Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Volunteer Visit

Since you can only learn so much about Peace Corps in a classroom, trainees are sent to visit volunteers in the campo pretty early on so that they can get a taste of what life is really like.  For many, this may be their first time living in such basic conditions in such close proximity to extreme poverty, so it can be a little overwhelming.  Thankfully, that's what us volunteers are there for- to provide a nice little gateway!  

Last year I spent my trainee visit with Carly in what would eventually become my province of Bocas del Toro, and this year I was excited to host my very own trainees- Whitney and Megan!  

Like me, both Whitney and Megan have much deeper backgrounds in business than in agricultural production, so they too will be serving in a site more focused on agribusiness.  Though we packed the week full of activities, I made sure to warn them that life as a volunteer isn't usually that busy :)

During our first day, we spent the morning visiting my neighbors Juan and Lucia, who let us help take the fibers out of pita, a plant grown for just that.  Once she dries the long fibers, Lucia will then color them and wind them into thick strings which will be used to make the traditional chacara bags.  

After that, we hiked up to my host family's house, where I showed them the reality of life here- no water, electricity, or bathrooms.  Since that's always a little tougher to see (especially when you know that you're getting ready to be living in just such a place), we kept things light and then went to bake a cake with the grandma of one of my favorite families.  

To continue on with the baking trend, we used our sugar high to lead one of my baking and business classes, where we made coconut cake.  The huge slices afterwards almost made up for skipping lunch... almost.  

On Day 2 we focused on preparing and giving Part 1 of my Agribusiness Charla Series: Personal Finances.  Even though the rain gave us a small turnout, it was great to have help from not only Megan and Whitney, but also my neighboring volunteer Travis and his trainee, Nick.  I don't think my people have ever seen so many foreigners all together at once!  

The next morning we heated up our newly toasted cacao and made some delicious chocolates with some of the random stuff on hand.  If you can think of a delicious combination of chocolate, PB, coconut, carmel, coffee, sea salt, honey, and/or maple syrup, chances are we made it.  Best morning ever.  

We spent that afternoon hiking through cacao farms to get to our larger neighboring town where the girls purchased artisan goods from the group I've been working with the last few months.  

To send them off, we spent a rainy Saturday morning baking birthday cakes for a birthday party which, sadly, they had to miss in order to catch their bus back to Panama City. 

All in all, it was a great week filled with awesome food and good company.  I'll be looking forward to visiting Megan and Whitney in their future sites, wherever they may be, though of course I'll be crossing my fingers for Bocas :)

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