Today, the sixth day of our trip, was a free day! After five nonstop days of travel and adventure, we got a chance to slow down and spend the day doing what we wanted around Las Tablas.

The day started with us waking up at 8 o’clock, the latest wake up we’ve had yet! It felt a little bit odd to get up so much later than what we’ve become accustomed to on this trip. Well rested, we came down stairs for a delicious breakfast of my new favorite, fried tortillas, along with hard boiled eggs, sweet chorizo sausage, queso fresco, and of course, juice. We’ve had about 10 different juices at Hotel Piamonte so far, from watermelon to papaya to passion fruit. And each one was delicious! It feels as if we’ve had a juice tasting tour of Panama without even having to leave our hotel.

After breakfast we headed to the nearby bank to break our larger bills into ones that local merchants, many of whom keep very little change with them during the day, could accept. With the day heating up, many of us headed to a local laundromat to wash our clothes. Next we regrouped at the hotel before splitting into two groups based on how we wanted to spend the rest of our morning. Some of us, including the authors of this blog, sun-screened up and set out on a 15 minute walk to the nearest soccer field, where we played for about 20 minutes before the heat proved to be too much for us. On our long and sweaty walk back we snacked on mangoes that we picked from the tree that hung over the soccer field. Other groups went shopping around town to buy gifts for friends and family back at home (you’ll see them soon!), to the Internet cafe, or just hung out and made friendship bracelets.

After lunch, we bussed to the Regional University of Los Santos for our second day of English tutoring with our beloved bus driver Ronaldo. The nerves from day one had worn off for the most part and as a group we felt much more prepared for teaching. Although the class sizes remained small, similar to yesterday’s, I felt much more connected to the students I was teaching because of the small and personal setting. My partner and I had planned our lesson out to the minute with fun games to teach vocabulary and numbers. Although we struggled with explaining English grammar, I feel as if we are learning as much about teaching as our students are learning about English.

The long week we had seemed to catch up with us as we returned to the hotel. Glimpsers dispersed to take naps, buy more friendship bracelet string, and talk in our main meeting room. We enjoyed our new favorite snack of pretzels dipped in Nutella (from Super Carne down the street) and took refreshing cold showers to deal with the heat.

For dinner we had a familiar meal, hotdogs, along with more of Hotel Piamonte’s delicious juice. Our day wrapped up with a bonding activity where each person wrote a question on a slip of paper, each paper was put in a hat, and everyone picked a question from the hat to answer. I feel like activities like these are giving everyone a chance to open up and show a side of themselves that isn’t obvious just from our day to day adventures.

I’m learning to appreciate the unique humor, character, and intelligence of everyone on this trip and I feel blessed to be part of such a vibrant delegation. The most surprising thing from today was when we made a surprise stop at the sign at the entrance to Las Tablas to take pictures on the way back from tutoring. I’m continuously inspired by the motivation and patience of the students we are working with. If I was a 21 year old student trying to learn Spanish and my teachers were ill prepared and hastily dressed up high school kids, I would be resentful. But the students we are teaching are constantly smiling, excited to learn, and endlessly patient with us as we are learning to teach. Being Líder Del Dia was a challenge, but one that forced us outside our comfort zone. I feel more confident and responsible for the people around me after having had the opportunity to lead them today.