Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Salud a Health, Happiness and Jesus Christ!

I have been in Panamá for almost a week!! It has been AWESOME so far! I've met some amazing people and done some awesome things.

When I got to Panamá City, Panamá (Thursday) I arrived at Elly Withers house, who is also a YASCer. She is finished with her year here and is returning to the US this week.  After I put all of my things in the house I didn't even get a chance to sit down before I was out the door and meeting new people.  We walked all around the city of Panamá. We walked through the Avenue central de Panamá, which is a street that is a few miles long full of things to see and buy, market style. There were soooo many people and so many things to buy like: clothes, fruits, vegetables, purses and so much more! After walking through the the market like street we went to the marina. It was a gorgeous view with restaurants and running/walking paths. While we were walking, the streets were full of people going about their daily lives. Some things that surprised me were barber shops were literally out in the open, along the curbs. And not only did they just have one, but they were everywhere, one after another! Also, this animal called a Ñeque, it's like the equivalence to a squirrel in the US. BUT they are the size of a raccoon....needless to say, they scared the crap out of me hahaha! There is also a crazy, weird looking fruit called a Mamonchino. It looks like a sea urchin and when Elly tried to give me one, I may or may not have freaked out a little hahaha. It is a dark red fruit and when you eat them, you tear the shell open and in the inside is a juicy off whiteish, grape-like thing with a seed in the middle that you eat. Very bazaar! OH...EVERYONE SPEAKS SPANISH!! It's little difficult for me and I'm a little frustrated but overall my first day was a great experience!

The next day (Friday) was a Farewell/Welcome Fiesta for Elly, James (another YASCer finishing his year) and I! We were headed to La Playa! That day I met more wonderful people. We packed up 2 cars and hit the road towards La Playa de Santa Clara, about a hour away from the city. On the way to the beach we passed over El Canal de Panamá. You could see all the boats/ships leaving and coming, which was an amazing sight. When we got to Santa Clara we stayed in a camp with cabins, about a 2 minute walk from the beach.  It was pretty dark but that didn't stop us from walking to the beach anyway. We danced and laughed all night! On the beach, a friend brought a Chinese Lantern for us to say a farewell/welcome blessing with. We lit it and Elly, James and I each held it, said a wish/blessing and released it into the night sky. It was beautiful! In the sky, there were soooo many stars and we even got to see the Milky Way!!!! T'was AWESOME! The next day we woke up bright and early, made and ate breakfast and headed to the beach for an awesome beach day. The beach was everything and more! We swam, ate snacks, went tubing around a small island in the ocean and played ultimate frisbee and Benjamin Button in the sand. (If you don't know what Benjamin button is, it's a game where you start with one person in the middle and everyone else starts at one side then tries to run to the other side. If the person in the middle catches you, he/she has to pick you up with nothing touching the ground and yell Benjamin Button 3 times before anything touches the ground. Then that person is now in the middle also.) That games was hilarious because in the end, the last person was, of course, the biggest person and we all worked together/struggled to get him up hahahaha! After our great time at the beach we all returned home in complete exhaustion. Day well spent!

Sunday I went to church with Elly at the Cathedral, which was literally right next door to her house. Service was great, it brought me right back home. It was so welcoming and warm and I truly felt at home. The service was also very similar to my home church at The Church of the Holy Communion, in St. Louis, Missouri. They gave a small speech and blessings for Elly's farewell and also brought me up and welcomed me to their congregation! It was so awesome and I felt so full there that I began to cry a little. Something that really stood out to me during service were the readings. Two little girls, no more than 11 years old read the first lesson and the Psalms, which was something I did at my church for years when I was their age! Church was pretty awesome and slightly emotional for me, but just absolutely wonderful.

After church I began my journey to Boquete, Chiriqui, a city in western Panamá, close to the border of Costa Rica. I am currently here taking two weeks of really intense clases de Español at a school called Habla Ya. I live with a wonderful host family in a beautiful house! I walk about 20 minutes to school down a beautiful, tropical street with sooo much greenery. Boquete is a small city but is roaring with different activities to do. After two weeks here, I will be traveling to another city nearby called, Bocas Del Toro. There I will do another two weeks of intense clases de Español. I am taking these clases because when I get to the Hogar de los Niños, I will need to be able to communicate pretty well with the girls and to be able to understand them wholeheartedly. The girls there won't know much English so it's up to me to learn my Español.

A river I walk past and scenery I see on my walk to class and my Host Family's house:

So far, my time in Panamá has been amazing and truly a blessing from God! I have learned soooo much Español already and I hope to continue learning and enjoying my stay here!