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No More Wasted Time

The past month has been a little bit of a whirlwind for me. There have been days where I’ve been busy from the minute I get up until I get to bed (okay that’s a bit of an exaggeration-but they were very filled days I promise you!) and days where I couldn’t find the motivation to do anything productive and ended up playing a lot of computer games. I started really working on English with Linda. We work for about a half hour each day and each day I try to think of a way to make the class more fun. 

family vocabulary

body parts and family practice

playing memory

My regional leader Chelsea came for my one month visit. Basically it’s a way for them to check in and she how we’re doing and help us address any problems that we’re having. She came on a Friday and my school was having a big Father’s Day celebration. All of the students’ fathers were invited to come to school to participate in games, eat food, and receive gifts. I was pretty proud to see all of the English teachers I work with really shine in the “dinamicas” portion of the event. Dinamicas are games that you get people to play to build up their energy and get them to dejar la pena (stop being shy).

The “king” of the event

In the few weeks after that not much was going on in my life. I spent some time working on my Community Analysis project for peace corps and hanging out with people in the community. Oranges came into season so Linda and I went to hunt some down and basically just spent some time relaxing. A few exciting things did happen though. My host great- grandmother told me that when I move into my place she’ll let me adopt one of the kittens she has! My heart is set on a little gray boy cat. Even more exciting-my friend Cherish asked me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding!! I’m so excited to be a part of her big day and I’ve already sent my vacation request to the office. 

I got offered extra language training from peace corps and it was intense but so helpful. For a week straight I went to school from 8-1:30 and came home for what started off as 2 hours of language training and increased to 3 and then 4 hours. It gave me a chance to work on the grammar that I’ve been struggling with. I also got a chance to go to a birthday party and show off my balloon animal making skills (I can make a dog and a sword) much to the enjoyment of a bunch of children. My community also celebrated “San Juan.” Children rode around on “palitos” and we paraded around the streets, people danced, and I hung out with some of my 3rd graders. 

Linda’s school did another performance-this time at the public library. She did a solo dance performance and sang with a group of other girls. La Pintada has also instated a new location for “bailes” or “dances.” My host mom took Linda and I there and it was certainly interesting. At first no one was there so we decided to go wait in the park where we amused ourselves by acting out random improv scenes. My host mom stole the show when Linda challenged her to act out giving birth in the park. 

shakespeare in the park

This month was pretty tough on me. I’d bbeen feeling pretty stressed out from a lot of things and decided to really take time to focus on my health and wellbeing. I worked out a lot, started meditating, and started writing more. I threw myself into things I was really passionate about(I’m working on a pads/tampons initiative

that I’ll hopefully talk more about in the future). Finally I started really working on my report and making some plans for community English courses. I pretty much listened to the entire “If/then” soundtrack on repeat multiple times. So I’m taking a page from Idina Menzel’s book and saying “No more wasted time, no more standing still, I once would dream of building cities and now I think I will.”

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Photo Friday! 

The teachers lounge


So I thought I’d give everyone a peek at my school! This is where I spend a decent portion of my week working with pre-k through 6th grade! I have 3 counterpart teachers here and we’re just starting the second trimester. Here in Panama the school year is February-December so I won’t be getting my summer break for a little bit. Kids love to run around on the green during recreo in the middle of the day and there’s tipico practice in the teachers lounge on Wednesdays! 

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I am not a stranger to the rain

Winter here lasts from June to December and with it comes rain in the form of sometimes biblical downpours. A song from “Children of Eden” seemed only appropriate to title this post because not only did I feel a bit like Noah-I also participated in a ton of religious events since my last post. But back to the sky water. How bad can the rain really be you ask? Well, let me show you.


That’s the creek that usually runs behind my house. Notice how not angry it is? That all changed when the water nation attacked…


Here’s a list of a few things I saw float down the newly formed river while I sat watching it from my hammock:

  • Several two liter soda bottles and styrofoam cups
  • A bamboo stalk about a meter long
  • A branch that was bigger than my arm
  • A tree trunk the size of my torso

Amazingly we didn’t lose power during the storm. We have been losing power a lot lately though. The other night I showered by candlelight. Luckily my little solar lamp is pretty useful(thanks dad!).

So May was the “Month of the Virgin” here in Panama and I’ve never attended so many religious events in my entire life. My community is pretty Catholic but we do have an evangelical/possibly baptist (it’s a little unclear) church and a jehovas witness temple tucked in too.

The Catholic church is definitely the largest 

I try to go to church whenever I’m invited because it gets me out in the community. We celebrated May in a lot of ways here. Students at my school brought flowers almost daily to place on the statuette of the Virgin Mary that we have in the courtyard. I also attended my first rosario! Its basically a rosary event where the read about Mary and the mysteries of the rosary which I didn’t even know were a thing. If we do these in the US I was unaware of them.

“And we’ll never be royals…”

I attended on the last day of the event and got to see Mary get crowned. The whole shebang ended with brindis(snacks) and an invitation to attend the big rosary party that the family was throwing the next day! Parties here mean you get lots of great food so naturally I told them I’d be there.

The party ended up being a 3 hour mass in the rain. Luckily I managed to snag a seat below the tent they had set up. They had a band playing music and even brought in a priest from Panama City to speak. It was an interesting event and it ended with carry out boxes filled with arroz con pollo, tamales, potato salad, cupcakes, and candy.

Blessing the altar


After all of these ceremonies I got a bit of a break. I headed out to penonome for my regional meeting and school break started! I had a lot of free time to fill and I did that by pasearing, playing computer games, and taking long walks with Linda.

My host mom’s 5 year old granddaughter came and spent vacation week with us. I don’t have any younger siblings (that twin life) so living with a kid was interesting. She had so much energy! We watched “Guardians of the Galaxy” together and I’m pretty sure the only words she got were “I am Groot” which prompted her to turn to me and say “Yo soy Groot” which was admittedly, pretty cute. She also did some yoga with me ans me Linda

Double fisting art supplies

On Sunday during vacations two of my community members in site invited me to go play Ultimate Frisbee in Penonome. It was probably the hottest day that week but it was so much fun! There were four teams playing for the semi-finals and I actually got to join one of them to play a game. They are all a lot better at Ultimate than I am. I credit that to their having played together so often and my only having played some pick up games with friends in college. Who knows, maybe I’ll get a light up frisbee and convince some kids to play out on the soccer field one night when the sun isn’t trying to make me a tomato. It was a lot of fun and I’m probably going to try to go at least once a month. The best part about it is most of the players are right around my age and I’ve been seriously lacking in the whole “friends in my community” department. Hopefully that changes in the next few months!

On the last day of vacation Linda and I were going to go to church but she decided that it would be better to just go for a long walk. After celebrating all month I was glad for the recess. We wandered past the cemetery that’s on the outskirts of town and just headed down this road for a while. Linda was highly disappointed that she didn’t see any snakes. We did however, see a ton of butterflies, a handful of caterpillars, a super cute puppy, a dead lizard, and a teeny tiny toad! I swear he was about the size of a penny. The walk was good but very hot. Luckily we found a house that sold duro’s and I got one for each of us. It was so hot that I didn’t even care that it was grape flavored.

 

We saved his life and got him off the road

OH! And last but not least, I GOT A HOUSE!!!! I’ll be moving in August and I’m super excited! It faces out onto the soccer field and my favorite mountain so I’ll have a great view in the mornings. Plus I hear its a great house for carnavalito in February because the floats pass right in front of it. For me it’ll be my first time living alone and I’m feeling both excited and anxious. Luckily my host family is amazing and has told me that I can come there to do laundry, eat, or even sleep if I want! I’ll definitely be taking them up on the first two

 

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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!

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Photo Friday! 

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¡Vídeo viernes!

For those reading this who may not speak Spanish that translates to video Friday which just didn’t have the right ring to it. Below is a video (And a photo) from the “Notas de Valores” at my host sisters school!  

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​The shouting you hear in the back of the video with the girl singing is pretty traditional here. I’m about 90% sure it’s called “Saloma” but only about 70% sure I’m spelling that right. In the bottom photo are all of the girls in the running for “reina” or “queen.” The queen is chosen at random-each of the girls is given a balloon to pop and one of them has a paper on it saying “reina.” The girl in red (she represented the valor or “value” of love) won! I wanted to throw my host sisters dance video up as well but alas the internet won’t allow that. I promise you-it was awesome! 

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Photo Friday! 

Hey all! I’m going to start something new (and slightly less musical-sorry!) on the blog. Every Friday I’m going to be uploading a photo or photos to give you a peek into peace corps life, Panama life, and, in more general terms, my life! I take so many photos of my site but I don’t want to overwhelm you in each post so keep an eye out for these each Friday! 


So turns out there’s a cigar factory in my town! I got a little tour of it and it’s a pretty cool place. Of course it has an artisan table of all of the other things that people make by hand in la pintada like sombreros, purses, and terra-cotta wall decor. The whole place smells of tobacco which is a very different smell than that of regular cigarettes. Unfortunately the factor is usuall closed up by 2 so you have to head over early in the day to get a tour! 

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On the right track

A lot has happened since my last post and I can practically hear the leading player from “pippin” singing in my head every time I walk down the street in my NEW SITE! That’s right ladies and gents! I found out that I’m going to be spending these next two years in the beautiful town of La Pintada. La Pintada, formerly known as El valle de la Concepción (the valley of  the conception), is famous for making the beautiful “sombrero pinta’o” that you can see in Panama.  

 (Me ft. Aforementioned sombrero in the traditional style)

Before I get into all of the semantics of site announcement I’m going to summarize everything that happened in between!

All of us aspirantes got a chance to visit some actual volunteers for a week! I visited the lovely Kara (and her cat Canela!) in Veraguas. We both love theatre so the “Hamilton” soundtrack was playing on repeat all week. I got a chance to sit in with her on some classes in the primary school and I got to see the first meeting of her community English class for adults! Over the weekend we went to Santiago and I sat in on a meeting of a bunch of Panamanian youth that are trying to improve things for youth in Panama.

  (Canela!)

After that week it was back to training for a bit and then we got to travel to Coclé for our Tech week! I worked in a primary school with a first grade teacher for the week and I bunked up with four other PCV’s. Having roommates for a week was great-I feel like all of us got a lot closer which is nice because most of us ended up in the same province!

Working in a primary school, especially with really small children, was a new experience for me. My counterpart was amazing though. In the span of one week we built a lot of confianza and I got the chance to co-plan and co-teach with her! At the end of the week the school I was at had a little party for all of us and we presented our counterparts with certificates. We also got a chance to travel to La Pintada to play a game of ultimate frisbee! Little did I know that soon I would be calling it home.  

   (Me & roommates and me & counterpart)

After all of that moving around we finally got a break-a free night to do whatever we wanted! We decided to hit up the beach. Playa Santa Clara is beautiful despite the tiny jellyfish in the water. Luckily their sting doesn’t really hurt. I’ll definitely be bringing friends and family there once they come and visit.  

    
 (Sunblock is important kids)

And now what we’ve all been waiting for! My site!!! It’s better than I could have ever imagined. I LOVE my host family so much already. And I have some host siblings living with me this time around! My host sister is 16 and I think we’re going to be good friends. I’m working in a primary school and I have 3 counterpart English teachers that all seem super excited to work with me. Throughout the week I got to observe their classes (pre-kinder through 6th grade!). It’s going to be an interesting time for sure. Anyone who knows me knows that primary isn’t my thing-I was really hoping and asking for a secondary school. However, after seeing the kids and the amazing teachers I’m excited to take on all of the challenges primary school has to offer. Plus it’s nice to walk into school and get hug-swarmed by a group of children shouting “teacher!” with big smiles plastered on their faces.

  (Me and my new sister!)

My afternoons were filled with pasearing. One of the women who works at the municipio met up with me at 4 every day to take me around and introduce me to people and show me the town. I’m so glad she did because I feel so accepted and so excited to get know these people more. I’m also fairly convinced that I was sent to the art district of Panama because everyone here is an artisan of some kind. I met people who make crafts, people who make sombreros, and people who play music! I already got an invitation for flute lessons and for dance lessons. They dance tipico here and I’m dying to learn!  

 (Fun fact: accordion is super popular here)
I live in a valley surrounded by mountains that I hope to climb during my two years in Panama. The most notable mountain is called “Orarí.” I’m not sure that’s how it’s spelled but you get my drift. On Friday my community guide took me to a nearby community so I could get a good view of the mountains. It was pretty breathtaking.

   
 (Orarí in the top photo)
I passed the rest of the weekend with my family in penonome, my capital city, and at home just hanging out. I also went to church with one of my new cousins. He’s Christian but I promised my host family that I would attend mass with them once I got back since I wouldn’t be able to Sunday. When I made it home to Santa Rita I was so excited to see my host mom! I didn’t realize how much I missed her. The people that I’ve lived with here really do start to feel like family and I’m going to be a little sad when I have to leave. I’ve also had some twinges of homesickness this week-not because I’m sad but because my family has been so kind! I’ve got to hang out with them so much and it makes me want to hang out with my family at home-start planning your vacations guys! Luckily my new site has great access to cell phone signal and Internet cafes so I’ll be able to stay in touch. Plus once I change my address my mail should come a lot faster! 

It finally feels like my peace corps journey is beginning and it can be a little overwhelming. I’m keeping my positive attitude and I am really excited, if a bit anxious, to turn the page and begin the book because the prologue has gone on for long enough. As the leading player says:

“You look frenzied, you look frazzled

Peaked as any alp

Flushed and rushed and razzle-dazzled…

If you’d take it easy, trust awhile
Don’t look blue, don’t look back

You’ll pull through in just awhile

‘Cause you’re on th right track”

Can’t wait to update you all in another month! 

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