A few days ago I was having a rough day and started to write a blog post about the challenges of Panama and how easy we have it as Americans. As I was writing, though, I felt like I was leaving out huge, important chunks of information- the things that where going well and that were making me smile and keeping me in Panama. The more I thought about those things, the more I realized that I was writing on the wrong topic. Sure, there's going to be rough days and challenges, but the parts that deserve your thoughts are the good ones. So, here's to all of those awesome moments, big and small, that are making me one happy Bocatoreña (person from Bocas del Toro).
- My house. I still have another few weeks with my host family, but my landlord is awesome and lets me use the house during my downtime during the day and a few random nights a month when I need to be in town. I'm really, really lucky and have a huge (by Peace Corps standards) house that I can't wait to "decorate" and move into. I even have 3 floors!
- My shower. After almost two months of bathing in the creek, fully clothed, with a multitude of children, I have just started taking advantage of the shower at my house. Sure, the water's cold. But it's private, and I feel like a clean queen afterwards.
- Cooking. After a rough first few weeks of eating almost nothing but boiled green bananas, I was down- both physically and emotionally. Unfortunately, the poverty in my region means that this is normal for a lot of families at certain times during the year, but I realized that as much as I wanted to blend in, my body couldn't handle a diet that strict. I now cook for myself at my house, and vegetables have never tasted so delicious. I love experimenting with recipes, so if you have any, preferably that don't require expensive or refrigerated ingredients, send them my way!
- Romero Grocery Store. Less than an hour and a half from my house is a grocery store that might as well be Little America. They even play Justin Timberlake. I cannot tell you how much I look forward to grocery shopping now. Salads? Good cheese? Brownie batter? Normal snack food?! Count. me. in.
- Work! What was at first my biggest stressor is starting to show more and more promise. I pretty much begged my boss to give me a site that wanted eco-tourism, and she did! So far my main project has been to work on an eco-tourism project which has promising potential for long term development. I'm also starting to get more requests for trainings in personal finance, and the local store owner wants me to help him completely revamp his record keeping and product management practices. AND a local women's group is training me how to craft local bags in exchange for my help in marketing them to tourists on the Island. I'm definitely nerding out here...
- Emerging friendships. The first few weeks I felt like I constantly had to be in my 100% best behavior 100% of the time I was around anyone. As time is going by, the barriers are starting to come down, and I love the feeling of comfort and trust I'm developing with my neighbors.
- Brownies. No explanation necessary.
- My site. Between the mountains, ocean views, wildlife galore, fields to play in, trails to hike, and a sky full of stars, my little village is packed with natural beauty that I am so blessed to live in everyday.
- Supportive friends and family. I have received countless facebook messages, phone calls, letters, packages, and prayers from home, and let me tell you, every single one makes such a huge difference. Your sweet words of encouragement brighten even the toughest of days and I'm a lucky girl to have so many awesome people cheering me on!