Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Site visit

I´m just back in the capital after a week visiting Bahia Azul, the community that I´ll be calling home for the next two years and it was just great. All of the Environmental Health trainees from our group went to a town a few hours west of here to meet with our ¨counterparts,¨ or sponsors from our communities. After an evening and morning of sessions to get them aquainted with us and the ways Peace Corps a group of us headed out together across the country to the Bocas Del Toro region. The bus ride across the Cordillera Central always provides magnificent views which the guys from the communities seemed to enjoy as much as we did. At Chiriqui Grande my counterpart and I split from the rest of the group and caught a boat for the two hour ride out to Bahia Azul. As required by tradition I´d been given a Ngäbe nickname, so as we approaced and the men gathered at the dock hollered out to me, "Mä ka ño?" (What´s your name?), my response "Tolichi" brought huge smiles and echos of "Tolichi ! Tolichi !" Variations on this were repeated throughout the week as I went about the town meeting people and visiting their homes. Everyone in the community is Ngäbe, and they speak Ngäbere almost all the time among themselves, but nearly everyone seemed to easily switch to Spanish to talk to me or to include me in a conversation. Their was a meeting Sunday where I was formally presented to the community and so I gave the short speech in Ngäbere that I´d been practicing, and then talked for a while in Spanish about Peace Corps, my idea of my role in the community and some general ideas about water and sanitation projects. Everyone was very receptive and they have already have some ideas for what they want to accomplish, some that are definitely more realistic than others, but I´ll share more about all of that in a later post as I settle in and start the work of community analysis and "Proyecto Amistad."

Overall it was just a great week. The setting is really remarkably beautiful. Bahía Azul is a deep and narrow bay at the end of a long peninsula that juts out into the Carribean Sea. The steep hills rising from the crysalline waters of the bay are covered in dense and lush tropical forest. The community of sixty or so houses is built around a central community area that includes the school and ball field, a health center and the town´s one tiny store. The small wooden house I´ll be living in for the next few months is built on a dock extending out from the shore and is the home of a delightful couple who made me feel immediately at home. I shot a few photos from the kitchen windows one morning, including the one that shows the clever reuse of a section of an old canoe for the kitchen sink. Aside from visiting around the community I got involved in some group work days, and learned to tie penca, the palm leaf that is used to thatch roofs here. There is no electric power in town so when the sun goes down everything gets very tranquilo, lit only by kerosene lantern, and it was easy for me to turn in early and fall asleep to the sound of the waves lapping up on the shore literally under my room. I definitely felt like I could get use to living there.

Two weeks back in the training site to finish things up and then Swear-in, and the final move to site. More details to come.
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