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!


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!


True Vaquero style


You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught 

I’ve had a lot of teaching and learning  moments over the past month. I visited home! By visiting home I learned about all the changes I had made in my 10 months abroad. I learned a new appreciation for all the opportunities I have and all the things I used to take for granted. I learned that a fridge full of food can shock me so much that I just stare at it for 5 full minutes. 

Thanks for welcoming me home! Photo via pixabay.com

The teaching moments were all varied. Zac came to visit and I taught him all about Panama. We saw the many different designs for sombreros, Zac put his minimal Spanish knowledge to the test, and we got to catch up after not seeing each other for about a year. 

There have been formal teaching moments as well. I helped a friend write his resume in English for job applications. Eli, a fellow peace corps volunteer, texted me about a medical gira that he and some other volunteers were at and told me they could use a hand translating for the American doctors that had come in. University students from penonome were there helping to translate too, so I managed to hitch a ride with them and spend two days translating and learning how to say things like “pterygium” in Spanish (it’s terijillo). And finally, I gave a seminar on increasing student talking time to a group of about 40 English teachers in Panama City! It’s been a really busy month! 

All the university students I translated with

Talking with teachers at the TESOL conference

Finally, I want to talk about the title of this post. The song is from South Pacific. You may be wondering what on earth a musical from 1949 has to do with anything but go with me here. Thematically, the show centers a lot on racism. The new US President ran his campaign on racism and people supported it. This song examines how he and his supporters came to be. The  lyrics are printed below for you: 

You’ve got to be taught

To hate and fear,

You’ve got to be taught

From year to year,

It’s got to be drummed

In your dear little ear

You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught to be afraid

Of people whose eyes are oddly made,

And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,

You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,

Before you are six or seven or eight,

To hate all the people your relatives hate,

You’ve got to be carefully taught!

I am so proud of all the people who have decided that we are going to stand up and show our new President that we will not stand for the racism, bigotry, and small-mindedness that his campaign stood on. We are not teaching hate; we are educating one another on issues that affect our citizens such as LGBT rights, especially recognition, support, and protection for trans and non-binary people, women’s rights, and minority rights. Yesterday America demonstrated that we will not allow Trump’s rhetoric and hate to knock us down and we will fight for the next four years to protect our freedoms. All of my friends that marched taught me that the next four years will be full of hope for the future. All of the people around the world that marched in solidarity taught me that we are not standing alone. For that, I want to thank you. We are all citizens of the same world and we all fight for the same things: peace, equality, and love in all its forms. 

A photo from my friend of the Women’s march in DC


Photo Friday! 

Today’s photo Friday is an appreciation of all things tipico! I’m talking polleras, sombreros pintao’s, and sometimes even machetes! ​Tipico is the traditional dance in Panama and there are so many variations on it that I don’t know how they keep track.​


We had a feria at my school and groups of students came to dance tipico and present folclórico. My students are the one in the polleras(the dresses) with the rainbow stripes. Polleras are typically worn in Panama to dance tipico and they’re generally made completely by hand!  

The girls all wear timbliques in their hair-the more the better! They also keep their hair in the traditional braids. The boys wear the sombreros and some carry machetes that they use during the dance to represent the cutting of rice and sugarcane. 
Some other schools came to participate as well! All of the dancing was so impressive! Students generally practice folclórico at the school once a week. 


The sombrero pinta’o museum in my site may be little but it’s worth a visit! There’s an artisan there every day making the sombreros so you can get a first hand look at what the process is like.  Sombreros are made by weaving around the wooden form you can see in the picture above. And, the sombreros and headbands (and all of the other amazing things they make with this natural fiber) are available for purchase if you want to take a little of Panama home with you!


Photo Friday!