Queridos PCPF Members,
One of the most wonderful unexpected gifts Panama gave me is my papa, Don Bolivar. I grew up with a father who, much like many Albanian men of his generation, is a man of few words and expresses his love by working hard and providing for the family. I remember hearing the term "daddy's girl" when I moved to the U.S. and thinking "Do those exist?!" So when I first met my host dad who is also a man of few words and spends most of his day working in the farm, I expected to have a similar relationship as I do with my father. The unspoken respect (and maybe one day love) kind.
All that changed one morning when my host mom had to help a neighbor and I was left home alone to wait for papa to come back from milking the cows. She had not had time to make breakfast so I quickly made him tortilla asada, salchicha, and a fruit salad (this was my way of making it a bit healthier). He ate and didn't say much. That afternoon he came back from the finca with pifa rayado and told me that he had cosechar-ed it himself because he remembered how much I liked it. As i started to think "I wish we had milk" he brought out a fresh bottle of milk from that afternoon. So we set together quietly on our porch pilando and eating pifa con leche.
Fast forward to my birthday celebration 6 months later, my papa stood up at the lunch table, took a deep breath and began to tell me how much he appreciated that I helped mama with chores, that I always visited his sick mom in David, that I treated the family like it was my own. I was so shocked that he was...dare I say giving a speech... that I didn't notice when he started to cry. My papa was crying as he told me how proud he was to call me his daughter. My heart was so full of love at that moment that I jumped up and hugged him. Then I immediately pulled back because I remembered that Don Bolivar doesn't hug people. But he pulled me back and gave me a proper hug. Six years after leaving Panama I still talk to my papa every month and am thankful that Peace Corps gifted me a father-daughter relationship that I could not have dreamed of.
This Father's Day I would like to take a moment and celebrate the wonderful Panamanian fathers in our lives who work extremely hard to provide for their families, who taught us machete skills and how to ahumar carne, and who can wear a checkered or stripped shirt like no other. Don't forget to call, text, or gritar a saludo on Sunday June 16. Feliz Día del Padre!
NYC RPCV Event
Let's enjoy the beautiful summer weather with a happy hour at the Charleston where delicious (and well priced) drinks come with free pizza. Please RSVP by getting in touch with Sara Walsh, NYC Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hope to see you there!
Date: Sunday, June 16
Time: 4 pm en adelante
Location: The Charleston (174 Bedford Avenue Brooklyn)
News From Panama
Panama held its national election day on May 5th, electing officials at every level of government. Tensions ran high, with many selected candidates not representing the majority of the population, since votes were split between various hopefuls. Additionally, the re-election of the diputado Bocatoreño Benicio Robinson sparked protests in and around the hub of Changuinola. Read about the elections here.
Panamá para el Mundial Sub-20
Panama classifies to the next round in the World Cup (for the under-20 teams). Panama's next game will be June 3rd against the Ukraine. Read about the victory here.
Molas from Puerto Rico?
Nike has withdrawn a new model of the classic Air Force 1 shoe after objections from the Guna community. The new design, which resembles the mola pattern, was described as a tribute to Puerto Rico and was meant to debut this June. The Guna community accused Nike of "pirating" a protected traditional design. Read more here.
Peace Corps Panama Updates
Liderazgo en Acción
Peace Corps Panama's third ever Liderazgo En Acción (LEA) seminar was a big hit in May! Volunteers and counterparts from across Panama gathered in San Felix for two and a half days of leadership training. The workshop is application-based and is divided into a basic workshop for aspiring leaders, and a more advanced workshop for those with more formal leadership roles. Felicidades a todos los participantes!
Staff and PCVs are gearing up to welcome the latest invitees for the Water, Sanitation, Hygiene, & Health (WASH), and Sustainable Agriculture Systems (SAS) to the Panama family. Stay tuned to hear more in our next El Bo!
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Meet Panama's New President
Laurentino "Nito" Cortizo was elected on May 5, 2019 as Panama's president, giving way to a return of the Partido Revolucionario Democratico (PRD) administration in Panama. Those RPCVs who served back in the days of General Omar Torrijos might remember the push for social development efforts that seemed to be the General's stance, which continues to be the basis of the PRD party to this day. But, who exactly is Panama's new President-elect?
Cortizo was born in Panama City in 1953. His father Laurentino immigrated to Panama from Spain and his mother Esther came from a Greek family. After high school Cortizo moved to the U.S to attended Norwich University - a private military college in Northfield, Vermont - where he received an undergraduate degree in Business Administration. He then earned a Master's in Business Administration from the University of Texas before working for the Organization of American States in Washington D.C.
After returning to Panama he held several political positions including as Presidente de la Asamblea in 2001 and the Minister of Agriculture from 2004-2006. Most recently, Cortizo ran in the 2008 presidential primary elections, however was beat out by PRD's candidate Balbina Herrera. There's a good chance that RPCVs from these eras have heard his name before!
Cortizo affirms that his administration will abstain from taking strong political stances with international allies, referring to opposing investment interest from both China and the U.S. He has prioritized improving Panama's image to the European Union and eliminating Panama from the list of countries considered a "paraiso fiscal". In the domestic affairs realm Cortizo has prioritized migratory reform, in light of high influxes of immigrants into the country, seeking to crack down on illegal immigration.
Peace Corps Panama has worked for decades under a variety of presidential administrations and as always is taking steps to share our work and mission with the incoming administration as it gears up for inauguration day on July 1st.
RPCV Spotlight: Ordinary People's Hero Journey
by: Carleena Angwin
I joined Peace Corps nearly eighteen years ago to find a sense of community and purpose. Life is cyclical that way, and last year, my motivations for launching a podcast were the same.
Let me back up. I suppose I was a non-traditional Peace Corps applicant. Raised in upstate, New York by a stay-at-home mother and a tractor-trailer driving father, the scope of my world was limited to the cornfields and cow pastures surrounding our 1890s farm house. To say I knew little about foreign affairs or the world was an understatement. In 2001, Peace Corps offered me an opportunity to serve in Panama, but first I had to consult a map to see where it was.
To summarize my time in the Peace Corps, I could tell you about the small fishing village in Veraguas where I lived, or the work I did with the children. I could tell you about the group of women that met in my house to organize a poultry cooperative, or the national conferences I helped organize. All of those projects are on my resume and some would think those were the only stories worth sharing.
But I want to share the underlying Peace Corps story. In Panama, I felt alive in ways I hadn’t felt before. Panama made me a better person, more compassionate, understanding, patient, and aware of socio-economic systems. Every day, I was challenged to learn, improve and grow. Peace Corps took a sheltered country girl who had never been on a plane before and made her a citizen of the world, a change agent. Also significant is the timing of my arrival, which coincided with 9/11. A confusing way to start the first day of training, I wouldn’t comprehend the impact of the attacks until years later, when it was time to write a book about it. More on that in a minute.
After my service I started working in community health at a metro public health department. Similar to my work in the Peace Corps, I would use my Spanish daily to facilitate workshops and teach classes. When people asked me where I learned Spanish, I opened the Peace Corps panama album on my phone and shared little anecdotes.
It wasn’t until 2015 when thoughts and memories of Panama surfaced in ways they hadn’t before. I knew I had to do the thing I had been putting off for years, and not just passively, but fully embrace it. That ‘thing’ was write a book about my time in Panama. I tried on my own: transcribing journals, organizing emails, reading documents and researching Panama. But every time I sat down to write, I was all over the place with no clear direction.
January 2016, I enrolled in an MFA in Nonfiction program at Goucher College. While my original goal was to focus on writing a book, I quickly realized my strength as an interviewer. I enjoyed it. I could get past the surface level banter quickly and find the tension, dissect it to understand what was at stake, identify the wisdom that was gained from that experience and anticipate questions a reader may have.
By graduation, I had utilized my new skill as an interviewer to thread two coming-of-age narratives--mine, and that of a Marine combat veteran of the Iraq war who began his Marine Corps journey the same time I started my Peace Corps journey--in the wake of 9/11. That’s the manuscript. The book will be different. It would take another article to tell you how I decided to add a second protagonist to my manuscript, and the unique relationship that developed during the two year interviewing process. But what I will share here is an unanticipated outcome of that experience, that led to the podcast.
I interviewed the Marine veteran for almost two years, over the phone and in-person, through trips I made to his home in Knoxville, Tennessee. We got to know each other through personal stories. The conversations led me to reexamine a time in my life I chose to ignore: the aftermath of 9/11, the invasion, war, the sacrifice families made and America’s role in the world.
I tried writing to capture the stories, our interactions, but nothing was as powerful as hearing the two of us talk: the conversation, figuring each other out, learning about each other’s thoughts and belief systems. I realized that through my conversations with the Marine, we were able to connect, develop respect, empathy, understanding, and trust each other because we were engaging each other’s intuition.
In May 2018, I launched a podcast called The Carleena Show where Ordinary People Share Their Hero’s Journey. Guests come on the show who have overcome adversity and are doing something positive, inspiring now. I explore topics such as mental health, addiction recovery, caring for aging parents, demystifying death and overcoming physical limitations. I also interview people who chose career paths that put them in contact with people experiencing their best or their worst.
The listener will get to know the guest on a human level, learn about their fears, insecurities, the mentors who stepped up and helped them overcome adversity. Just like I experienced with the Marine veteran. I hope my podcast helps bridge a gap and gives people an opportunity to see each other on a personal level. The hero’s journey is universal, no matter your nationality or political affiliation.
Just like Peace Corps, I do the podcast because it gives me a sense of purpose, community and a creative outlet. It allows me to exercise my mind and find meaning in my ordinary world.
Find The Carleena Show on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, YouTube, and anywhere you listen to podcasts. Connect with Carleena at www.carleena.net.
Panama vs. USA Soccer Match
Panama is set to play the U.S. for the Gold Cup qualifiers on Wednesday, June 26 at 9:00 PM EST in the Children's Mercy Park Stadium, Kansas City KS. Any RPCVs in the area that will be able to make it in person? If so, share your pictures with us on PCPF's Facebook page and via email to email@example.com.
This will be the third game for Group D to decide which team moves to the quarterfinals. See the Marea Roja's schedule below
Game 1: Panama vs. Trinidad and Tobago - June 18 @ 7:30 PM
Game 2: Panama vs. Guyana - June 22 @ 5:30 PM
Game 3: Panama vs. USA - June 26 @ 9:00 PM
Third Goal Activities
Do you continue to be involved in projects in Panama? Are you sharing your Peace Corps experience with other? We would love to feature you in the RPCV spotlight! Please fill out this this Google Form and let us know about the wonderful work you are doing.
Looking for RPCV Career Support?
Check out the PC Headquarters Career Center online or in person to help support you in finding your perfect career path post-service. Check out their web resources here .
Considering Grad School?
As RPCVs we are eligible for life to apply for grad school financial support through the Paul D. Coverdell Fellowship. Find out more about participating universities and their respective programs here .