Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Ambiente Saludable

On Monday, we attended a meeting of Associacion Desarrollo Aguabuena (Association of Development) over making Aguanbuena “un Districto Ecologio”. These Ecological Districts are a certification for communities as a way to attract tourists. The meeting was the first of a series where we elected councils to address certain needs of the community. The needs were as far ranging as an ATM machine for the town to protection of watersheds. We were elected to the “Ambiente Saludable” (Healthy Environment) council to head the Reforestation committee.

We will be working with Carlos, the president of the Association; as well as Walter, manager of CoopePueblos; a representative from AYA, the national water company; the entire local police force, and our Peace Corps friends, Jacob and Trina. Our goals are to protect watersheds, create reforestation projects, and create trash clean-up and recycling programs.

It’s an awesome feeling of how we are becoming more connected to the community here. This was the first meeting we attended where they addressed our project, “Finca Proyecto”, during the meeting. Carlos and Walter were really excited to work with us, and we were patting each other on the back saying “Ambiente Saludable” as if it were some secret society or fraternity that we are now apart of.

The first official “Ambiente Saludable” meeting is next Tuesday, at 3pm.

Monday, September 18, 2006

el murciélago

Since we moved in to the house,
we have not been alone. We have had a bat, un murciélago, that has been living in the back room (the bat room). He has pooped (or guanoed) all over the bat room and walls throughout the house. It has been a constant struggle, cleaning up bat guano, fearing the flapping over our heads as we fall asleep, and the possiblility that he could be a chupesangre (blood sucker). Last Friday, we caught him.

I (Eliot) was in the living room. It had just gotten dark. The front door was open. Suddenly the bat flew through the front door, in to the house, straight to the back room. I shouted to Brendan. The bat was flying like crazy, bumping in to the walls. It flew into the bathroom. I grabbed a towel and threw it at Brendan.

"What do you want me to do with this?"

"Catch him."

Brendan threw the towel on top of the bat. And that was that. We caught the bat.

Since we moved in to the house, we have tried so many things to get rid of the bat like hanging garlic from the ceilings. Supposedly bats hate garlic and the color red. Everyone in town told us we should poison it or just find someway to kill it. We didn´t want to kill it though. We had never thought of catching it.

So we decided to build a house for it. We feed it platanos and it hangs from two coffee branches (upsidedown of course). We dont know what we are going to do with it. We have thought about letting it go somewhere, but they say that "the bat comes back...the very next day". For right now, its our pet. Although it kinda freaks me out.

Pura Vida

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Environmental Responsibility

A few days ago I visited the elememtry school in Agua Buena to talk with the students about environmental responsibility. Our friends Jacob and Trina (who work with the Peace Coprs) invited Eliot and I to participate in the values program they have been teaching in the schools. Among the values were responsibility. Since Eliot had to return to the US for a bit, I gave a talk about the importance of environmental stewardship. The kids were excited and had a real interest in learning more. Most of the kids have already been exposed to more environmental education than elementry students in the States.

Once the discussion was over, I split the kids into groups, and we went outside to plant trees in the back of the school. The kids were energized as the older students (6th graders) helped the younger students (1st graders) clear a spot and dig the hole. We planted 6 trees in total. Some of the kids put rocks incircling the trees to protect them. They even realized that the most important part of reforesting is protecting the tree from being cut down or harmed. It was really touching to see them caring for the trees. And to top it off, the kids who finished first went around the school yard and collected all the basura (garbage) they could find.

Many school sites in the surrounding community have land in need of reforestation. We have talked with several principals (directores)about supplying saplings and planting trees with the kids. These meetings have led us to consider schools as another area where we would like to focus our reforestation efforts. It you think about it, there are lots of similarities between an erroding riverbank and a barren schoolyard. In one instatnce you have nutrient-rich top soil being washed away, increased flooding, and degrading water quality. On the other hand you have kids learning in a place that does not refelct a healthy environment which increases the chance of environmental irresponsibility and ultimatly the quailty of education. Yes it may be cheezy, but i believe that the kids of today are the topsoil of tomorrow. We all must restore the quailty of environmetal education throughout the world while simultaneously restoring our ecosystems.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

An insightful trip to Pamama

I just returned from an amazing trip to Panama. Dan and I visited Panama City for three days. We took the midnight bus from David and arrived in Panama City early in the morning, just in time to see a "Panamax" cargo ship cruz through the locks at Mira Flores. This is the name given to ships that are built to the maximum width and length of the canal. There is little clearance on either side of the boat. The canal opperates 24 hrs a day, 365 days a year non-stop. The experience enabled me to better imaginge the amount of consumption that exists in the global North, especially the United States of America. On top of this, the Panamanian government has a "Master Plan" to increase the size of the canal, to detour competition from springing up, among other things.

While the canal was grand, it was less helpful than the Biblioteca (library) at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. Here I found three floors of books, many of which contained insightful information. I could have spent all day in the building; but they closed at noon, and we still had much of the city to see. We also visited the Jardín Botánico de Gamboa (Botanical Garden) where we met the Chief of Environmental Education, who later invited us to stay at his apartment for the rest of our time in Panama City.

We left the city and headed toward the highlands. From David we went north toward Boquete, a romantic mountain town with coffee-coverd slopes, lies at the base of Volcan Baru. Here we visited a well-maintained garden, where I collected seed of species that would attract butterflies and bees. This town is known for thier abundence of flowers amongst the coffee trees. Boquete was a nice break from the heat of the lowlands.

Returning back to Agua Buena, Dan is preparing for his deparute back to the states and I am waiting on Eliot's arrival.

From the farm,
Pura Vida