Sunday, September 15, 2013

One Month!

It has officially been a month and 3 days that I've been in Panama, and I'm already slacking on updating my blog with the updates on Panama. But, I'm hoping to make up for it by posting about this really awesome event that I got to attend a week ago.

This event was called Xpresate - a weekend event through the Episcopal church for the youth. Ultimately, it was a great opportunity for the youth around Panama to come together, hang out, worship, and express themselves and express their faith - hence the name Xpresate (Express Yourself). They did this by having the opportunity to choose from 4 options - theater, dancing, singing, or music. Once they chose, throughout the weekend they practiced with whichever group they chose and on Saturday night, we had a talent show to present everyone's talents. It gave the youth the opportunity to explore their faith together, work as a team, and learn more about themselves and each other and truly created a close and tight-knit group. It's really not possible to put into words how powerful this weekend was, so maybe these pictures can do it justice!

Singing group practicing

Music group learning new notes for "Imagine" by John Lennon

The beautiful chapel

Santa Clara - A beautiful beach that we got to go to for a little bit and also where the camp was held

Classic jumping pic - some of the staff of Xpresate

Theatre group performing a scene from Miami Vice
The whole group - I can't take credit for this beaut - credit goes out to Iglesia de Panama's FB page!
Overall it was an incredible weekend that not only the youth, but all of the staff learned a lot from. At first, I was laughing about the groups that I could choose from. I definitely can't sing, I absolutely cannot dance and have no rhythm, my acting skills are awful, and I play piano but it's not that amazing. So I was nervous about which one I would end up choosing. But the thing is, it honestly didn't matter if I had the most amazing voice or if my voice was embarrassingly horrible (which it seriously is though). It was about expressing yourself and doing what made you happy, which is all that we should worry about anyway. This is also a huge reflection of Panamanian culture - everyone is so full of life, energy, and love and they aren't afraid to show it. As the lady I sat beside in church this morning said, every day is worth celebrating!

Rewind to a few days before Xpresate, I was lucky enough to have a week off of work since we are moving into the final trimester of the year and had a week of vacation. The first couple of days I did lesson plans and also helped paint a mural at San Mateo. Then, the next couple of days I was able to get away from the city a bit and spend some time at the beautiful Malibu Beach. It was a great opportunity to relax and mentally prepare for the upcoming week of school. Here are a few pictures to help y'all see:
Malibu Beach

New best friend that we found at the beach!

Unlikely but best of friends that lived at our hostel

Beach on one side and breathtaking mountains on the other side
Also, while I'm word vomiting on this blog, I might as well keep going and give y'all a few pictures of the school. Tomorrow starts the second week of teaching by myself, and I surprisingly feel confident. Leading up to the first week, I was absolutely terrified because this is an entirely new thing for me. However, I found confidence and support in my coworkers and for that, I am incredibly grateful. So, during our vacation I got to creep around school and take a few (horrible quality) pictures. Honestly, I might need to invest in a photo-taking class because this is getting out of hand.
Teacher's lounge - where all the super fun grading takes place


Just needed to take this picture to show that  the school is incredibly open- at the ends of the hallways there aren't walls - it's just a giant window pretty much

Same here - this is where everyone hangs out for recess and lunch - it's just a giant open area. Walls aren't really a thing here.

Planning for classes!
Okay, I think that's enough to keep y'all updated until next time! Thanks for reading!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Mi Amor

"Hola mi amor" - literally meaning "Hello, my love". I think I hear this every time I'm out in public, and it still always surprises me. In the US,  people typically refer to only family members, significant others, or very close friends as "my love". In Panama, you can refer to someone you literally just met as "mi amor". People say "Hola mi amor" in grocery lines, at restaurants, when they are trying to move past you on the bus - literally everywhere. This is the perfect representation of Panamanian culture - everyone is so friendly and loving, and I think it is just the sweetest thing.

I have definitely experienced this loving atmosphere first hand. My host family is made up of some of the sweetest people I have ever met. They have made it more than clear that I am a part of the family now so I better start acting like it. This just means that I need to stop asking to borrow things or use things - "Mi casa es su casa". I think one of the coolest parts about this family is that I now have two little brothers! After growing up with only an older sister, this is a completely different experience. They are super silly and funny, so usually after I finish work we will play and I will force them to practice their English (which they do not enjoy at all).
Typical day after school

I also see this hospitality at school. All of the teachers that I work with are so sweet and generous, and many times have tried to share lunch with me, even though I'm already eating my own lunch. They also really enjoy cracking jokes and laughing while we are in the Teacher's Room, so I can always expect to be laughing at some point which is crucial during a long day at school. Speaking of school, I have a super important update. This upcoming week we have a week off since the kids just finished exams, and then we move into the third trimester. Starting next Monday, I will officially be the main teacher of History of 9th and 10th grade as well as the teacher of Religion for 8th and 9th grade. This means I will have a little over 500 students, so I can't wait to meet all these kids! It's going to be quite the transition, but I am excited to have such a great opportunity! In addition, I will be working alongside a lot of great and amazing teachers, so I am confident that I will receive great advice and help if I am ever in need!

This is probably a bit shocking to hear since I can't exactly say I am the most experienced teacher. However, after speaking to my mom (long time teacher) she gave me some pretty great advice. She told me that there are two kinds of teachers: teachers with a huge amount of experience but a low amount of energy, and teachers with not so much experience but a lot of energy and love. She said that luckily, both qualities are interchangeable and equally important, so as long as I bring all of my energy and my whole heart, my work should be cut out for me. So, other than planning, planning, and doing some more planning, I will do my best to be my best self every single day with a renewed energy and spirit. As someone told me recently, "It's not what you do, but the love you put into the doing."

In other news, I seem to have lost all sense of balance in Panama. Not like the roads are perfectly paved or anything, but I have managed to find a way to trip at least 2 or 3 times a day. It's not really helping my case since I already stand out really bad, so tripping and nearly tackling strangers has been really fun. My favorite is standing on the bus, because you never know whether we're going to have a smooth ride or possibly slam on the breaks every few minutes. Here's a picture of a typical day on the bus - a bit crowded and also my nightmare that I will fall in someone's lap:
Also, for those of you who are aware of my obsession with Mexican food, I have finally found where to get it. I have found that Panamanians really aren't that big of fans of Mexican food, but I found a way to find it. So here's a shout out to my Mexican food:
Joseph and I found a great restaurant that makes these delicious burritos
After telling Patricia how obsessed I am with Mexican food and smoothies, she surprised me by making it one day for lunch. Seriously, the sweetest person on the planet.
Otherwise, I have just been adventuring around a bit and trying to get to know the city, so I'll add in a few pictures so you can get an idea of my new home!

Disregard the traffic cones. This is Casco Viejo, the old part of the city that is super beautiful and historic

The most incredible view from Casco Viejo
On Friday night we got to see a few bands - Salsa, Meringue, and even some Karaoke free for all! Karaoke is really big here, and everyone is very insistent that everyone goes - luckily I got out of it, but I might not be so lucky next time :) 
Street Market! They have some of the freshest vegetables and fruits. As we learned from Glenda, it's pretty easy to barter and try and get a cheaper price - you just have to know the right thing to say!
Anywho, that has been what's been going on lately! This coming up week is a vacation - but that doesn't mean I won't be busy! During the week I will have a teacher workshop, helping paint a mural at  Joseph and Glenda's church (San Mateo) and then for the whole weekend I will be going to a weekend retreat camp for kids called "Expresate" (Express Yourself). I honestly am not entirely sure what will be going on, so stay tuned for the next blog post about Expresate!!

As always, THANK YOU to everyone that has and continues to support me. You all have no idea how much it means and how nice it is to have you all as part of my support system. Keep the prayers coming as I will surely need them, and most of all, thank you for being YOU!

Also, St. Christopher's Church, the church I am attending in Panama, always seems to have the greatest  "thought of the day". I found today's especially important for me, but also can apply to everyone, so I just thought I'd share:

"Choose to make a difference instead of choosing to be indifferent today."

Nos Vemos!