31 March 2012

Early morning cannon balls

A mango fell, hit our tin roof, and rolled down it this morning. I jumped out of the bed, I thought the house was hit by a cannon. When I realized what happened I decided to do like the old saying says "When life throws you mangos, make mango juice." *running outside to find the cannon ball mango* :-) 

30 March 2012

OK, this is how we got lost....

Yes, I got lost.  I thought it was impossible after traveling so much, but it happened.  I blame the fact that my host dad drove us to Ileri, instead of us walking AND getting bad directions.  While lost Dude was happily walking, talking about the birds, trying not to get hit by speeding cars, and just be plain ole happy little Dude.  Now Zane on the other hand had melt down number 2 in less than 24 hours.  He missed AlphaPoppa, FoxyMama, and he knew he´d never see them again... so dramatic.  We eventually back tracked, I followed my instict, and we made it home.  I even took some good pictures.

 coconuts for sale

 neighborhood watch

 Zane´s favorite tree
License plates

beautiful flowers in my neighborhood

beautiful yellow tree

Conchita was waiting for us with big smile, a great dinner, and a load of ice cream for the boys.  She also had a little soccer ball for dude as an early birthday present.  He was elated!  This kind treatment is priceless, wobbly beds are not greater than love.  Right now Zane and the Bermudan kids are laid out on the couches watching a Brazilian soccer game (in  Portuguese).  We have been sweating since we woke up so I think its time for another shower.

Our first morning in Panamá

As soon as we woke I threw my two little stinky travelers in the shower.  It was so hot this morning they didn't notice that the water was cold.  Zane did however notice the electric wiring running from the shower head, up the wall, and out of the window.  Before getting wet he asked me 50 times if I was sure he wouldnt get electrocuted.  Welcome to America Latina Zane!

At breakfast we got a chance to really meet our hosts.  Chonchita is a retired French teacher, mother of three, and grandmother of two.  Dude loved her immediately, Im sure she reminds him of FoxyMama especially since she started spoiling him immdeiately.  Her husband, José, is a cool chilled-out retiree, we also met their daughter Anahi, and Rebeca their part-time house keeper.  Although they are not wealthy they are solidly middle-class and it is common in Latin America for middle-class families to have house keepers or maids.  This is very different from the U.S.

 view the the front of our house
 fruit trees all around our homestay

 Waiting for my breakfast

Echo on the way to school

We also met other house guest.  We have two 13 year old Bermudan boys living here and studying at the same school.  They are talkative and sweet kids.  They are also victims of a crazy Spanish Teacher who dragged them out of their country to experience another.  After breakfast our host dad drove us to school.  My students arrived shorty and started their classes.

While my students were in class we went on our first adventure.  We found a delicious Panamanian restaurant with a huge 3.50 meal, I found where Ill be getting my Panamanian mani-pedi next week, and we met quite a few Chinese store owners.  

Our $3.50 lunch

We met up with my students just in time to head to our volunteer sport at Casa Esperanza.  Casa Esperanza is a school/ after-school program for low-income children.  I took great video of some of the games they were playing.  Everyone there welcomed me, my students, and my two boys with open arms.  Zane made friends right away and before I knew it he was in a soccer game stealing the ball and trying to make shots.  Go Zane!

Kids at Casa Experanza building fine motor skills

 Casa Esperanza
We combat child labor with health and education

Zane playing soccer with new friends

Flying high. Laying low.

 Dude coloring the Panamanian flag on our flight

My plan worked and the flight went well.  Well except for Zane having a mental breakdown because Dude wouldn`t move out of the window seat.  Once I settled the conflict Dude colored for a little, then literally collapsed into a deep sleep.  He slept about half the flight, but luckily woke up in a good mood.  The flight was 4 hours, not too bad. 

 Bienvenidos a Panamá

When we arrived we went through customs and immigration.  We were all so happy to get that Panamanian stamp in our passports.  Our driver meet us outside holding a sign with my name on it.  As soon as we got to him we could feel the HEAT.  Even though our intro to Panama was at night it was still thrilling.  Every American fast food chain is represented here, but bigger and better!  McDonald's even delivers!  We drove through China Town, past high rises, and monster malls.  After we dropped all of my students to their host families we arrived at ours.  

 Our homstay bedroom

Our hosts are wonderful, but our beds.... not so much.  We have two wobbly beds that squeak like pigs going to slaughter.  Every time Zane rolled over we giggled like crazy people.  His bed was so wobbly that he looked like he was part of a circus balancing act.  We decided he'd be less sea sick in my bed with me, which instead had a dip in the middle kinda like the letter u.  Despite the heat, squeaks, and three to a full size bed we slept well.  Zzzzzzzzzzzz.............

29 March 2012

On your mark, get packed, go!

Nice, neat, and to-the-point packing.

We are packed... and it wasn't even that painful.  FoxyMama took out the boys' summer clothes and set them aside a couple of days ago.  After getting my hair and eyebrows done today I organized our luggage on my bed, pointed each kid to their pile of folded clothes, and let them follow my example of how to pack their own bag. This was a huge success. 

 Dude packed super fast, I've trained him well.

They counted out 10 pair of underwear, checked for swim suits, toothbrushes, and bug repellent.  Then they collected toys, books, and video games for their carry-on bags.  Zane is older and experience has taught him that he has to go to sleep and wait for the morning for the flight, but Dude is ready NOW!!! "I don't want go sweep, I want go Pwane!".

I let them choose their plane activities but I also prepared a back-up plan.  Videos, connect four, and a Panamanian flag coloring sheet.  I like the flag activity because it doubles as an art and geography lesson.  My preference is that we all sleep on the flight but I am prepared for the worst... we shall see what happens. ☺

I'm pretty proud of myself for having extra room in my bag.  I packed two pair of jeans, knee length linen shorts, skirts, summer dresses, short sleeve shirts, and tank tops.  I also give myself a 3 shoe limit, that helps save room.  I allow myself black sneakers (I wear them on the plane), sandals that are comfortable to walk around town in, and one pair of heels in case I need to go somewhere nice.  When I first started traveling I would pack ALL my shoes, and I mean ALL.  My three shoe limit is more than enough and more sensible.   Tomorrow morning we will take the boys to get haircuts, make a quick run to the bank, and buy our host family little gifts.  I still can't believe I haven't gotten their gifts!  Our flight isnt until late afternoon so I should be able to run my errands and meet my 5 students at the airport with plenty of time to spare.  If you would like to also follow my students' adventures in Panama please take a look at BestBoysGoGlobal.blogspot.com.  Tomorrow is the big day, but now it is time to get some rest.

26 March 2012

Traveling 101

OK, let me slow things down a little for readers who have not traveled internationally, yet!  I'll start you off with four little steps.

 The very first thing you need is a passport.  Even if you do not have a trip planned, get a passport.  They are not hard to get, and if you are like me, once you get it in the mail it will become your most prized possession.  To apply for a passport click on this link:  Passport Application- This DS-11 passport application link is for first time applicants and for minors.  This web page offers a detailed list of each step of the process.  If you have questions or need to find a passport office you can call  1-877-487-2778.

Next, research the place you've always wanted to go.  Paris? Jamaica? Egypt?  Price your airfare for the dates you want to go and start saving money for your trip.  Our trip this go round is Panamá City, Panamá; when I started planning this trip airfare was at $475 round trip per person.  In order to save money I chose to use a local language school that offered language courses, tours, and home stays.   I found this language school online and this option is cheaper than staying at a hotel.  It also offers a better chance of meeting friends, and a more authentic view of that place you are visiting.  I have done similar trips in France, Ecuador, and Costa Rica and all were great experiences. 

Once you know where and when you are going you need to make sure you pack accordingly and get any recommended travel shots.  Online searches can give you pretty accurate weather info and your local health department will give you updates vaccination information, including but not limited to, shots for Yellow Fever, Dengue Fever, Malaria prescriptions, and Hepatitis A &B shots.  Here is a list that I put together for my students- What do I need for Panamá? However, this list can easily apply for many travel destinations.

Take time to research you destination's currency?  What is the exchange rate and where should you get money exchanged once you leave the airport?

These four steps are just the tip of the iceberg and I'm sure this is enough for you to do for now.  Set a reasonable date to have completed the steps.  In the meantime, find people who have been to your target travel spot, talk to them, get tips and most importantly DON'T CHICKEN OUT!  You'll never forgive yourself.  Fear of the unknown is normal but not living your travel dream will always allow a coward-cloud to loom over your head.  I meet sooooo many people who tell me about the dream trip that they are too afraid to take and how guilty they feel for not taking the leap.  Stepping into the unknown is scary, yes; but also empowering beyond measure, don't deprive yourself of connecting with the bravery that already exist inside of you.  It's time to take that leap people, download the passport application!

25 March 2012

♫ Por Panamá ♫ by Romulo Castro y el grupo Tuira

This is a sweet song about Panamá.  It makes me excited and pumped up for our trip.  It also reminds me of being a little girl singing Frank Sinatra's New York, New York.  Im sure the same proud energy created both songs. 

Do you know of any songs about Panamá?  What's your favorite song about a city or country?  How does it make you feel?  I'd love for you to share.

24 March 2012

Panamá Preparations

Getting ready for Panamá


We will be leaving for Panamá City, Panamá in five days so it's time to get everything ready. Zane and Dude will join me and 5 of my high school Spanish students on a 10 day study/ volunteer abroad program. We will be living with host families, taking Spanish classes in the morning, volunteering with Casa Esperanza in the afternoon, and touring on our off days. Zane, Dude, and I will be living with one family, while my students will be placed two students per household with neighboring families, one student has requested to be alone in his homestay in hopes of having a complete full-immersion experience. Once we arrive in Panamá I will plan morning excursions for me and my kids while my students are in class.
So far we haven’t packed but we have organized what we plan to bring; summer clothes, sandals / beach shoes, sneakers for hiking, bug repellent, sunblock, toiletries, swim suits, cameras, and an iPad (so we can Skype with AlphaPoppa while we are gone).  Even though we are not Catholic we will be in Panamá for La Semana Santa (Holy Week) so we will bring more formal clothing for the festivities.  There are a ton of things I hope to experience on our trip; eat iguana, zip-line through the rainforest, visit the Panama Canal, take a dip in both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans in one day, visit museums, go to a soccer game, a Reinado (beauty pageant), and see La Corrida de los Santos (Running of the Saints).  One thing I love to do when I travel is go to the movies.  This seems like a pretty mundane thing to do but it’s not.  I’ve accidentally discovered countries that assign seats, snacks even vary from country to country; some countries have intermissions in which the movie is stopped at half-point (no matter the scene!), and some theatres seat 200+ people, have VIP sections, or sing the National Anthem before the movie begins.  These slight differences really tickle and intrigue me.  So we will definitely catch a movie while we are there.
Although I have never been to Panamá this trip already holds a special place in my heart. As a little girl it was mentioned to me over and over again that my paternal grand-father was one of the many Jamaican immigrants who helped build the Panama Canal in the early 1900s. It was there that he learned how to speak Spanish, along with a rumored stint in Cuba working in the sugar cane fields. When I was little I could barely understand him through his heavy Caribbean accent; he was in his 90s and I was still in my single digits but I remember him clearly.  During my long journey in learning how to speak Spanish, adjusting to culture shock, and then adjusting to reverse culture shock I imagined his spirit there with me helping push me along on what may have been a similar journey from his early life. My grand-father was somewhat of a mystery and I hope to find information on him while I'm there to uncover at least a small piece of his life. 
Our flight is 4 hours and I still need to plan activities for Zane and Dude in case they don’t sleep on the plane.  Knowing my students they will enjoy their time sleeping or watching movies, teenage boys are not hard to please, my two year old boy is!  Oops, I almost forgot gifts for our host family and teachers.  It looks like we still have quite a few things to do.  Ahhh, the joys of travel!
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15 March 2012

E.C.H.O. Explorer, Citizen of the world, Humanitarian, Optimist

Hello world!

Thank you for taking the time to join me on my global adventures.  This travelogue was created to fill many important purposes.  I hope to inspire others to travel authentically; fully experiencing the cultures, local people, languages, food, music, and perspectives of the countries they visit.  I hope to teach others how to travel on a tight budget and most importantly with small children.  I hope to help people who have not had the opportunity to travel to see that internationally we are all very different, but fundamentally we are the same.  I hope to give confidence and courage to those of you reading this message to push past your fear and happily jump out of your comfort zone.  It is our birthright as citizens of this planet to experience it to the fullest; with this philosophy as my foundation I extend an open heart to all of those who follow me on my journeys.

I dedicate this travelogue to my children and family as a living growing memory of our adventures and our love.

Con amor,