peace corps, Uncategorized

Running

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.

21317567_10210624102427842_1869909327668220296_n

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!

5499919f-941e-4f01-8509-06f4a13c1c12

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.

22042041_1156114077866437_3421017999938318579_o

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.

a09ff599-48e4-463c-b96b-7afd8946d0e1

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.

b7adfaa5-9a49-46cb-9047-f1855bfc7de9

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:

NOPENOPENOPENOPENOPE

*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.

chicken-2789485_960_720_LI

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!

22049855_10210797103072750_4983314345541014548_n

(ps: the song is from Hot Mess in Manhattan)

Advertisements
Standard
peace corps

My Favorite Moment of the Bee

Hello everyone! It finally happened—my first month not posting my monthly update. I also missed my bi-weekly culture posting. Whomp. I wish I could say that I had a good excuse but, even though I have been busy it really comes down to time management and motivation. I’ve definitely let this blog fall to the wayside a bit as I focus on other projects. I’ll do better ya’ll.tumblr_lwxebvIh1D1r4kfic

July happened! I started it off on an incredible note by attending Pride in Panama City on the first. Around 50 volunteers were there alongside people from the US Embassy. The US ambassador to Panama was there! The parade traveled down the street of Panama City that borders the cinta costera and, if I had to guess, it was probably about a 3 mile stretch. This was my first ever Pride and I didn’t know what to expect—gay marriage is still illegal in Panama and I wasn’t sure if there would be people protesting the parade. However, any fears or doubts I had were completely unfounded. The parade was incredible and unifying. There was dancing, music, and lots of glitter. Some Panamanians in drag rode on the floats as Queens—a role traditionally reserved for only women during celebrations. My host family saw me on TV and when I got home my host mom and I talked about how we wished we could do our makeup half as well as the drag queens in the parade. I’m consistently grateful for my host family’s openness and acceptance of the gay community and their willingness to talk about it. Recently there have been lots of “pro-family” marches in the country protesting the gay-marriage vote (which is happening soon, I believe) so Pride feels more relevant than ever.

19884521_10210182412985882_2476991387188454934_n

After all that wonderful celebrating, I got very sick. I’m talking sitting on the toilet and throwing up into a bucket simultaneously at 4 am sick. It’s a pretty picture, right? After calling the med office I finally dragged myself to the clinic at 8 am when it opened and thanked my lucky stars that there’s a peace-corps approved clinic in my site. After determining that I had some sort of virus and was very dehydrated I got hooked up to an IV and fed fluids and some medication to help with nausea and vomiting. I slept on the table in the clinic for about an hour and a half before being released with a series of medications and 3 bottles of Pedialyte. I was sick for about 4 days though luckily without the severity of gastrointestinal distress of the first day.

val

Valentine did not help with my illness

I had my first completely failed project this month! For a while I had been planning to start a reading hour for children because I had accrued a lot of children’s English books. Plus, parents were stopping me on the street to ask when I was going to do an English course with the kids (That was over the summer parents!). I decided that, rather than host a full course for kids, a reading hour would be a fantastic way to work with the youngest age group and start getting them accustomed to English. To start I decided to go through and label all the books based on their English level—no small task since I had at least 50. Then I started really getting into things. I talked to the librarian about using the library once a week after school, I talked to my principle about the idea, I papered the town with flyers advertising it two weeks in advance, and on the day of I made an announcement to the padres de familia at the school telling them that it was starting that day. I went to the library and waited, no one showed up. Maybe that day wasn’t good, no use getting discouraged. I went the next week and again, no one came. Being angry, confused, or embarrassed would’ve been easy—I could tell the librarian felt bad that no one was coming. Plus, parents kept asking me to work with their kids so why didn’t they bring them? However, it was easier to just accept it. However, that doesn’t mean that I’ll stop trying. I plan to attend a reading hour that the librarian hosts on Friday evenings and talk to the parents that attend. I want to see if maybe the time I chose was bad, and when a better one would be. I want to see if this is a project they’re even interested in for their children. If not, the library will just get a large donation of English books!

english course 3 maps

Practicing places and prepositions in my English Course

I’ve had successful projects as well—the third part of my English course is in full swing and I have about 20 participants! I also helped to facilitate activities for the After School English Program in Penonome. I’ve started running and will be participating in the relay portion of a marathon in November; I’ll be running 3.1 miles. This month is bringing on a lot of activities. The number one thing on my agenda is a frisbee club! I want to get one off the ground and start practicing once a week. I’ll be facilitating at two separate peace corps training events as well and then heading to the Comarca again! And, finally for the title of the post, I’ll be hosting the Spelling Bee on Friday! A few kids from my school are competing and we’ve been practicing a lot so I hope they do well. Maybe we’ll bring home the gold!

tree

Enter a caption

Standard
peace corps

A tourist trap worth seeing

There are some touristy parts of Panama that I avoid. The canal never really interested me much though I’ve been twice now. But there is a hidden gem in Panama City that had gotten rave reviews so I had to check it out. That hidden gem is the BioMuseo!img_2863.jpg

The BioMuseo, or Bio-Museum, was architecturally designed by Frank Gehry who is known for his innovative and often grandiose designs. It is all about the biodiversity of Panama; el Puente del mundo (the bridge of the world). If you’re ever in Panama I highly recommend coughing up the $18 non-resident price (or $10 if you’re a resident aka a PCV) and visiting the museum. From albrook mall it’s just a $4 taxi! Okay, now that we’re through the actual costs, what is there to see? When you enter the museum, you’re greeted by exhibits explaining what biodiversity is and denoting species that have been discovered in Panama. Then there’s a wall of all the species that exist in Panama. The ones in red are in danger of extinction while the ones in black have already gone extinct. The plaques in gray are the things that contribute to species extinction. The biggest threat? Humans.IMG_2870 (2)

From there you move into a movie theater where screens cover the walls, ceiling, and even floor! Here you’ll watch a short film about the biodiversity of Panama and, if you’re lucky, there will be a school group there so you can hear the guide explaining things and watch kids flap their arms like birds when cued. After the film, you step out into rocks and fossils! This was by far one of my favorite parts because I really enjoy geology AND I solved a mystery that’s been bugging me for a while! Backstory: wayyyyy back in the beginning of my service I hiked out to some petroglyphs near my site (you can read the blog post about them here) and I was really confused by this carving of what appeared to be an elephant. Now flash forward to me wandering around looking at fossils and pre-historic animals of Panama. Suddenly, I see it! Cuvier’s Mastodon—a giant species that was related to elephants and lived in the Americas until roughly 11,000 years ago. The carving must not have been an elephant, but a mastodon! Which also means that those petroglyphs are crazy old.

From there you learn about animals that roamed Panama and then move forward into learning about the history of Panama—the people and cultures that pre-date us and helped to form what we have here today. But I don’t want to spoil it all for you; you’ve got to see it for yourself! And if you come after December of 2019 you’ll be able to check out a new exhibit—the aquarium!

Standard
Uncategorized

Moving too fast

These posts seem to get later and later the busier I get! One more month has basically lapped me on the race track and I’m trying to catch up. In just barely more than 1 week my frisbee camp will be starting and I couldn’t be more excited/nervous/stressed. First I want to take a moment to thank everyone who made a contribution to my grant. We received the full amount ($2,087.40 but who’s counting?) and because of that we can bring 48 kids from all over Panama together to learn about leadership, sexual health, and of course, Ultimate Frisbee. I quite literally could not have made that happen without support from all of you.

angelSo what did I do for the month of May? I went home! For 11 days! As always, going home is a magical experience that never seems to last long enough. Two of my best friends got married while I was home and I was honored to be a bridesmaid. Never in my life have I met two people so in love and it was a true joy to witness them read their vows to one another and be the beautiful amazing people they are. I was asked by the brides to give a speech at the wedding and I hope that they liked it! The reception was fantastic, filled with dancing, vegetarian food, and instax cameras flashing all over the place. I think one of my favorite moments of the night was then “The Time Warp” from The Rocky Horror Picture Show played and everyone made a FULL COMMITMENT by collapsing onto the floor at the end of the evening.  18582294_10209690623731458_1577306562575694276_n

The work never stops though! While at home I went to my old high school and talked to the Teacher Academy students about what it’s like to teach abroad. They were all bright and energetic and asked a lot of really great questions! Hopefully one or two of them are considering teaching abroad in the future whether they do it with Peace Corps or another agency. I managed to make it all the way from my house in the US to my house in Panama in one day with a combined total of 14 hours of travel including a car, a plane, a taxi, and a bus! Needless to say I spent hours cuddling the kittens once I got back and just finished completely unpacking yesterday. Ever since then my life has been camp planning, letter writing (technically part of the camp planning), buying hundreds of pounds of food (also for the camp), and watching Gilmore Girls (for my sanity). The new 3rd year extension TELLS coordinator came to my site to do my one year visit and basically just check in with me. During her visit she also bought a sombrero! Maybe I should direct her to my other post on how to wear it? Finally, I was able to help another volunteer throw together a seminar on customer service skills for a group of university students! They all did amazingly well and I have no doubt they’ll excel in their field. We gave them 5 important customer service skills and had them present about them in groups. Some chose to do skits, some did drawings, all were fantastic. To show them some different customer service skills we used the following scene from The Office: 

6_role-playing

If you want to watch the scene do it here

So that’s my life right now! Lots of camp things going on but they’ll be over and worth it soon. Stay tuned to hear all about how it goes!

Standard
Uncategorized

Talking Hats

Do you consider yourself an intelligent person? Do you think you’re friendly and warm? Well, you better make sure your hat is saying the same thing!

Untitled

If you thought you could just throw a hat on your head and go about your day then you’ve got a lot to learn. Here in Panama, the way you wear your sombrero can say a lot about you. There are many ways to interpret what people are saying with their headgear and it can vary in each community. In La Pintada you can use your hat to show off who you are without saying a word. Before we move any further let’s make sure we all know what a sombrero looks like. 14462959_10207744586961755_3823597551907269574_n

All of the things those kids have on their heads are sombreros! They come in a lot of different patterns and sizes. They don’t all look the same but they’re made in similar ways and all of the same basic form. So, how should you wear your sombrero??

  • Front brim down and low on your forehead-This means you’re a person that keeps a lot of secrets. Maybe you’re a spy? Maybe you’re a professional party planner that deals only in surprise parties? The world may never know.
  • Back brim up– You’re a very smart and professional person! You probably have an important job that requires fancy clothes to accompany your many degrees.
  • Front brim up but low on your forehead– You’re ready to fight. Any time. Anywhere. People that wear their hats like this are aggressive!
  • Front brim up but sitting normally on your forehead– Not to be confused with the aforementioned style, this means that you’re a hard worker! You’ve gotta keep the sweat out of your eyes somehow with all the labor you put in on the daily.
  • Front brim and back brim up-This means that you’re a successful person! Successful in what, you may ask? Well, sadly, I don’t know. Maybe you’re really good at gardening or you’re a teacher whose students always turn in their work on time!
  • Side brims up-You’re a vaquero who works out in the campo. You  can probably lasso a bull in your sleep and I for one and impressed.
  • Normally, with no brims down or up-Okay so I know I said you can’t just throw your hat on and go but if you do it means that you’re a friendly person. You probably don’t have time to style your hat because you’re heading off to that surprise party for your friend’s birthday!
  • The entire hat is hanging off the side of your head– You’re drunk friend! Time to put down the seco and grab a taxi home.

Grab your sombreros and wear them in whatever way suits you best!

hat-1255588__340

True Vaquero style

Standard
Uncategorized

How to say hello

Every culture in the world has a traditional way of greeting each other. This tends to vary across social groups and often even across ages. For example, a group of teenagers in the USA will probably say “hey” or “what’s up” rather than the more formal “hello.” But if I were listening in on one of my grandmother’s conversations with a friend of hers I’d be far more likely to hear her say “hi.” I wouldn’t go into a job interview and say “hey, how’s it going?”  but  I would say “hello, how are you?” The way we use language is important to us. It shows our relationships between one another. So here’s 5 ways to say “hello” here in Panama.

1) Hola– Tried and true–This literally translates to “hello” and can be used in formal and informal settings. 

2) Buenas– This is a shortened version of “buenas noches/buenos días” but it is always used with an -as ending no matter what time of day it is. It’s my favorite greeting and I say it to everybody. 

3- ¿Que tal?– How’s it going? A solid informal greeting used among friends and acquaintances. 

4- ¿Que sopa?– This is a slang-ified version of “que paso” which means “what’s up?” You hear this more among younger generations and it’s informal. Don’t use it in a professional setting

5- Ow!– This is more of a sound than a word. It’s just a way to acknowledge someone and shout “hey!” Again, totally informal

See? Learning Spanish isn’t so hard. And don’t worry, if you get confused, a smile goes a long way. 

Standard
Uncategorized

The Great Banana Railroad

If you live in the USA you’ve probably eaten a Chiquita banana before. Did you ever wonder where that banana came from? How it got to live in your local supermarket and then move to your kitchen counter? I’m here to tell you all about it. I got a chance to travel to the province of bocas del toro for a vacation. Bocas is on the border of Costa Rica and it’s very different from the part of Panama that I live in. It rains frequently (even in the dry season) and because of that  everything is very green. It’s also home to massive banana farms–some of which are independently run but many of which are owned by Chiquita.

These farms stretch as far as the human eye can see and you can bet people aren’t hefting bananas on their backs to take them to the Chiquita plant for processing. Instead they travel down what my friend Bennett and I fondly call “the great banana railroad.” The GBR is basically a long conveyer system that carries the bananas from one location to another. It’s sort of like a ski lift. There’s one point where it connects to cross the road and Bennett informs me that she’s had to wait for bananas to cross the street before her bus was allowed to pass. I unfortunately saw no bananas on the move but I did get to check out the tracks! 

This is where the bananas would cross the road


After they travel down the track the bananas are deposited in the Chiquita plant where they go through processing. I’m not quite sure what happens there as we could only look from the outside but it seems that the bananas take a bath. 

After a relaxing dip they’re strung up to dry and then packed into boxes and sent off to the hungry people of the world! Banana farming is the main source of income for people living out in that area. Most bananeros (banana farmers) live in bocas during the week and travel home to visit family on weekends and holidays. Many of the men from Bennett’s community work on the surrounding banana farms. While Bennett and I were strolling through the banana trees we noticed that one had fallen and taken its bushel of bananas down with it. We tried to lift it to absolutely no avail. That bushel had to weigh at least 40 pounds! So props to all the bananeros that probably hoist those things on the reg. And thanks for all the fruit! 

The heaviest bananas

Standard