Regional meetings happen every 4 months in Peace Corps Panama. This is when the Country Director and Peace Corps staff come out to every region in Panama and meet with all the volunteers from that area, mine being the Comarca Ngabe Bugle. We go over office news, volunteer council, gender and development updates, upcoming events, and share and encourage each other on our work. I generally look forward to these meetings. It’s nice to stay on the same page as the office and see all the volunteers from my region. Plus after the meeting all the volunteers go to the beach for some good ol’ R&R. Great thing about Peace Corps Panama, you are never too far away from a beach.
A few weeks ago it was our regional leader, Erin Kelley’s, last meeting. Erin is a 3rd-year extension volunteer, and to call her a legend around these parts would be an understatement. We wanted to make her last regional meeting unforgettable. And as my friend Jack said, “We decided to go big, and go pig.”
1.The Pig: A volunteer from the Comarca, Jason, was bringing one down from his site, which is a strenuous 2-hour hike through the mountains. If that wasn’t enough of a challenge, this 70-pound “Babe” made multiple escape attempts, forcing Jason to slosh through the muddy jungle of the Comarca at 3am on a wild pig hunt. Thaaaaanks Jason….
2. The Fire: After much research done by Erin, we discovered the best and most time efficient way to have this pig roast was the method which follows: Dig a ditch about 3 feet down, build up a fire in the ditch to get at least a foot of hot embers, throw the butchered and wrapped up pig in, bury it and put a bonfire on top. After about 10 hours we could dig it up and eat. This sounded pretty sketchy to me. Eating something that was buried under the ground for 10 hours? I thought I was only supposed to do that with vegetables and I’m pretty sure vegetables can’t give me salmonella or trichinosis. But I was assured by Kevin and Josh, our pig killing and roasting specialists, that this was proper pig roast form in the states.
With about 20 of us helping, the hole was dug in no time. That was the easy part. Next came the fire. We’re all resourceful, girl/boy scout peace corps volunteers. We figured it would be easy-peasy. But starting a fire in a ditch with water-logged firewood was harder than expected. And once more rain came we had to put up a tarp over the area to keep it going. It took us hours of taking turns crawling into the smoke filled ditch and ventilating it with a cutting board to finally get a continuous flame. As my friend gasped for breath and crawled out of the hole, he said, “well, now I know how awful it is to be inside a burning building.”
By this time it was about 3am, and we had a meeting the next morning. And we really only had a few inches of embers. So we took fire shifts switching out people to watch the fire and keep feeding it more wood. By the next morning we all reeked of smoke and had red eyes with bags under them from little sleep and smoke damage. Needless to say, we made an excellent impression on the Peace Corps Staff.
3. The massacre: Once morning rolled around. It was time for the Pig to killed. Unfortunately I do not have as many details about that because I chose to stay far away from that. However, while looking for my ipod, I accidentally turned the corner and stumbled upon the scene of the crime as they were gutting it out and the pig was still spasming. Somehow or another, the pig was cut open, cleaned, stuffed with carrots, onions, and spices, wrapped up in banana leaves and foil, and started roasting in that pit.
4. The Resurrection: After waiting 11 hours, going to and from our meeting and getting in some quality beach time, we dug up the pig, and with that unleashing the mouthwatering aroma of roasted pig. Sadly, the pig still ended up being 10 degrees under the temperature it should have been. So instead of being responsible for giving food poisoning to about 30-something peace corps volunteers, we pulled all the meat off that pig and fried it up with some oil in a big pot over a bonfire.
Finally, it was time to eat. Now, I know it was like 10pm and I hadn’t eaten much that day, waiting for the delicious roast, but that was absolutely the best roasted-pig meals I have ever had in my entire life. A big thank you to all the Peace Corps Volunteers who made this pig roast a success!
The Pooooooooor Pigggy Buena Gente
"Sizzling like bacon" in the hole
The hole with a foot of embers and a rock covering
The Pooooooooor Pigggy Buena Gente