That is what I feel like. Why? Because it’s SOOOOOOOOOO HOT in Panama! Everywhere you go. Unless you’re in a Panama – David bus. In that case, you’re freezing and your fingers hurt from trying to send in your whereabouts to Peace Corps. #GoodVolunteer
Wow, haha. When I first started to write this blog in my notebook, the first sentence was: “Wowww! How is it even Febrero already?” HAHAHA hit and a miss. But finally, here I am, sending my apologies all over the globe to my fans aka readers. I’ve been getting lots of complaints about not having a posted a blog in a while, sooooo here we go!
Wowwwww! How is it even Marzo already? I guessss it makes sense since I was pretty busy with camps during Enero, and lots of traveling the following month. Well, right after I got back home from my trip to the US, and a couple of days in Panama City, I was visited by not one, but two beauties. Nicole & Kristen! We all participated in the Acting out Awareness camp, so a few days before the Tole camp started, we received a TOT (training of teachers) at Biga’s house in Tole. Although there would be two camps, one in Tole and one in Bocas del Toro, there was only 1 TOT, hence the SLEEPOVER!! Literally the day after the TOT, the Tole camp started, so I rounded up my kids and we traveled together to the dormitories where the camp would be taking place. The camp was a lot of things, but the word that most holistically represents that week would be: REWARDING. Wow, yes. It was so wonderful seeing my kids mingling and branching out from their comfort zones little by little. I’m going to break up the camp day by day, to not forget any important deets or special moments, which I assure you, there were a lot of. Kuin? Kuin
Day 1 (wed)
After arriving at the camp, there were a couple of ice breakers AKA DINAMICAS (a true Peace Corps speciality) ! Even though I took 8 kids to the camp, my group was split into 2 in order to present 2 different plays. This actually worked perfectly because the play that my group was assigned focused on safe sex, so I made sure the 4 oldest kids worked with me all week. The remaining kids worked on a play discussing the importance of self care and communication within a family. At the end of the day, the facilitators had a meeting, and by the end of it, I was pretty tired so I knocked out. The kids, however, were having a blast in the dorm rooms and stayed up chit chatting.
Day 2 (thurs)
The day started off early with some yoga led by Amber and Ben. The kids got to practice their plays a little more. We were visited by a nurse from the local Centro de Salud, and she spoke to the kids about the risks and possible diseases that can result from having unprotected sex. Then, the entire camp was split into 4 different groups, to work on secondary projects, Sean’s and my group was in charge of creating the backdrop for the plays, which would be presented Saturday night, day 4. The facilitators presented on a couple of topics, such as exploring and being proud of one’s culture. At this point in the camp, the kids were still a little shy, but I was able to pinpoint a handful of students starting to branch out and participate more.
Day 3 (fri)
Just as the day before, Friday morning started at 6 am with some good ol yoga. On this day, the kids were getting a lot more into character and they were given props and stage advice from the directors who wrote some of the plays the kids would be presenting. There was an impromptu water balloon fight, which the kids loved! The stage crew group finished the mural, and the students received another talk about the importance of protecting, covering and only drinking clean, treated water. In the afternoon, the program director decided it would be a great idea to take the kids out for a stroll of Tole. We would be able to practice our plays in front of an audience at the park, and also get some fresh air! The kids were especially excited when they learned about these plans because a lot of them were from different areas of the comarca and had never been to Tole. During our trip to the town, the students handed out cut outs and invited people to come watch them perform the following day. This was probably my favorite afternoon because it was so easy to see how much fun the kids were having. Not to say that they all have extremely difficult lives, but on this specific afternoon, they were carefree and had such a blast at the playground. They also practiced the hand washing song and dance, and did a wonderful job!
Day 4 (sat)
SHOW TIME! As the show got closer and closer, the kids were understandably more nervous. On this day, we practiced a couple more times and gave the kids a few hours in the afternoon to rest up and get ready for their show. Wow. The kids blew everyone away! I’m not just saying this because I worked with them all week long. The audience said it too. About 40-45 people attended, and the kids really delivered. It was hard to believe that a mere 3 days before, these same kids had been too shy to introduce themselves. They acted, sang, danced and best of all, looked happy on stage. After the show ended, each student received a certificate for having participated in the camp, and a small gift from a Panamanian non-profit that focuses on youth outreach.
Day 5 (sun)
On the last day of the camp, the students received a couple more presentations on how to be leaders within their communities. They also wrote thank you cards to all the donors who made the camp possible. Whoever you are, thank you!! YOU ROCK! Lastly, the bags were packed, the rooms were cleaned, and the goodbyes started. My group was one of the first ones to leave and my kids were extremely sad. The minute the busito got on the road, they asked if they would be able to attend again next year. How awesome is that?!
The minute I got home, I called for Toby and started to repack my backpack for the following camp in Cañazas, in the province of Veraguas. A couple of PCVs would be helping Kevin out at an English camp run by a Panamanian agency at his school. This camp was a lot more relaxed because it wasn’t an overnight camp, and the main facilitators were Panamanian university English students aspiring to be English teachers in a couple of years. The PCVs were more of an additional resource to the university students, but after such a chaotic and tiring week in Tole, un descansito was more than welcomed to be honest. During the week, we even got to do a little (but extremely challenging OMG) hike, and we got to swim at a beautiful waterfall.
After these two busy weeks, you would think the traveling was over for a bit, but nope. I visited Lucy and we traveled to Boquete for their annual Flower and Coffee festival. The main garden was filled with so many beautiful flowers, and the rest of Boquete was a big party. A few days later, I headed over to San Felix for my regional meeting. We received the usual updates, and yours truly volunteered and became the new GAD (gender and diversity) comarca representative. Aooowah! I’m really excited about being in GAD because this group focuses a lot on developing new sexual education and leadership charlas, such as the HE for SHE workshop I gave at my school last October. After the regional meeting, we headed over to Las Lajas for some fun at the beach, and this was doubled by the fact that my Chiriqui peeps also joined us en la playa.
Early February I headed to Panama City for the first GAD meeting of the year, and decided to set up a dentist appointment, since I would already be en la ciudad. I had this weird pain in my mouth, so of course I decided to check my pearly whites in the mirror. WARNING: THE FOLLOWING SENTENCE WILL NOT MAKE ANY LOGICAL SENSE. Well, I looked in the mirror and saw a HUGE gap between my back teeth, and I thought OMG did a tooth fall out and I didn’t notice it? OR DID I SWALLOW IT!? OMG OMG OMG. ———FALSE! It was actually just a wisdom tooth hehe. Not just, because the extraction still hurt, but at least I didn’t swallow a tooth, am I right? Luckily, I was able to get the tooth removed while I was in the city, because such procedures need to be approved by headquarters in D.C. However, I needed to go back a week later to get the stitches removed. Also, during my first trip to the city, I was able to see one of my favorite music groups ever, MANÁ! OMG, wowwwwwwww. They were amazing, even though my spot was far away #BrokePCVProblems
She loves you yeah yeah yeah ❤
When I was finally back in site for good, I got to spend Valentine’s Day with my love bug Toby. Since it was el día del amor y la amistad in Panama as well, Jamie, Piru and I made little cards to hand out to our neighbors. I also drew a big heart for Toby to wear, which he tore to pieces in a matter of seconds. No surprise there. The following day was Jamie’s mom (and Regina’s) birthday, so I was invited over for some amazing arroz con pollo and dulce con helado. YUM! This day was extra fun because I got to estrenar my new paruma skirt that Munda made for me. The material comes from the Darien, where it is worn by the girls and women from the Embera-Wouunan comarca. It will be awesome to already have this custom made skirt when I finally visit the Darien for their anniversary in October.
Two wonderful things happened mid February. First, Toby turned one! ❤ and two, I celebrated having lived in Panama for one year already. For Toby, I threw together a little birthday party filled with games, coloring, and cake. I even gift wrapped some little snacks that I brought him from the US. IT WAS A TOTAL SUCCESS BECAUSE MY KIDS LEARNED THE HAPPY BIRTHDAY SONG, aaaand I can therefore ask them to sing it at each other’s birthdays 🙂 WIN!!!
Now to the second part, celebrating one year in country. YUP! It’s being a whole year since I landed in Panama. How insane does that sound? I feel like I’ve gotten into a groove down here in Panama. I have an amazing support system, made up of a loving host family and really wonderful neighbors, as well as fellow PCVs. I also have so much loving coming in from all parts of the globe. I’m so excited to work more closely with my English counterparts this year. Two will be returning from Canada, and the other one from Texas, after having completed a 2 month English program, geared towards improving their teaching methodologies through Panama Bilingue. I would also like to create an acting club at my school, which could perform other AOA plays within our community to spread awareness about water sanitation, HIV/AIDS, and safe sex. I’ve got some other project ideas up my sleeve, but I’ll keep you all guessing. YAY FOR SCHOOL STARTING AGAIN!
Lastly, let’s talk about carnaval. Wohjeh, Panama goes hard. Luc and I visited Julia in Menchaca/Ocu, and then traveled together to Las Tablas. I don’t have many pictures from the trip because we were warned about thefts one too many times. But it was a blast! There were these things called culecos, large gas tanks that were instead filled with water and attached to hoses to wet everyone at the street party. At night it was a huge party, and I’m so excited to canavalear again next year!
That’s all for now peeps. I hope I’ve lived up to the hype of my blog *nervous laugh*
As an extra treat, I’m attaching a new vlog! Enjoy!