Before I delve into my Panamanian adventures, I just wanted to say a very very heartfelt thank you for all of the extremely kind words from my last post. I felt very moved, loved, supported, and just really lucky to have so many wonderful people in my life. Nothing means more to me than that. ♥
So pretty much on a whim (how some of my best life decisions have been made), I decided to spend my summer break attempting to learn Spanish. I took it in high school and college but then never really used it/practiced so it didn’t stick. There is some vocabulary floating around in my head, but trying to put a sentence together or hold a basic conversation……not happening. For me, speaking Spanish is actually one of the most anxiety producing things I can think of. Even if I know how to say something in my head, as soon as I am in front of a Spanish speaker and expected to talk- my mind goes blank and I am completely tongue-tied. In the spirit of facing my fears, Spanish school in Central America seemed like a great idea (except for the 2 days before I was leaving and I started wondering what the *@#$ I was doing!)
I did an entire 15 minutes of research before deciding on a school called Habla Ya located in Bocas del Toro, Panama. I had never been to Panama; I had never heard of Bocas del Toro; but TripAdvisor pretty much always steers me in the right direction. I signed up and bought my tickets before I had the chance to change my mind. I decided to stay with a host family instead of on my own in order to get more into the local culture and also have people to “force” me to speak Spanish 🙂
After packing up all my belongings and putting them into storage (yes, I’ll have another new address for you all), I took of on July 1 and arrive in Bocas on July 2. I was picked up at the teeny-tiny airport by someone from the school and I jumped on the back of a motor bike with my 2 backpacks to head to my host family’s house. First, we stopped off at my school to get a map of the area and go over tips and recommendations. The last thing I remember them saying is “just don’t do anything to get yourself hurt because we don’t really have doctors or any good medications here.” Noted.
My host family is SO nice. Aurelia and Adrian. They have 2 daughters who are away at college. They both work in education and Aurelia is a 1st grade teacher at the school across the street. The first night I was there we had a great conversation about the education system and the similarities and differences between here and the US.
I have my own room and a shared bathroom. There is no hot water in the house (like most houses here) but I quickly realized that is totally fine because it is SO HOT and SO HUMID that all I want is a cold shower anyways (no AC!). I have not stopped sweating since I got off the plane.
Adrian makes me breakfast in the morning and Aurelia makes dinner at night. It’s so fun to have no idea what you’ll be eating until you sit down. On Monday night, we had pasta with olive oil, tomatoes, and SPAM! And you know what…..it wasn’t bad. Yesterday we had boiled green bananas. There seems to be cooked bananas with every meal and they are all so good. I’ve loved all the new foods- they are both great cooks.
I go to school from 8-12 every day and so far (3 days in), I have loved it. My teacher, Nicole, is fantastic. There are 5 other people in my class (the most Basic level) and they are all extremely nice. One from Switzerland, one from England, one from Georgia, and a mother/daughter from Santa Cruz, CA. My afternoons are spent exploring (posts to follow!)
I’ll be here for the next 3 weeks. Although with everything else going on in my life I wasn’t feeling very excited to come, but now that I am here I am already loving everything about it. Bocas is a very small town where people, bikes, and animals all share the middle of the road. It only took about a day and a half before I felt like I knew my way around and started running into people I had met on the street. Being an island in the Caribbean, it’s got that slow pace of life that reminds you…..there is no where else you need to be but right where you are.