Thursday, December 29, 2016

Teachers Day

I expected Panamanian Teacher's Day to be a lot like Teacher Appreciation Day in the U.S. We bought gifts for the girls' teachers like I would back home. I'm really not sure why I have any expectations anymore! It was completely unique and so fun. First, there was no school, because what better gift is there for teachers than a day off?! Our province holds a parade where each zone/school sends a representative teacher, a float, and a fan club. Each group had a different theme. Some had a small band while others had a car with a trunk full of speakers playing music. There were firecrackers and fireworks. Many of the floats had children throwing candy to the crowd on the street. By the end, my purse was heavy with candy the girls had picked up. The parade paused for a bit when C's school float was passing, so we got to say hi to the teachers we know. As I watched the teachers come by in their elaborate costumes, dancing and waving, I just kept trying to imagine something similar being held in the US, and it made me laugh. Sometimes I think we take ourselves too seriously. The parade ended at my school's gym, where a "queen" teacher was chosen and there was a big celebration. There was some sort of union election the next day, so C's teacher canceled class, and it was a nice long weekend for many.


We planned a last minute trip to Boquete over the last national holiday weekend in November. When we arrived, I was surprised by how cold it was! Everyone describes the weather as "fresh," but I was wishing I had brought the girls' sweaters. (We've really enjoyed not bundling up at all this year so far!) Boquete is beautiful. The landscape is not tropical at all, and there are lots of triangle shaped pine trees and A-frame chalets, so it feels almost like a little ski village. The hotel put us in a suite because they were overbooked, and the girls enjoyed the loft where their beds were. From the bathroom, you could hear the river than ran behind the hotel. We walked up a hill near the hotel, where the flowers were just beautiful, and we saw this berry plant everywhere. Turns out it's coffee!

We took a drive in toward a hike I had read about, and all along the way were interesting stops: a climbing wall, some waterfalls, an abandoned "castle." By the time we got to the trail area, it was later in the day, and after figuring out where to start the hike, we were getting hungry. We headed up the path, through a pig sty and across a hanging bridge. The trail started with a steep rocky/muddy climb, so we decided to turn back. As soon as we did, it started to pour! We ran back across the bridge and past the pig and made it back to the car.

At lunch, we overheard another table talking about a horse parade that afternoon, so we decided to stick around. So glad we did! It was short, but it seemed like every horse in town was there. I don't know how the horses handle firecrackers so well, but they do. We enjoyed gelato as we watched the parade pass before we headed for a night in David.

We arrived in David in the dark, and it was raining. The hotel was old and ugly, and it was one of those nights we couldn't figure out where to eat and what was open, so we had pizza at the hotel, and Earl caught a movie (in English!) at the theater around the corner. While he was gone, we heard drums and looked out the window and saw a parade passing. In the dark. With torches. At 9:30 at night. It seemed very strange then, but parades are everywhere you turn in Panama! Looking forward to spending more time in David with better weather.


We were fortunate to meet some new friends just after arriving here, and they connected us with a group of Americans and Panamanians who have welcomed us to our temporary home. We ate Thanksgiving dinner together, and it was an excellent meal! Our contributions were mac and cheese, brownies, and a cheese ball. The kids in the group are bilingual, so our girls love that they can speak English with them.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Oh, Medellin!

I can try to describe our Colombia trip, but really, the feelings I have about the country and our time there can't be put into words. Luckily, I took my big camera, and I think my photos capture much of what I loved. Japan has had my heart since we lived there, but I have found a (much closer!) place I love almost as much. Medellin surprised us because it was clean, modern, and safe. The food was healthy, delicious, and cheap. Service was excellent and people were friendly. The public spaces were phenomenal and there was more to do than we had time for. The views from our apartment took my breath away. I usually want to travel somewhere different, a new country I can check off the list, but we'll be back in Colombia soon!

Excellent views and facilities at the apartment we rented.

Cable car ride to the top of the mountain, where there was so much cheap, fresh fruit.

Downtown Medellin, with its crowded streets, buñuelos, and Botero sculptures. The bird was destroyed by a grenade in the nineties and Botero asked that it be kept as a memorial. Next to it stands a new, unharmed bird.

I took a lot of photos at this barefoot park!

Uber was soooo cheap!

Last night in Medellin=super moon!