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.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed in the things you didn't do than the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

-Mark Twain

I read this quote on another volunteer´s blog and I really liked it. Next week I will be sailing away from the safe harbor of new friends and familiar places to catch the trade winds around Santana. There is so much to explore, so many dreams to fortify and realize, and endless treasures to discover. I hope that in twenty years, the tears that are rolling down my face will be ones joy for having risked everything and at the same time gained more than I can ever imagine. Experiences in our lives are as ¨once in a lifetime¨as we make them...I plan on soaking in this entire adventure.


A week ago I was in El Farallon at a seminar where I met my community counterpart, Yanira Velazquez Rodriguez. She picked me out of the crowd because she had been told that her volunteer was wearing a boot.

After the 2 day seminar, Yanira and I left to Santana. I wasn´t feeling well and I was nervous. I had all these questions running through my head: What if I don´t like my community? What if the people don´t really like me? What if I don´t feel safe? Before getting to my site, my host stopped in Las Tablas to get groceries. I walked in and out of every isle. As i went through, my unhappy feelings started to fade away as I salivated over all the varieties or fruits, cerals, house products, school supplies, books, cheeses, and shampoos they had. I knew I was off to a good start: AT LEAST THERE WAS GOOD FOOD NEARBY!
When I got to the site...this sign welcomed me:
My new entourage:

I talked with the Yanira´s parents, nephews, nieces, brothers and sisters (who are the bulk of my community...hahaha plus a few others to add up to a grand total of 45 people in 17 houses). I was a bit overwelmed being surrounded by so many people who looked at me with eyes full of curiosity, hope, and sheer astonishment. They did not understand why I would come visit them, why i would come live with them, and help them.

They asked me questions like how far NY was from my house? How I looked so American if my parents were Colombian? If I had cattle in Miami? How many famous people I knew?
They are all really exctied to teach me things, words that they use (like gueguerro for throat---which they get a kick out of hearing me say), but most especially, learning...learning english, learning new agriculture techniques, learning about American Culture, learning about our food, learning how to draw and paint, learning how to make themsleves marketable, and learning how to work together.

At times, I felt like I was in Peace Corps Commercial. I got asked all the questions that the training staff warned we would be asked. Though there is no right or wrong answer...but I felt ready for all of their questions. The more I answered them, the more I really started beliving that I could really be a change agent in their community. I started noticing the potential for projects this community had. I saw how my sole presence in the community brought an aire of excitement, motivation, and encouragement to the few people I got to meet. The rummor mill ran fast around my area. I had invitations by the 3rd day to work in nearby towns.
All the families i met in the week i was there, openned their doors to me with hugs and kisses. They talked about how much they are going to miss me when I leave in 2 years....I kepted thinking...I JUST MET THEM,lol.
I felt important everytime I was introduced to someone new, not because I was an ¨extranjera¨, but because to them I was la Licenciada Valeria Rodriguez, or la Biologa Rodriguez. A college degree that didn´t really feel like a big deal when I recieved it a couple months ago is now what identifies me in this community as someone who has achieved the impossible.

The grandfather, Benigno, sat to dinner with me the last night I was in Santana. As he looked over at me, shyly he said: I would have never imagined that in my lifetime I would find myself eating with ¨an americana¨ in the house I made with my own hands, on the land that my father and grandfather both worked and loved.
I didn´t know what to say. I need them as much or maybe even more than they need me. By helping them build themsleves up, Im going to be able to build myself stronger too. This experience isn´t going to be easy, [especially with terrencial rains, not the optimal commodities, and an inconsistent workforce], but as I looked around Santana I knew that I got off to the right start. I am going to be surrounded by good loving people.

I can´t wait to get back on July 3rd and start the contruction of my NEW HOME! It is going to be very small because i´m on a small budget but it will be mine and it will have 2 spectacular views, and it will be welcoming. Plans are to make it with Penca roof, and 4x8 fibrocement slabs. The goal is to have the home done in these next 2 months!!

I learned how to make cheese with Freddy

Im gonna call him Chandis (nickname). I met him the first day I got to my site. I havn´t been able to touch him YET cause he is fully of flies and ticks. But I already got him puppy food, medicine, and a shampoo. When I get back in a couple days, Im gonna take him into the vet´s office to get some shots and a check up! I wanted to buy a dog, but Chandis is already in Santana´s streets and needs love....which is exactly what he is going to get! and food, and showers, and a warm cozy bed, and more love!!!
Dear Snoopy,
I miss u and love you!!!...but Chandoso isn´t as lucky as you.
He doesnt sleep in a warm bed everynight and eat good pedigree
canned food mixed with the hard dog food. He is lucky if he gets some
rice scraps. He will never replace you in my heart snoopy...I promise.
LOVE YOUUUU...pórtate bien!
In other news, our Swear-in Ceremony was moved to this FRIDAY! I will offically be a PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEER!!!
Can you believe I have been living in Panama for 9 weeks?


  1. Your site sounds so cool! It must be a great feeling of everyone being excited and hopeful of what you may help them do. As things become more normal (you will soon be used to living in a wood house and talking that Panamanian slang), it will be nice to think back on this time for ideas or inspiration or just as a reminder of why you are there, and how much you will do for them, even if it is not all tangible.

    See you in September!!!!!!

  2. valeria....those puppies are awesome!!!!!! they are adorable!!! I really liked all your pictures!

    I love you and miss you

  3. Valeria....even thought i've been a bad friend and havent called, i've been catching up on ur blog. Ur site sounds cool and the community is very lucky to have u. I will call this week. Promise!

    love u and miss u!

  4. hi, I imagine you know who I am ... I just wanted to say that everyone in Santa Ana we are very happy that you are with us and hope you come back as soon as possible ... because we miss you much jiji, I hope you liked the Haig first week here and when you do come back again with cheese "freddy" jeje .. well, that's it ... see you soon and that a good time ... God bless you ...