Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Less than 2 months left!

Well hey!

It has obviously been a hot minute since I blogged, so I have loads to update y'all on!

Let's start with El Salvador!

I was able to travel to San Salvador, El Salvador with the Diocese of Panama to attend the yearly synod for IARCA. IARCA is the Central American Region of the Anglican Church. This region includes Nicaragua, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Panama, and Guatemala. Basically, synod is a time for the dioceses to come together and talk about what has been happening in their dioceses as well as their future resolutions and goals for the next year. Also, this year marked the year that they were supposed to elect a new primate bishop of IARCA, but they ultimately decided to elect the primate in two more years.

While in El Salvador, got to see our fellow friend and YASCer Hannah Perls, who is currently serving in San Salvador, El Salvador. We got to see a little piece of her life in San Salvador and even got to see where she works!

Joseph and I with Hannah

Team Panama
Hey look! Our boss also made it down to IARCA's synod! So great to see her as well.
Hanging out with the boss, Elizabeth Boe
Oh wait, another boss! We also had the pleasure of seeing Sam McDonald, Deputy COO and Director of Mission in New York.

Here are a few other pictures pictures from Synod:
Some of the clergy that attended synod

Where all the magic happened

The current Primate - Bishop Armando Guerra
After returning from El Salvador, it was time to get right back into school! I attended another Convivencia for 8th Grade, which I naturally did not take pictures of. Again! Sorry about that.

However, I do have some pretty great pictures. May 30th is Dia de la Etnia Negra - Black Ethnicity Day. But, many people in Panama have made it into a whole month of celebrating. Extra celebrating - big surprise there! So, Patricia held a party at our house to celebrate the holiday. I have this really cool video of some traditional dancing and singing, but I shockingly can't figure out how to upload the video successfully. I guess pictures will have to do!

Oh yes, the fact that the party was at my house meant that I had to go all out. Outfit specially designed by Patricia de Lewis

Little brothers!

With the Queen herself

Dia de la Etnia Negra was also celebrated at school! The students were looking super cute so here are some pictures from school:

7th Grade and Prof. Joseph

High School teachers

The best picture

Girls from Elementary

The celebrations truly lasted the whole month - it was great. Otherwise, things have been continuing here normally with school, and the students just finished their first trimester!  Meanwhile, I have a little less than 2 months left in Panama! Which is absolutely crazy. So in the meantime, I've been trying to travel while I can! I'll leave y'all with a few photos I took when I went on a vacation to "El Valle" - a place in the interior of Panama that has mountains and hot springs. Super cool!

Who knew the zoo could be so pretty?

Really attractive clay masks at the hot springs 
Panama has the only square trees in the world!

Thanks for keeping up! I will be blogging soon - I PROMISE this time!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Friends and THE METRO

After the visit to Machuca, I had another eventful weekend at Convivencia. I've blogged about this before because it typically takes place once a month. But just for a reminder, it's an event for a certain grade of the school for an entire day. This past Saturday, many of the professors took the entire 7th grade to a school in Chorrera, an area about 45 minutes outside of the city. In Chorrera we had Convivencia with a theme that focused on the dynamic of groups and group work. Throughout the day, we had lots of fun in small groups where we explored this theme, had discussions, played games, and created skits. The kids always have a lot of fun at Convivencia, and it's a fun time to get to know our students better outside of the classroom setting. I don't have pictures of this event because I have failed at photography, but luckily we have Convivencia again in 2 weeks, so I'll take some then!

Oh yeah, we also had a visit from two fellow YASCers Becky Gleason and Claire Harkey, as well as Claire's friend and roommate Rosella. Needless to say we had lots of fun hanging out and catching up with each other on our placements and our past few months!

We were also able to attend a Maundy Thursday service together, which was a really nice time to spend together and be reminded of the importance of this week. Props go out to Rosella for being the master photographer, so here are some photos!

At the Maundy Thursday service with a special sermon from the bishop of Panama himself!

Maundy Thursday with these cuties!
In other news, school is still going really well! We just finished midterms, so my life will consist of grading tests on tests on tests. In even more important news, on April 5th, Panama City opened the very  first and only metro in Central America. How cool is that?? For the past 2 weeks, everyone has been obsessing over and admiring the new metro, including myself. It makes traveling so much easier it's unreal. Also, from now until further notice, the president has decided to make the metro free until he decides on an official rate.

The new metro! The station looks like it's from outer space but that's totally fine with me
Thanks for reading, as always!

The insane month of April

Oh gosh, it happened again. I apologize for blog delay again, but this will be a pretty eventful one! I'm splitting it in two so that you don't die reading a gigantic blog post since lots of things have happened recently!

I'll start with this super cute youth group that visited a few weeks ago:

My friend Cleide, on the left, was hosting this group for a week in Panama City. They were interested in seeing a local Panamanian school, so we thought it would be a great opportunity to come visit St. Christopher's where I teach to interact and just hang out with my students. They are all in high school, and since I teach high school, they thought it would be a cool opportunity for them to meet, talk about their lives and their faith, and hopefully make some new friends and connections! It was really fun and my students were super excited to meet people their age but also to skip a day of normal class. Here are a few more pictures!

My 10th grade students

A group of 11th grade boys I taught last year

My 10th grade girls

Naturally they loved taking selfies together
The next weekend, I had the amazing opportunity to visit the community of Machuca in Penonomé, Panama. The community is a place where a program called PROMESA is present. PROMESA is a program in the Episcopal Church of Panama that works with themes of self-sustainable agriculture, gender, and many others that help and promote the growth of people living in certain communities. In Machuca, they are working on self-sustainable agriculture with several local farmers.

I traveled with a group of young adults from the Episcopal Church of Panama in order to learn more about what PROMESA is doing in the community of Machuca, and we also helped to bring donations of clothing and footwear. 

When we arrived, we were immediately split into two groups under two mentors and local farmers who showed us the kind of work they do in the community. My group was able to watch and learn about the work of a local woman who showed us what kind of work she does every single day. Here are some pictures. Also, I clearly cannot take credit for the pictures that say "PTY" in the corner. Two young adults that work for the Episocopal Church took these amazing photos, which is great considering I've given up on my photography:

Learning about how to harvest Yucca

All of the plants we learned about: bananas, onions, yucca, sugar cane, and tomatoes

Teaching how to uproot Yucca

A device to help get the juice out of sugar cane

In the front yard of one of the locals! So beautiful
While she taught us about her work, she also talked about daily life as well as daily struggles. She explained that community has several health problems and has a hard time getting regular health checkups. She also told us about the lack of water. In fact, during our visit there was no running water. Obviously the locals have experience with this, so there was no problem! We just had to get creative and even got some water from a river a few minutes away.

All this being said, this community is also very connected and supportive of one another. They are always willing to help when a helping hand is needed, and very generous and loving in general. The woman who we spent the afternoon explained several times that no matter what the circumstances are, the people are generally very happy and simple people. What really hit home for me was when she said, "I may have very little money, but I do have a lot of friends". 

In the afternoon as well as the next day, the Episcopal group also led a form of a bible study which reminded me a lot of Vacation Bible School. The local kids came for a couple of hours to learn, play games, and spend time together. I helped lead a little, but I mainly got to watch our friends lead this, which was really fun to see!

Discussing strategy for one of the games (I have an issue with getting sunburned no matter how much sunscreen I wear)

Showing off her artwork

Such a cutie! All ages were able to participate

Having some fun with games
The whole group!

We also got to learn how to make the bracelets that many of the women make by hand that they sell. So much harder than it looks!
What a fun group!
The team of young adults
This experience was honestly something I never expected to learn so much from. It is such a cool program that the Episcopal Church of Panama has. 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Happy Lent!

Sorry for the hiatus from my blog…again! There has been SO MUCH happening over here in Panama,  starting with the 94th Convention of the Episcopal Church held in Chitre, Herrera! 

First day of Convention started off with the Damas de la Iglesia Episcopal (Women of the Episcopal Church). These women brought lots of great ideas and lots of energy!

The Bishop presented us and allowed us to explain our program and what we were doing in Panama
 Patricia de Lewis and Luis Caceres, Principal and Chaplain of St. Christopher's Episcopal School (where I work!), presenting the new blog/web page for Christian Education - super exciting!
The day after the women's meetings was a day for tourism and a couple of other meetings. Then, Saturday was the main day of Convention that was full of meetings, presentations and discussions. Representatives from Episcopal Churches all over Panama attended, sharing their accomplishments from the past year as well as ideas for the next year. The theme of this year's convention was taken from Psalm 119:133, "Dios de Vida, enseñame tu Palabra y afirma mis pasos." (God of life, teach me your word and affirm my steps.") 
On Sunday we got to travel further into the interior of Herrera to a church called San Antonio for closing service. There were so many people that the church was overflowing - a huge success! 
The best choir

Acolytes in the service

The crazy part is that school started the day after Convention ended! The good news is that this year, I only teach 320 kids as opposed to 506 kids. This makes a huge difference and I have had a great start back to school. I have been feeling very prepared and confident, so hopefully these good vibes will continue! Here is quick photo shoot we had of the first day back:

Oops! That one got a little bit blurry
But, in true Panamanian fashion, a holiday was well on the way. After we spent one week in school, it was time for Carnaval! For those of you who don't know, Carnaval takes place at the same time as Mardi Gras, but it is SO much bigger! In Panama, people spend the entire year planning for it. One part of Panama called "Las Tablas" is where the biggest celebration is held. Almost the entire country packs up and heads to Las Tablas. 

I wasn't planning on traveling for Carnaval since I had been traveling so much for other things such as Convention and renewing my visa, but I soon realized that was not an option. Almost everyone at work said that I MUST travel, and it was not an option to stay in the city. So, along with my friend and other YASCer Joseph, I packed up and headed to Bocas del Toro, Panama for a quick trip. Here are some pictures of the trip:

Los Diablos de Bocas del Toro - during Carnaval, people dress up as devils and carry whips. During Carnaval, the street is the territory of Los Diablos. If you enter inside of the white lines, you could get whipped!

One belief is that the diablos represent the Spanish Conquistadors, whereas another belief is that the diablos are stemmed from the days of slave masters whipping the slaves

As long as you stay out of the white lines, they're harmless!  

La Reina de Bocas del Toro (The Queen of Bocas del Toro)!

Bocas del Toro didn't just have Carnaval. They had beautiful beaches as well! This is called Red Frog Beach.

Playita (Little Beach)
As soon as I got back from my trip, it was time to go back to work! The next few weeks will be full of planning and entering grades. Back to a normal schedule!

But don't worry, we still find some time to have fun!
Thanks for reading!