Saturday, April 12, 2008

Winter Again

Here it comes, the rain is coming back!

I can just imagine the windy days with dewy tulips and the smell of warming earth that tells the senses in New England that, yes! Spring is on its way! I admit that I miss that weather. Here on the south shore of Panamá the hot, dry days are suddenly more sticky-humid and thunder rattles the bamboo huts each afternoon. Just yesterday an aguacero visited and I think that´s it - the Winter season is back.

This makes me sad because my memories of muddy feet and mold-green boots are still fresh from December. But also, I´m planning a long hike next week and I suspect there will be some suffering along the way. Time to bring out the Water Socks, ponchos, and ZipLocks! I look forward to the next chance to blog, I should have some interesting (or just soggy) photos and stories.

Oh, but some recent and exciting news is that I´m finally living in my house. My bamboo and palm hut is finished AND has a door. So I moved in as quickly as I could and commandeered the gas stove. Here´s my kitchen:
I agree that the space seems a bit dark, even for all of those spaces between the bamboo, but it´s very cozy. I have yet to see how it fares in a rainstorm, though, vamos a ver si hay problemas de agua.

Where do I sleep? Very high up off the ground, there´s a loft about 6 ft up. There in the left-hand corner of the next photo you can see the bottom of the hand-carved ladder. The ladder provides mini-adventures each evening. While I think it is a fantastically clever design, I´ve noticed some problems. The wood has dried very quickly and is full of tiny little holes that sort of rattle when I subir the steps. I think it could fall apart within the next few months. For that reason, I bought a tow rope. I´m keeping that line handy for when I need to swing up to bed - exciting times!

Here´s my loft/bed: Also in this photo is one of the 4 dresses that was gifted to me last month. Not sure if I´ve already written about the clothing problem of mine... so I should explain.

About Nagwas: The dresses are called "nagwas" and are worn by all traditional Ngäbe women and girls. The large photo below shows my neighbors in action wearing traditional garb. The design is very interesting and represents a mix of indigenous and modern ideas. From what I understand, the fringe details (called dientes because they are often triangles or zigzags like "teeth") come from very early Ngäbe art. The earliest people in Panamá didn´t wear dresses or pants; my neighbor Román told me that they might have had some kind of covering made of natural materials (bark or leaves etc) but when missionaries encountered the people, they were considered "naked." As a solution to provide clothing, the missionaries introduced a concealing form of dress. The nagwa is a very conservative style that only reveals the arms, but less conservative was the decision to sew very poofy sleeves to the shoulders.

Part of the responsibility of Peace Corps Volunteers is to join the community and integrate with the people. This is very important but I am wrestling with the idea that I should wear the nagwas. My neighbors, Jessica and Jesse, LOVE the dresses and are putting me to shame because they can walk miles, in perfect comfort, in the nagwa. What is my hangup? Why do I feel terribly out of place wearing this clothing? I can´t form a good argument in my defense... but everyday I look at the purple, blue, and black phenomenons hanging in my closet and I freeze up. It´s just unnatural for me to pull the dresses over my ears and around my ankles and I´ll keep mulling this over for as long as it takes before I can explain my mental problem with nagwas.
While standing on the highest hill in my valley, I was checking phonemail when two of my neighbors passed by. They were returning from a long day searching for the shrubby plants called something like "escolá." These are the best plants to use when you want to clean your patio. You cut the roots first, then wrap a line/cord of grass around them and then attach a stick and, next to the machete, that broom is your best tool to use in the campo.

Here are some recent house-guests:

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