First thing first, this post will be really messed up because frankly spanish key boards are more difficult than you would think to use. (ALSO, i’m the realest)
Secondly, I realize that thi blog quickly went from being serious to being a mess, but you know what, you can just deal with it. This is the closest thing to a diarie I have ever done so just approach the blog as a very very small look into the mess that is my mind and also some details about my trip.
Now let us begin.
I. LOVE. PANAMA.
So we left the hostel yesterday and took a 3 hour bus ride to Aguadulce, our home for the next 26 days. Thi bus ride consisted of a man walking up and down the bus for the first hour telling riddles and giving out gifts if you answered correctly-it was weird. It is a nice town, medium size, but also there i generally a lot of space between everything. We generally use taxis to get around, which only cost like a dollar.
Then we all met our families! My family consists of four kind people, none of which speak english. You guessed it, it has been rough. I have an older brother Emmanuel who is in school. He only has classes Monday, Tuesday, and Friday though. I also have an older sister, but she is studying in Panama and I will not meet her for 2 weeks. Then there is my parents. My mother is a nurse who works 8 hour shifts everyday. My father only works monday through friday. His job has been told to me, but I had no idea what they said so I just smiled, nodded, and said bien. (ring ring, pick up the phone because I CALLED IT, I knew i would just be nodding my head and agreeing)
My family is great and actually really nice. We have two dogs, THREE PUPPIES WHICH ARE ADORABLE, and also a lot of chickens and birds.
There are dogs everywhere, although I’ve only seen one cat
The town may seem to be a medium size, a good amount of people, but you are wrong. Everyone know everyone. Also you are related to every other person you meet on the street.
BASICALLY, life is confusing, terrifying, and amazing. I love the town, and I am just waiting for my secret spanish skills to kick in so I can understand everything.
Now I must go because a) frankly I think I have been on the internet too much and b) there is a big religious festival today and the AFS kids need to march in the parade.
Clearly there will be more stories when I return
Also, tomorrow I get to see the school we work at, get excited.
Eso es lo que habría que preguntarle al ayuntamiento almeriense de Roquetas de Mar tras ver lo que sale por los grifos en Aguadulce. En las poco menos de dos semanas que llevo de verano he tenido que limpiar el grifo de la cocina 3 veces porque el atasco no dejaba fluir el liquido elemento.
En las dos primeras ocasiones, la maravilla del ¡agua solida! me descolocó y se me olvidó coger la cámara. A la tercera, acostumbrado ya uno, me acompañaba la cámara para dejar constancia de este milagro desconocido en otros pagos. La ‘arena potable’ que calma la sed.
No es la vez que más atascado estaba el grifo pero sigue siendo indignante que a esto se le pueda llamar “agua potable”
So we’ve done a lot together on this blog. We’ve laughed, you’ve laughed at me, we’ve laughed at my friends, we’ve cried, been happy, sad, angry, CONFUSED, etc. But now it’s over.
I’m starting this on Sunday night, knowing I have basically 2 days left in Aguadulce before leaving on Wednesday, and only 5 days left in Panama with my new family of students.
SPOILER ALERT: this is about to get emotional (gross right) (also surprise, I have feelings)
I want to start by talking about my family, because no matter how annoying the community service, or volunteers, or anything else was, I really came for them. I went on this trip to submerge myself in a new culture, a new lifestyle, a new language, and I couldn’t have survived without a family to back me up. Sure, getting service hours was a plus, but I really did come for the country and people, not the work.
My family was lovely. My mom was always there, asking if I wanted something, trying to talk to me (no matter how tired I was or how bad my speaking was), telling jokes to make me smile, always saying she would miss me (even once said she wanted to adopt me) and just being overall perfect. My dad was also great. He was one of those guys that didn’t say much, but was always there, standing to the side, making sure you know he was there if you needed him. I had the best (albeit pretty short) conversations with him. It was cute because you know he was trying to make it easy for me, speaking slowly and using simple words.
My older brother was the biggest sweetheart I have ever met. This kid skipped school just so he could take me to a festival or to talk with me and my exchange student friends. He was always there, willing to take me out (which I know wasn’t always the case for other students), and constantly taking me with him, whether to band practice or a friends house, where he always tried to include me. My sister was kind too, allowing me to use her room,although I didn’t get to talk to her much while I was here.
They were adorable, they didn’t speak a word of English (beside chicken) and I love them and I’ll never forget my Panamanian family.
Then we get to the host students. Now I’ll be honest, we didn’t always all get along (try combining small town, sheltered, white California kid and kids from New York and see what you get), but I grew to love every single one of those students on the trip (I know you guys read this, don’t let it get to your head). I mean imagine this, you’ve met these kids, talked to them a little over the course of 3 days, and then you are all scattered as soon as you get to Aguadulce, and you have to survive on your own for 2 days (mind you, my family didn’t speak any English). The second we all met up for that parade, I couldn’t have been happier. (Sure, maybe I would have been happy to see anyone I recognized at that point but, eh). But actually, over this month, we’ve all grown close. For some reason we all opened up, very quickly, and discussed all of the classic teenage problems. It got emotional, there were debates and in the end we could still all laugh and talk about how short Lia and Sabi are.
I love those kids (YES CINTHIA, EVEN YOU), even though I probably won’t speak to half of them ever again after we’ve been home for about a month. We all experienced something unique and rare together, and even though a lot of it was different for each of us, there are parts that undoubtedly bond us.
So yeah that was emotional and blah blah blah.
Nows the fun part.
So what am I going to miss about Panama?
-the ability to say whatever you want, no filter, because no one understands you
-people take taxis everywhere. Like it’s a pretty small town, but since a family only has like one car and you have to go across town to get somewhere (and that walk might not be safe), you always call a taxi, and then pay like $1.
-the puppies. Sure, all of the rogue dogs is kind of unsettling, but almost all of the host families had at least one puppy and it was just too adorable.
-the festivals. Ok, so it gets a bit repetitive after you’ve gone 4 nights in a row, but the idea of it, to just constantly have these big gatherings of communities with food, little booths to buy things, sometimes bull riding, and mostly just people talking, just seems like the best idea to me.
-the family. I know I complained about it before, but I think it’s awesome how so many people are related and connected, so my 22 year old sister is excited to spend a night at the festival playing with her 2 year old cousin, and while we walk around will stop every 5 feet to have a lengthy conversation with another cousin she ran into
-the tradition. As stupid as I looked with my hair done up in the special pins, or while wearing that gigantic skirt, I just had so much respect for the culture when I saw first graders, proudly stepping in the dance we attempted to learn one day at school, all decked out in their official clothes. They celebrate a lot, but they do it right, and it’s always a happy time with family and friends
-also Aguadulce actually had this one really good Chinese place. Just saying.
So I could go on for a while, but basically I love this country. The people. The culture. The food. Everything. (Ok the Mosquitos were annoying, but everything else)
This trip is something I will never forget. As I grow older, I’ll lose contact with my family, probably stop talking to the few students I keep in touch with, forget any Spanish I know at all (probably sooner rather than later), and most likely forget most of the details of my month here. But I will remember the kindness of my family, the passion the people have for their culture, the importance of tradition, and the overall welcoming spirit I have had since day one.
Part of me will always be a gringa who says bien when I should say bueno, and that is all I’ll need to remember.
Love you guys (family, students, and friends in America who have supported me throughout this)