Wow! September flew by and with it the realization that yet again, I have bombed on my culture blogging. I’m starting to see why Peace Corps blogs take a nose-dive. So, what exactly has been occupying my time for the past month? As always, the answer is so much! I feel like I’ve been running all over this country (spoiler alert: I have).
My English course ended on the 5th and I had 17 graduates! The last day was lovely; we had snacks, presentations, and English conversations. Based on my post-test I can confidently say that everyone in the course has a better understanding of English than they did previously. They’re already asking about a follow-up course! They’ll have to wait for that though—this volunteer needs a break from lesson planning.
My friend Vannessa invited me out to participate in a speed conversation event at a University near her and it was a lot of fun. We talked with 7 different college students about topics ranging from food, to movies, to healthcare in Panama and the US. Following that event, I was off to IST to facilitate a “Camps & Clubs” training for the most recent TELLS group in Panama. They’re an excellent group and they’re participatory which is nice when you’re up at the front trying to talk as little as possible! Kudos to you G80!
To follow-up on my giant ultimate frisbee camp (y’all remember that?) I took two girls from my community to participate in a frisbee tournament out in the province of Chiriqui! This was probably the most fun I’ve had facilitating in a while. It’s hard to not have a good time when you’re playing frisbee! My friend Cherisse and I pooled our kids together to form a Coclé team and we ended up winning 2 out of the 3 games we played! Those kids are really great at frisbee and they somehow seem to never get tired.
After all this you’d think I’d want a break from facilitation; I did I didn’t! I went to Panama City to present “One Game to Rule Them All” at the annual Panama TESOL Conference. This event is massive. Over 200 people come from all around the world (one of the women that attended my session was from Russia!) to learn about new methodologies, classroom management strategies, and ways to incorporate new techniques into their classrooms. My session focused on using games to enhance classroom management and increase teaching time. I was also lucky to stay with someone who is a fellow working with the embassy—it was cool to hear about her life and what she was doing! Plus, she has the cutest little kitten.
Next, I was off to another community in Panama—one with only 50 houses (only about 45 of which are inhabited). I stayed with another volunteer and presented English activities for his entire school. In a stroke of blatant self-confidence, I wanted to try to do all the activities completely in English. Ni una palabra en español. This drive was furthered by the fact that my friend didn’t think this would work at his school. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not one to back down from a challenge (and I like being proved right) so I was set on it. And you know what? The students delivered! Using lots of modeling and TPR to demonstrate what I wanted them to do we went through all the activities completely in English! To be honest, I was a little surprised. There were lots of nice little moments there—his community has no access to cell phone signal and I couldn’t connect to the school Wi-Fi so I was off the grid for a few days. As the students were leaving school after the activities one shouted goodbye to my friend and then to me saying “Ciao gringa!” in perhaps the sunniest tone I have ever heard a child use. My heart promptly melted into a puddle.
Visiting wasn’t all fun and games though—I was supposed to really get my hands dirty and kill a chicken. Let me give you a glimpse into my thought process beforehand:
I can do this.
I eat chicken.
I’ll probably just freak out a little bit.
Now let’s examine my thought process during:
*cries a lot*
Ohmygod this chicken is so WARM
Now when I say during that’s giving me a lot of credit. I didn’t even touch the thing until I had been staring at it and crying for at least 5 minutes and then I immediately stepped back and decided I couldn’t do it. I did watch my friend take care of it and then butcher and clean it afterwards (I did all of this while cuddling puppies which helped). I’m a little disappointed in myself and I would like to try again at some point. This is the first time something has ever died in front of me so I wasn’t super prepared. And by the way, when someone kills a chicken something about it doesn’t even look real. Wish I could explain it better but I can’t. If you’ve seen it maybe you get what I’m saying.
Finally, at the end of the month, I returned home and we had our first annual Reader’s Theater competition in Coclé. My students and I had been prepping for months and I’m so proud of all the work they put into it! They did really well and I got several compliments from other volunteers. Unfortunately, we didn’t take home a prize but así es la vida. Maybe next year!
(ps: the song is from Hot Mess in Manhattan)