Have you ever moved to a foreign country to accept a job that you didn’t even know the details or location of? That’s essentially what I did by moving to Panama, and for a Type A career planner like myself, making that commitment without knowing exactly where I would be living or what I would be doing was really tough.
Though the waiting process was hard, I finally understand why it had to happen that way. Our boss was able to match us with our future sites not only based on resumes and skill sets, but also based on 5 full weeks of training observation, our experience visiting volunteers, and a series of interviews. She’s known for being excellent at the matching process, so I put my trust in her and just told her to send me where I would fit best (and also that I would kind of maybe REALLY like to work with cocoa.)
Yesterday was the big day, and I was nervous. I really tried not to get to excited about a particular region, because I could have been sent anywhere in Panama, but I think everyone knew I wanted to be in Bocas del Toro. After my volunteer visit, how could I not?
In addition to the 48 trainees, also present at the site announcement were regional leaders, training staff, and the Panama Country Director. It was really awesome to see how excited everyone was for us, and I will admit that I may have gotten slightly emotional after they played a video about Peace Corps’ impact on both communities and volunteers.
When they put up a giant map of Panama with stars where each future community would be we all cheered. That was the first time we had gotten to see the potential sites! Then, one by one, our director pulled names of communities out of a cup. She would describe the site a little and talk about the potential work before finally announcing what volunteer would be going there.
There were 48 sites, and mine was announced 46th. Some sites I really wanted, and to be honest there were some I was kind of hoping wouldn’t be for me. By the time they finally did read off my site, I was dying. Apparently we’re a good match because while she read the description, everyone started looking at me. Then again, by that point there was a 1/3 chance it was mine by default.
That being said, I’m incredibly happy and excited to share that I will be working with the management and sale of chocolate, coffee, plantains, and artisan goods in a small community in the rainforests of Bocas del Toro, Panama! The community is also interested in starting a small eco-tourism group, which is right up my alley.
Though I’ll be visiting the community for 5 days next week, I don’t know too much more at this point. There has been one other volunteer who worked with tree nurseries and improving their organic farming techniques, and apparently he left behind a pretty sweet house that I’m going to get to rent for the awesome price of $25/month.
I can’t wait to share pictures and stories from my community next week, and yes, the wait was totally worth it.