(We apologize for the delay in yesterday’s blog – the internet has been down for 24 hours)
For Living Like a Local Day, the students received the great opportunity to experience “living like local” in Pedasí, a small beach town near Las Tablas. On our minds was a quote by Richard Bach, “The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life.” We used this to help guide our answers to the Question of the Day, “Do you think every person in the community plays a role? Is that important?”
It was an early morning wake-up call at 6:30 am. After breakfast, our lovely bus driver, Rolanda (a real one), drove us 45 minutes to the sleepy beach town of Pedasí on the Azuero Peninsula. Here the students split into groups of three or four to spend the day with a host family. The families of Betzeida, Diniela, Ivette, Dinora, Diana, and Lina were kind enough to welcome us into their homes and gave us a tour of what the town had to offer. After spending a few hours with our respective families, we all met up for lunch with our families to hear from José, the founder of TEACH PTY, an organization that brings tourists from all over the world to teach English. His program is young, growing, and inviting to anyone that wants to travel AND make a difference. Lunch was a nice mid-day break from the heat and a perfect way to enjoy the company of our new friends and hosts. It was also emotional for many students to say goodbye to the families as started our journey back to the hotel. But who knows, maybe some of us will be back to teach English in this vibrant and colorful town. On our way home, we visited two local artisan shops to give students an opportunity to buy some local souvenirs from Pedasí as a reminder of our time spent there. We hope everyone likes their gifts if they are lucky!
My personal experience (Emer) was wonderful. After meeting Betzeida, she was kind enough to take me and my group to the local beach. On our way there, we got to see neon orange and blue crabs, as well as experience picturesque clear water and a warm sandy beach. Betzeida’s wonderful daughter, Betsy, explained to us her life story and future aspirations to become a nutritionist. All in all, this experience was amazing and brought me much closer to Panamanian culture.
My personal experience (Annabelle) was transformative. I was welcomed into the family of Dinora, who proudly considered herself to be the boss of the town. My group and I visited her home and got to spend time with her granddaughter where I also got the opportunity to support her with the house work. She explained to me that the house she lived in was built from scratch with the help of her family. I truly enjoyed getting to see life from their perspective, and I feel luckier than ever to have the life and family that I have. (I also had the experience of trying a mango for the first time – it was delicious!)
Keeping the quote of the day in our minds, we were able to witness a very strong community of people, related or not, that all come together to create a peaceful environment. In this town, no one is left out, and everyone can find their place, even foreigners. A French couple has recently moved into town and has been welcomed with open arms by the surrounding neighborhood. It seems like everyone is always greeted by friendly faces. Throughout this experience, we were able to better understand this strong difference in culture between the United States and Panama.
From family values to the overall day-to-day experience, it was clear that Pedasí is much more connected as a community and shows an overwhelming kindness that leaves a lasting impression on anyone who visits. As the Liders del Dia, we had the wonderful opportunity to thank the families and children of Pedasí for allowing us to enter their homes and share their stories with us. We both feel extremely lucky to be leaders of this day because it is a chance to open our minds and escape the bubble we often find ourselves in when living in the US. Despite being nervous (it was expected to emotionally challenging and to test our Spanish skills), we are proud of our leadership and the full engagement of the students to create a fulfilling, eye-opening day.
Again, the students demonstrated the 3 C’s in many different ways. In regards to courage, the students went into the day open-minded and willing to bend to the culture we were entering and ready to practice our Spanish speaking skills. Through kindness and warmth, we displayed much compassion for the local community and each other. The students showed their commitment to the day by preparing activities and questions the night before and morning of. We are learning that preparation and enthusiasm for new connections is worth the time and effort.
Some Big Love shout-outs that we would like to give are to Arleen for being a big help to me (Annabelle) and for always being there to help when it was needed. Big Love to our parents for allowing us to come on this trip and have an life-changing experience. We would also like to send some Big Love to the families of Pedasí for bringing us into their homes and having great conversations with the students.
Tomorrow, Jada and Amy will be leading the next day where we will be focusing on Deconstructing Poverty at IFARHU (our English tutoring school).
Thanks for reading about our day! We hope all the families are able to live vicariously through these blogs and are looking forward to hearing more about the trip when the students return back to the United States.
Annabelle & Emer