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!

IMG_9427[1]

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.

IMG_9426[1]

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.

IMG_9414[1]

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.

IMG_9436[1]

Taken from my front porch

Standard

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

Standard

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

Standard

Seasons of love 

525,600 minutes

525,000 moments so dear

525,600 minutes

How do you measure, measure a year? 

February 24th, 2016 I touched down in Panama for the first time. It’s true what they say about Peace Corps: “The days are long but the weeks are short.” As I officially pass my one year mark in country I want to take the time to reflect back on some of the moments that have helped to shape both me and my service. 

Getting ready to fly to dallas for staging

I’ve tried keeping a journal while here in Panama and I’m a bit penosa (shy/ashamed) to admit that I haven’t been quite as dedicated as I had hoped to the cause. It’s hard to remember specific moments because over time things weave into one another and while that probably makes for a great blanket it’s a shit tapestry (we’re gonna pretend that metaphor makes sense). First I want to look alllllll the way back at training and the time I spent living in a community with other volunteers. A truly formative moment for me was getting gripe (the flu). It started one evening when I felt cold-I was actually freezing. That doesn’t really happen in Panama. I told my host mom Mabel that I was cold and asked if I could use another blanket for my bed. She promptly (and appropriately) freaked out and put her hand to my forehead. Needless to say I was burning up. I took a pill and went to sleep. 

Mabel’s son, me, and Mabel

Not too surprisingly, I woke up the next morning feeling like a plague victim. Unfortunately, I didn’t have data on my phone so I took myself to language class and talked to the LCF’s about my general feeling of death until someone procured a phone for me to call the PCMO’s. At this point I was in tears for no reason(the reason was actually  because I was super sick and it’s stressful to be sick and speak another language and not have your mom) and other volunteers had convened realizing that I was sick. Vickie’s (one of the LCF’s) husband ended up driving me to Chorrera to the clinic and, amazingly, he spoke English. Not only was he able to help me calm down but he was also able to help me communicate everything I needed to at the desk in the clinic. I also had volunteers texting me that day asking if I was feeling better and just generally being amazing people. This experience helped me to just trust in other people and ask for help when I need it. Trust me-here in peace corps asking for help is a skill you need to learn quickly. 

The other amazing TELLS volunteers

Eventually we all got through training and were sent off to our new communities to live and work! This is where one of my next formative moments happened. My host family in La Pintada has been truly amazing (It almost feels strange to refer to them as a host family at this point because they feel like my real family). During the sombrero pinta’o festival my host family and all of my barriada (neighborhood) made a giant float to participate in one of the many parades. While that was happening my host sister started teaching me to dance pollera-suspicious? Yes, very.

She teaches me so much


About 6 days before the festival was supposed to start my host family finally let loose the secret; I was going to be on the float! Not only that but I was going to be the reina(queen)! To me this was a huge deal. I felt so honored that I was being involved in something so culturally significant and I really felt like I was a part of the community. I got to wear a beautiful pollera and we even made it through the parade before it started raining (the float behind ours was not so lucky). It was one of the most surreal experiences I’ve had so far. 

With my host fam before getting up on the float

The last moment is a more recent one.i just finished up my children’s English course and on the last day I wanted to see if the niños had really learned something. We had worked on the alphabet, numbers, and the phrase “how are you” with the response “I am happy/sad/angry.” It was a short course only totalling up to four hours but it was fun and English-filled. I never spoke to the kids in Spanish but instead used big gestures and movements to communicate my meaning. 

Everyone loves a good bingo review!

We played bingo and by just watching the kids fill up their boards I could tell they had learned a little.  After playing some more games I gathered everyone in a circle to close out the course. I asked each kid individually “how are you” and every single one of them replied “I am happy!” And while that may not seem too big it was for me. They responded without my prompting, without my writings the sentences on the board, and without me having to repeat myself. I call that a major teacher-win!

A few kids from my class

There have been a lot of ups and downs this year but I’m happy to say that the ups have been pretty high and the downs have been pretty shallow. So today, 365 days after arriving to Panama, I’m glad to have experienced  each moment that has made up my service. I’m extremely thankful to live in a community that has been such a good fit for me. I’m grateful for my kittens, friends from home who have visited, and my newfound love of coffee. And I’m grateful for each and every one of you who reads this blog-who supports me wether or not you know me. So thank you; here’s to another year! 

Standard

Photo Friday! 

One of the many great things about peace corps is the volunteer community. My friend Roxana asked me to come out and help facilitate a leadership camp (soy joven, soy líder) in her community in Veraguas. I was able to go for the latter half of the camp which meant that I got to help with the last few days and see all of the participants graduate! We had youth from ages 12 and up learning about leadership and activism. Today they graduated and presented ideas and action plans for activities they’re actually going to do to make their communities better. The group we worked with was really outstanding and I’m so glad to have had the opportunity to help them grow as leaders! 

Team building games

Identifying leaders in their lives

Presenting

Having a grand old time

Bolivar y Yo

Standard

Photo Friday! 

I’m lucky to have the opportunity to work with such a wide range of age groups here in Panama. I started my kids English course and, later that day, I gave a speech at the university of Panama on “How literature makes you a better global citizen.” And, in true Peace corps fashion, everything went awry. My computer couldn’t connect to the projector; no problem, let’s use Yuliana’s  computer. Hers won’t play my video in PowerPoint. Okay, will it play it outside of PowerPoint? It will! We’re ready to go! Andddd then the power went out. But you can’t let little things like that stop you when you have have a presentation to give! I looked up the transcript of the video I wanted to show and gave my presentation in the dark. At the end, right as Yuliana handed me a certificate for my presentation, the power came back on. I’m sure there’s a metaphor in there so if you find it let me know! 

You can’t tell but the power is out in this photo

University students listening to my presentation

Standard

Campo Kitchen! 

Guandú is a bean/pea that grows in Panama around Christmas time through February. The most typical dish to make with it is arroz con guandú. Now I enjoy me some good old arroz con guandú but anyone that knows me knows that rice really isn’t my thing. So I scoured the internet for other ideas. You know what I found? NOTHING. Guandú is called “pigeon peas” in the US so I tried googling that. STILL NOTHING. All of it was a variation of arroz con guandú. Every. Single. Recipe. 

For all you non-believers

So I decided to take matters into my own hands. I wanted a recipe that didn’t have to involve rice. I thought of things I liked to eat. For some reason I thought of lentils and then it hit me! Guandú and lentil curry! So I googled some curry recipes for inspiration and started making so with what I had on hand. This is what came of it. 

Guandú and Lentil Curry

Serves 2

Ingredients:

1/2 cup guandú beans/peas

1-8 cup dried lentils

1/2 cup tomato paste

1/4 onion chopped 

1 clove garlic minced

1/2 tsp Cayenne pepper 

1 1/2 tsp curry powder

Salt 

Pepper

Oil

1/2 cup water (separated into two 1/4 cups)

Instructions

Bring guandú to anrolling boil in salted water and then simmer for 10 minutes (or until beans/peas are soft). Drain and set aside. Bring lentils to a rolling boil in salted water and then simmer for 30 minutes.  These two steps can be done at the same time if you have more than one pot. You can also soak the lentils beforehand to cut down cook time. Drain lentils and set aside with guandú. Sauté diced onion in a little bit of oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cook on med-low until onions just start to become translucent. Add minced garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes or until the onions start to brown. Add 1/2 cup tomato paste and 1/4 cup water to the pan and stir. Add 1 tsp curry powder and 1/2 tsp cayenne (this gives it a nice kick but if you’re not into spicy food feel free to omit it or add paprika instead). Stir and let cook for about a minute. Add lentils and guandú and another 1/4 cup of water. Add another 1/2 tsp of curry powder and salt and pepper to taste. Cook until lentils and guandú are heated through and you have a thick sauce. If the sauce is too thick add water by the tablespoon to thin it out. 

Standard