A day of Goodbyes 4/29/15 I decided that it was necessary for me to post two blogs today. It is now 2:00 in the afternoon, which means I said goodbye to my students 2 hours ago. It is safe to say that I already miss them dearly. The students in my classroom made being a fourth grade teacher easy. I knew that no matter what kind of morning I was having, my students would be able to put a smile on my face by walking in the classroom saying, "Good Morning Ms. Burnett," with a smile on their face. There was not one day that I did not laugh while I was here. My students always had me laughing. I knew coming into today that it was going to be rough. I knew that it would be difficult to say goodbye to such wonderful children. I was sitting at my desk this morning, when I heard my classroom door open. I turned around and one of my students was standing there with flowers. When I turned around he said, "I can't believe your time here is over. Thank you for being my teacher and always having fun with us." I realized that is one of the best compliments a teacher can receive. It means so much to me that my students had fun when I was teaching. Learning is easy when you are able to have fun. That was the perfect way to start this pretty emotional day. My CT told me not to plan a Math lesson for the day because we needed some time to say goodbye. All day the students were whispering about the goodbyes that were going to occur at the end of the day. When the clock hit 10:55, I knew that it was time to start saying goodbye. My CT came in and had the students write a note of advice for me. I wanted to share some of the advice that I received from my students. * "Be Yourself Always" * "Never Beat Yourself Up" * "Have a Disco Party" - Obviously that is important * "Continue to be how you are and always make people laugh" * "Assign Punishment Only When Needed" * "Be near the East of Indiana (Closer to Ohio)" - This is from a student that is moving to Ohio * "Be funny" * "Give pizza every 1/2 of a month" * "Always be nice to your students" * "Don't lose your humor. Kids love to laugh!" * "Have faith in your students, or they won't trust you" * "Always remind your class of me" * "Always remember to let your heart guide you through your teaching" I also got three quotes to remember: * "Students are the best material because they are the future..... or something like that" * "We were not born to be perfect, we were born to be real" * "Stars can't shine without darkness" I hope that some of these made you smile/laugh just like they did for me. I have read their cards 30 times and I still smile when I read them. As the students were working on their cards, our TA walked in with pizza and Coca-Cola and the students went crazy. They were so excited and busting at the seams to tell me about the pizza. It was a complete surprise for me, but they all knew about it. :) I am going to miss this class more than I could ever put into words. It is so difficult to know that this is goodbye. I cannot just go back to the school and visit when I have a bad day. While today is hard, and I may have shed a couple tears, I will walk away from the school today smiling. I will be smiling because I was blessed enough to have this amazing opportunity. I have been blessed to touch the lives of the fourth graders at ISP and been blessed to have them touch mine. I have learned so much from these students and I couldn't be more thankful to have them in my life. I will hold the memories I made in my classroom dear to my heart for the rest of my life.
A Big Thank You! 4/29/15 I feel as though a thank you is needed for my cooperating teacher. I know Marissa has mentioned it in hers, but in case you missed it: a cooperating teacher is the lead teacher in the classroom that a student teacher is placed in. She/He is the courageous soul that allows a complete stranger to teach her/his students. I was thinking about everything a cooperating teacher does and I feel as though they all deserve an award. These teachers let not only strangers, but someone that has no experience, teach their students for an extended period of time. The time and effort they put in to helping us better our teaching is indescribable. I truly feel as though I can say that I have been blessed with the best when it comes to cooperating teachers. As I have said before (and I will probably say again), I was nervous for fourth grade. The idea of standing up in front of a class that was not 5 and 6 year olds, scared me. I truly do not think that I could have done it without the support of my CT. From my first day here, she was encouraging me and reassuring me that I could do it. There was never a moment that I felt deserted or that I was swimming upstream. She was full of advice, wisdom, and smiles when I needed it all. As a student teacher, there are days in which you feel overwhelmed and defeated. My CT was always there to help me through those days, and help me reflect on what I could have done differently. After every lesson I taught, we would sit down together and discuss what I felt went well and what I could have done better. My CT has truly helped me become a better teacher and was an incredible role model to me. I look up to her and I will strive to be as good of a teacher as she is. I really don't think that she realizes all that she has done for me the past 8 weeks. So, to my favorite ISP teacher, Thank You. Thank you for always encouraging me, believing in me and helping me believe in myself. I will never be able to thank you for all that you have done for me.
A Proud Moment 4/28/15 I have to take a minute to brag on my students. When I came to Panama, my class was learning about fractions in Math. They finished the unit right before break and I took over right after break. That meant that I got to teach the whole decimal unit. As fourth graders, the students have never been exposed to decimals, except when dealing with money. I was extremely nervous to take on this task. We took our test on Monday, and I am so proud of how they did! My class average was 93%! I had 15 out of 23 students get an A on the test. Out of those 15, 8 students received a 100%. This is a short post, I was just excited and wanted to share it with all of you. :)
La Mesa Escuela 4/24/15 I had the opportunity to go on a field trip with my fourth graders this week. The field trip took a lot of planning, but I really feel as though it was beneficial for the students at ISP to participate in. The fourth grade team has a "sister school," in El Valle. The entire school has less students than our fourth grade team. It is an extremely small school and like most public schools in Panama, very poor. I have had quite a few people ask about the schooling in Panama, and up until this point I had no feedback to give. While I haven't spent a day in the classroom, I did get a chance to be on a campus and find out more about what occurs at the public school. La Mesa has 3 classrooms. The students are broken up by grade level, obviously having multiple grade levels in each classroom. The school serves students up to 6th grade. There was no air conditioning in the school and the only technology I saw was an old computer monitor. There were no lights in the classroom as it had holes in the walls to supply the light. There was no cafeteria and the food was prepared over the fire. This is what the majority of public schools in Panama look like. This was an eye opening experience not only for me, but for my students as well. This was our community service field trip. The ISP fourth graders put on a book sale and sold books to raise money for La Mesa. The teachers took the 800 dollars made at the book sale and spent it on materials that the school needed. We then took everything that we bought for them to their school. The supplies included everything from markers to juice for the students. Our students also taught the La Mesa students basic English words. We had three different stations in each of the La Mesa classroom. Our students were either teaching them numbers/colors, animals, or shapes. I am sure the other fourth grade classrooms had the same experience, but my students did an amazing job teaching English. The students were able to play soccer, hula hoop, and run around with each other for awhile as well. When we returned from the field trip, I sat down with the students and had them reflect on what they learned. The conversation started off with all the materialistic things that I mentioned above, but it moved into a much deeper conversation. One student stated, "I feel like La Mesa students had a better sense of community, because they don't sit inside and play video games." From that point on, all of my students were discussing how they need to appreciate all that they have, because there are some children that don't have any of it. Our conversation went so well that I decided to take a little more time with the topic and have the students write a reflection about the trip. I have posted some of their work, so you can see what they came up with. When you are reading their writing, just remember that for these students, English is their second language. Writing and spelling are the most difficult subjects for these students, so sometimes the writing may be difficult to read.
San Blas 4/20/15 I don't even know where to begin with my experience in San Blas. San Blas consist of approximately 300 islands. The islands come in absolutely every shape and size. We passed some islands that were inhabitable and others that were larger and contained large buildings. From the dock, there are some islands that take 5 hours to get to by boat! Thankfully, we didn't stay on that island, but we do know someone that did! During our stay, we stayed on an island called Coco Blanco. Our island was absolutely beautiful. It was very small, but it was beautiful. The islands are owned by the Kuna Yala. San Blas is actually not a part of Panama. Coco Blanco had 3 huts for tourists to stay in and the rest of the island was the home to a Kuna Yala family. The huts were made from materials such as palms and bamboo. There was no electricity on the island, although there were some lights that used solar power. The tourist huts had a very simple shower system and toilet, although the water was turned off the majority of the time we were there. The Kuna Yala people were some of the nicest people we have met yet. We constantly had children come up to us and try to talk to us. We did our best to communicate back! While in San Blas we had the opportunity to snorkel! We saw some beautiful coral while we were snorkeling! We also got to snorkel around a sunken ship that was near one of the islands. This was the first time I have ever snorkeled, and I absolutely loved it! I have posted some pictures of our experiences in the water! We had the time of our lives this weekend. It was so nice to turn off our cell phones (except to use the flashlight), and just enjoy the ocean, the sand, and each other. It was the perfect weekend to have after having my laptop stolen. I don't think it could have come at a better time. This weekend reminded me that everything I NEED, I have. I have amazing family and friends that are there for me even from countries away. While the whole theft incident was extremely frustrating, everything that was stolen, was materialistic. I don't need any of it. Yet again, I am so thankful for this opportunity.
Pain in Paradise 4/17/15 Marissa is trying to help me stay positive and keep my sense of humor, so she came up with this very catchy title. Frustration does not even begin to describe how I am feeling right now. You never realize how much you rely on something, until it is gone. Every Thursday night Julie, Christie and myself go to the mall for dinner and a little shopping. We have been to the mall every Thursday that I have been here and every Thursday our stuff has been safe in Christie's car. That is until yesterday... When Christie dropped Julie and I off at our apartment, I went to the back of the car and realized that my Vera Bradley backpack was not there. I had myself convinced that I had just left it at school, so I didn't freak myself out. When I got to school this morning, my backpack was nowhere to be found. We checked lost and found, the office and asked absolutely everyone. We had security look at the camera and unfortunately the cameras showed me putting my backpack in the back of the car, which means that someone stole it while we were in the mall enjoying our dinner. Thankfully, my backpack was the only thing that was taken from the car. Christie had her iPad in her bag, and that was still there when we returned to the car. While I lost some important things that cost a lot of money, the important thing is that I was safe and so was everyone else. Everything that was lost is replaceable. The person that broke into our car obviously needed my things more than I did. While it is extremely frustrating, all I can hope is that this person can use my laptop to help them find the guidance they need in their life.
2 Week Notice 4/16/15 This morning as I sat down with my class for our morning message, I had the reminder that I would be leaving in exactly 2 weeks. I told the students that next week would be my last full week, as I fly home on the 30th. Immediately I had students saying "NOOOO!" and "You don't really have to go!" I informed them that I had to go home to graduate and then they insisted that I come back to Panama (except for one student that is moving back to Ohio, he wants me to move there). They may just like me because with almost every lesson I have a game, but this morning still made me smile. I was so nervous coming down here to a foreign country and being in a fourth grade classroom. For those of you that know me, you know that I am extremely animated. I have always thought that I belonged in a primary grade, no questions asked. This experience has opened my eyes to realizing that I truly think I could teach any grade. These 4th graders are amazing. They need the same support that I gave my Kindergarteners back in Evansville, but they need it in a different way. They are just as goofy as I am and they always make me laugh. I wouldn't trade the experiences I have had at ISP in room 4.2. I cannot believe that this is my 2 week notice of leaving this beautiful place with such beautiful people. I am going to miss these students, teachers, and friends that I have met and come to love while down here.
Student-Led Conferences 4/15/15 The past two days have been long, but I learned so much during conferences. On Tuesday, the students were only in school until noon and then we started our conferences. ISP has student-led conferences, so the majority of the conference was led by the student. My fourth graders did a great job of going through their conference packet to show their parents what we have been doing in class. I really enjoyed the student-led conferences. I felt as though it was good for the students to hear their parent's concerns and our concerns, if we had any. The students also took ownership in their work. They were proud of what they had accomplished. It was also really interesting to see the students lead their conferences in their native language. I was able to listen to a conference in Spanish, Hungarian, Portugese, and Korean. While I had very little idea what was being said, I loved seeing the interaction between my students and their parents in their native language. I also had the very humbling opportunity to have a parent thank me for coming to Panama and impacting his child. He told me that he was thankful that I touched his child's life in such a short time. It was a small reminder of why I cannot wait to have my own classroom. I can only hope that I have touched the lives of all these students, because I know that they have touched and changed mine.
Cumbre de las Américas 4/13/15 Panama hosted presidents from all over North and South America this past weekend. For security reasons, the city was pretty much shut down which meant that we did not have school on Thursday and Friday. We decided to use this opportunity to travel around Panama a little more. We were able to go to El Ville for a couple of days and then we headed to the beach. El Ville is a beautiful mountainous town that everyone in Panama talks about. The first day we were there, we were very busy! We went to a local zoo (the only zoo in Panama), visited petroglyphs, and went zip-lining. The second day we were there, I spent the day in the hammock working on lesson plans. It was very relaxing, and I got quite a bit of work done. After El Ville, we headed to Playa Blanca and enjoyed a couple days by the beach and pool. We had so many laughs (as always) and really enjoyed relaxing by the pool. We were able to recharge to get us ready for conferences this week. I have posted some pictures below of our experiences in El Ville and Playa Blanca.
A Week to Remember 4/7/15 I'm sorry it has taken me so long to blog about my trip this past week! It has been a crazy couple of days, and I am just finding the time to sit down and let you guys know my take on our adventure. Marissa has already posted her take on it, so feel free to read her blog too! Bocas del Toro We started our trip in the beautiful islands of Bocas del Toro. After a very eventful drive there, we decided that a relaxing trip was exactly what we needed. While in Bocas we had the opportunity to do some island hopping and see some pretty amazing things. Of course anything that Marissa and I did on this trip had to come with something to make us laugh. We were on our way to Dolphin Bay when our boat died in the middle of the ocean. Marissa and I just laughed it off, as it was just another part of this crazy adventure. Our "captain" was able to get the boat moving again and took us to the beautiful Dolphin Bay. I always told my parents growing up that I wanted to be a teacher or a dolphin trainer. I remember asking them if we could get a dolphin and keep it in our bath tub, and when that didn't work I even offered to sacrifice our pool. I have always had a love for dolphins, so being able to see them in the wild was absolutely amazing. We were so close to them that you could hear them breathing when they came up out of the water. After Dolphin Bay, we went to one of the Zapatillas Islands. Marissa and I immediately fell in love with this beautiful island. The water was the most beautiful color and the white beaches were pretty nice as well. We could have easily stayed there all day, or week for that matter. I don't think our very pale skin would have appreciated that though. We were also lucky enough to see some sloths in the mangroves! While the sloths are very difficult to make out in the pictures, it was pretty cool to see them! To finish off our adventure in Bocas del Toro, we rented bikes and decided to ride around the island. I knew I was clumsy, but this trip made me realize that I am ridiculously clumsy. While riding down one of the dirt paths, I wrecked my bike and completely fell off of it. The poor lady that was walking next to me did everything in her power not to laugh and to make sure I was okay. Once she realized that I was laughing hysterically, the three of us shared a laugh for a bit. That was fall number one of our trip. Bocas del Toro was not exactly what I had imagined it to be, but we did have an amazing time while there. We were sad to leave the beaches, but excited to let our skin get some rest from the sun.
Boquete I honestly do not even know where to begin when I think of Boquete. It was such a breath of fresh air when we stepped off of the shuttle. I have always been a mountain kind of girl, and this little town was absolutely beautiful. We were surrounded with the most beautiful views and friendliest people. Unfortunately, we didn't get to do much exploring of the city while we were there, but what we did experience was something that we will never forget. We had heard about the Volcano tours back when we were in Bocas. When we got to our hostel, we made a comment to the owner about how we thought it would be fun. He got super excited and said, "That would be great! The shuttle leaves at 11:00 tonight." Marissa didn't hesitate at all. I on the other hand looked at him like he was crazy. There are very few things that make me unhappy or cranky and lack of sleep is one of those. After some serious convincing and negotiating, Marissa talked me into this adventure but we decided to do it the following night. We took a two hour nap before the shuttle came to get us at 11:30 the night of the hike. We each had our backpacks full of food and clothing, our head lamps and our hiking boots and we started up the volcano at midnight. This hike was by far the most difficult thing I have ever done in my entire life. In January I would have said running my half marathon was hard, but that was a piece of cake compared to this. We ended up hiking 13.5 KM, which is equivalent to 8.5 miles, up the volcano. As we hiked up the volcano, we gained about 2200 meters (7217 feet) of altitude. We made it to the top around 5:30 am, put on our many layers, and huddled together for warmth. The sun started to come up at around 6:15, so we found a place to sit and we were able to watch the most beautiful sunrise. It was almost as if we were in a dream, watching the clouds roll over the mountains and the sun rising behind them. While the sunrise was absolutely breathtaking, it was short lived when we realized that we had to hike back down the mountain. I think it is safe to say that the hike down was almost just as bad as the hike up. Not only were we slipping all over, but we were starting to get a little tired and cranky. Once we made it back to our hostel, it was pretty much a shower and sleep kind of day. While I hated Marissa the entire way up the mountain, I can honestly say that I have never been more proud of myself and of her. There were so many times that we wanted to quit, but we were able to push through it and see the most beautiful sunrise. On a side note, I have to share with everyone how small of a world we live in. The owner of the hostel was striking up conversation when we first got there. He asked us both where we were from and I answered with "Indiana." He then went on to tell us that he was from central Indiana and actually worked at the country club that is in my home town. It was so crazy to come down to Panama and meet someone that lived in my home town. We really did have an amazing vacation, and I am so thankful that I was able to go on this adventure.
Our Adventure: Part 1 3/29/15 I was just kidding about posting when I got home. This has been one whirlwind of an adventure so far, and I had to share. I remember when I left for Panama, so many people told me that the majority of the country spoke English. I am here to tell you, that is not the case. When Marissa and I arrived at the transportation center, we could not figure out where it was we were supposed to be to catch our 7:00 pm bus. I am pretty confident that we stopped at every platform asking “Donde esta Bocas del Toro?” Each employee was extremely friendly and helpful, except for the fact that we do not speak Spanish. We followed their hand gestures and after stopping at I believe five different platforms, we found where we were supposed to be. The bus driver led us to our bus, took our bags, and motioned for us to get on. At this point, everyone is talking to us and we were not 100% certain that we made it onto the bus that was taking us to Bocas del Toro. The bus ride was an experience that I will never forget, but I almost wish that I could. I have never been more motion sick than I was for that extended time of 10 hours. We had brought food and movies but never found the courage to eat or watch because we were so sick. At one of the bus stops, Marissa looked at me and stated, “This guy is driving so fast around these mountains, a pineapple just flew off that shelf and hit me.” Maybe you had to be there, but I laughed so hard. I didn’t believe her at first, as I had picked up a water bottle off the ground that was rolling around. Sure enough, there was a pineapple sitting in the seat in front of us. We almost didn’t get off at the right stop. The bus driver came back to our seats, pointed at us and then at the door. We took that as our cue to get off. We grabbed our bags and turned around to absolutely nothing. I knew we had to take a water taxi to get to the island, but we were literally in the middle of nowhere. Marissa and I were slightly concerned, laughing hysterically due to lack of sleep. No one else seemed to be worried that we were standing in the middle of nowhere. About 5 minutes went by and two taxis drove up and started yelling “Bocas!” May I remind you, this is all happening at 4:30 am. The taxi driver took us to a water taxi. The size of this water taxi made me slightly nervous, but I figured they had made the trip before so it would be fine. Now, my students had warned me that the boat ride was going to be bumpy, and they were not joking. Remember in my first blog post, I mentioned that taxis gave me anxiety? Well, water taxis took my anxiety to a whole new level. I am was pretty sure that after every bump we hit, I was going to end up in the water. It is also important to note that it was completely dark outside and there were no lights on our boat. At one point Marissa looked over at me and said, "This can't be worse than being a pilgrim coming over on the Mayflower, right?" It might have been as bad, but we got to our destination a little quicker. When we got to the island at approximately 6:00 this morning, there were 15 of us standing on this tiny dock trying to get our luggage. When everyone was safely on land, about 9 of the 15 were just standing and staring in every direction. No one knew exactly where to go. Thank goodness for technology, because I pulled up a map on my phone and we started walking. We finally found our hotel at 6:30 this morning. We spent the day exploring the island and are loving every minute of our vacation now that we are on the island.
A Birthday Away From Home 3/27/15 I never really considered how different it would be to celebrate your birthday while you are in another country. It is almost as though you get into an annual routine, and this year that routine is different. For the past three years my birthday has consisted of dinner with the same group of friends and phone calls throughout the day from my family. This year, things look a little different. I woke up this morning at 5:00 with five videos from my best friend. It made me laugh, but it also made me realize how different the day was going to be. Thankfully, I have made some amazing friendships in this country and everyone has made my day absolutely amazing. One of my fourth graders came in to class carrying a cake that she made for me. It was in the shape of a heart and absolutely delicious. I received countless hugs, happy birthdays and presents as well. During our plan time, all of the fourth grade team came into my classroom to sing happy birthday to me. I even got to blow out a candle! It was my first ever bilingual happy birthday, (they sang to me in English and in Spanish as well). Everyone here as gone out of their way to make me feel special today. I am so thankful that I got to spend my birthday in this country with such an amazing and wonderful support group. Marissa and I leave for vacation tomorrow, so I will check back in when we get back!
Family Fun Fair 3/21/15 I just wanted to do a quick update on the cultural lunch that we had in our classroom on Friday and our weekend. One of my students from Argentina came in and gave us a presentation about her country. Her presentation was great and she gave the class a lot of good information about her culture. This weekend we had the opportunity to attend ISP’s Family Fun Fair. I wanted to share a little bit about this experience, because it was one that I will never forget. When we arrived at ISP on Saturday morning, I was completely taken back by the amount of effort, time and money that went into this fun filled day for the students. There was so much for the students to do. There was a water park, inflatables, a foam pit, and an International Food Court (which was obviously my favorite part). The enjoyment was not just for the students, as we had a blast as well. We decided to get into the foam pit on three different occasions throughout the day. As for the International Food Court, the PTA had set up tables all around the gymnasium for each of the countries that are represented at the International School of Panama. Parents from that country volunteered to bring food from their home countries. It was amazing to walk around to see what every country had to offer. I was able to try some delicious food from all over the world. This opportunity has opened my eyes to the life outside of the United States. I love learning about all the different cultures and hearing stories from all of my students about the places they have been.
A Whole New World 3/17/15 The International School of Panama is a completely different world than the Evansville schools I have had the pleasure of working and learning in. I was petrified coming down to a foreign country and teaching in a fourth grade classroom. For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to teach kindergarten or first grade. Teaching in front of those students was/is a safety net for me. It comes naturally. Teaching fourth grade is a little out of my comfort zone. When I first met my cooperating teacher, she informed me that my students were just as nervous to meet me, as I was to meet them. One week ago, I stood outside my classroom door and I had 23 students greet me as they walked in the door. I heard “Welcome to Panama , Ms. Burnett” and “We are so excited to have you in our classroom.” I have never felt more welcome than I did by those 23 students. One of the many things I love about this school is the culture that surrounds it. When you walk into our classroom, there are 23 flags drawn and hung up on the back wall. Each of the students drew their native flag and now it is proudly displayed in our classroom. We have students from Argentina, Chile, Brazil, The United States, and many more. I have enjoyed walking around the classroom and talking to each student individually about their home countries. We also have culture lunches on Fridays. This is where the parents bring in a food dish from the child’s native country and the child tells the students more about their home. I was in professional development all day on Friday, so I have yet to experience one. This Friday one of my students from Argentina is presenting. I am so excited, and I will let you all know how it goes! Another thing I love about this school is how welcoming the staff is. Panama is a very “touchy” country. When you greet people, you greet them with a hug and kiss on the cheek. I have received more hugs in the past week than I have in a long time. Everyone that has an ISP badge on has welcomed us to the country and to the school, assuring that they will help us if we need it. I truly feel like the minute I walked onto this campus, I was a part of their staff. The school is massive and beautiful. ISP stretches over approximately 22 acres of land. The school has PreK-12th grade, but is divided between the schools. The school is outdoors, which is definitely a change from what I am used to. There are few things that differ from The International School of Panama and the other schools I have taught in.. I thought I would give a few fun facts:
***Parents contract their own buses and bus drivers. The schools here have absolutely nothing to do with children riding buses. The parents call the bus company, and the bus company comes up with a route. ***Teachers are required by law to write down grades in a grade book in pen. Since ISP does all of their grades online, similar to most American schools, the teachers must do both. ***Panamanian law also requires schools to play the national anthem once a week. On Monday mornings we all go to Flag Ceremony. This is where the students all say the Panamanian Pledge and then sing the national anthem. ***While the main language at ISP is English, each student is in a Spanish class. There are three different levels of Spanish the students can take. The students have 45 minutes of Spanish each day. ***There is so much plan time! On any given day, we have 80 minutes of plan (that does not include lunch). Then there two days each week that we have an additional 40 minutes of plan for library/technology. The students go to Spanish everyday and then participate in Art, Music, and PE twice a week. ***School starts so early! My ride gets to my apartment at 5:55 every morning and we are at the school by 6:25. The younger students start arriving to class around 7:10, but my fourth graders do not come in until 7:30. The bell rings at 2:40 for the students to go home. ***Wednesdays are half days here, well at least for the students. ISP blocks off half a day each week for professional development. The students leave at 12:00 and the teachers leave at either 3:00 or 4:00 depending on the week. I have officially been in this country for nine days and I know there is still so much to learn. I continue to look forward to building my knowledge on this country, it’s culture and it’s people.
My Life In Panama 3/15/15 Never in a million years did I think that I would be finishing my college career in another country. Let me start by explaining how I got this amazing opportunity… I met Marissa my freshman year at USI. We were fortunate to live on the same floor in the O’Bannon dorms. It didn’t take long for us to become inseparable. Ever since I have known Marissa, she has talked about studying/living abroad. I never doubted that she would be one to travel and experience the world. Fast forward a few years and Marissa informed me that she was talking to the International office about doing her student teaching abroad. I was so incredibly excited for her, as I knew this was the beginning of her dream come true. Then she dropped the bomb; “They really want two people to go down to Panama, and they told me that I should try to find someone to go with me.” I honestly don’t remember putting two and two together until she came out and said, “Elizabeth, you need to student teach in Panama with me.” I am so family and friend oriented, I really didn’t know if I would be able to live in another country for two months. The more Marissa and I started talking about it, the more it just made sense. It took me about a month to come around, but it was the spring semester of my junior year that I realized Panama would be the next chapter in my book. I have Marissa to thank for this amazing opportunity. Thank you for opening my eyes to the rest of the world. I cannot wait for the rest of our adventures down here in this beautiful country. I have absolutely fallen in love with the country of Panama and the amazing people I have had the pleasure of meeting. There are several things that I have learned about the country in the short week that I have been here. 1. Taxi rides give me anxiety. 2. It is hot. I knew coming down here that it was going to be warm, but had no idea what I was getting myself into. I must say as the week has gone on, I have adjusted to the heat and am definitely more comfortable. 3. This is a very loud city. I am pretty confident that people honk their car horns simply to hear what their horn sounds like. Cars will honk at you if you are crossing the street, if they think they know you, if they think you want a taxi, or if you don’t move your car fast enough. I was sitting out on the balcony and heard a car honk it’s horn to the beat of a song. I cannot make this up; they like to honk their car horns. 4. When you go to dinner, you should expect to have an entire meal. We went to dinner this week and sat at the table for almost two hours. We started off with bread, then appetizers, then our meal, and then we finished with some hot chai tea. There was so much time between each course. It was absolutely delicious and allowed for Marissa and I to really get to know our roommates. I am so excited to learn more about this beautiful country and see what it has to offer us. We have been blessed with the opportunity to see the Panama Canal, the Bridge of the Americas and Casco Viejo (The Old City). The Canal: I can cross this off my bucket list! We were able to see a ship go into the locks and we were able to see how the locks worked. This was truly a once and lifetime opportunity. The Bridge of the Americas: This is located in Balboa and the bridge connects the landmasses of North and South America. It was pretty cool to look across the Canal to see North America! Casco Viejo: This is the most beautiful city I have seen so far. It is an old city with amazing architecture. The city was founded in 1673. The city was moved to this location after the previous location and city was set on fire before the attack of pirates. The city moved to it’s current location on a peninsula that was separate from the sea. The city was also built with walls surrounding it, to help keep the pirates away. We were there pretty late at night so I was not able to get good pictures. I will post some as soon as we go back.