“My guiding principle is that prosperity can be shared. We can create wealth together. The global economy is not a zero-sum game.” – Julia Gillard (former Prime Minister of Australia)

How does foreign business impact local business in Las Tablas?

On our 5th day in Panama, we woke up to another fantastic breakfast – Panamanian tortillas with cheese and sausage mixed with many vegetables. It gave us the fuel to prepare for our day, and we started as we always do with a Mental Warm-Up. For Global Business Day, we learned that we would be travelling to the home of a local artisano (artisan) named Elilin Hernández, who makes cutarras (traditional Panamanian sandals).

Elilin has been working on his craft for many years and has mentored his son in the family business. He developed a love for the art and weaving techniques when making these sandals before finishing his education, and he has been working on the leather-working, painting, and designing ever since. He is well-known in Las Tablas for his quality and is working with stores in the United States to sell his cutarras internationally.

Our group was intimidated at first by the idea of creating shoes from scratch, but once we worked up the courage to try, our doubts faded away with each successful step as we were able to quickly complete the tasks. The experienced weavers were very helpful in troubleshooting the frustrating tangles and traps in the group. Many Glimpsers are now excited to buy a pair of their own and help spread the word about his company. As we heard from Elilin himself, it is a difficult challenge to expand the business and maintain a daily workload, but he was very happy to show us the process. 

After our field trip, we returned to the hotel and made a lesson plan for the next English tutoring session that will take place this Sunday. Even though coming up with new teaching methods proved very difficult, we stayed committed to the thought process, and we were able to propose quite a few innovative ideas. We had a lunch composed of fried fish with beans and rice and then jumped into the first lesson about our CAP (Community Action Project). The organization we will be helping does really important work with the indigenous children in Panama who face many issues including malnutrition. Members of the organization will visit us soon to explain more about their needs and how we can help. 

The late afternoon free time allowed the Glimpsers to walk around Las Tablas and explore more. One group checked out some local tiendas, another group listened to a local band rehearse for their show tonight, and then we all met at the supermarket for our first shopping experience! After we returned to the hotel for the nightly meeting, we were quick to share our freshly purchased snacks with some peers that had not been fortunate enough to find their favorite foods. We will be sharing our treats for the next few days.

To close, we want to give a Big Love shout-out to our parents back home whose teachings have helped us be more independent and self-sufficient. Big Love to Elilin for allowing us into his home and workshop and for teaching us about such an important aspect of Panamanian culture. Big Love to all my fellow Glimpsers for being here with us every step of the way and helping us feel at home. Tomorrow’s leaders will be José and Leslie for Aid & Development Day!

Signing off,

Arman and Bryan