I´ve been trying to write this blog entry since i arrived in Panama… Things have been super busy and fun since I arrived. Today I´m in La Chorrera, which is the closest city to our training community. We come here once a week for special sessions on safety and security, cross-cultural training, vaccinations and all sorts of other fun stuff. I have a few minutes before the meeting, so I figured I´d drop you guys an update. Here goes…
Staging and arrival in Panama
This has probably been the busiest and perhaps the most exciting month of my life. Ever since I arrived in Miami for staging at the end of April I have been surrounded by an amazing group of people. The 43 people I met there have become my family in the last 3 weeks. The application process and run-up to staging were very intense experiences in my life, and I was all of the sudden surrounded by this herd of people who had all left their families and friends to move to a much less developed part of the world for 27 months, just like I had. Bonding ensued immediately. Everyone here has a story to tell and life experience to share with others. I really hit the jackpot with this new family that I have known for less than a month.
In the hotel conference room, we went over some logistics such as passports, visas, travel plans, etc. and did a variety of campy, lovey-dovey team-building activities. The next morning we were off to Panama City, where two of our Panamanian Peace Corps Staff members greeted us upon exiting the airport terminal. We breezed through customs and baggage claim (thank you, special Peace Corps Passports) and caught a bus to Ciudad del Saber, the compound in which we stayed for the first week. CDS is an old US military base that has been converted into the diplomatic and Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) hub for Panama and Central America. The US embassy is there, as well as the UN building which houses UNICEF. There are probably fifty or so NGOs that are based there as well. We were right across from the Miraflores locks on the Panama Canal. It´s a busy place with lots going on, but you wouldn´t know it from the outside. The buildings are somewhat spaced out with nice landscaping and nature trails all over the place. Once you enter the compound it looks sort of like a nice college campus.
We were there for about a week attending logistics, medical, legal and educational sessions. We usually finished around five or six o´clock and immediately got down to the business of having fun and bonding. You can see some of these pics on my facebook album. People here have quite eccentric tastes when it comes to leisure activities. One girl is a professional hula hooper and taught me some pretty decent moves. We had a Glee watching night which was actually my first Glee experience. I was told I´m a gleek now- … It was the Lady Gaga episode and folks were pretty excited.
Wow guys… time flies. I have to run (literally) to my meeting. I´ll try to write more later. Miss you, love you, mean it!
Peace and love.