Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Man in the Arena

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. " --Teddy Roosevelt

The first time I saw this speech it was tattooed on a some guy's back. I thought, that's commitment.

"One's destination is never a place but rather a new way of looking at things." Henry Miller

This is a tough entry to write because I have decided to leave Panama and the Peace Corps and return home. There is no single reason for this decision. I am disappointed in myself because I could not fulfill the committent, and I feel I have disappointed the staff, my fellow volunteers, and my friends and family who were rooting me on. The long and the short is that I had been questioning myself for weeks, maybe longer, and wondering if I was meant to be here. In the year-long application process I felt confident that I was meant to be in the Peace Corps. I felt this service would help define my life and give me new opportunities. I was stoked on the possibility to travel.
Since I have been here, however, I was struggling to be happy and to maintain a positive outlook on the immense challenges of a volunteer. In recent weeks, I was searching for any sign to reassure that I was doing the right thing here. Unfortunately, all the signals I received seemed to reveal the opposite to me. Last week was a series of low points that I can't discuss here because of some security issues. I realized that I can't do this anymore. I don't want to do this anymore. My APCD and other support staff have been incredibly kind and professional to me and offered me a site change. I declined though because my heart is just not in it. To be a good volunteer, you have to give a hundred percent and I don't think I could do that now. I respect the Peace Corps organization too much to half-ass my service.
I am leaving with a clear conscience. I worked hard while I was here. I honestly feel like this experience is not meant to be for me. Or maybe this is the experience I was meant to have. In five months, I have obviously accomplished very little from a professional standpoint. Personally, I have learned a lot about myself. I have definitely been humbled by this. Obviously, I am not a mentally tough as I thought I was coming into this. I am ridiculously homesick. I miss good food, good music, my loved ones, my dogs, surfing (since I didn't surf once here). I know this is a great opportunity and most would think I am stupid to waste it. Honestly, my soul feels lighter than it has been in a while. Maybe I am too selfish for noble service professions. I was miserable teaching and I haven't been much happier here. I know this is an incredible opportunity and I was lucky to have it, but I don't think this will be the last good opportunity in my life. Thus, the Man in the Arena speech-I tried, I failed, time to move on. The thing is I have only failed in my goals here. If I can take anything from this, I know when I get home I will savor every drop of life. Every second with my loved ones, every good meal, every wave, every experience I have will be richer now because I will not take anything for granted. I have seen the darkness of my soul here and it was a difficult glimpse into my own isolation. I was simply not tough enough to be a Peace Corps volunteer. But I am ready to rise from the ashes and take the next step in life. I am not the first person to fail at something and I won't be the last. Things simply don't feel right here for me. That is probably too abstract for an explanation, but it is true. Bottom line: life is too short to be unhappy. The next destination awaits...nos vemos for now.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A new one

I have been derelict in my blogging duties lately. I am just going to give this entry a little spontaneous prose delivery because there are a lot of things to write about and I do not have pictures to back me up. Since last time I have, in no particular order, practiced espanol (a given), worked on the finca, encountered the very venomous viper equis or fer de lance, took part in holding a pig down while he was castrated, dove successfully for lobster, dove unsuccessfully for lobster, lost my camera, found my camera, visited Portobelo, visited Panama, read some books, started construction on my casa (kind of), came up with some project ideas (maybe), became more familiar with my community and fished and ate some fish and ate a lot of rice. By a lot I mean that parts of China are now barren because of me and my host family´s rice consumption. Speaking of rice, I watched my neighbor take the dried, harvested rice and use a pilon (a huge pestil and mortar made of wood) to clean the rice down to its white grain. No, my neighbor´s name is not Uncle Ben.
My first excuse for not keeping up with the blog (other than the fact I have to travel 2+ hours for internet) was I thought my camera was lost/stolen however it was just misplaced in my APCD´s office. I have since tried to post pictures but internet service is sketchy at best here, but coming soon: the organic garden, fishing pics, including one of the 18 pound snook Jose caught last night and I deep fried Southern style, no grits, though, so it was not quite complete. Pictures of Portobelo, and hopefully pictures of constructing my house, which was delayed this weekend because the guy with the saw was too drunk to cut me some beams.
I have read some books, some good books. I have not been avoiding assimilating into the culture, however because of rain or cancelled meetings or whatever, some days I have nothing to do but sit in a hammock and read a book and yes hammocks and books go together like chocolate and peanut butter, delicious. I am going to give a short list of what I liked, because I like the existential aspect of you reading about what I am reading. The Art of Racing in the Rain, great book about loving a dog and racing Ferraris and fighting for your integrity. The Magus, this book blew my mind, I can´t describe it. All the Pretty Horses, Cormac McCarthy is a genius of American literature ´nuff said. East of Eden, ditto for John Steinbeck but I think that is understood. Coronado by Dennis Lehane, I am giving props to a fellow Eckerd College alum, but he really shows his range with short stories and a play. I read the Alchemist entirely in Spanish, that was a challenge but a good one. I´m trying to read more in Spanish, right now I´m struggling through Old Man and the Sea. And yes I know the titles should be underlined but blogger does not have that text option, as for the other errors of grammar and syntax, it´s spontaneous prose, c´mon.
I have been diving (thanks to mom and dad for sending masks). This has enabled me to see the marine environment better and the reefs are in trouble here. There is some good diving but most of the time I am just imagining what the reefs must have looked like twenty years ago. However, the silver lining is that a non-profit org. is doing some miraculous work with reef restoration and they want to partner and train Peace Corps volunteers. I think my community would be perfect for this, but I´ll keep everyone posted on how it develops. Other project news: I am going to work on a nature trail with the school and I am helping ANAM with the Beach Clean-up day on 26 Sept.
That´s all the rambling I have in me for now. I´ll try to have pictures soon. PEACE.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Site update and new pics...

Greetings, here is my counterpart Jose with his daughter, Marisel.

Here is the corner of my new home, which I affectionately refer to as, `the tree house`.

Two weeks in and things are real good. I snuck away today to rejoin civilization so here we go. I`ve been working with the Agro-pecuario program at the colegio. Last week they had a congreso which was a big deal. It was basically high school seniors working on their senior project. In this case, they did power point presentations on subjects like organic composting, water conservation, fattening chickens, and artificially inseminating cattle, among other things. I helped them with the power point the week before and then I was a judge, somewhat. I hit the ground running the first week here: working at the school, bridge fishing for `bobos` which are kind of like croakers, and working with Jose for a day at his farm. The farm is more like a mountain in thick jungle with lots of plantains, bananas, sugar cane, and yucca, and some cows. To get there we had a 45 minute hike at altitude followed by 3-4 hours of machete work. I thought I was in shape until I tried the return hike and about passed out after reaching the top of one hill. And, I am probably going to build my house with Jose. Stoked. Here are some pics:
School kids doing the congo, which is this cool dance with drums, before the start of the congreso. The music is made by two bongos, a chorus of voices and clapping. It was real cool.

These two girls are in traditional dress and ushered the distinguished guests to their seats. I don`t know how I ranked as distinguished, but I went with it.

This is my little host sister Marisel, super cute with an infectious laugh.
This is a freighter about to pass through the Gatun locks. This is the view from the bus when it crosses over this little one lane bridge. Millions of gallons of water is dammed up on the other side and the ship is bearing down on the bridge. Uhhhh, n-n-not scary at all, but I`m not sure the diablo rojos can float.

Until next time...hasta luego!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

July 3

The infamous diablo rojo. This is what public transit looks like here. Remember your yellow schoolbus, the ones with the sticky vinyl seats. Panama is where they are put out to pasture. They are reincarnated with fancy airbrush paintjobs, chrome wheels and blaring soundsystems.
Another famous citizen of Panama, the threatened Conejo Pintado, this nocturnal rodent is hunted for its supposedly delicious meat. Some PC projects are trying to breed them in captivity. But therein lies the dilemma, how do you tell someone who is struggling to feed his family that it is not right to kill what the campesinos think is the most delicious meat of all. We are trying to find a way to make all parties happy, but these are some of the challenges we face.

"That which we manifest is before us; we are the creators of our own destiny. Be it through intention or ignorance, our successes and our failures have been brought on by none other than ourselves"
Garth Stein (The Art of Racing in the Rain)

Here we go... I report to site today. It is also my birthday. I think that is a good omen. It may be the best and worst birthday ever. The worst because I can`t be with my friends and family from home and I`ll be spending far too much time on a bus. The best because my present is my site and hopefully I will make new relationships that will be like family. Furthermore, it has taken 31 years but I am finally doing something real. Two years on the job begins today. The blog may be inactive for a while because it is going to be at least a month until I encounter internet again. So here are some thoughts and pictures(oops, pictures above)...

-This Gulf of Mexico oil spill makes me sick. Let`s do something about it. Terry Gibson wrote a very good, informative article on Surfline that gives you ways to contact the powers that be. Check it out. Hopefully, once the smoke clears, this can be a catalyst that brings about positive change. GET INVOLVED!

-Germany just beat Argentina 4-0. What???? It is too bad the talent of Argentina is wasted on the tactical ignorance of Maradona. Brasil is out too, crazy. Holland, Uruguay, Germany, and Spain or Paraguay. Who knows who is going to win this thing?

-Grandma Nancy, thank you for your email. I tried to respond but yahoo is not working at the moment. I appreciate the kind thoughts. I`ll talk to you soon.

-For all my family and friends, I miss you all. I wish you an excellent Fourth of July. For my birthday, please let any of the family and friends who aren`t aware of the blog know it is here. I'm doing it for you guys. Also, if you tried to mail me something make sure it goes out like this:

Cuerpo de Paz-Panama
Attn: Elliott Moore
followed by the address i gave you. If you list my name before Peace Corps it may get lost since the mail is going to the Peace Corps box and not the Elliott box.

I love Y'ALL. Thanks for all the positive thoughts. They are keeping me inspired. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Swear in pics

Group 65 CEC in front of US Ambassador's house

Panamanian Vice President Juan Carlos Varela

Yours truly with US Ambassador to Panama, Barbara Stephenson

photos, etc.

Dancing the tipico

Beach Bonfire

Beach group shot

Monday, June 28, 2010


On Friday June 25, the aspirantes of PC Group 65 were sworn in and officially made volunteers. This was a big deal for us, but what I did not realize was that it was a big deal for the governments of the US and Panama. How big? The event was held at the outgoing US Ambassador's house and the Vice-President and First Lady of Panama were there. The Ambassador, Barbara Stephenson, got a little emotional and some Panamanians in attendance were shaking my hand and thanking me with tears in their eyes. The Vice President gave a speech and it was heartfelt and thankful. It didn't seem like your typical political affair where the gestures are superficial and the dignitaries always have somewhere better to be. It made me realize that even though we have been in our training communities worried about the next language interview or APCD meeting, what we are about to do will have a lasting effect in our lives and in the lives of our community members. It is crazy to think how real that is. For all the ego clashes and stress of training, that is all over. It is time to go to work. I think this training process has really prepared us well. CEC, at least, I know the other sectors have more trepidation than we do. So THANK YOU, Carlos and Francisco.

Above Photo: What it is all about. Playing soccer with schoolkids and cowboys from somewhere in Veraguas. Pics of US Ambassador and Panamanian VP in next edition. Peace.