I’m not sure if it was the language barrier or if they just flat out did not believe me when I said that I would return, but the majority of people here were genuinely surprised to see me come back to site. Even more surprised that I would be living here for two years. And even more surprised when they find out that I’m 27 and do not have four kids and a wife. That is a lot of surprise considering we had this exact same conversation less than two weeks ago. My host dad explained this phenomenon as “the gringos always leave” syndrome. Before I arrived no gringo had ever stayed here longer than 10 days; I will break that record on Wednesday (and raise the bar slightly higher). So I guess I cannot blame them for forgetting that my site visit week ever happened. It’s given me a chance to practice my auto-presentacion to everybody and given them a chance to stuff food and drinks in the face of their newest community member at every possible opportunity. It’s a nice balance.
So there it is, I’ve returned to my home for the next two years. PC says that for the first three months we cannot work on any EH projects. This time is strictly to put myself out there, learn as much as I can about my peeps, and then do a community analysis. The community analysis is basically like a census, if the census were to ask you where you poop and how many times per day you wash your hands…a more personal census I guess. Then we (the community) decide on what projects we need and want, what is the most beneficial and sustainable, and what is the most practical. Then if I, we (the community), and PC feel that we are ready the project actually begins. I’m a very long ways away from that point though so let’s stick to what’s going on right now.
Putting myself out there means going from house to house and just chatting (and eating) with the people. It’s a good way to get to know a bit more about the community and a great way to get to learn about my peeps and what they’re like. I really, really enjoy this, a lot more than I ever imagined I would. Sometimes the conversation just flows naturally and I can chat (and eat) for hours on end. But some other times we go into what I like to call “the stare off”. When my arsenal of conversation topics runs completely dry I am solely dependent on the other person to keep the conversation going. Sometimes the silence only lasts a few minutes. Some other times the silence lasts for 21 minutes (my current record to date). “The stare off” begins at the 10 minute mark and it involves sizing them up with my eyes with a look on my face that says “that’s right, I’m sizing you up with my eyes”. Its during this time that I concentrate all of my energy on willing them to say something, anything to continue the conversation…and it works every time. This is a beautiful segue to my next point.
Being a minority of one affords me some free passes for what might be considered odd behavior down here (like sitting in someone’s home for 21 minutes of silence with a stupid look on my face). They don’t know what activities are normal and what would be considered weird back in the States…they think everything I do is weird. I feel like this is my one opportunity to do something really crazy (by US standards) and they would just chalk it up as the gringo being a gringo. I’m not quite sure what to do with this information, but when I figure something out, or if anyone has any suggestions or ideas, I will let you know.
**PS check out the new address on the right for letters and cards. For now I would still send any packages to the Panama City address and I will go pick them up. Thanks again for all the love out there!!**