First Site Visit {PST Week 8}

First Site Visit {PST Week 8}

Sweat was pouring down the temples of my forehead and I was breathing heavy as I dragged my feet up another hill. My nagua was completely soaked and weighing me down with the sweat that streamed down my body. My guide was marching ahead, unphased by how tired I was after pasearing all day. He looked back at me as we arrived at another house and said, ¨last one,¨ and I was so stoked. I thought my stomach was going to explode if I received one more bowl of rice or coffee so I was looking forward to the day being over. I sighed as a woman handed me another bowl of rice and a cup of coffee, gave myself a pep talk, and downed the food and drink. I told myself first impressions were everything; I just had to do this one time so I don’t insult the gente. Since food is all they have to give, by rejecting the food they offer, in a way you reject the person or family also so it’s important to just do your best to smile, force it down, and tell them it’s bonänte.


I was ecstatic to finally meet my guide and find out where I would be living for the next two years. I had no fears about meeting the people and the site in general, but I was psyching myself out over the hike into my site. One of my compañeros that had visited my site for their volunteer visit told me that my hike-in was brutal and wished me luck. I had a lot of stuff I was carrying into site and I was worried about the weight and my guide not helping me carry my bags.

We stayed in a hostel overnight to rest for the hike the next morning. I couldn’t sleep, and I was counting down the hours until I would have to make the trek with my heavy bags up the monte. It was 6 AM when my guide asked if I was ready to go; physically I had been ready to go with my clothes on since 4 AM but mentally, not even close. I asked my guide how long was the hike, ¨a little over an hour,¨ which meant in Ngobe time, probably around 2 hours.

We climbed in a busito, which drove us into the Comarca and started up the mountain. I looked out the window and saw a magnificent lush, green valley below with majestic mountains that extended for as far as the eye could see. The sun’s rays was peaking over the crest and the fog was beginning to dissipate, and I was in total awe as I realized somewhere along the horizon, I was going to be living in this area for the next two years. I couldn’t believe how blessed I was to have been picked to live is such a beautiful place.

Arriving at the bus stop, my nerves set in and I had to take some deep breaths to calm myself. We had to get to site and we had a meeting with the entire community planned right off the bat. I wasn’t worried at all about meeting new people, I just wondered if I could make it up the mountain with my bags for the next two years. The first 45 minutes was rolling hills; I had my giant backpacking backpack on my back, another big backpack strapped to my front, and a mini-pack hanging off my side. It was probably close to 70 pounds, but I managed the rolling hills. What got to me was after we waded through the river and we had to walk straight up the mountain for another hour. I was incredibly frustrated but I hung in and made it to site after close to two and a half hours.

Everyone was so excited when I showed up to the community meeting in a nagua and I gave my speech in Ngobere:

Köbö kuin dere! Ti ka Anna. Ti nunanka California, Estados Unidoste. Ti ta sribire Cuerpo de Pazben. Ti nunai nete ka kröbu krakwe. Ti sribidi nö kukwebdta. Böri kuin!

Good afternoon! My name is Anna. I’m from California, USA. I am working with Peace Corps. I will live with you for two years. I will work with water and health. All is well!

The gente errupted in total applause and cheers at the end, and the community decided to give me a Ngobe name, Meli, so I am no longer Anna Harris these next two years, but Meli Klauböda. The next few days I paseared in the village to get to know the people and get a feel for what the community was like, and also had my first work junta to clear the ojo de agua to make way for work in the aqueduct. I’m really excited how motivated the people are to work among the 4 different pueblos I’ll be working with and to see what these next two years will hold.

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