September 5, 2013
During the Peace Corps training period, volunteers in Panama stay with a host family. We returned to Santa Clara in the area known as Ariajan, just outside the capitol.
This small community has seen many groups of volunteers over the past 10 years. There have not been any the past two years but the community will again host volunteers later this year or early next.
You get there on Diablos Rojos, Red Devils, used (often very used) schools buses purchased from the US. In the capital the government purchased a fleet of modern buses to replace he Diablos Rojos, but the suburbs still employ these old buses. There is very little leg room, they are noisy, they spew mountains of diesel smoke into the air, and are not air conditioned.
The family lives near the Catholic Church, which has been greatly enlarged despite the shortage of priests; the one who serves here can not come on Sunday so comes on Saturday instead. Their house has 2 bedrooms, a living room, dining room, kitchen, and a covered parking area for the newly acquired car. The floor of the room we occupied now has tiles and the door has been cut to length. The bathroom still has only cold (or should I say cool) water.
Our hosts seem quite healthy and more prosperous. Since Juniors retirement as a cable handler on the canal two years ago they have traveled to Bocas del Toro and Nicaragua. They bought some land, or have begun to farm some they already had. They harvest bananas, plantains, and various tubers you’ve probably never heard of. Otoi, nami, and some other one neither of us can spell, perhaps gnampi. All starchy. Panamanians eat very starchy diets, supplemented by gobs of sugar and deep fried everything.
To be continued…