Friday, March 31, 2017

D's Visit

While I was presenting several consecutive weeks of workshops to different teacher groups during January and February, I kept thinking about the treat at the end: a trip to Panama City and some sightseeing with E's parents. Because they don't do a lot of international travel, it was exciting to help them get ready for the trip to Panama. We headed straight for empanadas for lunch when they arrived, and we ate lots of adventurous Panamanian food during the rest of their stay.

We took them on what has become our visitor tour: the canal, Gamboa, and Casco Viejo. We also had some tickets to the BioMuseo from when the girls attended camp there, and it was very cool. Many of the animals and habitats featured were ones we've become familiar with while living here. I enjoyed understanding how the land bridge of Panama was formed. We all loved the building and gardens.

We came back to Santiago for a few days so I could work a bit, and the girls got to enjoy some down time with the grandparents. We took Cora to swim lessons, toured my school, and drove to Montijo for a seafood lunch. While I was working, E took them to explore the market and nearby San Francisco.

It was so interesting to me to see Panama through their eyes. The details that they noticed are things I take for granted or got used to a while back. The standard of living in the interior/rural parts of Panama, especially outside town, is noticeably different than back home, and I think it's helpful to us all to see in order to understand and appreciate what we have. Most of all, E and I love sharing a country we've gotten to know and love with others.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Feria de Santa Fe

We gave Santa Fe another try the weekend of their annual fair. It's such a beautiful area up in the mountains. It shares some characteristics with Boquete, but it is much smaller and almost untouched by tourism. In some ways, it makes it less accessible for those of us who don't have connections there, but we've fumbled our way around twice now. Next time, I've decided, we're going to make a point to have someone familiar with the area guide us. We're dying to hike there!

I was surprised by how much the lush greenery effected drying out affected the views on the way up into the mountains. Just a couple months without daily rain, and it's more brown and not quite as breath-taking.

The fair was small but had vendors and rides. There were farm animals, but there was a guy kind of fighting with a bull that was tied up, which bothered me. The most interesting thing we saw were the costumes! Men dressed as women with papier mache masks, a witch chasing people around, and my favorite Diablos Sucios. We also saw giant prized ñame at the different farmers' stands. It's a root like yuca used in sancocho, Panamanian chicken soup. Like in Boquete, our afternoon visit to the fair seemed too early. As we left, the line to get in was backed up down the street!

I'll look forward to spending a quiet weekend in Santa Fe sometime before we leave Santiago. To me, its appeal is the lack of crowds and small town feel. Just need the rain to return and make it all green again.

Monday, March 20, 2017


Our January and February were full of travel, and during the weeks in between I presented workshops to various groups of teachers who were willing to come in and work during their summer vacations. The teachers I worked with during those weeks were energetic and enthusiastic about the new school year and the changes taking place at our bilingual school.

One week, our Department of State program held its mid year conference in Guadalajara, Mexico. The family stayed behind in Panama since I was in meetings most of the time. It was great to catch up with my fellow Fellows, commisserate about similar daily challenges, and exchange ideas for the remainder of our projects. We presented a conference at La Escuela Normal de Jalisco, and the teachers were so receptive! To be honest, I was a little disappointed at first that the location of the conference wasn't somewhere more exotic, a little further from the US, but I was pleasantly surprised by Guadalajara. After the conference, we got on a bus for an afternoon of sightseeing and then dinner on Lake Chapala. It was stunning.

A few highlights from the trip:

First, the weather was amazing. It was cool at night, cold in the morning, and warm in the afternoon. I had the impression Mexico had beach weather year round, but it's a big country with varying climates. For the first time in close to a year, I actually needed to wear pants and a jacket!

Everything I ate was delicious and either perfectly simple or complex. I discovered a new snack: fruit and veggies with lime juice and tajín, a smoky chili powder. So good! Even the "grilled cheese" sandwich they served as the vegetarian bagged lunch was excellent, with sprouts and tomotoes. Yum.

Mexico is cheap! With Panama's use of the dollar, so much is the same or more expensive than the US, so it was a welcome break from steep prices. Although there are cheap hotels, our conference was in a very high end chain, but I'm not complaining about my free standing soaking tub with city views. I don't care much for baths, but I took one there!

Finally, I was happy I had the chance to experience Guadalajara in this scheduled way, so that I was forced to see how not scary a big Mexican city can be. I was intimidated to travel to much of Latin America since having kids because of the safety factor, but this trip proved that there is yet another country (like Colombia) that has lots to offer and little to be scared off by. We kept a tight schedule and didn't have much time to explore on our own other than dinner time, but the trip whetted my appetite for more time in Mexico, and with the family next time.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

C's Panama City Post

(This post was typed and dictated by 7-year-old C.)

Welcome to Panama City. Here four things that I did on one trip there. These are four topics: Sortis pool, Amador, Sortis bar, and favorite times. Let's start out with Sortis pool.

Sortis is a hotel that is fancy and expensive. I went to stay there for one night. That night we checked out the hotel. In the hotel they have a Rebounderz, mall and a sky part at the top of the hotel. OK, now we are going to talk about the pool. The pool is very fancy. They serve food and drinks to people. There is a bar and there is a 3-feet pool, a part where it's shallow, where there are houses, and there's a 4-feet pool, and there's a kiddie pool.

This picture here is a picture of me, my dad and my sister in a pool that I could barely stand in.

This is me just relaxing in the pool while my sister and daddy are talking.

Do you remember in the beginning of my post that I talked about the houses? Well, the houses were in shallow water that I talked about, and that's me with a towel over me because I was cold after swimming.

That's my sister covered in a towel, and behind her is a house on land and the bar.

This is me, my mom, and my sister. I'm wearing a towel over my head and a hat over it to keep it on. I look funny, don't I?!

We rode along the ocean on a little peninsula that goes out from Panama City, kind of like Florida in the USA.

In Amador, me and my family were pedal biking. My daddy was the steerer at first, and I was in the middle with my mom next to me, but she's not int he picture because she took this picture of us. Also, I'm the steerer right here, and my sister was sitting the the front, so it was kind of hard for me to see.

That's my sister. She looks hot! What is she staring at? It might be the ocean and how pretty it is. That's my hand steering.

Wow! Look at the rest of Panama City in the background. Panama City is very far away. It's across a big body of ocean. I wonder if there were any sharks in it.

We went to a little bar in Sortis, and my mom and dad got beer and wine, and we got water. We didn't expect them to give a little bowl of nuts that were salted. I love salted peanuts.

Here is me and my sister. We're climbing to a biiiiiiiiig climbing structure. When you finish climbing it, you get to go down a metal slide, but sometimes I need my parents' help because I don't know where to put my feet and hands.

This is the big climbing structure. Can you see me and my sister climbing? Well, my sister is wearing a purple shirt with a green skirt. And I'm wearing an orange shirt with a yellow skirt.

This is me going down the metal slide. It looks very fast.

Thank you for reading my blog. I had a wonderful time when I was there, and I loved sharing it with you. I hope that you feel like you were there, too. Goodbye!