Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Zordaida Peels Cofee

Check out this video of 63 year old Zoraida peeling coffee. She is the daughter of Amalia and the sister of Francisco. She has already picked the coffee and set it out to dry in the sun. Here, she gets rid of the debris before peeling, or shelling, the coffee. Not easy work!

Once done, she will roast the coffee and then grind it, but she did not do the entire process on this day. Another time I will get that on video.


BoqueRUN/Spay Panama

Below is an article that I wrote for the Peace Corps Panama Newsletter/Magazine that comes out 3x a year La Vaina. It was published in the most recent issue. This was a huge project for us in August-Novemeber.

As most of us lucky volunteers here in Panama, we live in a gorgeous site. Adding to our luck, we live right on a river in a National Park only an hour and a half from Panama City. All summer long our river is filled with Panamanian tourists who aprovechan the beautiful surroundings of Bouquerón. During our first dry season last year we quickly learned that the community has not taken advantage of these tourists. They charge a ¢.50 entry fee per visitor and leave it at that. We tried in vain to encourage community members to sell their artisan work, harvested vegetables or world-class sancocho, but were met with refusal and the sad mantra of ‘no one will pay for those things’. During the wet season we tried again to reason with community members, hoping to organize them before the summer season started again.

Right around the same time a problem that had occurred to me the moment I got to our community was vocalized by community members. A large number of dogs in the community all had puppies around the same time and puppies were being handed out as unwanted gifts, if they lived long enough to be away from their mother. One community member took matters into his own hands and ‘neutered’ a dog with his machete. It wasn’t his dog and the owner was none to pleased. People were starting to verbalize that we had an overpopulation problem, that fixing the animals would be the answer, but how?

We knew another volunteer had Spay Panama, a Panamanian based NGO that provides low cost spay and neuter operations to combat the problem of overpopulation, do a blitz in their community. We knew that Spay Panama would be a great option for Boquerón, but low cost isn’t no cost and the prices normally charged by Spay Panama are still out of reach for our community members. We thought of a way to tackle both problems at once.

Together with members of the community we began to plan a 5k and family day to take place in Boquerón. The plan was that money raised from the run would pay Spay Panama so that the community would be involved in the raising of the funds but that the families would not be forced to come up with their own money. We set a target of $500 and decided that if we made that goal everything over would be split 50/50 between community projects and Spay Panama. With its proximity to the city, beautiful landscape and escape from the usual urban weekend we were confident that if people could learn about the event that they would come. But outside of Peace Corps Volunteers and family members of community members, we weren’t sure how to get the word out. More luck here: we had an embassy family and they were super excited to help us out. With an unparalleled energy our host family jumped right into the marketing of the event, spreading word throughout the Embassy and helping us get articles and advertisements posted in the Embassy Newsletter. The Embassy even stepped in to put the event on their calendar and to provide money for food and low cost transportation for all interested Embassy families. Because funds were being raised for Spay Panama they also provided transportation for their volunteers and non-Embassy folks who participated.

Meanwhile back in the community we worked hard to convince people to take advantage of the visitors we planned to have during the event. People were wary at first, but slowly we organized tour guides for guided hikes, horseback riding, free lunch for everyone (thanks to the Embassy funds) and a farmer’s market where all interested community members were able to sell their goods.

Leading up to the event, which took place on September 25th, we had no idea what to expect. No fee was charged to enter, it was all donation based. We hoped for 50 people and $500 but had no idea if we would come close. We were nervous organizing our volunteers and community members, hoping that they would not be chopping down fruit and then have no one to sell it to. When the first bus came up at 8:30 it was completely full! At that moment we knew it was going to be a successful day.

In the end we had around 130 folks who registered as having attended the event, though we estimate that more came. We raised over $1300! But most importantly, the community saw firsthand just what they could accomplish by organizing. Everyone who brought things to sell that day made money and they saw that their work had value. Immediately they began planning what they needed to do to prepare for the summer months. The visitors were almost all Americans and the day was filled with goal 2 and 3 opportunities. Panamanian and American kids played together, and people of all ages conversed, ate and shared a beautiful day in Panama.

Six weeks later the community again got to see their work pay off when Spay Panama showed up with 15 volunteers to do a two-day spay and neuter blitz in Boquerón. More families participated in this event than in anything else we have seen in our time here. 78 animals were operated on during the two days.

The success of this two-part project would not have been possible without the collaboration of the United States Embassy or of Spay Panama. We are incredibly lucky to have had known wonderful people at both organizations who worked with us, even when we were impossible to communicate with , and devoted their time to the community of Boquerón

The first animal operated on by Spay Panama in Boqueron

Families enjoying the adventerous walk to the waterfall

Community members preparing signs for BoqueRUN

We helped, too!

Participants arriving to BoqueRUN

Families in Boqueron Arriba waiting for operations with their pets

Families in Boqueron Abajo...

Ivan carrying an operated dog to the 'waiting room'..or another spot on the floor in this same space.

This video was taken two weeks before the Spay Panama operations in Boqueron. The vets cam eup to check out the location and prep the horses. The campesino (the only obvious non-doctor) is our neighbor Orlando. Notice that cute white guy in the background at about the 50 second mark.

I made this video for my high school, Gilmour Academy. They recently ordered 200 necklaces from MADRE and this video is about the group and the process of making the necklaces. A big shout out to Gilmour for ordering the necklaces-our first big order! Since our first day of sales on June 27th we have sold $3,000 in necklaces, bracelets and earrings.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Also, we work.

All these blog posts (ok, so there haven't been a ton of them. sorry bout that) might make you think that we just hang out and talk about what a bad wife I am and eat other people's really good cooking. And we do do those things, but just for part of the day. Really, we work. I swear!  I thought maybe I should update you on that.

Sean has been hard at work since we got to Boqueron on fixing the waste management problem within the community. Waste management is a national problem and Sean has a lot of experience in the field.  When we got to the community everyone burned 100% of their inorganic waste.  There is no trash pick-up in Boqueron and most people in the community do not have a good understanding on the health effects of burning garbage.  We are follow-up volunteers and the volunteer in the community before us began educating people on these effects as well as working for sustainable solutions for the waste problem. He built and painted (with the community) recycling boxes at each school right before he left.  Sean took over from there.

Sean has been busy educating the community on recycling. How and what to sort. What needs to be cleaned. And most improtantly: why? This is not an easy job, not at all. People just don't get that something could be wrong with the method they have used for generations.  My parents used, their parents used it,  and they were healthy and I am healthy and my kids are healthy, so how could it be bad? It is also difficult to encourage people to walk from their house tot he school with their waste when they could just burn it and never have to leave the house.  For these reasons, things were slow going at first. But Sean didn't give up.

Sean started a program where he sat at the school all day once a week for 8 weeks. If you brought recycling that day and listened to Sean teach you another important part of recycling you got entered into a drawing to win a mud stove. He had well over 100 participants of all ages.  It is especially hard to get older folks to change their behavior, but one woman who is in her 70s has started bringin all of her recycling- and she is so proud. Everytime I run into her in the street she tells me about her latest recycling trip.  This was a huge success and brought a lot of attention to the boxes at the school.

Recycling Day Announcing Winners

Winners with Mud Stove (family project)

Winners with Mud Stove

Next, Sean got the students at each school involved with the project. As part of their class they are weighing and monitoring the amount of recycling that comes into the cans. They also help with the cleaning and storage of the waste. Sean meets with the oldest students once a week and teaches them basic math and science in relation to the project.

Last month, after all of this hard work, Sean and the students loaded 555 pounds of recycling into a truck to be taken to a recycling center in Colon.  That is 555 pounds of waste that isn't being burned and breathed by community members! And that is just the first pick-up.  Impressed with his project in Boqueron, the Representante (sort oflike the mayor of a bunch of communities) has asked Sean to start it at the school a few communities down- a much bigger project than Boqueron. It is amazing to see the project build momentum.

Students in B. Arriba with recycling

Students in B. Abajo with Recycling

At recycling center with community volunteer Francisco

My big project right now is working with a group of women. In May, I started an Artesin group based on making necklaces out of magazines. I taught the process and the women have gone from there and started making gorgeous jewlery, adding their own unique take on it.  Since our first day of sales on June 27th to today we have sold over $650 dollars in necklaces, earrings and bracelets. This in a community where the average family monthly income is $100. There are 11 women in the group, 4 from Boqueron Arriba and 7 from Boqueron Abajo.  Since starting in May the group has elected a Directive (President, Secretary and Treasurer), has made a list of group rules as well as standards for their products and has already initiated 'giving back to the community' since it is a community group.  I work with the women on running the group effectively, managing, leadership, marketing and business plans. I absolutely love working with these women and am blown away by how much they have improved in the last few months.

Me with Artists from B. Abajo all wearing their creations!

First batch of necklaces

Up close

Empowerement comes from being able to teach...for the first time ever Maricell is inthe role of teacher, as she teaches other artesanas her craft.

So, those are SOME of the things we are up to. We are working- there is even more to tell you about- but there is no more time at the computer. We will update you again soon!

Privacy? Ha!

Over the course of the last 18 months (yes, true) we have come to encounter a number of cultural differences. Some things are little, some things are big and all are things we've had to adjust to. There is of course 'panamanian time' which is waaay different than 'american time'... panamanian time means that if you are going to show up to a scheduled event at the advertized time you should bring a book. You then should be prepared to answer questions like "What are you studying?" or "Are you sad?" or "Is that The Bible?" because those are the only explanations for why someone would be reading a book. Panamanian time also means that if you have one meeting scheduled, say at 9 o'clock, that is all meeting attendees can be expected to do that day. You could not schedule a meeting for 3 o'clock in the afternoon and expect anyone at the 9 o'clock meeting to come. But I digress.

The cultural difference on my mind today is that of privacy. We Americans, despite what the number of reality show contestants may indicate, are a private bunch. Latinos are not. I remember when I met my host family for my study abroad trip to Ecuador. I hadn't been in their car for more than 5 minutes when I had already been asked a number of questions about my religion, the religion of my family, my relationship status, etc. Panamanians, at least in my experience, tend to view such topics the same way- fair game. As a result I answer questions every single day about my childless marriage.

Now Sean and I don't have kids. Obviously. In the States it is not so uncommon for married couples our age to not have children and the decision on when to add to our family is a personal one. Our friends and family get this. Those close to us may ask a question or two, but they don't push or pry. Panamanians, on the other hand? I'm talking complete strangers here- they push AND pry. It always starts with 'Are you married?' and progresses immediately to 'And do you have a baby?' and is then followed by a very shock-filled 'WHY!??! But you MUST have children!"

Now here is where things get tricky- especially in the community. Whereas to our friends, family or other Americans I could respond with such things as 'well, financially we are in no position to take care of a child' or 'We would like to be in a certain position career wise first' I cannot say that to the people in Boqueron. How can you tell someone who has no income that you need more money? How can you tell someone who wasn't able to finish middle school because she got pregnant that you- a college graduate- still have other things to accomplish before you have kids. First of all- I am 27, a solid 10 years past the average age of having your first child in Boqueron. Plus, we have already done thing in reverse by getting married first- it is time for me to fulfill my wifely duty and bear children! This, of course, is a much greater foul on my part than 'forcing' Sean to share in laundry, cooking and cleaning duties. Those can be seen as weird American things. But this not being a mom thing, this just doesn't fly.

My go-to response at the moment is 'If I had children I couldn't do Peace Corps and I couldn't be here. If I got pregnant today they would send me home and I want to be here." For most people this is sufficient, though the reaction is always 'well you will have them when you get home, then'. I leave it at that. One time I tried to explain to someone that I wanted to start a career first, but that it all depended on what God wants. The term 'Si Dios quiere' or 'If God wills it' is a very common phrase to throw out. This woman threw it right back at me saying "When you go back to the United States God will want you to have children." Obviously she knows better than me.

Imagine if I had a medial condition preventing me from having children. Or if we were trying unsuccessfully to add to our family. And every day I had to answer questions about WHY I didn't have them. It would be heartbreaking. It's not the case, but by constantly asking such personal questions there is a lot of room for offending someone or for bringing up something emotionally difficult. So this is an aspect of American culture I miss, or an aspect of Panamanian culture that I just can't get used to.

On the other hand, and along the same lines, there is an aspect of the Panamanian aversion to privacy that I do respect and think should be embraced in our American culture. Breastfeeding happens in Panama any time, any place. At meetings, on the bus, mid-conversation. Whenever the child needs to be fed his mother feeds him. It's practical, necessary and women feel no shame in exposing themselves to feed their child. Especially in poorer communities where access to formula is impossible because of cost, children are breastfed for about two years. As soon as a child starts to cry someone will say "Oh, he wants the breast" and then the mom will feed him. There is no racing to find a private area

Now, this was something that took me a while to get used to. I wasn't (and am still not) exactly comfortable sitting next to a stranger on the bus while she feeds her baby. I had to give myself mini 'don't stare!' pep talks, because I was just not used to breasts being pulled out all over the place. I think as Americans we have over-sexualized a functional part of the female anatomy to the point that we are often uncomfortable when it's being used for this purpose. We are encouraged to have children and then when it is time to feed them naturally are shamed into hiding and contorting our bodies in uncomfortable ways to not flash anything that will make someone else uncomfortable. It's silly!

Anyway, I guess I don't know which way I fall on the privacy thing, which culture has it 'right'. I think for me there are those things that are decisions- people have personal decisions to make and factors that help them reach those decisions. That's their business. But natural things that are the part of everyday life- for everyone- we should be comfortable with those things. No one should ever feel embarrassed doing something that needs to be done, and that really they are expected to do.

Friday, July 22, 2011


Every Tuesday I visit our first host grandma- Amalia.  Amalia calls me 'mi hija' (my daughter) and always prepares a special meal for our Tuesday visits. These special meals are, unfortunately, not always things I actually want to eat (mmm....cow hoof soup! For me? Oh, Amalia you don't need to do so much!) but she usually makes me a hot chicheme (hot corn or rice...drink? I guess...but it is good!) or a good hot meal.  I don't visit Amalia, though, for the food.  I visit her because she is amazing.

Amalia has given me reason to reflect on definitions of beauty, strength, happiness and success.  The more I learn about her the more she both amazes and teaches me.

I know that Amalia cannot be understood in a blog post,  but Amalia is such an important part of my Peace Corps experience that I feel like I have to do my best.

Amalia is 70 years old. She came to Boqueron 'oh! hace añññooooos' which means a long time ago but she has no idea what year it was or how old or anything.I do know she was one of the first four families in Boqueron. The way she explained it me was that she came to Boqueron after she had, and later lost, her fourth child in Santa Fe where she was living before.  She and her husband, Alfredo (they were married in the Catholic Church, by the way, something very rare for folks in our community. She has a lot of pride in this) picked up and moved out this way (halfway across the country) because there was more potential work for her husband. She had her family there in Santa Fe but had gone through so much pain with the children that she knew it would be best to moved.

Amalia and I first became friends when, after we had been in their house/Boqueron for three weeks, I had a rough day. For one reason or another, at this point I really don't know, I was crying. I didn't want to make a big deal out of anything and thought I was just doing the little sniffle thing, but Amalia came over and started telling me about when she and Alfredo moved from Santa Fe to Boqueron, the first time she had been away from her father and her brother and sisters that she helped raise (her mother died when she was 12 making Amalia the woman of the house). She said being away form her family was so hard that sometimes she would cry too.  She told me that it was OK to miss my family sometimes, that it would be hard living so far away. Instantly I felt a connection to Amalia that I had not felt before.  It personalized her in a way that I hadn't felt yet, sill feeling at that point like a gringo living with Panamanians...not that the experience up to then hadn't been nice, but I just started seeing Amalia in a compltely different way that has since stuck.

Now every Tuesday when I go over I get another glimpse into her life. Just a few weeks ago she explained to me about giving birth to all 12(!!!) of her children. Never in a hospital. Never near a hosital. Every single one in the campo, rural, usually alone sometimes maybe just a child or two around.  She took care of the umbilical chord, of everything, on her own. She told me that one time a neighbor had heard her screaming and the next day told her. She told me that this was because "when you give birth there is a lot of pain" (downplayed a bit, wouldn't you say?) Sometimes she talks to me about what it was like to lose her children, sometimes she will  say it as though it was all one big experience and other times she will talk about one specific child. Of the 12 children Amalia had there are 4 living.She didn't lose her children in childbirth, they were children, some adolescents,  who caught illnesses that could have been cured or treated with then-modern medicine. She just had no access to a hospital. Some children died in accidents.  She told me once that for a long time she was scared of the night time because all of her children died during the night.  

But she will say these things- things that in one breath can just break my heart into a million pieces just thinking about her living those experiences- and then she will say something happy or see a toucan flying past and smile the biggest broadest smile you've ever seen. And the woman laughs all day long. Sometimes in her own world, sometimes winking at me across the way,  but laughing laughing laughing.  Sean once described Amalia as our personal Buddha and if you could see her smile and laugh (the smile in the picture above is almost there, you can pretty well see how happy she is) I think it would make sense.  She is a woman who is very at peace with where she is in life. She takes pleasure in the everyday things life has to offer- cooking and eating, being with people she loves, sharing what little she has with others, etc.  Here is a woman who has been through more pain that anyone desrves to experience and has come out the other side with nothing but happiness for those things she does have. That kind of happiness is contagious.

Amalia can do some amazing things. She taught me how to make cornstarch out of arrow root, how to peel corn from the pre-cooked cob, how to take the rice her son harvested in the morning and turn it into sellable new rice (he brings it on leaves, she takes them off and cooks the rice for a few hours to make it more valuable), how to de-shell coffee....let's stop here for a second. This deshlling coffee business is no easy task. You watch her do it and it blows your mind. How can one tiny body have that much strength? She essentially puts the coffee beans into a giant (like stomach-high) mortar and uses a humungous pestle (though not so wide at the bottom, more just like a really huge wide wood stick that weighs a lot) lifting it up high, using all of her back and then slamming it down into the container again and again until all of the shells have seperated from the beans.  This is life! She is working her ass off all day everyday and with the biggest smile you've ever seen.  She tells me "When we moved here there would be women who would buy rice! Buy rice! Can you imagine? I peeled our rice and that is what we ate every night. I saved our family a lot of money" She has that same philiosphy all of these years later, working any way she can to save some money for the family.Amalia is pretty sick. She is 70 years old (71 on the 26th) and her body has been burdened with every one of those 70 years. Sometimes she seems so frail- when her arthritis is acting up or when I surprise her and no one else is home and I find her with her head in her hands clearly in pain. Her knees and feet are almost always swollen, her neck currently has two large lumps and I know they found a lump in her breast last year.  She will have weeks of major stomach problems and the years of cooking over a wood-burning fagon or breathign in burning plasic fumes when burning her garbage can be heard in her coughs and respiratory problems.  But then other times, maybe most of the time, it is impossible to tell that Amalia could possibly be sick, or possibly be 70.  She doesn't seem frail at all, instead she seems like she has more strength in her arthritic pinky than I do in my 27 year old body. Watching the way she works day in and day out I forget that just a week ago she was having headaches or...whatever. 

The thing about Amalia is that she doesn't let you remember her weaknesss...or maybe she doesn't even let herself remember her weaknesses.  All day she wakes up with the energy and desire to play a vital role in her family (it is, by the way, herself and her two youngest sons (47 and 28) in the home).  The go out and work the farm and she takes care of the product/food once it gets back to the house. She makes sure that everyone who swings by (myself included) has a hot plate in front of them. She doesn't say no to work, to a stroll to the neighbors house or an unexpected visitor. And most luckily for me, she doesn't say no to a friend.  How lucky I am to have had the last year to get to know her and I only hope I've added an iota of the light to her world that she has added to mine.

Just walking home from a neighbor's house

The last bit of trail on the way to her house. She wanted to be barefoot but said her son would get mad.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


As we enter into our second years as Peace Corps Volunteers (WHAT!!???) one of the things that has been really striking me about our experience in Boqueron is the sense of community that we feel.  This works on multiple levels- first is the sense of community in living in a small close-knit community. Second is the in the sense of how a part of that community we feel.

It isn't just Boqueron, but Panama in general, that fosters a strong sense of community.  It happens everyday that we are sitting on a packed diablo rojo (public bus) full of strangers, people that have nevermet before, and someone gets onto the bus and says "Buenas Dias!" and the entire bus responds "Buenas Dias". Meetings are the same way- someone will show up an hour and a half late (and by this I mean an hour and a half after the meeting finally started, so more like 2 and a half hours late) and someone is in the middle of talking and this person will say a big "Buenas Dias!" to the entire meeting and then go from person to person shaking hands and asking "Como Estas? and the meeting will be on hold until we go through this. It would be WAY ruder for the person to show up late, quietly sneak in the back and wait for what we American's might call 'an appropriate moment', to share her salutations.

You can't walk down the road and pass a house with someone on their porch without at least shouting a "Buenas". If you pass someone in the street you have to at the very least stop, acknowledge the weather, recognize that one of you is, yes, going up the road and that the other one is, yes, going down the road and then tell each other that you will see each other later. If you don't have that non-conversation (we both, of course, could already tell who was going up the road and who was going down. And what the weather was like) it would be all too rude.  Now, in the states this would involve adding a half an hour to your commute when you are schedulign when to head out of the house, but in Panama you leave at the same time and very respectfully just show up a half an hour late to your engagement.

This took some getting used to for me. I was always rushingrushingrushing to get to class/ a meeting on time and felt almost put-off by these unneccessary, pointless conversations when I had PLACES TO GO  and THINGS TO DO.  And didn't these folks, stopping and talking to me like they had all day, have things to do?? It feels so silly to be typing this now, so embarassing, because I get it now. Of course they have places to go and things to do, too, but never more important than saying hello to someone who lives down the road from them. Their concept of time and of community is just so different than what I was used to. They will get to their work and they will get it done, but they will always share a smile, a greeting, a small conversation with those around them. Now that is how I live my life, and before where I was putoff, I literally am excited for each (ok, most) conversation(s). It is those everyday conversations that have bonded me to the people in my community, that has made us friends insterad of strangers and that make Peace Corps what it is. I wish the US culture included more time/less awkwardness in talking to strangers.

In terms of feeling a part of the community, I have a little anecdote to share:
When we came back from our trip to the US (which was amazing, relaxing, family-filled and the perfect way to transition form year one to year two) Sean got a bad bout of food poisioning.  He literally threw up for 16 hours, even when he had nothing left to throw up. He was hurting and miserable and I felt bad but, what could I do? We had a really important meeting that day and I at least had to go so that our presence would be there even if we both couldn't make it.  I of course could not hide that Sean was not there and everyone was asking where he was, why was he not at this improtant meeting? Did he decide to stay in the United States?  Did I lose him?  I explained that no, unfortunately Sean was sick and vomiting and that he could not come to the meeting, but I knew exactly where he was.  The last part relieved them all, but they were concerned abuot his health and all told me to tell him that they hoped he felt better. The meeting ended (six hours later) and I went home to check on Sean.

He was still sick, there was still nothing I could do except for be nice.  A few hours later 8 year old Angel came by and said " My mom wants to know if Sean is still sick?" And I told him that yes, he was. "Then my mom says you need to come to my house, Sarah." I said OK and walked down to their house where his parents were anxiously awaiting news on Sean. As soon as they found out he was still sick the mother jumped up and started making some awful smelling concoction in the kitchen. About a half hour later she presented me with some combination of burnt rice and burnt coffee (heavier on the coffee side, it was a drink). She told me to take it to Sean and serve him small HOT cups of this drink every hour until it was gone and that then he would feel better. I accepted the task and headed out for my long walk home with a small pot of what I knew Sean would never consider drinking.  I got about a house away before someone shouted at me "How is Sean!??"
 "Still sick", I responded. 
Her hand signals indicated I should wait just a moment, and then they came running out with a handful of leaves. "Use this to make a tea. Serve it to him hot and he will feel better right away."
"What is this?"
"They are leaves!"
"Right. Thank you very much!"
"And remember, if you ever need anything, ever, please let us know."

I walked away, feeling warm and fuzzy from this last comment, which her strong eye contact told me was meaningful, feeling like there was at least a chance that Sean would try this remedy, and feeling a little embarassed that she thought I didn't know that they were leaves. She obviously didn't get my question.

I made it to the next house, the neighbor having overheard my shout that Sean was still sick, and was greeted with a bottle of pepto bismol. This had even less chance than the coffee, Sean is not what you would call a fan of medicines, so I made up a story about us already having a bottle and set out at a high speed hoping to make it home without another stop. Which I did.

As expected, the coffee was not even allowed entry into the house. The smell alone, Sean said, made him want to puke again. I brought the leaves in so he would at least think about making a tea from them, but then general 'leaves' answer made him wary to try it. He was on the mend, though still feeling weak. We were just taking it easy, Sean in the hammock resting.  A little while latere, when it was pitch black out, we heard Sean's name being called from outside. We opened the door and the first family (who made the coffee) was all standing outside our door with flashlights. There were the parents, plus Angel, plus their older daughter and the brother and sister-in-law of the wife.  They came to check on Sean and to offer a new kind of medicine.
In the pitch-black night lit up only by fireflies, the family at first sitting on turned over buckets that we quickly converted into outside seating, and then standing with hands held, we were on the receiving end of a long and beautiful prayer for Sean's health.  I can't overstate what it meant that this family hiked up to our house in the dark- we are considered far away from them and very few people are out walking around at night. They were truly converned about Sean and wanted to do everything in their power to help him, including calling on a higher power.
It was a different experience for us, one a year ago I might have found awkward. But that night it was so special. There was a lot of love and care in tghe entire experience and it was just nice. Really a nice thing for them to do.  The next morning Sean felt better.  We told the coffee/prayer folks that their combination was a life saver! And the tea lady that her tea was something truly special- a miracle worker.  And the Pepto-Bismol lady that was what had probably done the trick. 
But I think Sean was just feeling all the love.