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In the "Cult of Escapism"

In the "Cult of Escapism": August 2010

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Diece Cinco

One week down and I´m back in the mall at an internet cafe.  Today was our ´¨Panama City Adventure¨ but there was nothing adventerous about it so im going to talk about other stuff instead.

I moved in with my host family exactly one week ago.  There are (most of the time) five people, two dogs and fifty chickens living in the vicinity of the house.  I am lucky because I have running water, and indoor bathroom, and a host mother who cooks fairly balanced meals.  Many of the other trainees are only getting rice, bread, a tiny bit of meat, and then rice. Im getting something more like rice, meat, some fruit, and lots of rice. 

Besides the fortunate food situation, I also have an excellent host family.  The father is extremely chill, spending most of his time in front of the TV.  Last Sunday, as a warm up to living in the house and to speaking Spanish, I watched the Yankees game with my host father and asked lots of baseball related questions.  Their son is also very relaxed, he is 15 and mostly just interested in being a teenager.  When I talk to him, it´s mostly about how much things cost in the US and what kinds of cars and computers people have.  My host mother´s mom also lives with us; I dont talk to her much because she is difficult to understand, but the other day I watched her sharpen a machete with another machete so Im never going to mess with her.  The ¨daughter¨ is actually my host mother´s granddaughter, who lives in the house during the week.  She is really cute but insane and spends 100% of her time either: doing homework, sleeping, running and laughing (never one without the other), or hysterically crying. She is a lot of fun.  However, I spend most of my time talking to my host mother, because she is most patient and hangs out a lot on the porch, where there is a hammock I have become particularly attached to.

It turns out our training is actually Spanish all day Mondays and Wednesdays and Technical training Tuesdays and Thursdays. The weekends vary from week to week.  My Spanish class is great, since it is four people (including me) and is conducted on someones porch.  If anyone has the opportunity to learn a language on a porch I highly recommend it. Also, any class that does not have any reading or writing assignments is ok in my book.  We bascially spend the whole day talking and writing down vocabulary words.  Then when I get home, I talk with my host family so my spoken Spanish is improving dramatically.

Next week, we are all being split up and sent around the country to visit active volunteers.  I am going to the mountains of the Comarca region in the northwest. The temperature at 3,000 feet will be a welcome change from the 24/7 sweat-a-thon I have been participating in since I arrived in Panama.  However, since we rarely leave the village (which has no internet) and the trip will occupy all of next weekend, I probably will not blog for a while after this. 

By the way, the rice, bean, and plantain count has been demoted to the rice count.

Rice count: 700 pounds

Also by the way, the title of this post refers to yesterday, when I referred to fifteen as diece cinco (instead of quince) and my host family gave me grief the rest of the night. 

                                                      The best classroom of my life.

                                                                   One of 50+ chickens. 

Juleisy (little girl, left), Clementina (host mom), and Abuela (she is otherwise nameless and thereby all the more terrifying).  Also, my hammock.

Da Casa.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


   I'm feeling a little lazy in terms of blogging (we woke up at 5:00am - it was still dark), so this will be short, but there are some pictures posted below. We went to an active PC site and spoke with the volunteer there about her economic projects, teaching computer skills, and her overall lifestyle.  

   It was very interesting, but my favorite part were the tamboritos (little drums) that the villagers used to welcome us.  For those who don't know, I play the drums and have been harboring a fantasy that I will be able to play tribal drums with the locals in my village.  I got a taste today, as you can see below.

A PC trainee dancing with a local woman.

Me jamming with the locals.  

               This country is beautiful, here's a view from the village today.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Pistons Poppin,' Ain't No Stoppin' Now

   Wheels down, bags out, training on.  We touched down in Panama City yesterday and are now living it up in the Ciudad del Saber (City of Knowledge*).  The next few days are nicknamed "retreat week" because we get to live in an old military housing compound with furniture, wireless internet and AIRCON. Alas, these luxuries will be short lived - we are moving in with our host families on Monday, at which point I will stumble my way through learning to speak comprehensible Spanish and no doubt consume at least 700 pounds of rice and beans per week.

     Our training schedule is very structured and very busy, with four hours of language training in the morning (we are broken up into small groups with peers of similar skill levels) and four hours of technical training in the afternoon.  Evenings we are encouraged to spend mostly with our host families, to better learn the language and culture (rather than hang out with fellow trainees).  I will probably do this, given the dreadful state of my Spanish.

   Saturday we visit an active Peace Corps site, which should be awesome.  Will update when there are more interesting things to talk about (i.e. host family, the actual training, etc.)

   By the way, I have been here only one day and so far consumed four plantains, six pounds of rice, and listened to the song "Panama" seven times.  I have decided to keep track and update the count each time I blog - this should serve to give everyone an idea of our diet and of my strange obsession with a mediocre song.

Panama Count: 7
Plantain Count: 4
Pounds of Rice and Beans: 6

*I didn't know you were allowed to give cities names this cool.  If I ever name a city, it will be something along the lines of, "City of Everlasting Virtue," or "City of Pizza."  I want any comments on this post to be exclusively suggestions of awesome city names.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

El Principio

In six days, I head south for what promises to be at least an adventure and most likely a life changing experience.  This first post is the "testing, one, two" of blog posts and I hope it is audible because this blog will serve as my primary form of communication with most of you.  So ease the seat back and mark this url under your Favorites for future reference.  

PS - These posts are likely to be rife with lyrical, musical, and general cultural references, so keep an encyclopedia handy and a youtube tab at the ready.  And if I say something strange, it's probably just a quote from a song.