The Weather in Our Neck of the Woods

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Saying goodbye...again

I hate goodbyes. I hate not saying goodbye. I know that I will see Lynne again one day, with no pain or worries. I know that she is happy and whole. I know it all, but I can not stand the thought that I can't see her here again, in this world. What a joyful person - through everything. What a loving spirit, even in her pain. What an encourager, laugher, joker, prankster,and most importantly,dear friend. I miss you terribly, Lynne. We both do.

I know you wish you could tell us all about your journey now, and I want to hear it all in your words, dear sister. You taught me much. Thank you! See you in a little while!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Census 2010

I was in the U.S. when three weeks prior to census day,the first letters arrived telling us to prepare for the 2010 Census. Then, two weeks in advance they again mailed out millions of notices to millions of mailboxes to let us know that the Census was coming. I thought it a bit redundant, but not unlike other government procedures. I was still there when the actual census (es) arrived at my dad’s house. Dad, wanting to follow the letter of the law, was confused about what to do with the second census envelope. He read through all of the literature to see what he should do about it. He has an RV park, with several year-round tenants, but as he only received one extra envelop he was in a quandary. Finally after reading through the whole thing, and then asking me to do the same, he called the information number. You have to know my dad to appreciate this, but the call was answered by a machine which offered him 20 options to continue, none of which addressed his question. Yes, there are still miracles – he did not hang up!!!! He hung in there for another three rounds of options which never concluded with a real person, or the answer to his question. This took about three hours of his afternoon, then he quit for the day. Three days later he finally had spoken with a real live person, and they told him to throw the second envelope away. He did. He filled out one and put it into the mailbox.
Such was the process for the 2010 Census in the United States of America; Land of high technology and efficiency, though we don’t always use it wisely.
Sunday, May 16 2010 was Census day here in Panamá. I could not help but notice a few differences. Preparation began with radio ads three weeks ago. No letters, just a simple ad that said every human being in the country must remain in their home until after a census worker comes and fill out the information sheets with them. They are under penalty of fine if they are not available for the 30 minute interview. Not sure if that is just a lame threat, or if they would really do it, but it doesn’t matter because everyone stayed home to meet the census worker. At least everyone around here. So, remember back to your days of Bible study – remember when Joseph and Mary had to return to Bethlehem for the census? It is still alive and well in Panamá!
So, back to preparation; One week before the big day all those who will work the census meet for training. They have seminar classes for three days, for which they are paid $5 daily and are provided lunch. That concludes the preparation for the Census day. There is approximately one worker for every ten houses here in Volcán, and I assume it is the same all over Panama. I do not have the mind, or the energy to figure out a cost comparison per capita, but I think it is probably less costly here than in the States.
So, on Sunday morning Lynn and I are sitting on the porch awaiting our turn. At 10:30 am a very nice young lady comes to our gate and asks permission to enter. We sit and she asks questions for about 20 minutes. She fills out the form, and thanks us for our time. In conversation she shares that we are her last house of the day. Her work is done. When she leaves our house she will go to the house serving as headquarters for Volcán and receive her $40. She is content.
As luck would have it our friend, Mari, who is working the census as well, is given only one house to visit. The house is empty, and has been for several months. She went through the training, woke up Sunday morning and walked to one house to put a sticker on the door that said that the house was vacant, then went to receive her $40. So, it isn’t perfect here either. Furthermore there have been complaints that some houses were not visited.
The worker who visited us placed a hot pink sticker on the door post that said we had been counted. She told us to leave the sticker there for at least one week as supervisors would be coming around to check them. We have had fun checking out everyone’s doorposts around town!
All in all, the day was very quiet. No trucks running out to the farms, no families passing to go to town. It was quite unique. Imagine a day when everyone in the U.S. was forced to stay home with their families, just for a day – how cool would that be?
Such was Census Day 2010 in Panamá, Central America. Land of family-oriented lives , where relationship and face – to – face contact still have value. Before some of you say that I am dissing my home country, I am not. I love the beliefs on which our country was founded. But we could still learn a little from our southern neighbors, ya know?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Caña Blanca Classes

First class of the year in Caña Blanca this year, 13 students, 3 parents and 2 teachers, plus Lynn and I. You can see by the photos that most of the students were G’nobe Buglé Indian. Of the 13 students, 9 are new this year, and 8 of those are Indian. A blessing, to be sure, and a challenge as well. We have prayed that we could impact this group of Panamanians since before we came here in 2006. They are socially and economically at the bottom of the ladder here in Chiriquí, and all over Panamá. The huge challenge – they are also the hardest to reach, very timid, humble, and resigned to being lower class citizens. Added to that, they often are not accustomed to Spanish when young, as they speak their own dialect in their homes.
The class went slower than I was prepared for because of this, and because these children had certainly not been taught any English before today. But we are okay with that. Caña Blanca is the one place we feel we can completely go with the flow, and if we learn a lot, great, if we learn only one thing, equally great! It is all good in Caña Blanca for us. The people are friendly, humble, generous and kind. We feel very accepted here, and are able to be a part of their culture when we go for classes. We rarely leave Caña Blanca empty handed – today Señora Elvia gave us a bag full of bananas- green ones to fry, ripe ones to eat and ripe chinos to fry as well. A chino is a type of banana that is short and fat and very sweet – delicious!!!
We began today with colors. For the 4 students from last year, it was a review and time to shine in the classroom. For the others it was a challenge, but one they seem eager to take. The Indian girls all whisper their responses, while last year’s students shout out the answers for all to hear. We ended the class with snacks and fortified juice for all.

The new teacher – at least for the next month is a young man (about 24) who is doing his practice teaching. He actually cooks a small meal for the children daily. The funding for this comes from his small paycheck, but he knows that many of the children will not be fed until late in the evenings, if at all, so makes the sacrifice and provides all a healthy meal. We have made arrangements to begin helping him purchase the foodstuffs weekly.
The ‘main’ teacher is on maternity leave. She is the same teacher who rarely, if ever showed up last year to teach, but received pay for the whole year. I am grateful that, at least for this period of time, the children are being taught by someone who cares, and wants them to learn. I am contemplating how we can bring the problems with the main teacher to the eyes of the Ministry of Education Supervisor here in Chiriquí without causing too much of a stir. Please pray for our wisdom in this.
Also, as we have seen in years past, several of the children do not have appropriate, if any shoes. Adelaida, the oldest of the girls, has no shoes at all, and walks a great distance for classes. We will be trying to take care of those needs as we can find funds and get sizes. Several of the boys are wearing rubber boots several sizes too big, and others are wearing flip-flops. None of them walks less than a half-mile to get to classes daily. All walk home in the rain in the afternoons.
Overall it was a great day, for which we are grateful. While we appreciate every moment of our time with these beautiful children, it also tears at our hearts to see their suffering.