Monday, October 20, 2014

I Wrote a Blog Post and You'll Never Believe What Happened Next

Well, I posted it.  That's what happened next. 

1)  Side Gigs -- I was listening to my brother's senior recital from his saxophone playing days.  He had a pretty good original piece there.  You know, bro, Joshua Redman was accepted to Yale law school but ended up deferring.  The rest is history.  Just sayin'.

2)  Enviro Ed Topic? -- There's nothing like trying to read an article in Spanish about making plastic bags from cow farts.  If there is, you'll have to tell me.  I wonder what my counterparts think of this. 

3)  Dinero -- When I left Cameroon, I made the mistake of not converting about $200 worth of CFA into dollars.  So if anyone's going to Cameroon and you're passing by Panama or if I'm going to see you when I'm visiting the US, I gots what you need.  I'm just glad I don't have to exchange currency in Panama since I can use the US $ here. 

4)  Question(s) of the Day -- How is it that most of the supermarkets in my town (and apparently in most of Panama) are owned by the Chinese?  Supermarkets are so associated so much with the Chinese that the locals call the supermarkets 'Chino'.  e.g. "you can buy X at the Chino."  How have they come to dominate the supermarket business?  Are they all part of a business association?  Do they get incentives back home to set up shop in Panama?  More importantly, where did they learn Spanish?  Well, I suppose I can always just ask them these questions instead of wondering on my blog.   
An ethnic Chinese student in Panama with my counterparts.
5)  There's friends and then there's Facebook friends --  Every once in a while, I unfriend/block people on Facebook.  Although I realize now that that's a little harsh for some of them.  Some, not all.  I probably should've just unfollowed some of them.  Its just weird to be Facebook "friends" with some people I've never met in real life or with people I barely know.  Come to think of it, using words like "unfriend" and "unfollow" is weird.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Sabado Cinco

1)  PC cars -- I had blogged a while back about how PC vehicles should be more environmentally friendly and lo and behold, PC is starting to recruit applicants with a Smart car.  Its a start, I suppose. 

2)  Question of the Day -- How do you find a job in the Philippines (let alone a job in one's field), a country that is known more for exporting human labor than for creating jobs? 

3)  Béisbol -- hehey.  Giants are back in the World Series.  They must be doing something right.  I generally root for the A's, because of their underdog story, with Moneyball being one of my favorite books.  But the A's always falter in the playoffs.  So my 2nd favorite team will have to be the Giants.  Why not?  The Bay Area has been kind of a 2nd home for me. 

4)  Recycled Laptop Case -- my counterpart can make coin purses out of candy wrappers/potato chip bags, but I wanted to make a laptop case using the same material.  I searched online and, of course, its already been done.  But what the heck, I want one, so I'll just make my own with the help of my counterpart:


A few more days (and a bunch more potato chip bags) and it should be done.

5)  Salud!
As Robin Hood once said with a US accent: 
 "We have much to celebrate."

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Siete

1)  Quote of the day -- "The NFL has had an inappropriate language penalty in its rule book, and this year is having officials enforce it with an emphasis on eliminating racial slurs."   Unless of course when the racial slur is also the name of an NFL team. 

2)  Currently reading -- the Spanish version of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (La Cámara Secreta).  Vocab that I learned in the book that I'll probably never use in real life:  pergamino, which means parchment. 

3)  Advantage of a dumb phone -- my dumb phone has this really cool app, where I only need to charge my phone once and it lasts for 3-4 days.  Its pretty cool. 

4)  Floyd Mayweather -- I watched a Mayweather fight for the first time several weeks ago.  The one against Maidano.  Man, that was a boring fight.  I can see now how Mayweather has had such a long career.  Then again, if it wasn't boring, then somebody was probably getting their head bashed in.  Ah, boxing. 

5)  A Day at the Office
Come Visit Me. Yes.  Here.  In Panama.
 6)  Cameroonian English -- I was wearing a shirt from Cameroon that said "Join us improve the environment" and a counterpart was reading it out loud, trying to learn English.  I told him its probably not a good idea to learn English from that shirt. 

7)  Just Like Lebron -- Talked to my mom last night.  Looks like I'll be moving back to the Philippines next year after I finish my service in Panama.  Not sure how useful a TEFL certificate would be over there.  Probably not very. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Sunday Cinco

1) Cooking Panamanian Food -- just like in Cameroon, I tried to learn how to cook the local food. Here, my counterpart is teaching me a Panamanian recipe with lentils:


The only thing I always change after learning a local recipe is to make sure to not add MSG.  In Cameroon, the locals are always shocked when I don't add MSG (aka maggi cube).  Here, they also have maggi, but they're more like a bar instead of a cube.  My "cooking teacher" used a broth type powder in a packet, but it was essentially MSG. 

2)  Deforestation -- there's been a lot of deforestation in the region where I'm posted.  My boss says the current forest is 10% of what it once was.  I can only imagine how forested this place used to be:
Slightly askew
3)  Current music in my head -- Sherry Darling by Bruce Springsteen, George Michael's cover of I Can't Make You Love Me and Herbie Hancock's Gentle Thoughts.

4)  El Lagarto en el Lago -- the lake next to the office where I work is rumored to have alligators, but I've never seen any.  Until now:



Pretty cool.

5)  SNAFU -- on a serious note, hostages kidnapped in Cameroon were recently released by Boko Haram  .  Especially telling is this sentence: "No details were given on the circumstances of the release or whether a ransom was paid."  That sounds like a ransom was paid.  If so, then that would just make things worse, according to this NY Times article.  An effed up situation all around.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Así Es ...

1)  Mi Nueva Casa -- I finally have my own place for the first time since Cameroon (10 months ago). No more hostels, staying with friends/family, etc. I can now listen to my own music without headphones, cook my own food and drink my morning tea at my leisure.


I guess you can say I've settled down. Well, for several months anyway.

2) El Trabajo -- making some progress with work. Here's a photo in a classroom after one of my presentations or 'charlas' regarding waste management:


3) Como ésta (es?) tu español -- A common question I get from friends/family "back home" is "How's your Spanish?" Aside from occasional difficulties with "ser" and "estar", its good. But there are times when the Panamanian accent is not easy to understand, especially when they are speaking really fast. In that case, my reaction is usually as follows:


4) Otro Día en la Oficina -- this alligator was caught roaming around in the nearby regional capital and was brought into my counterpart organization's office today.

They're going to release it into the wild, away from urban areas.

5) Los Problemas en el Trópico -- Dear mosquitoes, why are you always trying to ruin my experience in the tropics? Yes, I get it. You have evolved throughout the ages to survive, but your method of surviving (biting me) is getting to be quite annoying.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Seis Pensamientos del Momento

1)  Food -- in Cameroon, it was rice and beans.  In Panama, its rice and lentils. 

2)  Things I am Tired of -- links to articles on the sidebar about wives and girlfriends (WAG) of athletes while I'm trying to read the sports page.  Who gives a sh*t?

3)  That's a Switch -- I'm living with a host family whose members all have smartphones while I have a dumbphone.   

4)    Quote of the day -- I think Buddha once said that life is suffering.  Life is pain.  Or as Sgt. Barnes would say, "Shut up and take the pain!  Take the pain!"



5)  Music in my head -- Jonathan Richman's True Love is Not Nice, U2's Elevation and Bruce Springsteen's Badlands

6)  "… and that has made all the difference."


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Panamá


Well, I've now been in Panamá for a few weeks -- a week in the capital and some weeks at post.


So far, things have been going well.  Some thoughts:

1)  Húmedo -- its quite humid where I am even during rainy season.  The fan is almost always on in my room.   My mom says it sounds like Manila.  Or my post in Cameroon.

2)  Los Contrapartes -- My counterparts seem motivated.  I just talk to them about some of my ideas and they run with it.  I don't get the "We can't do that" answer.  Of course, its still early, but hopefully we can keep things moving. 

3)  Teléfono Inteligente -- I returned my smartphone after 1 day.  Well, I couldn't actually return it for some strange no-return policy reason.  So a fellow PCV, who felt sorry for me, bought it from me.  The smartphone was just too much.  The only fancy feature I wanted on the phone was a flashlight.  Back to using a dumbphone.   

4)  El Cuerpo de Posh? -- at my post, I have constant electricity, a cellphone network, a decent internet connection and running water that's potable.  Oh, and street lights.  Yeah, pretty posh. 

5)  La Musica -- current song in my head, Richard Thompson's Keep Your Distance:

Friday, August 08, 2014

Mexico …

… y otras cosas. 

Its been an eventful few months since I went off to Mexico a few months ago: 

1)  Mexico By Bus --


Image above is from my Facebook Places map.  I sometimes think I only travel so I can put virtual pins on that map.  It also looks like I need pins in Eastern Mexico.  ¡Me iré proximo tiempo!

2) Peace Corps Reboot (Or Response) --  a lot of movies nowadays are reboots of old films -- Batman, Superman, Star Trek, etc.  Probably due to a lack of original ideas, as the reboot of 21 Jump St ironically says.  Well, I also have a bit of a reboot -- Peace Corps.  I've been invited to be a Peace Corps Response volunteer in Panama promoting environmental education.  I'm scheduled to fly out in early September. 

I was actually surprised to be invited for this assignment since the process took quite a while.  The assignment was supposed to start in July, but I wasn't notified until it was practically 1-2 days before July.  On the day I got the email, I was already making backup plans -- I was at a TEFL school in Guadalajara, Mexico getting information on how I could enroll so I can get an English teaching certificate.  I figured I was going to be teaching English, not environmental education.  Well, as Ryry, a former PCV buddy once told me, "Have a little faith, man."


3)  SoCal -- after getting my invitation, I needed to get some medical check-ups and also take care of some paper work.  I decided to go to San Diego, thinking I'll head back to Ensenada, Mexico while waiting for Peace Corps to clear me.  It would also give me more time to continue speaking Spanish.  Alas, Peace Corps wanted my passport so I ended up staying in San Diego instead of leaving the country.  San Diego wasn't bad.  Cheaper than staying in the Bay Area. 

4)  What Cellphone? --  I still don't have a functional cellphone.  Haven't had one since November.  When I left Cameroon, I decided not to get a sim card for my phone since I would be traveling from country to country.  I relied on other people's cellphones (Thank you!) or I used public telephones.  A few months ago, however, I decided to get a sim card for my phone since I was expecting job interview calls.  When I tried to buy one, though, the guy said they didn't make sim cards for my dumbphone.  The US discriminates against dumbphone users!

Nonetheless, I managed.  Not really sure how I survived without a cellphone for 8 months, but its possible.  Note to self: never make a collect call from a payphone using Legacy.  Side benefit of not having a cellphone:  less chance of becoming a smartphone zombie