After the holiday season things have begun to go back to normal here in the Portobelo area. However, Panama still maintains its signature style of getting work done at a relaxed and comfortable pace. High school started back up for students who are in the agriculture program or who need to make up classes from last year. The agriculture students come in for half days and are mostly focused on their hands-on practical projects. This week Professor Wilfredo and I hope to be able to take students to visit the water intake source and collect water samples from students living in different towns and test water from all over the district using the E. coli testing kits we had donated. We had been hoping to do this the past couple weeks but flooding rains have put a damper on working in the jungle; one week school was cancelled for three days in a row due to flooding. On the subject of water testing, the results from the MINSA water testing done in November finally arrived. Unfortunately, of the seven results that were shown to me from the district none contained the presence of chlorination and all contain either fecal coliforms or E. coli. We have some more work to do.
On the sunny side of things I have begun giving chlorination charlas in a town called Maria Chiquita in addition to Portobelo. In Maria Chiquita the local clinic is smaller; they only have a doctor once a week and can only see up to 20 patients on the day the doctor is there. However, this makes for a welcoming atmosphere for giving charlas since patients waiting are more likely to pay attention and ask questions. This past week I got off the bus in Maria Chiquita (about 40 mins from Portobelo by bus) and began to walk towards the clinic when a lady sitting at a fonda, or small restaurant serving one or two meal options at breakfast and lunch, called me over. She had been in the clinic the week before when I gave the charla and wanted to let me know that the doctor had not shown up today to see patients. As I thanked her and turned to walk away she called me back and asked if I could give the charla right there for the people eating at the fonda. Of course I could! Although it was only for about 5 people it turned out to be a great idea as those listening were much more involved and willing to have a conversation with me. Everyone told me they would give the charla at home to their families and suggested I also come back and teach the information to the teachers at the school there when school starts back up at the end of February. I also got a free coffee! In the USA life is all about planning but here in Panama life tends to be focused on simply living; what happens will happen.