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Friday, July 23, 2010

First Day in Site

Postdated from July 4th 2010

I wish that I could have kept up with all of my experience so far on this blog. The truth is, I have never been through a more intense training exercise. In ten weeks we as a group:

Learned to facilitate Project Management and Leadership

Learned to facilitate Project Design and Management

Learned to traverse the entire country of Panama

Learned extensively about sustainable agriculture practices

Grew an organic huarto (mini farm/garden) from the ground up

Learned the different learning styles and how to facilitate teaching to them

Spent time in schools, with teachers, doing environmental education lessons

Did a complete community analysis of Nuevo Emperador, including community maps,

community schedules, calanders, FODA, FREESOP, and gender analyses

Fund raised for and put on a community event “Mundial de Basura” to address one of the problems uncovered through the community analysis

Learned reforestation techniques

Learned solid waste management strategies

Planted close to a thousand trees

Learned to make viveros (nurseries) for both reforestation and species conservation (seaturtles, green iguanas, and coneho pintado)

Were sworn in by our country director in front of the Ambassador, First Lady, and Vice President

Learned to wield a machete like a champ – clear fields, cut grass, kill just about anything etc.

Learned Panamanian professional etiquette including formal letters, invitations, extremely nice professional attire, formal addresses, and how to flirt/chat your way into a meeting.

Learned how to facilitate meetings with 40-50 people

Went on two different site visits

Learned to work in conjunction with counterparts in both the Environmental Authority and

National Education Authority

Obtained material support from both the Controller General and the Smithsonian Institution in Panama City.

Learned how to cook like a Panamanian, dress like a Panamanian, dance like a Panamanian, root for the winning team like a Panamanian, love like a Panamanian, and sound like a Panamanian.

And O Yeah… we learned how to do it all in Spanish.

That’s all in addition to the “how to take care of yourself” lectures/charlas.

And now we are off on our own. We have two years from two days ago to do what we can for and with these people. It is as intense a rollercoaster of emotion as I have ever experienced. We (CEC at least) definitely went through all four stages of group evolution over the last two and a half months. There was a time during the storming stage (right around the end of tech week) when everyone couldn’t wait to get away from each other. But now that we’re family it feels very strange to be leaving everybody and to be going off on our own. For better or for worse we will now each have our own lives again.

Now we go off to get to know an entirely new group of people, an entirely new family of friends, and an entirely new leadership context. As I sit here and write this (because I am arguably lucky enough to have electricity) I am spending my 6th night with my first host family in Esquiguita. First thing in the morning I am to the school to reestablish a relationship with the director there, talk about goals for the school, and what my place will be in that arena. Then I will probably spend a bit of time watching and then set up a meeting with the ¨Honorable Representante.¨

I am looking forward to tomorrow. It is Monday and there are not as many people in town during the week as there are on weekends. It makes the place a bit easier to manage.

I learned tonight that the mountain land where the water source is situated belongs to a man from Borrola, a nearby town. The mountain, because of its proximity to the water source and its affect on the river’s load of alluvium is one of the first reforestation priorities. It is also the spot talked about for an ecotourism overlook. Both of these initiatives, of course, to my disappointment, hinges on the cooperation of a property owner in another (although proximate) community. I hope that he will be willing to act as a community member here in group collaboration etc., because he is most certainly a stakeholder.

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