really is. Deep down inside I still finding myself wanting to scream, yet there are times where I find that I’m learning to accept the changes in my life and see the strength that I’m taking from this uphill workout.

In Panama, I was so thankful for those people who would help me out, fill the bucket for my bucket-bath, come visit, or simply walk at my CRAWLING SLOW pace. Now I’m grateful for all the friends and family that are not only walking slowly with me but carrying my bags, encouraging me, and helping me notice the beautiful things along the way that my new pace is allowing me to see, that we all would have otherwise missed in our fast-paced, no time for anything, lives.

Whether it was crutching around Panama with my 60lbs Hiking bag on one foot, moving around from one Diablo Rojo (panamanian public buses) to another, or just trying to get through a day in MY NEW LIFE, the frustrations, the emotional and physical dependence, and the struggles are the same. My fellow volunteers in Panama would tell me how much they admired me for managing to do everything we were ASKED to do during our training. Now friends here are impressed at how I've made a seemingly smooth transition into my new role as mother-to-be. I don't know if by trying to make others believe that everything was OKAY I really started believing it, or I believed that everything was okay, and everyone just picked up that vibe. Which ever (the chicken or the egg) that came first, I'm here now...remembering the past that made me strong, and hoping that this experience will only make me stronger for the future.

Though we come to this world alone, and in essence live alone, God places people in our lives to help us along the way. We have to stop and admit that we need the help. Sometimes people around us won't offer it since we have always been so self sufficient...But maybe if we ask, they will help.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


Hello everyone,

Thank you all for you comments and for following this Blog. If you have enjoyed this blog, I encourage you to follow my other blog, Expecting...the Unexpected at:

Side Note:
As I look back through this blog, I am taken back to all those moments I lived through. I would love to hear about what my entries made you think about. If you want to share them with me, Please EMAIL ME:

I hope you check out and like the other blog..."Expecting...the Unexpected."

Have a great day!

Monday, August 24, 2009

culture shock...

When I got back, I was surprised at how easy my transition was. Yes I noticed a lot of things, and was greatful for a lot of the convinient things that were around like light switches, pillows, AC and washers/dryers.

However now that i've finally had a minute to sit and think, I'm realizing that it is hard to come back to this world. In my community, I had to constantly correct people and tell them that I wasn't rich, yet in reality, by their standards, I was! I could afford what I needed and what I wanted aswell. I always had money in my pocket.

Here I am now, with 300 dollars to my name, I am considered dirt poor. Making the mental transition is not easy. Niether is not knowing where the the next income will be coming from...with everything around me containing a higher price-tag. No job lined up and the list of expenses growing by the minute. On the list of changes in the past couple weeks, this topic has been flying under the radar until now when its clearly making itself know. I have never liked depending on anyone, so I need to figure something out fast. All I can do is remain calm and know that it will not be for long.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Life is calling...

...for a change

I’ve been thinking a lot about this blog entry. The time since my last blog entry has been full of LIFE CHANGING EVENTS to say the least.

Now more than ever, I understand the importance of living the moment. In one minute, everything in my life and in the lives of those around me changed. Peace Corps’ slogan is Life is Calling…How far are you willing to go to make a difference? Well I did my best to find out. In that search, I found I was willing to leave everyone I loved and everything familiar to me behind in the hopes that I could change a couple lives and along the way experience something completely different, exciting, and selfulfilling.

Though I can’t continue my service, Life is still calling …this time however, its asking how far I’m willing to go to make a difference in the life of one little boy, my own baby boy (and Peter’s too)

Friday August 7th, when I went into the city to pick up my father, I stopped at the gynecologist office. Little did I know what news awaited me past those doors. About 3 seconds after the check up began, he dropped the news on me… Estas en estado ( you’re in state, translated literally). I could only wonder and ask: En estado de que? (in what kind of state?) He then put gel on my stomach , as he did so, he pointed to the screen where he slowly said: Estas bien embarasada, 18 semanas (you are Very Pregnant…18 weeks). Confused he asked me if I had felt anything, if I had thrown up, if I felt any movements? To all I answered NO. I had no reason to think or even suspect that anything was going on, especially since we got tested the day we arrived in the country for training…and mine had come back negative. I was definitely in a state of shock. Not knowing what to tell Peter or my parents. I felt trapped in a movie or a dream. I couldn’t believe what was happening, I could barely process everything.The doctor gave me some time to talk to Peter and then he came back into the examining room. With Peter on speaker, the doctor checked the baby again and played the heartbeat. In the midst of my tears I managed to ask if the baby was okay since I’ve been working in fields, hiking, horseback-riding, lifting things, moving things, and so much more in the past 4 months. Fortunately, he said yes.

Since that afternoon, a million things have happend:
(If you want details, I will gladly give them to you but here is the super cliff notes version)
I went back to my community and said my good byes. Though it was very difficult, I was happy to see the impact that my presence had made in the community in such short time. I left everything, my projects, some clothes, my Princess, my Caramelo, and all the friends I had made in hopes that I would be able to come back one day (soon) and share all of this with my baby, with Peter, and with my friends and family.

What took 1 year and 6 months to apply and get accepted into, took one afternoon to close. I was Medically Seperated from the Peace Corps. Trying to get home was also a lot more difficult than I would have liked. Its almost as if Panama didn't want to let me leave. My 7am flight got delayed and then when we finally did take off at 8am, we made a U-turn 30 minutes into the flight due to smoke in the cock pit. Fortunately, we made it back to Panama safely but not without a little bit of a scare. We spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon in the airport just waiting and finally got onto the 3pm flight, which didn't leave till 4:30pm due to complications and bad weather. At around 8:45pm I was walking out of immigration in MIA where I saw Peter, Manuela, and Snoopy waiting there! Soooo exciting!

Once here in Miami, we told his grandmothers, some other friends, and the rest of our families that didn't know the news.

Then Peter surpised me with a Trip to Puerto Rico where we spent 3 days talking, tanning, and thinking about all the changes that were coming our way. To my uber surprise, Peter's real intentions for the trip were revealed on thrusday evening when we were horseback riding along the beach. He got off his horse, came around to mine and asked me to MARRY HIM as he opened a little white box with a beautiful DIMOND RING IN IT!! Just out of a fairy tale!
The trip ended with a visit to Ponce where I got to see one of my Best Friends, Leilani.

Upon our arrival back in Miami, the surprises continued. His parents and mine had but together an engagement dinner for us. They invited all our friends and family members. It was awesome.

Soooo Here I am...16 days since I found out that my life was going to change completely. I still have a lot of questions yet I'm not as scared as I was in the Doctor's office that Friday evening. I know that I'm surround by more love and support than anyone could ever dream of. I love Peter and I know he loves me too! Our story begins now.
I am so greatful for everyone in my life and all the experiences that have shaped me into who I am right now.
This might be one of the last Blog entries for "Life is Calling...". However stay tuned, because the writing of my first book has officially begun. Its a dream I have had since I can remember.
Thank you all for following my blog throughout this time. I loved sharing this experience with all of you. I've kind of become addicted to blogging though so I can assure you that it will continue in some way. If you have any questions or comments, please email me.
Hope you all have a great week...
Pictures of this last blog entry will be posted up soon.

Friday, August 7, 2009


From Santana: Month 2

I saw MADAGASCAR at the school in los Torretos with some of the kids from my community and neighboring communities. Funny thing is that there was a point in the movie where i was the only one watching...their attention span is VERY limited.
From Santana: Month 2

Yanira and I (mainly Yanira) have been working on some flower clips to sell in Town. We got our first buyer the other was a small order but its a start: 1 dozen flowers. Some other people we have talked to have expressed interest in purchasing some too! Im really excited to she how our project works out.
From Santana: Month 2

Lastly, yesterday was MONUMENTAL! I found a little refridgerator at a Pawn shop in Las Tablas and a little toaster oven. I know you may can this girl afford a fridge on a volunteer budget. Truth is, I can´t. I have to be very careful the rest of the month to spend only the NECCESSARY so that i can make it. But the DEAL was great and it is necessary! Imagine living 2 years without 1 cold cup of water...
From Santana: Month 2

An I made an improvised version of Pizza to test the new toaster oven!!!!!

From Santana: Month 2

I´m in the City today because I have a doctor´s appointment AND I have to pick up a very important package at the Airport at 6:30pm...DADDY´s Coming! I´m so excited for him to see Panama, where I´m living, what I´m doing, how I travel, Caramelo, and Princesa!

Other than the little update on this past week, I wanted to give a little inside scoop as to what has been going on in my little head today:

On the bus ride over here I was reading a note that Peter wrote me a while ago. Part of it said: ¨Few of us will find the freedom in ourlives to give 2 years to help the world become a little better.¨ But I started wondering... am i really making the world a little better? I have barely been able to help the few people that I have met in Santana. I think that few people find the freedom in their lives to help themselves become a little better equipt to deal with the world. I´m not even sure that 2 years is enough but I know that it will help. Everyday I question myself and I am tested. People push my limits and I push other people´s too. I actually feel as if I am living my Inter-cultural communications class from UF(sophomore or junior year), live. One thing is to think you understand the differences that exist in culutres and know the terminology: assumptions, perceptions, underlying beleifs, superficial actions... Another thing is to detect all these in daily interactions and work with them successfully.

This reminds me of something a friend, Kecia, at UF once told me when we were talking about finding the right guy. ¨Don´t worry about finding the right guy, what we need to do now is work on being the RIGHT girl so when our time comes around...He´ll find us!¨ A truely wise friend! This also can apply to other things. We don´t have the power to make the world change...however, we can work on changing ourselves and making ourselves be the kind of people that others would want to share this world with. Like that quote says...BE THE CHANGE that you want to see in the world.

I hope you are all doing great. I miss you all! Have a great weekend...I know I am!

By the way...My dad is running the Panama City Half Marathon on Sunday morning. I´ll be scoping the field to see who my competition is for next year.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Entering Month 2 of Service!

Shiv, Bob, and Bonnie’s visit was great. They loved my community and saw a lot of potential in the Teja Project I’ve been working on. Teaching the members of the community, that are interested, is going to be a lot harder than I thought!
They in introduced me to Ilka, a woman in Guarare who has an artisan group. She offered me a stand at the Festival de la Mejorana to sell the tiles! I need to get to work fast! Since their visit, I’ve painted 2 more tiles, which isn’t too good.
With Yanira, my host, we have been working on Flowered clips for women and girls. With a glue gun that doesn’t work , it’s been a little more challenging , but we have made about 10 . Today in town we are going around seeing if any stores are interested. This is going to be a little harder than we thought, but I know we sell them!
This past weekend, on Saturday ,a group of us hiked to Canajagua, the next community from us, up the hill. It was beautiful. Half and hour into the hike, we bumped into a family of wild monkeys! Soooo cute! We were careful though, cause we didn’t want them peeing on us or throwing their poopoo at us either! Our next stop was at Justa’s house. Justa is a 93 year old woman who can still see , and still braids the strings for making Hats!! He was so funny. She never leaves her house anymore but has an incredible view from her porch and says that has everything she needs. I hope to go back soon and talk to her more…I wanna know more about what she has seen and done in those 93 years of life!
Almost 2 hours from when we started, we walked through the town of Canajagua. If you looked down or blinked, you would miss it for sure. There were a couple towers- news tower, a tiny school, and about 7-8 houses. We were going to visit a family that lived just down the hill from Canajagua. We finally got there a half hour later. The view from the house was incredible. There we saw a couple of the other kids from our community that were visiting their grandparents. We ate papaya and oranges there and I took a knap. A little later, Chino, the Uncle, came back to the house from planting rice. He makes hats! He showed yanira and I how to do it. We were so excited that we invited him to teach us in Santana next weekend! I would love to make my own hat! Can you imagine. If any of you guys want one, LET ME KNOW!
The hike back to the house took a little longer since we took a different route and stopped at an Agro tourism farm. The farm had a little bit of every crop, a swing set, and a fish tank! It was really nice. I do hope that I can help them out with some areas that their farm needs improvement on! Finally we made it back before night fall.
Sunday worked with Ricardo and one of the girls, Kirian , setting up the pipes to fill the fish tanks with water. Hopefully they will fill up fast so I can go get the fish seeds and start growing some fish!!!

Yesterday was 1 month since my arrival in Santana! Can you believe it! In the morning I planted a pineapple near the site where my house is going to be! Maybe once I move in, I can eat a pineapple!

Saturday was 26 months with Peter!
I Love you!
My dad is coming on Friday to run the PanamaCity Half Marathon and visit me!