From Panamaestra to Panamom

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That’s right! I am now the proud mom of the cutest little puppy my eyes have ever seen. His name is Toby Kartoffel. Toby because I loved the character of Toby Flenderson on The Office, and Kartoffel because I love potatoes and I love the German language so warum nicht? Gut? Gut. Alles gut alles klar.

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Back to my life as a teacher, we FINALLY got our site placements and I’m happy to share that I will be serving in the beautiful community of Alto Caballero located inside the comarca Ngäbe Buglé (pronounced No-beh Boo-gleh). This region of the comarca used to be part of the province of Chiriqui, but in 1997 the indigenous community decided they wanted to create and live in a province of their own, and so the comarca Ngäbe Buglé was formed. Alto Caballero is right next to another town called Cerro Sombrero, so I will be working in both communities and eventually living on my own in one of the two towns. While there is no specific population count for Alto Caballero and Cerro Sombrero, it is considered a large site and there are roughly a couple thousand members.

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The bus ride to my site took about 6 hours since we left from Panama City and also stopped for half an hour in Santiago. Once we reached the entrance of Tolé, we took a 5 minute taxi into the center of the town, and then a 20 minute busito (little bus) to my new host family’s house. I was greeted by a wonderful grandma, her six grandkids, and a friendly neighbor. They all made me feel at home right away. The kids were super excited and the environment was very fun and new and glittery and perfect. I was pretty tired from traveling all morning, and hauling half of my luggage half-way across the country, so we just hung out at the house that day. The rest of the week was spent getting to know my new family, practicing some english words with my host siblings, and of course paseando. I met a good amount of community members and they welcomed me into their homes with open arms. There were also lots of welcoming cups of coffee.

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The kids really wanted to go to the río on Saturday but I was still sick with a cold by that point, so we decided to hold off on that activity for now. I know what some of you are thinking…omg seriously Angie? When are you not sick? (Yes Nevia, I’m talking about you). However, in Nevia’s defense, I get sick at lastly monthly. In fact, I started feeling sick on the flight from Miami to Panama, and was sneezing by the time our flight landed. I don’t know why, and I must have one hell of an immune system by now, but this is my sad reality. I didn’t get sick as often during college, so I’m hoping my body eventually gets on board with the new environment, sooner rather than later.

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I don’t quite know if this damn cold is a curse or a blessing. On the one hand, there have been a couple of times when I literally cannot breathe because I’m coughing up a storm. But then, there was also this week, when my host mom took it upon herself to make me a natural tea to ease my cough. She used a plant called estrella right from her yard. She smashed the plant and put the crumbs into boiling water, and made me a very bitter but successful remedy. In order for the tea to work its magic, I had to drink it twice with a few hours in-between. I had my first cup at 6pm, and my second at 9pm. This happened the night I met her. She didn’t need to make this tea for me but she did it anyways. It was such a sweet gesture to me, and definitely made me feel grateful.

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There is only one primary school in the area, which is where I will be working. My counterparts at the school are the three English teachers, who teach grades 7th-9th, known in Panama as la pre-media. During my site visit I met two out of the three counterparts. One counterpart traveled to the PC office so that we could travel together back to my site, and the second gave me a tour of the community. Since I’m a follow-up volunteer at my site, I also got to see and hang out with Meredith, the current volunteer. By hanging out I mean I tackled her with questions about life in Alto Caballero/ Cerro Sombrero. She gave me tons of good info and also some good advice that I will definitely be using soon. Meredith, you da best.

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Lastly, what do I plan on doing these next 2 years? Honestly? A bunch of random, fun, educational and adventurous stuff. School-wise, I will observe my counterparts for the first three months in site. Two of my teachers teach the morning shift from 7-12pm, and the third teaches from 1-5pm, so I will alternate and attend each of their classes by week. Because the purpose of TELLS is to create sustainable benefits for schools, I will work primarily with the teachers, but this can include both co-planning and co-teaching. During her service, Meredith created and organized a school library with a lot of awesome resources, so I will try to incorporate reading into some english lessons.

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Community-wise, as TELLS I am expected to create and work on a secondary project. This could be school-related or not. For example, I could create an english club for parents of students, or I could give seminars on building self-esteem, or on sexual education. When I shared these ideas with Mitzi, one of my counterparts she was super excited and super encouraging. I’m sure I can count on her support when the times comes, which makes me so much more excited to return to Alto Caballero in 3 short weeks. Training is quickly coming to an end, and we will soon be sworn in as official volunteers. Snaps on snaps on snaps! That’s all for now pals and gals. We will be going into the office tomorrow, meaning there is a 5am bus ride with my name on it. Ciao jovenes!

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