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From Field to Fumes: How Cigars are Made

If you’ve been following this blog from the beginning you’re well aware that there is a cigar factory in my community. Factory may be a little overzealous a word though; I’ve only ever seen one person working despite the many workstations. After my many visits, I finally decided to ask Miriam, the owner, a little more about the process of cigar making. It’s a fairly simple process to make the Joya de Panama (jewel of Panama) cigars—and the whole process takes place right here in the country.

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Miriam showing off the cigars (photo cred to Mollie)

Step 1: Tobacco is shipped from San Diego, Chiriquí to La Pintada, Coclé

Step 2: The tobacco leaves are dried (this can take up to 2 months!)

Step 3: The tobacco that will be used to fill the cigars is ground down

Step 4: The loose tobacco is hand-rolled in a tobacco leaf and sealed

Step 5: The newly formed cigar is put into a metal frame to cut the ends

Step 6: 10 cigars at a time are placed into molds which are pressed down

Step 7: Cigars are packaged and ready to be sold!

Seeing Julián make cigars was awesome. He works so quickly and so precisely! He told me he can usually make about 300 cigars in a day which absolutely blows my mind since each one is completely hand made. Miriam taught him the process—she’s been in this business her entire life and now just manages everything. From start to finish the process takes about 7 months. Most of that time seems to be transit and waiting for leaves to dry out. Smoking isn’t very popular in Panama—most people are often surprised to learn that there is a cigar factory in my community. For Miriam, it’s a source of pride. She knows that she does it well and that’s what matters to her. For me, it’s an opportunity to learn about something I never would have sought out on my own. While I don’t intend to start smoking any time soon I do appreciate the art that goes into the process. So, if you ever want to light one up and support a sustainable business—come on down to Panama! ¡Nos esperamos!

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I speak 6 Languages

Do you find verb conjugations thrilling? Does the idea of practicing pronunciation make you quake with joy? Are you slightly obsessed with the smell of dry-erase markers? No? Well maybe this post isn’t for you. But if you answered YES to any of the above questions (or you’re just wondering what I’m on about) then please; read on!

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Playing a game

My second English Course has started! We’re really getting into things and while I’m busy and overwhelmed I’m feeling very proud of my students for their dedication and perseverance. Our last class was very grammar-filled and it’s difficult to make that fun. If you have any suggestions feel free to send them my way. When working with this group I remember many of the reasons I wanted to become a teacher and, while that’s no longer a long term career goal, it’s nice to be in a teaching environment. When it comes to language learning things can get pretty tricky. Here are a few of the things second language learners struggle with:

  • Pronunciación
  • Pellín
  • Conjugación
  • Gramar rules

For Spanish speakers who are learning English pronunciation and spelling are difficult–and for somewhat similar reasons. In Spanish things are predominantly pronounced and written the same way. Unfortunately that isn’t the case with English. Students especially struggle with pronouncing /th/ as in third (they often use a hard t sound), /f/ when it follows another “f” as in fifteen (often replacing the second f with an /s/ sound), and /s/ when it is at the beginning of a word and followed by a hard consonant as in study (usually adding en /e/ sound before the s). Why is this so difficult for Spanish language speakers? Why can’t they just listen to the way we pronounce it and copy us? Basically why aren’t they Marcy in the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (the namesake for this post)? Well, many of these sounds don’t exist in the same way in Spanish. Entonces, the way that ELL (English Language Learners) hears them is different. They make it make sense to them in the only way they can–by spanishifying it.

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Conjugation and grammar are difficult. It doesn’t help that some of the rules we follow in English are the exact opposite in Spanish. In English the adjective precedes the thing it describes but in Spanish it follows it. So “the fat cat” becomes “el gato gordo.” It wouldn’t be surprising to hear an ELL say “the cat fat” because they’re following grammatical rules they’re accustomed to. The important thing is to recognize what it is students don’t understand so you can help explain it to them. What’s a good way to do that? Games!!! Games get students up and moving, they get them talking and competing, and they help students teach each other. Some of my proudest teaching moments are when my students correct each other’s grammar or model proper pronunciation for their peers.

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The perils of lesson-prep

Welcome G80! The new group of TELLS and CEC arrived to country on March 1st and I am organizing their practicum week. My life has been filled with visiting schools, finding host families, delivering letters, and basically caminando por todos los lados every week to get things together. It’s been a lot but I’ve got a great support system helping me out (thanks Corina!). School started March 3rd so I’ve had a lot on my plate with that as well. I’ll be splitting my time between the high school and elementary this year and I’m really excited to start working with some older students in a setting I’m more familiar with. My elementary school just started with the Panama Bilingue program and there are lots of changes on the horizon. Panama Bilingue is a government funded program that sends English teachers abroad for 2 months to really practice their English and learn some new teaching strategies. Schools that participate in the program are moving towards bilingual education–my school is increasing the hours of English students have each week and we have two new teachers bringing our grand English Teacher Total to 4! One of the new teachers will also be teaching science but she’ll be teaching it in English. I’m excited to see how the program plays out! This year promises to be busier than last and it’s going to present me with some new challenges. I plan to face those head on (much like the fearless girl that’s currently in front of the Wall Street bull) and grow from each of them. I’m really feeling settled in my community and confident in my abilities here in Panama–I’m better at expressing what I can and cannot do for people and I’m taking time to be more mindful of myself and my well-being. As the saying goes, an empty lamp gives off no light (someone definitely said that and it only makes sense if you think of oil lamps). You have to take care of yourself before you can help others. And that’s what I’m doing.

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Taken from my front porch

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BIG NEWS

Hello ladies, gentleman, and those who fall somewhere else on the spectrum!

A quick update on some blog changes. I’m doing away with photo Friday—not all my photos warrant stories and I’m taking less of them. Instead I will be blogging every 2 weeks about varying cultural themes. I’ll be starting that March 26th! I am going to continue my monthly musical-titled post to keep friends and family abreast of what I’m doing and just in general how my life is but expect that to be a little shorter than in the past. If there are any topics you want to hear about or questions you have about Panama—feel free to reach out. Many friends who have visited me are filled with questions about Panama and normally I can only answer a handful of them. This change in format will help me to dig a little deeper and learn a little more. I hope you’re as excited as I am for what’s to come! My regular mid-month update will be out Friday so keep your eyes peeled. Until then, thanks as always for your support! Besos xoxo

-Gabby

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Photo Friday!

Hey friends!

 Sorry I missed last Friday—hopefully it won’t happen again. Being a blogger is hard work! But I’m not gonna pile the excuses on (lack of internet, lack of planning, life etc.). Instead I’m going to tell you all about Carnaval. If you’ve ever been to Mardi Gras in New Orleans I imagine Carnaval would be a familiar scene for you. The idea behind it is that you get all the partying you need to out of your system before Lent starts—and there’s a lot of partying to get out. I celebrated close to home which was nice and convenient. Unfortunately, I didn’t take my phone for a lot of it because they have “mojaderas” aka giant tanks of water that people stand on top of and shoot water at the crowd. I didn’t really want to test my life proof case.

One of the mojadera trucks

After the actual Carnaval had passed my community celebrated Carnavalito where I was much less cautious with my phone and took a million pictures. I also got roped into dancing Samba in a parade—I’m sure you can find videos on youtube. It was so much fun! Something about being able to really celebrate in my community made it feel a lot more personal (ad it helped that I could go back to my house and relax). Carnaval is such a large cultural event here and people go all out for it. The floats are massive and the reinas are beautiful. It’s an incredible display of culture and creativity that I’m lucky to have experienced.

The crowning of the new queen

When you’re suddenly in a parade

Aftermath of the floats

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