Staying Busy – Panama Style

I just realized it has been awhile since I wrote the last posting in my blog. Reason: I just don’t feel in the mood or when I do, I’m busy. The days seemed to be filling up and going by fast. Not that I am doing more than when I lived in the states and was working full-time (sometimes 2 jobs). But after 10 months here in Panama now, “tranquilo” seems to be a priority.
Two days, two hours each day, I am a volunteer teaching English to a class of 18 children, grades 1st – 6th, at a school in Los Destiladoros, located south of Pedasí, a 10-15 minute drive. It is a one-room school with all grades and the teacher does not know any English. But most of the children are so willing to learn some English, and I have learned enough Spanish now to communicate with them and the teacher. But those 4 hours each week turn into about 8 hours if you count all the prep and lesson planning.

Speaking of learning Spanish, I still attend a 1-hour private Spanish lesson every Monday afternoon at Buena Vida Language School in town. I don’t think I will ever be fluent, but I do understand a lot of Spanish and can communicate with most, including my housekeeper Neli who doesn’t speak a word of English. I usually walk to and from the school (takes about 10-15 minutes). And then there is always homework and practice. Mikkel has decided that I can be his translator since he feels he is too old to learn. He does know a little and stills buys most of the groceries with no problems.

Other activities during the week have started to fill up our days. We decided to begin a Boot Camp to exercise, offered by the owner of Casa Lajagua, a hotel in town (athough she recently had to go back to British Columbia due to her father’s health issues). Mikkel and I started a home English-speaking Bible Study-not many in attendance but praying it will increase in time.

I volunteered to lead the Animal Advocates of Pedasi group. The goals are mostly about education in the care of animals along with spay and neutering cats and dogs. In Panama, the attitude about animals is different then what we are used to in the states and elsewhere. We see dogs and cats as pets to care for, part of the family. Many Panamanians see them as an animal to guard or just be around. There are many homeless animals, and even if they have a home, some are left to wander or tied up, sometimes with no shade or water. Many are not spayed or neutered, so lots of unwanted litters are born and either abandoned to fend for themselves or just live around and continue to produce more. (All of our pets were adopted as strays or abandoned). Some people refuse to have especially the male animals neutered. And yet they really can’t afford to take care of them or their offspring. Our program is trying to educate the people and also encourage to have their animals fixed. We have fundraisers so we can even help pay for the spaying/neutering, transportation to clinics, and education costs (ads in local paper, posters, etc.). Anyway, this takes some of my time.


We also helped last Saturday to clean up trash at Playa Arenal with about 2 dozen others, both Panamanians and Expats, followed by a BBQ at Casa Lajagua. One thing a lot of tourists and expats notice about Panama is the trash everywhere. It is not as bad in Pedasí as some places, but trash just gets thrown out or left out without any regard to the environment. Yes, there are a few trash cans around and the trash does get picked up once a week from our homes and taken to a dump where it is burned outside of town. But there still is a lot of areas where the trash is just left to accumulate. The beaches are especially one of those areas. Last Saturday we filled up dozens of trash bags of garbage left on the beach which filled up a few truckloads.

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Whether it be pet care or trash, I am not trying to say that all Panamanians could care less. This is a rich culture that is growing very fast from a third-world to a first-world country in a very short time span. Without the infrastructure set up for recycling and increased education, people in this culture as well as any other tend to just follow tradition and what they have known or been taught by generations of example. So I don’t want to step on anybody’s toes and say they are wrong. We came here to help where we are needed. We mostly educate by example and sharing in solutions when asked. Change, even if it is for the good, can be difficult and may take time. I should know; my life has changed in so many ways since I moved here.

So I have gotten involved in this community and help where I can. Besides living our daily lives which includes household chores, gardening, pet care, grocery shopping, cooking, and sleeping, we do take time to enjoy the beauty of Pedasí – the beaches, reading books, watching a little Netflix(mostly old TV shows we never saw before because of our busy lives), visiting friends, and occasionally going out for dinner and music. This past Thursday we went to Sports Club, a hotel/restaurant/bar in town. It was Karaoke night. We know the owner Tom and when we arrived, we found him and a few other acquaintances and friends there as well. We ate dinner (the menu is simple – hamburgers, chicken wings, salads) and then sang and danced to the music. Just a fun evening and another way of how we spend our third life here in Pedasí.


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