I´ll start by saying that Princessa in doing all better. She has been chasing chickens since last Monday. Right now she´s starting to put on some of the weight that she lost during the week that she was sick.
Update on the construction of my house: none...other than we moved some of the pieces of wood, that we cut a couple weeks ago, over from Tin´s house to the area in front of where my house will be. It took 8 men, 3 horses, and me to move these 8 pieces of wood 2.5km. The heaviest pieces are still over there and the forecast doesn´t look promising for moving the other wooden logs any time soon. The road to Tin's house is almost inaccessible through any vehicle anytime it rains...even if it is only for a couple minutes. All I can do is wait and see what happens.
Last Sunday was the begining of the Santa Librada Festivities. Santa Librada is the patron Saint of Las Tablas. The festivites are a week long and they include everything from Processions with the statue to bull fights and pollera contests. I was there for the start of the Festivities. I went with a couple people from my community. Shorty after our arrival in town, a parade started led by people of all ages dressed in the tipico attire and dancing to tipico music. That part was followed by a parade of horses with the Reina de la Pollera on the lead horse. After the procession, most of the community scattered from the main street to all the little stands that were around selling cutaras (leather, handmade sandlas), sombreros, keychains, hamburgers, hotdogs (in every form), smoothies, pinchos, cotton candy, popcorn, and mariquitas (just to name a few). Curiosity got me a backstage pass into one of the little cafès to learn how to make carimanolas...a meat empanada made with yucca instead of maize. I ended up helping the cooks in the back put together about 80 in about a half hour. I was sweating back there but I enjoyed the experience. The people in the kitchen also got a kick out of seeing me help them make them.
I caught up with the rest of the group at the Park in the middle of the Plaza and spent the rest of the evening walking around and looking around at all the different kinds of things that were to see, taking in all the smells, and all the music. The procession with the saint started at around 8pm and ended around 11pm. Once the procession was over, we headed back to the comunity, a couple pounds heavier from all the food, with an authentic panamanian sombrero, and sore feet.
Last Monday was Colombia`s Independence day! I didn´t do anything special to celebrate but I did got to the school in Los Toretos, a community nearby where some of the students from Santana attend. It was one of the best days I had had til that point. The school has 2 rooms, a little kitchen, 1 teacher, and 6 students. There are only 3 grades taught: 1&2 together and 6th. My plans were to observe the class but I ended up teaching that same day an english class and a computer class.
Last Tuesday I went into the city for a dentist appointment. It took forever to get there and I saw the dentist for a couple minutes and was free the rest of the day. I ran some errands at the Peace Crops office and then met up with Mark ( who had just gotten in from Vegas) for dinner at Beirut…delicious Lebanese food that I had been craving. After dinner he gave me a bag that my parents had sent me a couple weeks ago with SO MUCH COOL STUFF!!! My favorite part were the sour worms! Once again I stayed at Costa Azul and thoroughly enjoyed the big bed, pillows, HOT shower, and AC. I must admit though that the AC got me a little sick since I´m not used to it anymore.
When I got back the next day to my community, I went straight to work. With Ricardo and some kids in the community, we planted cucumbers. It went by pretty quick cause I just pointed to the holes and the kids planted the seeds.
The next day, some MIDA (Miniserio de desarollo agropequario) workers came by to meet me and offer their services. They told me that they were willing to help me and the community with whatever projects they could.
After they left, I painted the first 3 roof tiles. One of my ideas for the community is to paint old broken roof tiles with TIPICO things like cattle, horses, maize, corn, polleras to then sell at the festivals in Guarare and las Tablas. I drew a couple samples. We will see how this project goes. If nothing else, I know I will enjoy doing it…haha.
Friday we did the first fundraising activity with the community. It was a lot of work to make and sell those tamales. Walking door to door was not easy…especially since the tamales were only sold for a QUARTER. I still cant believe it. That day we made 90, sold all of them but got paid for less than half...that´s how they do business here! RIDICULOUS. We had a meeting that night after the last tamales were sold. There I started to see why working in these kinds of communities is SO HARD. Some of the people there, mainly one actually, was under the impression that I was going to organize this group so that at the end of the year they could divide the money raised amongst all the people who participate and are part of the group. I told them that the money raised SHOULD be used to invest in things that can bring the group more INCOME not disperse it and loose it all. That meeting ended and I was a little sadden by the reality of the situation.
Saturday I went to a Cavalgata (a horse parade) in another community. I went with the grandfather of my community. It was about 1.5 hours away and the parade/procession was (in honor of Santiago the apostle) was about 15minutes…ahaha. It was followed by a Catholic Mass. The priest was harsh on the community. He called out people left and right for things they were doing wrong, but I thought his homily was great. Shortly after the priest gave his final blessing, we left back to Santana and brought back some star fruit, words of wisdom and a sore tushy.
Sunday there was a Junta de arroz…a party for planning rice. It took all morning! There were men showing up from all over the area to help Algis plant his rice. The men were all surprised that I was able to withstand the heat and work with them out in the field. It is hard work, like I said before. To top it off, my hand started swelling cause I got bitten by two crazy ants! The men had a bottle of SECO-tequilla, which they suggested I put on my hand to make it better..lol. My hand is still swollen now.
When the junta was over, all I wanted to do was take a nice long shower…BUT OF COURSE there was NO WATER when we got back to the house. Yanira and the girls decided to go to the creek to shower…we took Princesa to shower too…she didn´t like it much..ahaha. The creek was no deeper than my shin, and full of little fishes, shrimp, and sardines that were nibbling at my feet (a little annoying).
Instead of crashing to sleep all afternoon, which is what I wanted to do, I sucked up my exhaustion and went over with Yanira to the store, tienda that she owns. We started re-organizing and cleaning all the merchandise. While doing that we discussed possible changes to improve the store, sales, and decrease the debt . All the kids in the community helped which was nice. At the end of the day, you could already see the envornment of the store changing to a more professional one!
Not everything was peachy in the environment though... Later that evening, some of the members of the community voiced their opinion of how they didn´t want to be a part of the group I was organizing because they didn´t agree with they way things were being done. They told me that I needed to adjust and understand how they did business here. The convo quickly escalated and some kids even got involved saying that they had formed their own group with Ricardo (my host´s husband) to show me and the other adults how to run a group properly. That really hurt because At no point have my intentions been to do anything but try to help these people and here they were telling me that they didn´t want or need my help. I couldn´t help the tears that were ready to erupt from within me. I excused myself and left as fast as I could. As I walked to Yanira´s house, I felt more alone, frustrated, and discouraged than ever. The PC warned up that our work was going to be hard….but I didn´t believe them until then. It´s very hard to hear or feel as if your working towards something that the people who are benefiting from it don´t even appreciate or even want.
I later calmed down and went to bed knowing that Monday would bring a new week and an new day!
I decided that I am gonna let the community organization go for a little and try to do things with people one on one. Maybe later they will realize that if they work in a GROUP they can accomplish more….but then again, HOW do you teach people to work together when they just DON´T want to?
Yesterday I went back to the school to teach English and Computer class again. There I used the computer to write a letter to the representative for help with the projects that I have in mind for the information center (that some members of the community say is impossible to get). I also wrote to the MIDA officers who came to visit, requesting some seeds for different members of the community.
Some exciting news: Shiv( TEA volunteer in Guarare), Bonnie(ex-volunteer, owner of the bed ´n breakfast in El puerto), and Riego (Head of tourism organization in Guarare), from Guarare are interested in doing tourism projects with Santana. They want to come this week to meet with me and some members of the community and see what potential the community had for these kinds of agro-tourism.
On the emotional front, I find myself crying and getting emotional over the smallest things...what can I say...I GET INVOLVED...I let things get to me. So the way I see it, I have two choices now: Toughen up or operate on my tear ducts...haha. There have been some really low lows....but this is a new week and already some things are falling into place. baby steps.... It´s all part of the process.
I miss my family and friends, and Peter very much!
Birthday shout outs to Ricardo Cabrera and Bruno Ocampo.