Confessions of an Undercover Gringa


…And the award for worst blogger EVER goes to…

Well I’m sure there’s someone that’s worst at keeping up with their blog, but I’m probably pretty high on the list. So..since the last time I blogged in August of last year so much has happened…let me catch you up….

1) August 18th Arrived in Panama as an official Peace Corps Trainee (PCT) bright-eyed and bushy-tailed

2) Training

3) October 28th 2010 completed training (language, technical, volunteer visits, tech week, site announcements/visits) and was sworn in as an official Peace Corps Volunteer at the US Ambassador’s house and President Martinelli was there

4) November 1st 2010 reported to my site for my first official day of PC service…whoo hoo the countdown finally begins! My site is a little Ngabe (Indigenous) community of about 300 people in the beautiful province of Bocas del Toro

5) November 1, 2010 - January 31, 2011 worked on community analysis and lived with two different host families learning and experiencing Ngabe culture first hand

6) February 7th officially spent my first night in my own house (I’m renting from a guy in my community for $15/mo..yes, $15)

7) February 9th first presentation of community analysis to my community in a meeting with my APCD (boss)

8) March 28- April 1st 2011 In service training and reconnect for EH group 66

I’m not sure why it’s been so hard for me to blog, I have to blame it on shear laziness..I’m suffering from extreme pereza…I have plenty of chances to use internet and plenty things to say, so this is an apology to all my friends and family and I promise I will do better :)

Answers to my most frequently asked questions: You don’t even need to ask because someone else already has…

• What is Peace Corps?

The Peace Corps traces its roots and mission to 1960, when then Senator John F. Kennedy challenged students at the University of Michigan to serve their country in the cause of peace by living and working in developing countries. From that inspiration grew an agency of the federal government devoted to world peace and friendship. Since that time, 200,000+ Peace Corps Volunteers have been invited to serve in 139 host countries to work on issues ranging from AIDS education to information technology and environmental preservation.

• Where is Panama?
Panama is located on the narrowest and lowest part of Central America. This S-shaped part of the isthmus is slightly smaller than South Carolina, approximately 77,082 square kilometers. Panama has two coastlines, the Caribbean Sea to the north and Pacific Ocean to the south, and borders Colombia to the east and Costa Rica to the west. The country is divided into nine provinces, plus the Comarca de San Blas with over 350 islands, Comarca Embara-Wounaan, and the Comarca Ngabe-Bugle.

• What are you doing in Panama?
I am currently working and living in an indigenous community of about 306 men, women and children to assist in improving the infrastructure of the community, educate community members on issues directly related to improving their health (working with improving the current aqueduct system, latrine construction and education) and basically assisting them with whatever plans they have and also bringing fresh ideas as well. I am teaching English in both the school and the community and working with all of the organizations within my community to assist them with writing solicitations for funds for small projects and just getting organized. I do a little of everything because there’s so much work to be done.

• Do you have electricity?
Nope..nada. The President in my community did have a pretty swanky solar panel and allowed me to charge my phone for free, but it has since died. I try to get most of my chores and cooking done during the daylight hours because at night there are no lights and I will burn up some food cooking by candlelight. Currently all I’m using is my headlamp (flashlight worn on your head) and candles that I’ve been burning through at record speed. I do plan on purchasing a kerosene lamp in the next few weeks though...

• Where do you use the bathroom?
Well…most families either have their own or share a pit latrine (outhouse). Currently I don’t have a latrine so I am sharing with my closest neighbors. Eventually I plan to try out the composting bucket (in theory…a bucket that I will poop in and add dry material to keep the odors at bay. When it fills up in 3-4 months I will dig a hole away from my house and bury it) I usually just pee wherever really bc everyone else does…me assimilating into my community lol

• Where do you bathe and wash your clothes?

In a creek...well, actually…if I’m washing clothes then I will bath in the creek that day too after washing, but if I’m not washing clothes that day I will just bathe in my lovely shower at my house. For now I’m filling up my solar shower and using that, but eventually I plan to connect pipes from my rain water catchment system to my bathing area and maybe even a shower head…Ohhh!
• How do you get water?
My community has an aqueduct system that for all purposes…functions. We have water from an underground source available for a couple hours almost everyday. I go collect water in buckets at the faucet behind my house and then filter and chlorinate it. Currently there are 27 houses in my community, but only 13 connected to the aqueduct system…that is a problem because these other houses are possibly getting water from contaminated sources such as the creek, and this is making their families sick.

• What do you eat and drink?
Well I’ll answer this in two parts, living with host family first , and then living alone. Typical food in my community includes rice with EVERY meal, an assortment of root veggies (they all favor potatoes or yams) including name (white yam and orange yam but not a sweet potato), nampi, yucca, a lot of soups, eggs, fried bread called Ojaldras (it’s like a funnel cake without the toppings), Johnny Cakes (bread baked with coconut milk) chicken (the whole chicken…one time I had a soup of only chicken feet..eww), beef, fish, salchichas , green bananas, plantains, an assortment of canned meats which I turn down everytime, tuna, spaghetti noodles with tomato sauce AND rice, salad of cucumber and cabbage with lemon juice (yum!) Some special occasion foods include cornflakes with milk (it’s a drink and’s soggy cornflakes in milk, and oddly I don’t hate it) apples, and grapes (apples and grapes are crazy expensive here). They drink A LOT of coffee from babies to old folks with every meal and an assortment of sweet drinks made from rice, corn, plantains, kool-aide…Ngabe’s in my community don’t like to drink plain water. I’ve actually had people turn it down when I offered it at my house, and they don’t turn ANYTHING down.

At my house I’ve been cooking pancakes with ripe plantains, scrambled and boiled eggs, PB&J of course, oatmeal, spaghetti, rice, lentils, black beans, green bananas, raman noodles, cucumber/tomato salads..still working on the creative veggie dishes.

• How long will you be in Panama?
My service here is for 27 months, and I’m scheduled to finish in October of 2012. I do accrue 2 vacation days a month and it’s possible that I may pay a visit to the States before October 2012, BUT I think it’s better if you come visit me here!

• What are you doing after Peace Corps service?

Getting married and having babies..duh! Actually I’m really not sure…my plans change everyday. Just yesterday I was considering going to bartending school and trying to get a job on a cruise ship lol…ask me again tomorrow!

• What do you miss most about home?

OMG I could go on all day! I miss southern food…somebody please send me some grits! In my community I constantly miss good, tasty, healthy food, but if I go to the island (Isla Colon in Bocas del Toro) or Panama City it’s within reach. I miss good customer service, speaking English, the Dixie classic fair, Poetry slams and live music, Rib fest, A&T and WSSU homecoming. I miss friends and family, Twilight Zone marathons, Game nights, I miss driving (sometimes), I miss shopping, I miss Bravo lol But, everything I miss - with the exception of friends, family, events and grits can be found somewhere in Panama for a price, so that’s the upside….for the most part, Panama’s got it all!

• How can I send you a letter or care package and what do you need/want?

Whoo hoo! My favorite question yet!

My mailing address for letters:

Whitney Mack-Obi
Cuerpo de Paz- Panamá
Entrega General
Changuinola, Bocas del Toro
Republica de Panamá

My mailing address for packages:
Whitney Mack-Obi
Cuerpo de Paz – Panamá
Entrega General
Bocas del Toro, Bocas del Toro
Republica de Panamá

*Sidenote: It’s been recommended that you put religious symbols and address packages to Sister Whitney Mack-Obi to deter creeps rummaging through or detaining packages. *

What do I need or want: Hair products, grits, trail mix, magazines, candy (Women’s health, Essence, Cosmo, whatever…) Non-fiction African American literature (for example: Mis-education of the Negro, Autobiography of Malcolm X, Sista Soulja…we have an awesome collection of books here, but as u can guess not much of this genre) Vegetarian cook books, teaching Bibles or other religious education books, burned copies of new CDs or movies that are coming out, photos, African Heritage shea butter lotion or body wash or that one that smells like chocolate, black soap, castile soap (the Whole foods brand or Dr. Bronners unscented) Raw African shea butter (the yellow kind), Queen Helene Mint Julep mask, Neutrogena body wash…still gotta primp and preen in campo! Until next time...Peace!


MDW said...

Well luckily I happen to be curious if you actually have blogged anything. I wanted to send you a book recently but I questioned whether or not I should since you have yet to receive any of my letters. By the time you get them and read them all you will be on your way back to NC. lol. I am coming to visit, but under one condition. It has to be when you have some time off and are not staying in the hut. I am crapping no where but in a toilet. I miss you crazy. And I can't wait to hear more... Cause this is clearly from April.

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