A Different Type of Hard
Here I am with a three week and a half late blog for which I am forever apologizing for. But I shall continue with my story. For the sake of trying something different I wanted try a more structured form of writing this time around. The topics will start with Spanish class, Loma Bonita, birds class, terrestrial ecology class, and finally more marine biology.
The Spanish class exit exam was the Spanish dramatization. I think it went well. It is crazy how fast it actually went. I really appreciated the class and felt like it has definitely helped me improve my Spanish. I honestly think the main reason though is because we were in class for about 3.5hrs and my class only consisted of me and two other people. The extensive practice was really rewarding and I can clearly see my progress in the Spanish language.
After Spanish we left to Loma Bonita. It was truly a beautiful place. The goal was to interact with the people there. The people there are majority farmers and it was awesome to experience such a different way of life. It was very hilly and it literally took me about 15 minutes of walking uphill to get to my house on a daily basis. It served as my daily workout because I had no other option if I wanted to interact with the outside world. However, the walks up and down hill were definitely worth it. This was also during the week of Carnival. Almost everynight there was a traditional Loma dance. There were tambourines and singers and so much dancing! Also we spent a day in the urban carnival spot where they had loud music, a large waterhose and also a hose with bubbles.
If there is something I will never forget, it is that birds are often morning creatures. I remember this because getting up at 5am for a week will permanently be engraved in my brain when I think of birds. I am not a bird person, but even I have to admit it was good experience to catch a bird and hold it in my hands and do measurements. There was a lot of practice in working in groups and giving presentations so I was pleased with this class.
Terrestrial ecology class
Another class I will not easily forget because of the mud that was everywhere. The view was amazing. Also the teacher for the class was probably one of the best teachers I have had here in Panama thus far. What I found interesting is that he gave us a day to come up with our own question and an experiment to test it. The group I was with did measurements with the length of ant hills to their food. It was mindblowing for the amount of walking ants did to get just get their food. Further, I learned how to live in a cramp space.
Currently I am in the second part of my marine biology class. We are in the city of David. We have been clam hunting and fishing. I think I actually like the 1st portion of Marine Biology in terms of classwork. The teacher we just had did not give a single lecture past the 1st day when he explained what we were going to be doing for the week. In David I did come across one of the nicest host moms you could probably ever meet though. It is also the first time we are living 4 students in one homestay house. Therefore there is always something to do. The food is probably the most delicious it has ever been here in Panama. This week has really felt like a group retreat more than something academic.
Feelings, Emotions, Thoughts
After talking to my friend I’ve been wondering how hard culture shock will hit me when I return back to the states. It was explained to me that when you return everything is the same again, but now you’re different. It made me feel somewhat uncomfortable, but it makes a lot of sense. The time seems to moving much faster than what appears on the calendars because I feel that I return very soon. So I currently I am torn about leaving. I was also told by someone recently that the best gift you can give your child is a passport which had me thinking how lucky I am to be apart of this experience. Not only going to a new land, but being in a place has such diversity. Did you know that Panama is comparable to the size of South Carolina yet has more bird diversity than US and Canada put together? I may have taken my experiences here for granted. So now I am aiming to try and take more advantage of the limited time I have here. Lastly, I wanted to explain the reference to the title because I heard from some of my peers and family that it looks like we are on a vacation. The problem with photos is it doesn’t show all the tribulations that occur on a daily basis. While I cannot say that it is super challenging academically. It is hard when you have to wake up early, walk up a mountain or go fishing for a few hours then afterwards be expected to do some type of academic work. It isn’t always just the academic work that makes a day long or hard, but there are many other factors that should be thought about.
Next stop: More no internet
We leave in the morning from David and are heading into the mountains so I will be without internet for a while again. I hope to come back with a good story to tell and more importantly do it in a timely manner. Until then… PHOTOS! *Also I did not edit or look over this so sorry for the errors that is bound to be found.
A Different Type of Hard
Long time no see. The reason for that was because I left for about a week and a half long trip where I did not have any type of internet access and very minimal phone-line access. Let me say it here first, not having internet for a week is tough. I mean really tough… Like I don’t know how others can it for extended amounts of time tough. Anyways, I am currently staying with my main homestay family. Their names are Lucy (mother), Lizzy (daughter), and Louise (father) and another house-stayer like me named Toby. They are all great. Especially Lucy and Toby, the two I talk with the most in the house. They both are able to speak English but they only talk to me in Spanish and they have really helped me to improve my Spanish. I am also lucky because my host family has internet, which some of the other homestays do not have.
Additionally, I have been busy with the different school schedule. I think it is more comparative to summer school because there are a lot of classes crammed into a narrow window of time. For example, a typical school day for me is to wake up at 6:45am to be at the bus stop at 7:30 so I can be at class by 8. Then we have class from 8-12 where we have lunch til 1:30 which usually ends 4:30 but sometimes it ends at 5. Then I go back to my house or run to the store where I get back to the house at 5:30 or later. Then I have to shower afterwards because of all the sweat from the humidity. Then I have homework. I have to admit it is very reminiscent of high school because of the time occupied by school. To summarize, there isn’t much free time. The workload is different because everything is much more open. “Write however you feel about this. Think of something that can be tested and design an experiment for that.” The freedom is awesome.
However the days are broken apart often by field trips to different places. As I mentioned earlier I had returned from trip and it was interesting because I got to stay in an indigenous house. I had a brother there pronounced Limber. He is a Guna, a Panama inhabitant dealing with the changes from his community’s culture to the Panamian/Western culture. I was blown away by the simplistic nature of the village. The villages version of fun involved walking, talking, and playing sports. There were few houses with electricity and fewer with a television. I found it interesting that my Guna brother had to pay to charge his phone at someone’s house because there was no electricity at our house. The most memorable part of the Guna trip for me was watching a lot of Guna’s perform a play of their history in Panama. They also performed the traditional dance for us. Speaking of dances, we also recently visited another indigenous tribe called the Embera, and we got to buy their crafts and dance with them.
I have gotten to do other things including playing volleyball with the entire class, going to see a famous reggae artist, playing basketball, do transects in two different places, learn and identify different types of coral and their contribution to their community, and learn the brief history of the political system in Panama. All which I could spend some time discussing, but I do not think it is necessary.
Lastly, as the days pass, I am wondering if it is possible to turn into a grain of rice or a drumleg of chicken because the meal is VERY common here; especially in the school cafeteria and during dinner. A lot of the students (including me) have decided to buy some food that reminds them of home and helps them forget typical chicken and rice. I find it hilarious because we all ended up buying peanut butter.
Next update will likely be after the test and Spanish dramatization I have to do this week.
Peace, Love, Happiness
*P.S* After tinkering with my phone to try and upload pictures onto the blog I couldn’t get it to work. I will try to take more pictures with my actual camera to see if it will upload those for the next blog. Sorry!
Update time… FROM PANAMA! I have made it safely and mostly stress free (read below). Currently I am in a hostel where orientation is taking place. It has been really busy for the past couple of days, but at the same time the events have been culturally or emotionally impact. You see I am here with 15 other students all of which are so interesting and kind. During orientation it is only us 16 plus our mentors so we have grown really close really quickly. It is mind blowing to feel closer to these people whom I just met only 2-3 days ago, than to people I have known for 2-3yrs at college; or had as a roommate for that matter. A large reason is due to the stress of one of my bags being misplaced by the airport and I had to rough it a day and a half without some of the more vital items of my bag, my deodorant. As I said, I am lucky to have grown close to the other students on this trip. In total I think 4 out of 16 had one or all their bags misplaced by the airport so it is necessary to share.
My first impression as I stepped outside of the airport when I arrived was Panama is very humid. It is one of the problems of being in a tropical place. So far, we have passed by the Canal played some futbol (soccer) walked to see this amazing river and have visited an area that was formally owned by the army, which resembles a military living facility in the United States (gym, shops, houses, etc.). Tomorrow we are supposed to be assessed on our Spanish so it will be the moment of truth. I truly enjoy Panama and while my peers have said they don’t feel like they have actually left the US yet; I feel completely opposite. It may be due to the fact that I don’t have as much access to the internet or I am not able to play video games here, but the change is noticeable and nothing unexpected, yet I am happy. So far I have not experienced any major culture shock, but I am wondering if it will come. So far I have been pushed further to be accepting of others and how truly physical exercise can be so healthy for the body. Instead of a cigarette or other substances, how about climbing a mountain or observing a river. The effect nature can have is awesome. To be fair, there is much more nature here than where I live and other places where people live, but it still feels right. Talking others for hours has become the new hobby and the differences and similarities with each other are lovely. I assume this is because these people were ready to accept a new Panamaian culture so they seem more open to other cultures and stories by each other. It is not something I am used to in the US; especially with so many people being so open. They fill a huge gap of potential homesickness.
Also I forgot to mention the animals seen thus far include many geckos and spiders. We also saw the waterstrider lizards that run on top the water in the river that we visited. We also have 2 pet parrots that sing a Spanish song when their owner is around. The owner additionally has 2 dogs, a couple of chickens, and a few horses. Finally, as we walked to the river, we saw a bunch of cows/bulls nearby. It has been cool to interact with all these animals and there will be plenty more to come.
Until then, I do not have much more to say in this update besides thank you to everyone that reads this. I have taken about 80-100 pictures already of my group and the places we have visited, but I plan to upload them whenever I get to a place with really steady internet. I do not know when I will post next but it will be at the latest sometime next week.
Peace, Love, Happiness
In about 12hrs my flight leaves for Panama. It reminds me much of how my departure to Wofford was my first time. Much of parallels stems from everyone asking me the universal question when anyone leaves to attempt something life changing, “Are you nervous?” I am not much of a person to worry, but the only thing I can keep my mind focused on is the american airport turning me away or arriving in Panama and the airport turns me away. Silly I know. But my biggest fear is failing before I even get started. I have all my paperwork (and boy was there paperwork) and everything packed up, but the thought of all my effort culminating up to tomorrow makes me apprehensive. Besides that I feel that I am in the best mindset to hit the ground running. According to my itinerary:
Jan 27 – Arrive in Panama
Jan 28 – Feb 4 Orientation ~ Antón Valley
Feb 5 – 24 Spanish Classes ~ Panama City
Feb 26 – Mar 2 Rural Homestay ~ Loma Bonita, Coclé
Mar 3 – 8 Introduction to Terrestrial Tropical Ecology ~ El Copé National Park
Mar 9 Arid Ecosystems of Panama, Sarigua National Park
Mar 10 – 12 Birds Class in Los Santos
Mar 12 – 18 Marine Coast Resources ~ Golfo de Chiriqui National Park
Mar 18 – 21 Mammals session ~ Allouatta Sanctuary
Mar 21 – 24 Chiriqui Highlands and PILA
Mar 27 – Apr 4 Introduction to Marine Ecology ~ Bocas del Toro Islands
Apr 5 – 7 Changuinola, and Visit to Naso Territory
Apr 8 – 11 Universidad EARTH, Costa Rica
Apr 12 – 13 Barro Colorado Island Visit
Apr 15 – May 2 Independent Study Project
May 3 – 11 ISP Evaluations & Presentations, Program Reflection
May 11 End of Scheduled Program
It may look a little hectic, but we will have a few days of orientation that I believe will prep me for anything major. Since what much of the work will be like and the scheduling in unknown to me, I am not really worried about it. I am sure hundreds of others have done the same thing, so I have faith that I can do it too. During the orientation I will likely make another (more detailed) blog. Also the next blog from me will be when I am officially in Panama (hopefully).