My first Thanksgiving away from home

Thanksgiving, turkey day, mashed potato day, día de acción de gracias; these are all of the names I heard for the holiday that we Americans celebrate on he fourth Thursday in November. For the past several years I’ve celebrated thanksgiving with friends and family, often preceding the actual day with a “friendsgiving” at someone’s apartment. I’ve never spent a thanksgiving away from my family before and I’ve certainly never spent one out of the country. Luckily I have an amazing group of friends here in Panama and we all got together to celebrate. Some highlights include:

  • Eating stovetop stuffing that tasted just like home
  • Eating pumpkin pie with whipped cream
  • Eating caramel apples and pretending it was fall 
  • When the hammock Erin and Dillon were in fell and showered us all with styrofoam

That last one took us all by surprise but luckily we had a good laugh and no one got hurt. Plus the styrofoam created a nice white thanksgiving-guess we’ll have to replicate it for Christmas! 


I didn’t know how I would feel today but I can honestly say that I wasn’t sad. I didn’t miss home any more than usual and I got to spend time with a group of people that I’ve really grown to care about. Not only that but I got to stuff my face and show off my mashed potato and gravy making abilities (all made from scratch)! So I’m thankful for my Peace corps family, I’m thankful to be in Panama, I’m thankful for my real family, and I’m thankful for American food. 

I sat on a gas tank for dinner

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That Would be Enough

 We all have expectations of people. People here expect me to be friendly, to teach them English, to be a little different from them. I expect people to be respectful and try their best. I just came back from a Peace Corps training event called PML (project management and leadership) in which we all invited someone from our community to accompany us. It was a four day training at the same eco-lodge where we had our last one. My counterpart never showed up. I had invited her, I watched her write it on her calendar, I checked in with her two days before the event, and she still never came. Not only that but she didn’t even contact me. I was the only one there without a counterpart but luckily, I work with an amazing group of people. Both my fellow Pcv’s and their counterparts worked with me to be sure that I didn’t feel left out. During an activity where we “llenar tanques” (fill tanks) by saying nice things about each other, Bennett’s counterpart Abdel asked if he could go up with me too. It was the sweetest thing. So some people exceed your expectations and others fail to meet them. And that’s okay-we move on. 

The green group!

Chilling with Abelardo (Paul’s counterpart) and Benita

We had a “noche cultural” or “cultural night” during the training where people could show off their talents. I sang, some volunteers did Acro-yoga, some counterparts and volunteers did traditional dances, and I was even asked to participate and sing tambor with my fellow coclesanas and their counterparts! 

Dancing tambor

If you saw my photo Friday you know that my friends visited so I won’t dwell on that topic any longer. I finished my 5 week English course (our last day was Halloween!) and had 3 women graduate and receive certificates! I hope they learned a lot and are able to put it to use. We’re planning for a part two in February and they want to have it twice a week! Not only that but they want to work more on conversations so one day each week will be completely conversation based. I’m really excited to continue working with them and I love all of the amazing ideas they brought to the table.

I encouraged people to dress up but I was the only one

 

All of us volunteers got a chance to get together and have our own mini-Halloween celebration as well! I’m glad I was able to put together some kind of costume because it’s my favorite holiday and I’m sad we don’t celebrate it here. 

Jinkies Rosie!


As always, there are tons of parades in Panama. We celebrated founders day in La pintada and then in the first week of November we celebrated quite a few independence days and flag day! Krista and Jake were here to see those and they were impressed by the marching bands. Marching band is super popular in Panama-it’s considered a big sense of pride for the school if they have one. And I learned that parades really do go on rain or shine as evidenced by the photo of a bunch of boys doing push-ups in the rain

Last but not least we celebrated students’ day! Kids dress up like teachers and they even “teach” class for the first few hours of the day! Then all of the teachers get together to put on a series of skits in front of the entire school. I may be biased but I think my English teachers miming was the funniest. 

All the “teachers”

So how did I come to choose this song for this month? To me this song is all about our expectations and what we want from people. I have a lot of expectations all the time and I’m coming to terms with the fact that they won’t always be met. I’m learning to set less expectations and to be gentler with myself and others. I’m communicating more and expressing my feelings and allowing myself to be a little vulnerable. It’s not an easy feat. 

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Photo Friday! 

So if you ever choose to venture out into Panama City you’ll find a lot to do. Right across from the plaza bolivar is a church-la iglesia de San Francisco. It’s got some really beautiful architecture and it’s clearly well kept. It was built late in the 17th century but the original building was destroyed by various fires. They started remodeling it in 1918 and made it into the building you see today! 

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Photo Friday! 

I had my first visitors from home y’all! Krista and Jake came out to my neck of the woods for 5 whole days and I think I wore them out with our intenerary. We saw parades in my community, went and visited some water falls, went to the beach, and spent some time hanging out in the city! It was really magical and I loved showing off how I lived. They also got the full experience by sitting in several hours of traffic. 

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Photo Friday! 

I had my first visitors from home y’all! Krista and Jake came out to my neck of the woods for 5 whole days and I think I wore them out with our intenerary. We saw parades in my community, went and visited some water falls, went to the beach, and spent some time hanging out in the city! It was really magical and I loved showing off how I lived. They also got the full experience by sitting in several hours of traffic. 

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Photo Friday! 

Día del estudiante or “students’ day” was on Thursday October 27th. For students’day teachers pick “replacements” and the student they pick to replace them dresses up as a teacher and teaches one or two of their lessons. Then teachers put on skits, everyone eats some arroz con pollo, and we just have a good time in general. ​

All the “teachers”

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