Saturday, June 26, 2010

Remember how I promised you all I wouldnt go to the Darien? So about that...

I realize its been forever but life is pretty crazy up in here. But my big news is I am going to the Darien for two years! It is the most badass province in Panama, and I am going to be so hard core when I get out. No one should worry though. The place where I live is entirely FARC free, and I live several hours this side of the security line. Also where I live has been deforested to some degree, so though its jungly, its not the impenatrable, triple canopy jungle that the Darien is famous for.

My site is named La Candelilla, which is the word for fire ant and is also, as fate would have it, a nickname for a red head. I spent last week there, and I have to say. At first I was intimidated because it is really way the heck out there in the middle of nowhere, and as very few fruit trees. My main project is planting rice in a traditional manner using green manures. But the people are AMAZING. They are really warm and welcoming and i absolutely love them. I spent the week pasearing, eating bowl after bowl of rice, and washing out pig intestines in the creek. The same one I swim in, incidentally. My people find my gringo ways hilarious, and Im happy to provide entertainment. They taught me how to salomar, which is a sort of a yodel cry, that you do while youre riding your horse around the mountains. I dont have the ending quite right, but Im working on it. I would be happy to demonstrate over the phone if you call me. One day we got stuck in an agua cerro, and after fording several freshly sprung rivers on our horses, we were stranded at teh big flooding creek and had to wait 3 hours for teh water to receed enough to stop. We sat on teh bank, completely soaking wet, and salomared the whole time.

Getting to my site is pretty hard core. From Santa Fe, teh nearest place with stuff like electricity, you have to take a chiva to Cucunati, the BIG TOWN. Of 600 people. No electricity or anything. The chiva drives this crazy muddy rocky road that drives thorugh 4 creeks and one large river, so its impassable when it rains, which is most of the time. Then from Cucunati, you start walking for about an hour and a half or so into teh mountains, fording several other creeks and mud like you might not believe. And then you get to down town Candelilla, which is composed of about 7 houses and 2 churches and a school. Its absolutely beautiful. All teh others going to teh Darien are supoer cool people, and a good friend of mine has a site only about an hour hike away, so that will be fun. Hes got a good waterfall at his site, wehich I am looking forward to. And im hoping that since hes upstream the quebrada funk will pervade my clothing and hair less. Though I am resigned to smelling like a dead foot for teh next two years. All week I bathed and washed my clothes in the creek and came out smelling horrendous. So horrendous in fact that when I boarded the bus at the end of the week, the bus driver spritzed air freshener after me when I got on. Anyway, its going to be intnse and I definitely got a hard core site, but i am super excited and i think the community is amazing. And if any of you want to vacation in teh most badass jungle in teh western hemisphere, hit me up.

Yesterday was our swear in ceremony, so now i am oficially a volunteer. We have lost three asSASsins from our ranks, sadly. But 15 of us are pressing on. The panamanian vice president and first lady were there, and we made the news. I am sending you a newspaper clipping, grandma. I spent most of the time by the food table. After the ceremony we explored Casco Viejo, which is a really beautiful area of Panama city that is nothing like the panama i have seen so far. Its like a tropical run down european city. Its feels like a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel. We walked by the sea, had some ginger ice cream, good food, enjoyed the beautiful, and then had dinner and went dancing, which i usually dont enjoy but in this case was fun. I busted out my slick hip hop moves. It was nice to have a break from the endless tipico dancing...

One high light of a few weeks ago. We had a day off and we went to the beach and it was a gorgeous beach with hammer head sharks washed up on it, which was pretty fascinating. And I was sitting there with two great friends, under a palm thatch hut, looking out at this sparkling blue water, sipping an ice cold, sweet, fresh pina colada and eating spicey limey fresh caught ceviche, and it was one of the most enjoyable moments of my life. If you come visit I will take you there.

Anyway, things are wrapping up here. We have a big party for our host families in Santa Clara tomorrow, and we leave for good on monday.

Love to you all! It will probably be awhile until you hear from me again, but think of me soaked in rain and tromping through mud learning to gallop on my horse through the mountains and jungles of the Darien with La Viuda Negra at my side....