Sunday, June 17, 2012

I write this blog as I listen to ACDC blocking out the noises of children crying and people fighting. My next-door neighbor is currently in a state of drunkenness. No, that isn’t correct… He is belligerently smashed. Today is Sunday and Sundays aren’t classy days here in Boca Chica. Well, let me give some significance to Boca Chicano Sundays:

Sunday is the day of rest and I say this meaning ‘day of rest’ and not ‘god’s day of rest’ where people go to church and are with their family and do Jesus-like stuff. Sundays consist of people waking up über late (completely missing the church service they promise their grandmothers’ that they will go to) and they go to the futbol (soccer) game. There are 5 towns in the district I live in and each have a soccer team. Every Sunday the teams compete in the next town over and all of the masses go to ‘watch’. Now I use the term ‘watch’ loosely here because they say they go to ‘watch’ the game but really it’s a big social event where people drink/pre-game. It is actually a ton of fun. Mind you, I don’t drink with my community. I’m a nice catholic girl here…

After the game people stay in the town, which just so happens to have a big bar. Sundays the owners clear out majority of the tables to make room for a dance floor, and blast obnoxiously loud music. An obscene amount of drinking goes on here, however it is not nearly as much as what happens afterward:

At around 2 am people begin to return to Boca Chica completely drunk, yet somehow they continue to taint their livers, and occasionally their families; this brings us back to my neighbor.

My neighbor is a very nice man and has never given me a reason not to trust him, although I do avoid him when he’s drunk. Well, tonight is a night of avoidance. I woke up a fabulous hour of 2:45 in the morning to him yelling words at his children that even I wouldn’t use. He is also using them with his current passion (I won’t give this lady anymore grief by using the title girlfriend) as well as some other words that I haven’t learned or really care to.

I am currently sitting up in bed writing you all this lovely blog that I am sure will give my mother more reason to worry (as if she need another reason).

Random moments in my life:

       Every year all Peace Corps Volunteers worldwide need to fill out the Annual Living Allowance Survey. The survey is used to see how much money volunteers use monthly, yearly, weekly, etc… It is very detailed and an enormous pain in the gluteus maximus. There many sections including a groceries section that includes how much each food costs and how much you buy monthly. One of the food groups is peanut butter. And honestly, in Peace Corps worldwide, peanut butter pretty much is a main food for most volunteers. I thought it was funny but now that it is on paper, not so much…
       In my children’s English class I taught the kids food and my name has been changed to Hamburguesa (hamburger).
       I tried pig’s foot soup for the third time and each time I try it, it is grosser and grosser.

Madye and Megalodon

Saturday, June 2, 2012

I know that it has been a long time since I updated but I don’t get to a computer much and mine is starting to crap out on me… Very sad but he is about to reach his sixth birthday. 
SPEAKING OF BIRTHDAYS!! So my baby dog, Dony or Megalodon, turned a year old May 2nd! I didn’t do anything for my birthday when I was here and I think the people were a little offended so I bought a cake for Dony’s birthday and told everyone that because I didn’t do anything for my birthday I was going to celebrate my doggie’s birthday. It was a hit! This kids loved it and thought it was hilarious that we were singing to a dog (especially since Dony tried to leave half way through). Also I let the kids cut and serve the cake and it ended up that Dony got to eat A LOT of cake. My advice, never let children near cake. WOWZA!! I also got the doofus a stuffed, squeaky toy that just happened to be in the shape of chicken. HE LOVED IT! Well the squeaky part. It actually isn’t too hard to please the dog. Easily amused (like his momma). 

Rando thought- so I was looking at old photos from home and I came across this great photo of a Fourth of July celebration with my family and my first thought was ‘wow that is a lot of white people.’ YEAHHH you know you are in Panama when…
Also traveling Hannah also got some new clothes. So for those of you who don’t know I have (or had) this doll my dad gave to me a few years back and she is awesome. She is a parkranger doll and has traveled with me here. I take many photos with her and well, lets just say the first week I got to Panama I lost her and my dad scoured the Internet to find me a new Hannah. Yes. I do have the best dad ever. Anyway one of my latinos made Hannah a Pollera. A Pollera is a traditional Panamanian dress. Well now Hannah has another outfit, a Nolgwa. There are a great many number of indigenous groups in Panama and the one that I live with are called Ngabes. Well now Hannah has a traditional dress of theirs. It is pretty awesome. 

From here on in I am going to copy a letter I sent to a friend of mine and it will be a hella long update.
My time in Panama has been extraordinary and life altering. I still have a year left of service but I can confidently say that it is not a decision I regret and if I had the choice to do it over again, I would in a heartbeat. 
People often ask me how I am. I find it to be one of the hardest and most confusing questions I get. For example, emotionally, I feel like I am riding an emotional rollercoaster. I know it sounds cliché but there is no other way to describe it. My mood changes hourly. And not from sad to happy. This morning I woke up cranky (what a surprise) then went running with some of the boys here and I felt great. At 8 am I taught my science class and I was really excited and energized for it. But the kids put me in a nasty mood. They were just so rambunctious and I couldn’t get a hold of them. There are two classrooms in my school: 1, 2, and 3 grades in one class and 4, 5, 6 grades in the other. I taught the older kids and one of the older kids in the classroom, 14 years old, told me that- well lets just say that class was inappropriate and ended up being a sexual education class.  And it’s not that the class went poorly, it’s just teaching without making a lesson plan first is so hard, especially sex ed. for kids between the ages of 9 and 15. The kids are just so different on their educational level, emotional, maturity… It was hard and the kids are CRAZY!!! They have no boundaries in the home so obviously they have none in the classroom. BUT it ended up turning out great because some of the adults asked me to give a sex ed talk and although it was hilarious and not well attended, it was still good to see people interested in such a touchy subject.
So I arrived at school excited and eager but left overwhelmed and a little bit traumatized. 
Then I made lunch and visited some friends. One of them gave me a fresh pineapple and it made me feel soooo good. It’s amazing what makes you happy. But about 45 minutes later I was visiting one of the women in my site who I have an incredible amount of respect for and usually thinks quite modernly, told me that a husband has the right to treat and beat his wife and children how he wants. And I continue to question her on the subject and I leave completely confused and sooo upset and shocked. I have lived here for over a year and I have heard things like that regularly but I didn’t expect this woman to feel that way.
I go home just soo overwhelmed with people and having to deal with so many people today but I am lonely. But not alone. It is difficult explain, I am ridiculously grateful for my dog though. I would have lost my sanity long ago without my Megalodon. He is so loyal and never ever ever leaves my side. When I need to go into town to buy groceries or use the internet he chases after the bus crying. I have to tie him up so he doesn’t get run over. My baby!
ANYWAY! That is how I feel. That is how I feel on all levels. AND that’s about enough when it comes to emotions.
My life consists of waking up at around 6 with the stupid chickens, running or exercising in some way, then either going to school or hanging out around my town. I usually eat lunch at my house but sometimes other people feed me. Then I clean my house and hang out with my community some more until dinner around 6 or 7 and then I go home, cook and hang out with my doggy. Sometimes the kids come by at night to hang out but they are usually kicked out around 9 so I can get some sleep. ALSO I use a machete! I KNOW you are all jealous and fearing for my life and the lives around me. A lot of the time too I go fishing with the men or occasionally out to the farms.
I don’t really leave my community that often. Sometimes I help another volunteer every 2 weeks but its not usually for more than 2 or 3 night and I bring Megalodon with me. I don’t see a lot of other people. I don’t really like leaving Spanish world because then it is hard to readjust to Spanish. I am also trying to learn Ngäbere (the indigenous language spoken where I live). 
ANNNNNYYYYWWAAYYYYY!!! SO most of my days here don’t consist of “work” but it is definitely work. A lot of what I do is socializing, trust building, and research. It really is the best job ever. I get to hang out with people, experience new cultures first handed, be part of a new and different type of family, learn life lessons and new languages, and do it all at my own pace. Peace Corps doesn’t tell you what to do and I don’t have a schedule. Peace Corps is what you make of it. If you want eco-stoves in your village, then you have to do it. You have to find the funding, research which type would be best for your community, gain community interest… If you want to sit in your hammock all-day and read then you can.
The projects I am currently working on are eco-stoves, latrines in my community, 2 aqueduct projects, a bridge project, teaching in my school, an after school club, recycling program, and the beginnings of a landfill project.
The eco-stoves are pretty cool. People in my community use three rocks as their stoves, which uses a LOT of wood. It also creates an absurd amount smoke. I am proposing a new kind of stove for people to use. It is called a Bliss Burner. What is great about it is that it will use 70% less wood (less deforestation) and produce 60% less smoke (less pollution). It is also great because the only that needs to be purchased is the mold`. You don’t need cement or bricks so they are really cheap. 
I am working on an aqueduct project on one of the surrounding islands. It is building an entire aqueduct. I don’t have a lot of knowledge on this but it would be really helpful to get the people running water, even if it is from a river. It is going to take a long time and there is no way I am going to be able to finish the project. Actually it was started by a government agency and they found out that there was a Peace Corps volunteer around and they are trying to pass the project off on me. It requires a lot of research because I just don’t have the skills to fully support and execute the project.
 I also recently helped out another volunteer on a bridge project. She has the monster river in her town and you have to wade through it. Actually you have to hike into her site and cross a total of five rivers. Well this one is dangerous and on a calm day the water reaches my waist. ANYWHOO She is having Engineers without Borders come to her site and build a bridge. It is really important in her town because there are almost 2,000 people who need to cross the river regularly and many people have died doing it. I 
I also teach in my school a few times a week. I teach English, science, physical education, EVERYTHING! A lot of the times the teachers (all two of them) just don’t show up and that’s normal. There are no substitutes. But a lot of the kids have to take a boat over and hike and then they come here and there is no school so a lot of the times. I am teaching for the teachers. It is soo frustrating because the teachers are starting to rely on me being there and I don’t know if I should stop teaching so the teachers will actually come in but then the kids don’t get an education. Catch 22.
I also teach an environmental club afterschool. The kids love it but a lot of the time I end up teaching things that are no where near related to environmental education, like general health, like brushing your teeth, covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze, washing your hands… But I love the group. It is so much fun because it is only the kids who want to be there and they have so much energy and excitement. 
The recycling program is self-explanatory but I put a twist on it. It is right now only in the school so I have the kids bringing in all different types of recyclables and it’s a contest. Each object has a different point value and my kids love counting. Also some of my sixth graders know multiplication so they like to try to do the math.
The landfill project is just in its beginning stages. I am working with a community leader to gather basic information about trash management here and garbage information (like types, amounts, changes over the last 50 years). We are also working on an application for funding for the landfill.
As you may be able to tell, I am hella busy but its so nice. Nighttime is really my time. Sometimes the kids come by and we hang out and play “Scrabble.” I taught my kids how to play scrabble and bananagrams in Spanish. And even though their Spanish is way better than mine, I still win.

This week was particularly trying. On one of the surrounding islands a three-year-old boy died. He had hive and his body was inflamed for three days and the parents didn’t take him to the doctor. Now let me say, the PolyClinic is crappy care but they are better than nothing. OH right, I need to explain myself. A PolyClinic is a government run clinic and it provides free care to all Panamanians. Now, this doesn’t include breast enhancement or cataract surgery but it will give you some epinephrine to stop a life threatening, allergic reaction. 

Also it is mango and avocado season. DELICIOUS!!!

Well this should hold you all for a couple months, or at least until my visit in July!! Now some of you may ask, ‘Madye, why July?’ and I will respond with one word: CAMP. And no Paul, not Buckley.

Hugs and love,
Madye and the Megalodon

Thursday, March 1, 2012

What a way to start 2012!

So the last few weeks have been quite hectic. I suppose it started the second week in January. I had this meeting with one of government organizations. It was supposed to be low key and we were only to discuss what was currently going on in site. Well I ended up getting A TON of work with a deadline that did not allow me much time to get the work done. Lets keep in mind that the deadline was the 10th of February.
Allow me to clarify the jobs I was asked to do:
1) I was to visit everyone in my neighborhood and promote a new type of fogón (I needed 20 families). -For those who don’t know a fogón is a type of wood stove. The ones here usually consist of three large stones placed in a triangle shape with a fire in the center and a pot on top. These are really bad because they create a lot of smoke, which pollutes the environment and lungs. They also use a butt load of wood, which affects deforestation.- Entonces, I am currently promoting an eco-stove that will use less wood and decrease the amount of smoke by 60%.
I needed to go to all 63 houses in Boca Chica and talk to the women of the homes, make nice-nice, and convince people that their fogóns are the reason their families and themselves have sore throats and nasty coughs. Many of the women already knew that the smoke was bad, was the reason they had bad coughs and throats hurt but there were a fair number that didn’t know and were very reluctant (and MANY still are) to even listen to me. Fortunately the smoke bothered all of their eyes and I was able to compare the discomfort in their eyes to the discomfort their respiratory tract was feeling too. Also I have been here for 8 months and they are starting to trust me and realize that I do care about them and their families. So a lot did listen to me but quite a few didn’t get much out of our conversation. But in the end I ended up convincing 30 families that the eco-stove was a good addition to their kitchen (it is also free if I get my grant).
Interesting story: I had a very difficult time with the indigenous women in my community so I decided to talk to their kids and found out that the reason they didn’t sign the form I needed was because their parents were never taught to read or write and were ashamed to admit it. So I had to sneakily find a reason so that I should sign their name. I ended up getting over half of my indigenous women to apply for the fogón.
2) I was also to go to all of the hotels and tell them to stop dumping in the community’s garbage dump/mangroves/children’s playing field. Well that went really shitty so I called the agency and they told me that to make a list of the hotels with the name of the administrator and their phone number. Now, I did not know that there were SOOOO many hotels in the area. ALSO the people who own hotels here barely speak Spanish and to have a government agency with essentially no power to go to you and tell you that you can’t dump your trash where you usually go…. Well you all know Americans… It was even worse than when I went.
3) Apply for a recycling program grant
4) Figure out where recycling programs are, which programs are the closest to my community, and how I would transport the recyclables.
Well the following week I was very busy. On top of the four things I needed to get done I had six English classes and two science classes that week. I also had to leave the following week because I had a prior commitment. Well that week went by too quickly and I didn’t feel like I got all that much accomplished. But I said goodbye to Megalodon and was off to save lives!
The prior commitment I made was to a “Medical Mission”. Now let me say that I am a Jew. I grew up in a Jewish neighborhood, went to Hebrew school, and practically lived in the JCC pre-peace corps, so I was surprised that the word Mission was meant in more of a Jesus sense and not in a “Mission Accomplished” sensed.
I have hung out with a lot of enthusiastic Christians before this trip but so many have a tendency to promote their god in a way that I promote my eco-stoves, however it feels more like they are shoving it down my throat. But I know quite a few exceptions (one happens to be one of my incredibly good friends here). And the people I worked with were some of the most amazing people I have ever met. Like, if god really has a heaven up there, these people are on the VIP list. I feel truly grateful for being given the opportunity to meet and work with them.
So I arrive to the Medical Mission and I quickly get accustomed to praying before meals. The first three days I am placed in the eye wing. I am helping the doctors, nurses and volunteers translate (I also did get to go in to the surgery room quite a bit). The eye wing did cataract and pterygium surgeries. Most of the people we saw were 50 and up but we did see an 8 year old and a few other younger people. I think I had the best job. I got to take a medical history, explain what was going on, and do some minor medical stuff (like blood pressure and eye drops), which gave me the opportunity to bond with the patients. I can’t remember the running total for the amount of surgeries performed but I remember that one day there was a total of 60 eye surgeries.
It was amazing to meet so many people who haven’t seen in years and then the next day they can see and they are telling you how big their grandkids are.
There was this one woman who was painfully shy. Like, she wouldn’t tell me her name, age, nothing. Her daughter had to tell me everything. To try to ease her discomfort I was talking to her. As I was getting ready to move her to the pre-operation room, she leaned over to me, and whispered that she was scared. WELL the next day this woman comes back and as she is waiting for her post operation check up she is talking animatedly and loud! Her daughter calls me over and introduces me and the woman embraces me. It was amazing to see people change.
I can go on and on about these people but I won’t. BUT I will tell one of my favorite stories. There was this man, Señor Tomas. Well Señor Tomas was 95 years old and was walking better than I was. He was blind in one eye and really blurry in the other. I took a liking to this old man. He was funny, energetic and full of life. I visited him a little more than the other patients. The next day I was talking to him and he was telling me about everything he was seeing and he looks at me and tells me that I am pretty and then asks me to marry him. Now that is pretty a common occurrence here but it was nice to hear from someone who isn’t a creeper. And no, and I didn’t accept offer.
On the last day I got to work in the general medicine clinic and that was SOOOO awesome. There were so many babies and kids! I got to hold an eight-day-old baby for like an hour. It was amazing.
A father came in with his 5-year-old daughter who had some sort of form of mental retardation. I am talking to the father and he tells me that she doesn’t hear or speak. It turns out that right around the little girl’s first birthday she was brought into the hospital with an extremely high fever and the doctors didn’t get the fever under control…
There was also another woman who was 5 months pregnant and couldn’t afford an ultrasound. She was spotting and having really bad cramps…
It was the most emotionally exhausting, challenging, yet remarkably rewarding days of my life.
Well I was only going to be out of site for three days but there was an issue going on in the Panamanian government. Without saying my own personal opinion let me give some background: For years the government has been wanting to mine and build hydroelectric power plants in one of the Indian reservations. Well these Indians, or Ngäbes, don’t want this on there land. The president signed an agreement with some businesses that they could mine and build the power plant. Well, during the mission the Ngäbes began protesting and shut down the highway. Now in New York this isn’t too much of a problem, take another road. Well, there isn’t another road in Panama. So I was stuck out in a “city” for a week.
The government sent an official in to meet with the Ngäbes seven days later and as soon as the meetings began the protests ended and I was able to go back to site.
Now I was out of site for 10 days. Well my dog went missing. It turns out that my neighbor gave my dog to a man who lives on one of the (many) surrounding islands. Well my neighbor wouldn’t fess up to it and no one would tell me anything. I hung up signs, went to almost a dozen different islands/places looking and no success.
We will get back to Megalodon soon but in the meanwhile I had other work to do. As some of you may remember that I had a TON of work to do from the Panamanian agency that need to get done by the 10th, well I didn’t get back to site until the 7th. So I was incredibly busy looking for my dog and didn’t really put my best effort forward doing the work I was asked to do. So the day before my agency meeting I was in crunch time. Remember how you felt that time in college when you left all the studying for the last minute, well that is exactly how I felt.
Needless to say, the meeting didn’t go so hot. Luckily I applied for the grant when I was stuck in the city while the protests were going on. But I still didn’t know anything about recycling programs nor have a complete list of people who were interested in eco-stoves.
Well I was also really busy because on the 18th my parents and sister came to visit! It was so nice to see them. We spent a day in Panama City and saw the Canal and Casco Viejo, which is a cool artsy-fartsy place. Then we came to the lovely Boca Chica. My mother walked in to my house and started crying and then proceeded to tell me that if I didn’t wan to finish my service I didn’t have to. WOW. But it was so nice to have them here. My sister was possibly the funniest person ever.
While in the BC we went on a boat trip and hung out by the hotel pool. It was nice.
We also spent a few days in my closest city, David. David is a cool city because it has a lot of thing and has a city-like feel to it but is pretty tranquil. Or at least I think so. My dad didn’t. 
ANYWAY they left Saturday. Well Sunday I got a phone call from my host dad who was up in the mountains on the farm. He told me that they were leaving early and that he would meet me the next morning because he knew where MY DOG WAS!!!
Monday my host dad took me 27 miles to a backside of an island (that I didn’t even knew existed) and tells me to wait by the boat. About 10 minutes later he calls me over and we walk over to where this man is. He has a horse and a dog tied up to a fence. Both animals are PAINFULLY skinny. I am about 40 feet away when I realize that the dog sort of looks like Dony. Then 20 when I realize it was Dony! I start sprinting toward my dog and Megalodon is trying to get to me but he’s got this rope around his neck and ends up cutting himself and we are both lying on the ground crying kissing one another. Covered in Dony’s blood. Now that I look back at it, the guy who had my dog must have thought I was crazy. But I don’t care. I have my dog back and that’s all that matters. I asked the man where he found my dog and he said that “he was wandering around the island” which means the man won’t tell me. But like I said, I don’t care. I have Dony back.
And today is Thursday and not much else to tell.
OHH! I ate iguana eggs. GROSS. REALLY GROSS. It seriously makes me consider being a vegetarian.
Love and Hugs,
Madye and Dony

Friday, December 9, 2011

Where have I been...

Let me start off my asking you guys not to judge my real quick typing (without proofreading or spell check). I am also still in Spanish mode and that sort of makes me think and talk like a hilbilly.

EN GENERAL:     Just so you all know, I am fine and not dead, just busy. So I was supposed to have this huge meeting (where my boss from the Peace Corps comes, I needed a written project and I needed to give a 3 hour presentation in Spanish) in my community in October. So I was super busy working on that but of course, they changed it to the first week in November. Five days after that I had a ten day conference about Environmental Conservation techniques and projects that I could do in my community. That ended the Wednesday of Thanksgiving. From Wedenesday to Friday I celebrated thanksgiving.

MORE DETAILS:        My meeting did not go well. 6 people showed up. Three of them being host parents, one the town "sheriff", another is a miserable old man who is out to bring me down, and the sixth.... well I don't remember off the top of my head but there was a sixth, I think.. ANYWAY out the the 6 people there only 2 participated, 2 were too shy to do anything, and the other two whispered to each other the whole time. We also did not accomplish anything. It sucked.
The point of this meeting was to give me an assignment. A project that I could work on with the community. YEAHHH that ended up them telling me to teach English classes. FABULOUS! Not exactly environmental...
Anyway it gets better because this week I had a meeting and it was just to talk about the trash situation here- now let me fill y'all in here. People here either burn their trash, throw it in the street, or throw it in the children's soccer field (which means when it rains, and it always rains, that it falls in the mangroves).- But when i schuedules it I didn't realize that the day I made it for, was also a huge fiesta in the next town over YET yet yet yet still 8 ENTHUSIASTIC people showed up. We accomplished so much and it was so great. At the end of the meeting people were still talking about the problem and they looked at me and said that they wanted another meeting!!! It felt so good.

My conference went well. Learned a lot but the highlight is my mother’s worst nightmare. So as you all found out within the first five minutes of meeting me, I am a spaz. I drop things and fall down and generally just don’t have any cooridination whatsoever. Well, for those of you who know my father, you know that he is a tad bit competitve. Okay, I was being generous. My dad is… he really likes… He is one competitive S.O.B. (and I love him). So I have a bit of that gene. Going back to the story, my spazy, competitive self, was playing this game of Steal the Bacon. Well I was paired up with a girl much larger than myself. Well anyway, we were running toward the bandana (that was the bacon) and we ran into each other. Well the girl is perfectly fine. She stood on her feet. I on the other hand, went flying. Feet up in the air. My friend was crying he laughed so hard. My other friend told me that he heard out clunk  together and now he refers to the extravagenza as the “sonic boom”.
Thanksgiving was great! 200 Peace Corps Panama volunteers attended. It was up in the mountains, where it’s cold, so it gave a feeling of being back home, except without the family part. But don’t you worry, there was PLENTY of drama. How many crying people I comforted, I do not know. All I know is that I wasn’t one of them.
I also cooked. Now before any of you start worrying, there was no burning of food. BUT I did work on a sweet potato pie for 200 people (so it was quite large and heavy) and I had two boys help me take it out of the oven and they dropped it. Well some of it was saved.
I also did dishwashing duty which was so much fun because I got to eat SOOOO much while cleaning the pots and pans. MMMMmmm. My friend and I took stale bread and dipped it in the turkey fat. I know it sounds gross but it was sooo yummy. And I hadn’t eaten american food in over 7 months. I went nuts.

Anyway I hope you all had a Happy Gobble Gobble because I certainly did.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

a poor excuse for a blog update

so i have been meaning to update my blog for over a month but whenever i am near a computer i always have so much stuff to do that I don't have time to update. Sooo I am here to say that I am alive but wont be updating until december. Sorry.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


Marshmallows are an interesting food. The soft, sticky goo with just the right amount of sweetness are a perfect way to curve a sugar craving but other days they are just gross. The texture is like a malleable rubber (and they taste like it) and they are so sticky that they get all over your fingers and you end up being sticky for the rest of the day.  
ANYWAY, you know the color a marshmallow gets when you put it near a campfire but just roast it and not burn it. That is my skin color.
I was trying to be deep and compare my life to a marshmallow but that was just too difficult for the ADD kid and I lost intere- BUTTERFLY. 
So I went fishing the other day with my host family and it was an absolutely magnificent day. We saw whales and dolphins, caught a ton of fish and there was a breeze. Well, typical Madye: It was really sunny and my eyes were being bothered so I went to put my sunglasses on but they weren’t on my head. They weren´t on the ground. They weren’t in my bag. Of course, I was already wearing them. Yup! THAT’S ME!
Well, I gotta go run to a government agency and talk about a possible landfill in my community.

Friday, September 2, 2011


i do not want to update this blog. but i feel the need to tell you all that i did upload photos of my community to facebook and i accidently ate an endangered rabbit. it was delicious (as was the hammerhead shark) but i don´t think i´ll be eating it anytime soon.
later i am going to panama's version of the epa and introduce myself. i will also send out postcards. hopefully.

Monday, August 15, 2011

I was going to write something cool but it ended up being mainly about my dog.

Now I thought I was being really smart using Microsoft Word but of course the computer dies on me so I have to switch computers and I lost my other blog. Pretty typical Madye, huh?
Well, there isn´t much new to do with me. Still refusing marriage proposals, still explaining the significance of homework to parents, and the chickens are still causing insomnia.
Right now I am in the fabulous city of David (pronounced da-veed). I need to buy a bed. I am moving into my second host family tomorrow (two weeks late) and I lack a bed. I am actually going to buy one of those tri-fold mattress thingies until I can come back with a friend with a car and buy a proper bed. The Megalodon dog is at home and we will be coming back Thursday for a quick vet visit.
I love my dog. He is great. Last month I would have told you that I loved him but he is a pain but he is learning quickly and generally speaking, house trained. Well, I don´t really go in the house all that much and because he is my shadow, neither does he. He does come in my room quite bit but he sleeps in his crate and his crate is too big to fit in my room so technically he sleeps outside but in his crate. Starting tomorrow though the crate will be in my room. He is actually quite good in the crate and doesn´t poop or pee in there. When he has too he cries. My good boy. Now some of you have asked me if he is bilingual. Well, he is not. He does not understand Spanish and doesn´t understand English either. He is quite a special puppy. I have been trying to teach him to sit the last few weeks but he usually gets distracted in 0.2 seconds. Go figure, I have the ADD dog!
The kids are really cute with my dog. Whenever they see him they are always screaming “DOOOONNNIIII!” (or JONNNIII depending on the speak impediment) They all have dogs but they love mine. I think it is because they know that no matter how much they torture him, put him in wheelbarrows, dance with him, throw him (I don´t like this one so much), or whatever, Megalodon will NEVER bite. He has never even done a warning growl or snapped.
I am actually starting to enjoy speaking another language. The reason behind this thought is because when I get really pissed off I can say things in English and no one will understand. My latest favorite phrases are “Damn it” and “I hate you.”
Well I am going to try to respond to some emails. LOVE!
PS  “i love sami goldberg almost as much as best friend Michael”

Friday, August 5, 2011

So this fancy internet café has Microsoft Word so I have decided to write my blog posts here and then just copy and paste them to the blog. I know; I am a genius.
Panamanian life is really slow. For example the meeting for Neighborhood Watch started three hours late because the police arrived three hours late. Another example for those of you who speak Spanish, ahora means now but here it means soon. Ya means already and here it means now.  I think the Spanish example is actually kind of funny
Well things that have happened in my life:
Yesterday and today I took days off and spent them with my friend. She came in from another province to hang out. She is fabulous and I would love to give her credit but Peace Corps rules don´t allow it. Anyway, we had a delicious dinner last night with margaritas, wine and whine. We did a little/a lot of shopping and had just a wonderful time being together. It was so nice to feel like a person again.
Now one may ask: Madye where is Megalodon (or Magellan depending on the person)? Well Megalodon had to come with me to the city to receive more shots and I had him boarded at the vet for the night. I was actually looking forward to no roosters or dogs waking me up. I EVEN turned off my alarms. Alas, it did not matter. I was still up at 6:15 am. So I did sleep in an extra half hour but I went to sleep later than the usual 8:30 am so I didn´t really get more sleep.
Oh I few of you may appreciate a true Madye moment. Just as background: most people in my community know that I have a fear of snakes (it is really only Panamanian snakes because those son-of-a-guns are quite venomous) and cockroaches. Okay so I´m going to tell this from a third person stance. 
Madye was cleaning her room and left the door open and unattended. It was only for a few moments, and when Madye went back in she began screaming like she found a dead body. She ran back into the house for her host father but couldn´t get the words out to describe what had made her so upset. Her dad followed her quick pace back into her room with a garden hoe asking ´where is the snake´. Of course it was not a snake. It was a chicken. My dad could not stop laughing for the rest of the day. And somehow the whole town found out about my extravaganza and is now cracking chicken jokes every day.
I have also started teaching in the schools and it has made me feel so much less stressed (I know, bizarre).  I taught and entire science less in Spanish. It was an introduction to garbage and how to classify things as organic or inorganic. It went quite well and I was really proud when a few days later a government organization came down to talk about recycling. They showed the kids a picture of garbage (and all of it just happened to be organic) asked the kids what the picture was of. The person was just hoping for the answer of garbage but of course one of my little munchkins screamed out ¨ORGANIC GARBAGE! YOU HAVE TO COMPOST THAT!¨I was so happy. They learned. Of course I need to learn how to write a correct lesson plan (anybody have copies they want to email me??) and then learn to write in Spanish but every day I am feeling more and more comfortable.
I have also started (like yesterday morning) teaching English in the school. The older kids already get lessons from another woman but the first, second and third graders don´t get any English lessons. The teachers don´t speak a word so I am started on ground level. Of course there are kids who do speak some English. Mainly though just curse words they learn from their fathers who think it is hilarious. Let me tell you, it is not that funny to hear a five year old say a$$h0le. Now I am not going to commend child abuse in any form but the kids who get spanked are not the kids using fowl language.
I have also invested in a football and am trying to teach the kids how to play. I am all of a sudden very grateful for first period gym with Mr Chris.
Also I am thinking of starting a health class. I would like to teach the kids about the importance of brushing your teeth and hopefully being able to teach the adults. Many of the adults do not have teeth and many of the children´s baby teeth are brown and eroding in their mouths. I would also like to teach the importance of hand washing. FUN FACT! Did you know that 5 million people die a year because water sanitation and 42% can be helped by washing hands?
Another idea I have had was a landfill. Most people dump their garbage in the dump, a.k.a. the Mangroves, or burn it. Burning some of the garbage isn´t exactly end of the world as long as it is paper product but many people burn plastics and they don´t know what the Ozone Layer is. So I have to explain the reason for building and using a landfill in more simple terms. A landfill has potential to help a ton here.
I have a ton of more ideas but one that I am actually going to do is start an after school club. The kids don´t usually have homework (unless I taught that day) and generally speaking, live close to the school so they would be able to come back to school for the meetings. I was thinking of having the club be environmentally based and I have two reasons for thinking this: I am a Community Environmental Conservation specialist and there are TONS of resources for eco-clubs in Pamama.
Photos are on facebook. The flicker thing sucks. You can only add a certain amount of pictures per month and I have over 500 photos (only 200 are on facebook).
Anyway, thank you all for the love and support. I really appreciate it and the emails. I will try to be better about responding. I hope most of you don´t judge my spelling when I email you from the kindle. It is really difficult with a funky keyboard and lack of English speaking.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Internet cafe

ONCE AGAIN the internet cafe erases everything
I have eaten a hammerhead shark. it actually was really good until i found out what it was
i met a cute and adorable little girl named beatrice
i was told i was fat
i love my dog
i love sami goldberg even though i couldn´t get skype to work. stupid phones
in one day i had fried hot dogs for breakfast and boiled hot dogs for dinner. Best Friend Michael would be jealous
the shrimping boat uses metal doors (only really interesting to those who took Larry Meyers class at the dmc)
i have a glass deoderant
i love my host family
i got hit on by a clown
i run regularly AND do adrians exercise. its killer
I am currently reading this book Sex Drugs and Sea Slime. It is hilarious marine biology and the author relates it directly to our lives.
I often advertise for camp. My green frisbee is a great hit with the kids here
One of the girls here calls Donny ´Jonny´because she can´t pronounce it right

anyone know any good books?

One day I will upload photos!

I LOVE YOU ALL! Thank you all for calling and emailing. I really appreciate it and one day I will respond to all of you!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

New Mailing Address

Madelyn Berger
Cuerpo de Paz
Entrega General David-0426
Provincia de Chiriqui
Republica de Panama
Telefono: 68243537

Also fmail takes anywhere from four to eight weeks and I have been told that customs likes to look through yor stuff. like open vitamin bottles and such so please dont send anything valuable, except kitkat bars. Mmmmmm. No Kitkats here.....

Some hints for sending mail
Write the address in red pen
Add Jesus-like stickers if you happen to have them laying around
Add Hermana before Madelyn
Write bible stuff on it

Sorry this post is boring. A new one will be up in a week that includes m eating a weird food... Well food I wouldnt eat if I knew what it was beforehand...... 

Friday, July 15, 2011

Sorry I am not going to re-read this (I´m sure Mr Weaver would be angry)

Hey yáll!
I am officially a Peace Corps volunteer!! I swore in two weeks ago and am moved to my site of Boca Chica, Chiriqui. For those of you who don´t know, Chiriqui is the best province in Panama!! My community has about 200 members. It is a fabulous place! It is on the water and there are over half a dozen different ports. Most of these ¨ports¨are patches of sand or mangrove. Majority of the people are fisherman or work in the tourism industry. There are TONS of hotels near me. Soooo visits??
For those of you who don´t know I am a proud owner of a puppy! He is 10 weeks old and sooo cute. At my training site my host uncle´s dog had puppies while I was there and I fell in love. His name is Megalodon and as I explanined to my parents, he´s a fabulous companion but not so fabulous as a pet. He is my ¨sombre¨or shadow and that is great except when I want to pee, or shower, or sleep. About an hour ago he was neutered and he took it like a champ. He is sleeping it off in his crate right now.
I had a whole list of things I wanted to tell you guys but in typical Madye fashion, I forgot it at home. I´ll tell you about my day instead. I wake up at around 430am to the roosters ¨singing¨as the people call it. I call it screeching but that may just be a culture difference. I wake up again at around 6am to Donnie (Megalodon is difficult for the people to say) crying so I feed him and start my day. Most of my outfits consist of collared shirts and a skort or jeans. Also, Panameños (the people of Panamá) are very particular with personal hygiene. Georgia wouldn´t fit in very well here. If you have even a spot of dirt on your clothes, you are dirty and need to change and possibly shower. The people here shower at least 3 times a day. -Anyway back to my day; my mom cooks breakfast and I eat with the family. Breakfast is different each day. Sometimes is boiled plantains with some salt, others is fried ham, and if I´m really lucky (or Donnie) it´s liver. Not a big fan of the liver. I also learned that I don´t like pig foot soup. Pig foot soup is a traditional meal of Panama and it is grotesque.
After breakfast my 11 year old host brother then goes to school from 730am to 1230pm. The school is a 3 classroom school. One class of grades 1,3,5, another of grades 2,4,6 and another of  kindergarten and Pre-kindergarden. However quite a few of the children don´t go to kinder or prekinder which is kind of bizarre because school is free and the kids don´t do anything else except hang out and play in the streets. If the kids want to continue to high school they have to take a 30 minute bus ride to the next town over and go there. A lot of them do and continue through colegio or university. But at the same time a lot don´t and work on the boats with there fathers fishing.
While my brother is at school, I help my mom clean, pasear (visit people´s houses and chat), or just work on my community analysis. A community analysis is my only job during the first three months of service. It´s acutally all Peace Corps volunteers´ jobs for the first few months. In October I will be presenting my findings to the community in a meeting and my supervisor will be there. It´s a big deal for a volunteer but most of the time community members don´t show up. The community analysis consists of many different aspects but it´s kind of self explanitory.
Anyway I am on a boat a lot. This weekend I went fishing with my host family. Fishing is having some fishing line with a hook, weight and a piece of bait. But don´t you think that you can´t catch anything, we caught a baby Black Tipped Reef Shark!!! For  those of you who don´t know, they grow up to be l3 feet long! Anyway as we (aka my host dad) are pulling him up to the boat he gets away! ¡Que lastima! But I suppose it´s for the best. OH OH I also watched them herd cattle. It was really cool. Now you think herding cattle and you think land. Oh no! They animals swim. The first time we went we had to tie them to the boat (think large canoe with a motor) and drag them across from the island to the main land. It was cruel and frightening for the first few minutes but after a half hour it was awesome.
The second time we went the cows swam. Now I really mean swam. In a group of over 50 cows they all swam together about a fifth of a mile. It was awesome. Also, cows poop, a lot. Like more than babies.
Back to the schedule, then at around 1pm we eat lunch together. And at around 7 we eat dinner while my dad and his buddies watch telenovelas. My mom doesn´t like them and I don´t really like them either but I do like the actors. I never understand what is going on (except when someone pulls a gun out or they have a romantic scene) but the actors are good looking.
I have a very good friend here. She is so nice and very talkative and three years old. She follows Donnie around and hence, follows me around.
Oh and I found a scale and weighed myself. I thought I gained weight here but it turns out I lost 7 pounds.
Randomness (incase above wasn´t enough)
Me in a white pollera (the traditional outfit of brides). Google it. It´s a good laugh
A kid flat out told me I had a big nose
I have gone to Evangelical churches over half a dozen times. WOW what an experience
I can cook, and cook well!!
I have had a marriage proposal but didn´t meet the son.
Kids here are really mature but at the same time most teenagers and quite a few adults love the disney channel and 10 year olds like nick jr. and barbie movies. My host brothers from training (16 and 8) loved Camp Rock and High School Musical. Yes, I am normal here for liking Wizards of Waverly Place.

Well I have to go, time is running short on my internet usage.
Sorry for the lack of spell and grammar check
Miss you all!!

OH OH MY MAILING ADDRESSED CHANGED!!!!!!!!!!!! I forgot to bring that too! But I can receive emails (HINT HINT mom).

Thursday, June 9, 2011


just lost everything i wrote. do not have the energy to be funny or witty anymore. sorry. key highlights:
-life in pamana is awesome but slow
-i got my new home of 2 years today. its on the coast of a province called Chiriqui. I will be working with fisherman, an environmental group, the school, and conservation of a national park in the marine gulf.
-thank you all for the emails and updates. you have no idea how much they all mean to me. they help me keep so much of my sanity.
-i love you all

Sunday, May 29, 2011

another blog update in under an 10 minutes

today is a travel day. this week is technical week. the whole group of us Community Environmental Conservationers (all 21 [one dropped out but that's a story in an of itself]) are going to another volunteer's community and staying there for a week. we will all be with host families and then during the day doing volunteer stuff. three of the six days we will be in a school and the other days we will be doing physical stuff. i know what those precamp people are thinking, "Madye's doing physical labor?" well you silly people, i can and i have. i helped make a garden yesterday. I did not participate in the machete group, my spastic side would show a little too much, but i like to believe that i am a pro with the pick axe. Oh and we did do composting (daddy we've been doing it really wrong. you should buy a book and have georgia read it and tell you how to compost). on another note, in less than 2 weeks we will be getting our site where we will be living for the next 2 years! SOOexcited. And I moved up 2 levels in spanish in a month!! I am officially able to tell my host family how i feel!!! Anyway my time it up in the internet cafe. Love and hugs

Friday, May 6, 2011

Panama excitement

Hey Guys! I am here in an internet cafe in La Chorrera. It is a Spanish keyboard and it is a little difficult so perdon my English. THANK YOU ALL FOR THE EMAILS!!!!! I actually get international 3g on my kindle but I cannot respond very well with the keyboard. It is sort of like texting. ANYWAY!!!!!! Sami G, your email made me so happy! And Wassy, it was like reading your blog but better. Mommy, thank you for the daily updates I LOVE IT!!!! ALSO! I receive email so you do not need to do the kindle thing. You can email me at MadyeB AT  They do not have the at sign on this keyboard or an apostrophe (or however you spell it). Anyway I LOVE YOU ALLL!!!!! 
With the exception of the blistering heat and humidity, it is great here. I am currently living with my host family. It is my mom, dad and two younger brothers who are 8 and 15. I love my family. They are so patient with my incredibly poor spanish and never give up when I dont understand something.
A little overview of my days here, I wake up with the chickens, which is about 5 in the morning but I try to go back to sleep if it isn too hot. I have language class at 8 am until noon. I have the best spanish teacher. The class is completely in spanish which is very difficult but in my opinion, the best way to learn. All language classes should be that way. ANYWAY I have lunch from noon until 1 and at 1pm I have technical class until 3. Most of it is how to work in a school, with kids and learning about the environment. I like to say that although some people are a few steps ahead of me in spanish, I am good with the tech. class. From 3 to 5 is language tutoring for those "special" language people like me! My level is Novice Medium but I feel like I can communicate really well. After classes I walk home and chat with my friends or "pasear"/visit friends. Afterwards I go home to eat dinner with my family, socialize with them (My little brother LOVES Phines y Ferb). Then at around 930 I start getting ready for bed, read a little bit and pass out.
Next weekend we are going to visit another volunteer. Like take public transport by ourselves and everything!!!! Dont worry mom, I am one of the few people who is traveling with another volunteer. I am super pumped. I am going to visit a volunteer on the beach who works with kids and a school. Anyway Ill tell you guys about that later. Got to go. Bus will leave without me if I dont get to our meeting point in time.
Mucho Amor!