Mä kä ño?
These are some greetings of the Noberi language, traditional to the Ngöbe and Buglé people of Panama. These indigenous groups live in the Comarca region of Chiriqui known as Ngöbe Buglé. During my volunteer visit, I was lucky enough to spend a week living in and getting to know both the area and the people of the Comarca. We previously received a brief lesson on Noberi so I was familiar with at least a couple of greetings, but in general everyone spoke Spanish. However, because my trip was so extensive and busy I’m going to differentiate everything by using lists because who doesn’t love lists? (and also, I pre-wrote everything on the bus ride back to Panama). Bueno pues, comencemos 🙂
Day 1 – Martes
- I woke up at 5 and met a group of PCVs also traveling to Chiriqui.
- We got on a chiva (pickup truck with seats and a cover on the back) by 6 and headed towards Panama City.
- Enjoyed traffic for a whole 3 hours before arriving at the Albrook Bus Terminal
- Bought our tickets headed to Tolé, the entrance town to the Comarca.
- Grabbed breakfast and sat on the bus for about 5 hours, including a 30 min stop in Santiago.
- Once we reached Tolé, Jessica and I met up with Natalie, the volunteer Jessica was visiting, and we all took a taxi into the entrance of the city.
- From Tolé, I took an hour-long chiva ride to Chichica #shotgun.
- The chiva driver, Yuni, knew Kristen personally so we spoke for most of the drive and he also gave out red heart-shaped lollipops. Because the site was located in the mountains, the drive there was very bumpy and super hilly, which made everything so much more exciting. At this point, I think it’s important to note that when I told Yuni I was a new PCV visiting Chichica for a week, he had a hard time believing me. He admitted to thinking I was instead a teacher. This was due to my complexion and Spanish fluency, and more specifically the fact that I didn’t fit the image of the stereotypical American. I wasn’t really surprised by his reaction because I’ve experienced this quite a bit since arriving in Panama.
- Finally, I got to Kristen’s place. We had homemade veggie pizza for dinner, and talked the entire afternoon #successfulPCtravels.
Day 2 – Miércoles
- We woke up around 6, had oatmeal for breakfast and then got started on our 20 minute walk to Kristen’s school. The school is K-12 with roughly 1,000 students if I remember correctly.
- I helped Kristen run a seminar called Elige tu Vida, which teaches kids how to start planning towards their future now, and guides them in developing long term SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely) goals.
- We were at the school for the entire morning shift, so we had 5 40 minutes classes.
- Once school ended, we took a chiva to another volunteer’s house (Meredith), where we once again met up with Jessica and Natalie. We had lunch together and Jessica and I had ample time to ask all 3 volunteers as many questions as we could come up with.
- After that, Kristen and I headed back to Chichica but we stopped at her host family’s house so I could ask about Panamanian legends specific to the Comarca (remember that project I mentioned earlier).
Day 3 – Jueves
- We went to school for the morning shift, and I helped Kristen out with a couple of seminars. However, she also set me up with the school’s director of the english department, and I was able to sit in and observe 2 english classes which was super exciting.
- In the afternoon, a couple of volunteers gathered at Kristen’s house to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with all green foods, including green mashed potatoes #thankyoufoodcoloring
Day 4 & 5 – Viernes y Sabado
- Since there was no school on these days, I got to sightsee the Comarca and even attended a charla led by PCVs. The goal of the seminar was to provide helpful tools for group projects.
- There was a fair amount of down time during these days so I started and ended Yes Please by Amy Poehler. #LeslieKnopeforever The book was hilarious and I especially loved the parts where Amy talked about what it was like to work at SNL.
- There was a lot of amazing food on this trip, but my favorite meals were pancakes for dinner, and a mean stir fry that seemed to include every vegetable under the sun.
Day 6 – Domingo
- I caught an early chiva towards Tolé and then a taxi to the main road. I purchased a bus ticket towards Panama and was on the road by 9.
- During the bus ride, I reflected a lot on my visit. Even though I had a great time at Kristen’s, I still had no clue where I wanted to spend my next 2 years. The Comarca was definitely at the top of my list in comparison to other sites I visited so far, but I also spent a lot more time there so I didn’t want to make an impulsive decision. Spending a couple of days with no running water or electricity seemed very daunting at first, but I was happy to see that living with such limited resources is not only possible, but can also be very exciting.
- The reason all these thoughts were racing through my head at that specific moment was because the following week I had an interview with the TELLS director. Yesterday, I sat down with him and explained where I would liked to be placed and why. I asked for a site with a mix of indigenous people and Latinos, an area that was not too remote, and also near other volunteers. I sheepishly requested a nice latrine, and indirectly asked to be placed in the Comarca. Now, there are a couple of other indigenous regions in Panama, including Bocas de Toro, so we’ll see what happens! #NERVOUSLAUGH However, requesting a specific region of Panama does not guarantee PCVs will be placed there… In other words, #morenervouslaughs
Back to that bus ride… Like I mentioned earlier, my mind wandered a lot during that 5 hour bus ride. I decided I needed 1 more list, and so here it is:
-Hard drive with stuff, ideally a lot of movies and shows I love i.e, Friends, the Goodwife, Law & Order SVU, the Office, 30 Rock, Parks & Rec, Criminal Minds, Workaholics, Trailer Park Boys, anything with Liam Nelson, Anne Hathaway, Adam Sandler, Amy Poehler, just to name a few nbd
-Books! (The Gift of Fear, anything by Mindy Kaling, Tina Fey, or Seth Meyers, Yoga for beginners, or any good recommendations)
-Coloring books (because the possibility of no electricity is real)
-Mr. Sketch markers (because they smell wonderful)
-Peanut M ’n Ms (I can buy these here, but international chocolate would be soo much more special)
-Those cookies from Costco that are stacked in groups of 3 and come inside a blue tin circular container (I’m looking at you mom)
-Some more cheap portable phone chargers from Target (looking at you Aly)
-Quest Bars (I like all the flavors so whatever floats your kind and giving hearts)
-My German Language books (That’s all you mom. Maybe I should just email you directly?)
Well that’s all for now. My blogging duties are done for the week. I’m going to try to focus some more of my energy on undoing the braids in my hair before showering because I am pretty sure I see some dreads coming in. Freddy, if you’re reading this, I know you’re so proud :* kidding kiddos!