You Know You're in Panama When...

Hola!  Here we are at the end of our fifth full day here in Panama, and we’re still going strong.   We had a great day once again here in El Valle.  The ESL team tells me that the kids are really showing great progress in their English classes.  They especially love learning the months of the year using the Macarena song, and it seems that the “Hokey Pokey” is all the rage in El Valle...anybody who’s anybody is doing it, cuz “that’s what it’s all about”! 

This week is Teacher appreciation week, so we went and got the three ESL teachers, who have been working with the team this week, some little gifts, mostly school supplies, because supplies are so scarce in the part of the world.  As a teacher myself, I can’t imagine trying to teach with the few supplies that are issued to the teachers here.  The children are no better off.  I learned that each child, at the beginning of the school year, is given a minimal amount of school supplies by the government: one pencil, one pen, one eraser, one notebook, and a backpack.  If a child’s parent can afford other school supplies, then they will buy them some more to go with that, and if not, then the child must make do with that for the whole year!  Our team has seen some pretty short pencils this week!  Early in the week, the ESL teachers on our team asked the kids to write their names on a piece of paper, so they could learn their names;  the kids would write very small, tear out the name, and hand it to them.  They saved the rest of the paper for other assignments; that's how they have to make their supplies stretch.  The situation is the same in La Mesa and Farallon, only more dire.  Not sure how, but I’m planning on changing that with help from a few of my friends!  

The construction team went to the town’s community playground to begin the process of cleaning, painting, and mowing the park, so the kids can actually use it again.  As we were discussing our plans to get supplies, and the process by which we would accomplish the afore mentioned tasks, a list of items we would need began to form:

yellow paint

white paint

3 machetes

paint brushes

trash bags

Whoa!  Back up…3 machetes?!?!  Wait a minute!  Whose idea is this, and why 3 machetes?  Disgusted, by what I felt was a total lack of responsibility on someone’s part, I quickly raised the machete count to 4…didn’t they know if 4 people were mowing the park, it would go so much faster than 3?!  Duh! 

 You Know You’re in Panama When…..

  • Machetes are the preferred method for mowing your yard, scraping paint, digging up weeds, hammering, and any other chore that you might want to look really cool doing!
  • A mango hits the roof and everybody hits the floor, because they think it’s a gunshot!
  • Kids are walking down the street singing songs you’ve taught them in VBS…”Alabare, Alabare”!
  • You’re in the shower and you hear kids knocking on your window, calling your name, so you will come out and play.
  • The school concession stand sells beer flavored soda for recess (yes, really!)
  • Your biggest discipline problem in your ESL class in the morning brings the most friends to VBS in the afternoon!
  • Kids walk out of their classrooms during a lesson, to help you pull weeds, and the teacher doesn’t stop them.
  • Your sitting in the living room typing a blog, and the geckoes on the walls are laughing at you (I just know it’s because I don’t have Geico)
  • You have a bus driver sleeping outside the house, in his bus, in the courtyard.
  • Your bus driver picks up a paint brush and works side by side with you to paint a little school in the mountains or helps to dig a ditch in the sand to lay pipe for a family’s first toilet.
  • You see a man sitting at a bus stop waiting for the bus with a machete in his hand.
  • You see a man standing waiting for the bus with a live chicken in his hand.
  • You see buses with ¾ of the front windshield covered with decorations and advertisements and ¼ used for seeing through.
  • A good day at VBS means the crafts, you so lovingly helped the kids create, litter the beach.
  • You are greeted with a kiss on the cheek and a hug by your Christian brothers and sisters whom you’ve never met before.
  • You sing praise songs to your LORD in English and Spanish and the feel equally wonderful!
  • The kids collect shells, make a heart in the sand with them, and then put them in a bag for you to take home, because they know you love the beach.
  • The missionary intern doesn’t like “Seventh Heaven”. (Yep, that’s an inside joke)
  • You paint someone’s door and it makes them emotional.
  • You give someone a BIBLE and it makes them cry!!
  • You’ve fallen so completely in love with the people that you want to help meet their spiritual and physical needs, not just for one week, but for a lifetime.
  • You’re still in the country, and you’re already making plans for next year’s mission trip!  (Hey Fuller kids--No more McDonalds!  We’re saving for Panama 2012!)

Well, gotta go for now.  There’s lots of mowing to do tomorrow, so I have to sharpen my machete!