Guest Post 1 By Courtney (Peace Corps Volunteer in Panama)

In a previous post, I introduced you to Courtney, who is a Peace Corps Volunteer in Panama. I thought her experiences might be of interest to others and asked Courtney to consider being a guest author on Chiriquí Chatter. Here is Courtney’s first contribution. Let Courtney know that you appreciate her sharing her experience with us. I will start by saying a big “THANK YOU” Courtney, to you and all of the other Peace Corps Volunteers serving Panama and the rest of the world.

Thank you all so much for the responses that you posted and for the support that you are offering to both myself and all of the Peace Corps Volunteers here in Chiriquí. Don Ray has invited me to be a guest author on Chiriquí Chatter. Although I will not be able to write as often as I might like due to my lack of computer access, I will try to give periodic updates on my Peace Corps experience for anyone who is interested. I will also report information on my work and what support you all might be able to offer if you are interested. I hope to share the Chiriquí Chatter information with other Chiriquí volunteers when we have a regional meeting in early June. Much thanks to Don Ray for giving me this opportunity!

So today I will give you a little taste of my life in the “campo.” There are so many things that I could share but I will start with a few “facts of life” that I have learned so far.
1. The greatest curiosities that my community members have about the new “gringa” (that’s me) are as follows:

a. What foods I eat
¿Come de todo? ¿Lentejas, arroz, tortilla, yuca, pollo?
b. My current (and former ) relationship status
Are you married? Do you have a boyfriend? Are you going to stay in Panama and marry someone here? Have you ever been married? ¿Have you seen anyone in the community who you like…?
c. The explanation for why I walk so much and so fast
This is a curiosity that is also shared by my fellow gringos…i.e. it is not unique to Panamanians. I walk all over my community to “pasear” (the Spanish verb that basically means “to visit”). I also sometimes like to walk to just de-stress and be alone for a moment. This is weird…the only reason to walk is if you are going somewhere. Walking for any other reason is just plain loco. And let me explain the fast part…I am tall, very tall…and I have long legs that carry me “rapidito” from place to place…

2. Being a gordita is good thing…my community is determined to fatten me up. It is their mission for the next 2 years.
3. Everyone raises chickens and this is a favorite topic of conversation. I have purchased 3 chickens that I am taking care of with the help of my host family to make a meal when my parents come to visit in June.
4. The harvest is also a favorite conversation topic. This makes sense since one’s own harvest is an important food sources for the family.
5. You can fry anything…
6. If you don’t eat rice with the meal, it’s as if you have not eaten at all…
7. You can never have too many cartuchos (plastic grocery bags) and you should never carry anything in your hand. You should always carry things in a cartucho.
8. Spanish conversation is difficult. There are lots of words that don’t exist in the dictionary but do exist in the vocabulary of rural Panamanians.
9. Patience is key…a meeting scheduled for 9:00am will start at 11:00am…if you are lucky. Accordingly, scheduling 2 activities for one day is a BIG no-no if you actually plan to attend the second activity.
10. And lastly, cell phones should always be answered. If you are using the latrine then a family member will answer your phone and then send a small child to search for you so that you can talk. True story…I know from experience.

All joking aside though, I would also like to add that my experience in my community so far has been amazing! The people have really opened their homes and lives to me and for this I am very grateful. My host family treats me like a daughter and a sister. This has made my transition to life in Panama so much more pleasant than it would have been otherwise.

Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed this little taste of daily PC life. Thanks for reading and I will give you more information on my projects next time. Thanks again for your help and interest!

Note: The contents of this post are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. Government or the Peace Corps.

Provincia de Chiriquí

4 thoughts on “Guest Post 1 By Courtney (Peace Corps Volunteer in Panama)

  1. Courtney,
    I was a PCV in Honduras in 1974 (I’m ancient) and regard it among the best periods of my life experience. Memories from those days have impacted how I think today, my career choices, and where I ended up. There were some wonderful times and some very sad times, but never any dull times. You will be so much richer for the journey. Just an FYI—other than mention of cell phones and internet, your comments took me back three decades to my first year as a public health nurse in the campo. I’ll be waiting to hear more about your discoveries and challenges.

  2. Courtney:

    You have cell phone service? Hmmmm, too bad we don’t enjoy that every where in the United States.

    Enjoyed your commentary. Will look forward to hearing more.

  3. Courtney,

    Your commentary reminded me of my first stay in Panama. Look forward to future posts.

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