Thursday, August 22, 2013

¡Que Locura!

QUE LOCURA - an often used expression in Panama to say "What madness" or "What Insanity". I've heard this a lot in Panama, but mostly when I tell my students that they actually have to do work.

Mainly, I'm using this to explain my first few weeks here in Panama. So much has happened, I don't even know how to really explain it all! But, I'll start where I left off. This past Saturday, Joseph and I were invited to a very nice event that celebrated 99 years of the Panama Canal. It was a beautiful and incredible event to honor the Panama Canal and everyone that worked on it and helped to make it happen.
It's actually pretty unreal how bad I am at taking pictures. But this is s a picture of the Marriott Hotel where the event was held
This week was the first full week of school that I attended. Since I was blessed enough to live with the principal, I am able to ride to and from work with her and her two grandsons. In Panama, school starts at 7:30 so we have to wake up at 5 so we can all get ready in time. It's pretty crazy actually, because currently Panama City is in transition for public transportation. They are in the middle of expanding and widening roads as well as building a metro system. This is GREAT news, but in the process, it has caused a few traffic-related problems. So, sometimes our neighborhood road (which should only have two lanes for traffic going in opposite directions) actually has 4 lanes of traffic, all going one way. It causes some crazy traffic jams, so it sometimes takes us 3 times as long to get to school.
We usually have a 30-45 minute ride to school so this is what happens with the guys
I am still assistant-teaching 9th and 10th grade history as well as 8th and 9th grade Religion along with my fellow teacher Dennis King, who by the way is the sweetest person on the planet. But, in elementary school it is currently Folklore Week. This means the kids get to dress up daily according to what day it is, and they get to celebrate the different customs and cultures of Panama. Here are a few pictures to help y'all out
The first day the school celebrated los vaqueros (cowboys)
Dia de la etnia - Ethnicity Day. Again, really quality photo
Representing your country day. Unfortunately, I don't participate because I teach high school!
This is also a picture of the principal of the school - Patricia Lewis - and also the woman who I live with. I can't stress enough how amazing this woman is, and how hard she works to be her best self every single day. I have already learned so much from her, and can't even believe how lucky I am to hang out with her for a whole year!
Same day -Representing your country! The kids marched in a parade on the streets nearby the school! The next few  pictures are from this parade
They even decorate the classrooms!

There is so much energy and spirit in this school as well as this country. The culture and people are very proud of who they are and where they came from, and I really love that! The culture in general is also extremely friendly. I have always received a warm welcome wherever I go, and I am extremely grateful for that because cities are not always so friendly.

In completely unrelated news, my host brother has found out how to take pictures on my computer and enjoys taking selfies any chance he can get.

Next week is exams for the kids since Panamanian schools operate on trimesters, so say a prayer for them!

Hasta pronto!

Sunday, August 18, 2013


So it's only 6 days late announcing this but...I made it to Panama! I'm not sure where to even start - so much has happened! I'll start off with my living situation.

I am currently living in a part of Panama City called Villa Lucre, where I am living with the lovely Patricia Lewis (who is the principal of my school aka my boss), her husband Eddy, her father, and her two grandsons Michael and Justin. It's a super busy house which is exactly why I love it! These are some of the sweetest people I have ever met and they have definitely adopted me into their family. They have been more than hospitable and overly generous, and I am so thankful that I am able to spend a whole year with them!

Hanging out in the family living room

For the first couple of days, Glenda took Joseph and I through different parts of Panama to give us somewhat of an orientation of the city. Panama City has a lot going on, and it's an extremely multicultural and diverse city. We were able to see a lot of different parts of the city, so here are a few pictures to show you what we got to see and experience!

This is Panama Centro - the old downtown of Panama.
Sunset at the Bay of Panama. To the left is the Pacific Ocean and very far away and straight ahead is part of the Panama Canal!
A beautiful view of the city from a district in Panama called Casco Viejo - a very nice and historical part of Panama that was built right after the destruction of the old Panama City (which was destroyed by pirates - seriously)
Then on Wednesday, Joseph and I were able to visit the school for the first time and observe classes. I will be assisting Rev. Dennis King and teaching World History (taught in English) and Religion (taught in Spanish) for grades 7, 8, 9, and 10. The incredible thing is that each class is 40 minutes, so the students have 9 different classes each day. WOW! So, throughout the course of the week, I will have 15 different classes to teach. So, it seems I will have a lot of planning to do soon! Here is a picture of the front of the school:
I will find a better picture of the school and classrooms soon! :)
The next day was a holiday celebrating the birth of Panama City. So, Glenda was nice enough to take Joseph and I to a parade downtown. Basically, it was a select set of school bands that marched in the parade. San Cristobal was one of the chosen schools, so that was pretty cool to see! Band is a HUGE and popular thing here, so it was fun to watch how excited everyone was. Here is a picture of one of the bands
One of the bands playing some Bruno Mars
After the parade, my family wanted to take a day vacation to the rainforest. Fun fact - Panama City is the only city in the world that has rainforest inside the city limits! So they invited Joseph and I to go with them - such a good time! Eddy even drove us over the Panama Canal so we could get a quick look. I took a terrible photo, but you get the idea!

After showing us around a bit, they took us to a place that has a pool out in the rainforest, especially because the boys love to swim. It was super nice and relaxing and we all got to talk and hang out. Here is a picture of my new little brother and I:
I could probably post a lot more but I will save that for another blog post! This is enough of a novel!

But, I thought I'd add one more thing. Patricia took me to church this morning with her to La Iglesia de San Cristobal, and it was a really nice service with even nicer people. During the service, we sang a song called, "In His Time" and although it was a super short song, I thought it had a powerful message. The last two lines were:

Lord, please show me every day as you're teaching me your way,
That you do just what you say in your time.

Usually things don't jump out at me, but I thought this was especially relevant. Sometimes I get antsy while wondering what is coming next, what my regular routine will be, and just in general thinking about the rest of the year and what is to come. But this reminded me that all will fall into place in his time, so for now, I will just live in the present and enjoy every second!

Hasta luego!

Monday, August 5, 2013


Today marks ONE WEEK until I leave for Panama! It feels crazy just saying that. The past few weeks of preparation have consisted of doctor visits, paperwork, watching "Friends" on repeat, trying to decide how in the world to pack for a whole year, eating an excessive amount of burritos, and spending time with friends and family.

But, before I say more, I would like to give a HUGE shout out to everyone who has donated to my mission. I could say thank you every single day, and that still wouldn't be enough. I am beyond blessed and so grateful for every single one of you. Without y'all, this wouldn't be possible! I promise that I will keep you all well updated on all of my adventures and work that I do!

Since my last post about orientation, I have had a super relaxing and wonderful time catching up with friends and family.

First, I got to volunteer for a week at a camp for people with disabilities called Adventurers Camp. This camp is located at my favorite place in the world, Trinity Center, where I also grew up going to camp and eventually worked as a counselor for two summers. Being here for a week reminded me how humbling it is to be able to serve other people, and made me even more excited to be able to serve others for an entire year abroad! Here is a quick picture to sum up how great this week was:
Sweet girls of Cabin 6
Oh wait, this is where the camp is located:
Beautiful sunset at Camp Trinity

Otherwise, I have been traveling all over good ol' North Carolina just to make sure I get to see everybody one last time and say final goodbyes. It is incredible how much support I have received from family and friends. I have always said that I have never understood how I am so lucky and blessed to have so many wonderful people in my life. I realize I am a total sap and constantly post about people and how great I think they are. But it is true, and all of you are my inspiration. The place I see God the most is through other people, which is yet another reason why I am BEYOND excited to meet and experience a whole new culture. I can't wait to meet new people, new friends, and learn as much as possible about the culture. One more week - and I couldn't be more excited.

But before I go, and staying on the topic of people, I just want to take a hot second to recognize and yet again congratulate these two cuties - my sister Katherine and her fiancé Stefan:
It is officially 3 months until these two get married!!! A wedding in The Netherlands - stay tuned for a post about that in 3 months!

Once again, thank you to everyone that has gotten me to where I am! Keep the prayers coming, I appreciate them more than you know!