Saturday, June 15, 2019

Panama 2019 - Day 6 (Fri.)

Friday morning most of the group embarked on another small hike to a beautiful beach located on the other end of the island. Meanwhile, Katherine, Ashley, Latrice, and Alice went surfing. After 20 minutes of hiking through the jungle and slipping in mud, we finally arrived at 'Wizards Beach.' The waves were huge and the water was sparkling, so we couldn't resist jumping in. Some of us swam, and others laid on the soft sand. An hour and a half later, we packed up and hiked back to the town. We returned to the hostel to wash off, then walked to a restaurant called Alvin's for lunch.

After lunch, it was time to go to Cristobal. Today was our last day with the kids, so we were determined to make the most of it. Upon arrival, we were greeted with the familiar faces and sounds of the town. The streets were a little emptier today because Friday is a day when parents come home from work to spend time with their kids, but there was still the occasional 'hola' from kids peeking their heads out of windows.

"Today our main three objectives were to finish painting the playground, teach as much English as possible, and hang out with the kids. I helped paint the playground, drew pictures with the kids, got to play with them in the field, and made as many memories as possible. Teaching the kids English was one of my favorite things to do. I will also miss carrying the little ones on my back and shoulders and running fast. Even though I didn't get to hang out with these kids for long, I will cherish these memories for years and years." - Peyton

"Throughout the week I spent lots of time between each activity, however Friday was my favorite day of the whole trip because that was when the kids really 'connected' with me. After some time spent speaking English with the kids and painting, Peyton and I had a crowd of kids around us on the field who were mimicking us, playing around, and running with us. They seemed to really have fun and enjoy the time we spent with them. As a Latin student, it was difficult at first to communicate in Spanish and know what the kids wanted, but eventually I figured it out and it made my experience with the kids much better." - Declan

"I started the day off by helping paint the playground. Outside it was hot and the paint was sticky, but it was so fun to be around the kids. Lots of them crowded around to watch, and kept asking to paint with us. It was interesting to see how eager they were to help us and be involved. I came into this trip knowing no Spanish, but because the kids are so patient and understanding I was quickly able to learn a few phrases and communicate with them. I've made so many friends in the past four days which made it so much harder for me to leave. I didn't think any of the kids would want to connect with me because of the language barrier, but if anything it just made it more fun. It seemed to be enough for them to just know my name. I will never forget Djelen, a nine year old girl who greeted me everyday when we arrived and walked me back to the boat while holding my hand. She was always there to give me a hug and a smile, and introduce me to other kids. Just seeing her beaming face everyday made me feel like I had an impact here, even if it was just on one kid." - Carlin

"While we spent most afternoons in Cristobal teaching English, playing games on the field and painting the new playground for the kids, the most impactful day for me was Friday. This was our last day with these kids. I speak a lot of Spanish and was able to really communicate with the kids. I would play card games, give them piggy back rides and really anything they wanted to do. Friday was the most impactful day because I got to see the true effect of what we had accomplished there. Looking at the playground towards the end of the day was amazing. When I was getting on the boat to head back to the hotel one of the kids came up to me and said, "Goodbye Turner, it was nice to meet you" in English. This was just one of many examples of our impact on them and on me."
                                                                                                                                           - Turner

Sitting in the boat waiting to leave the island, one of us started to cry. Djalen was there and asked why she was crying. She then said, "No llore", which means don't cry. It was reassuring to see that even though we were leaving, the children were just so happy that we came in the first place. Leaving them was not the end, but the beginning of a long road to understanding the needs of people around the world.

Hasta luego,
Peyton, Carlin, Declan, and Turner

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Panama 2019 - Day 4 (Wed.)

Today is our fourth day here in Panama and the time has been flying by! We started off today with four of us, Carlin, Peyton, Luke, and Kate, going off to learn how to surf. The rest of the group took a leisurely hike up to an organic chocolate farm called "Up on the Hill". There we indulged in homemade chocolate milk, banana cake, brownies, and fresh cacao nibs. Some of us bought homemade bracelets, earrings, and necklaces. The whole group then met up for lunch and made our way to Cristobal. It turned out that we were a little overweight in the boat, so to avoid everyone getting soaked, we took two boats. Here are our experiences on Cristobal from today:

"The first thing I did today in the community was teach the children how to make fortune tellers and paper airplanes in the arts and crafts center. The language barrier made it difficult to explain the steps, but they mostly followed my actions and caught on quickly. The kids loved throwing their airplanes and watching them coast through the air, aided by the light breeze. After we made our way outside, the kids and I took part in some gymnastics and dancing. They climbed onto my back and shoulders as we moved to the music. Then I took my turn painting the first coat of paint on the newly built playground set." - Alice Hurley

"As our boat pulled up, I recognized the faces of the children that I met yesterday. We all walked in together to the community center and began to work. At my station, with Alice, we taught them how to make oragami with paper, including the paper airplanes and the fortune tellers. After, we all went outside and engaged in our "Paper Airplane Competition", and all of my poorly made airplanes seemed to go straight into the ground in comparison to the skilled folds of the children's planes. After, I helped paint the primer on the playground equipment. Finally, as we were leaving, I played around 20 games of Tic-Tac-Toe with one of the kids, and created many different handshakes with the kids." - Ashley Van Horne

"Vivion Purser, Turner Naef, Luke Senich, and I (Kate Coward) started off painting the primer on the playground. We were out there for about an hour, talking and amusing the children hovering around us. It was a great time to bond since the four of us were not that close before this trip. When we heard that children seemed ready to learn some English, we rushed over to the community center and began our planned lesson. We started with teaching them a few songs like "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes" and "Old McDonald." One girl knew numbers, animals, and colors in English and impressed us all. I then hopped around the room playing with all the kids that had come up to me. I joined in on a matching game, legos, and drawing. These kids have so much happiness and joy in them. All I hear while in Cristobal is laugher, and no crying whatsoever. These are truly the brightest children I have ever seen. So far, this has been my favorite day of the whole trip and I cannot wait for what is ahead tomorrow." - Kate Coward

We concluded our day with having a discussion about the origins of the non-profit organization we are working with, Give & Surf. We read about the creator of the this NGO and discussed the morals behind what we have been doing for the past two days and its effects on the community. We all discussed our questions over an amazing dinner at the Hotel Caribbean View. We are excited for tomorrow with our bike ride into the town of Bocas Del Toro and to go back to Isla Cristobal to see our new friends. We'll be back with another update tomorrow!

Peace and love,
Ashley, Alice, and Kate :O)




Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Panama 2019 - Day 3 (Tues.)

     Today we finally got to meet some of the children from La Isla Cristobal where Give and Surf is located. Everyone was amazing and welcoming and all of us from the U.S. were able to bond with them on an individual level. Each child had his/her own personality, but they all were joined by their excitement to meet us. They were so open and sweet that they started regarding us as family. "¡Dos bebes, dos bebes!" (two babies, two babies) yelled the two girls as I carried them, one in each arm, from place to place.  They taught us how to use rope in multiple ways, as a jump rope, as a swing, and for tug of war. As we left, the children gave us huge hugs--we left happy and tired! - Latrice 

     After our afternoon visit with the children, the wind started to pick up and we were forced to take two boats back to the hostel rather than one. While we were waiting for the second boat, I looked to my right, and saw one of the most breathtaking views of my life; the sun sparkling off the water while the waves seemed to go on past the horizon. Then I turned to my left and saw sheet metal houses, trash, and emaciated dogs covered the community where we had spent the day. It was like someone had taken two sights, independant of one another, and stitched them together.
- Luke Senich

Monday, June 10, 2019

Panama 2019 - Arrival

Oh, what a couple of days! Today and yesterday were a whirlwind of events, but offered new opportunities. Once we landed in Panama City, our bonds with one another quickly grew with the walking tour of the city. We were fortunate to have the time to see parts of Panama City as well as the Panama Canal. Seeing the old and the new Panama City and the contrast between the two was fascinating and memorable.

Upon arriving in the province of Bocas del Toro, we landed on the Island of Bocas. From there, we took a water taxi to our hotel on Isla Bastimento. The views from the water taxi were breathtaking. The hotel has a beautiful dock with views of the other islands. We then enjoyed a refreshing swim in the water right off the dock of the hotel. We ate a delicious dinner served by the welcoming hotel staff. We had delicious chicken and rice, and passion fruit juice. Before and after dinner we had an orientation presented by Ms. Emilie, Director of Events from the NGO Give and Surf, and Mr. Bill Cotter from Shoulder-to-Shoulder, our curriculum and planning director. They both introduced their respective programs, their history, the needs of the local community, and our involvement in the activities for this week. We learned of their expectations and hopes for us. We look forward to the upcoming events...stay tuned!

-Tim Keefe and Vivion Purser

Sunday, March 24, 2019

China - Day 11

From Ms. Hardwick:

Today was our last day in Chengdu and China. Since the students were enjoying the hospitality of their host families, I managed to sleep in a bit and go to a local cafe (okay, Starbucks) to get some grading done. Some things the students did this morning included making dumplings, taking a kung fu class, and going to a local museum. Then this afternoon we all gathered to experience KTV - karaoke TV - and it was certainly an experience, but one the students all seemed to enjoy. Then we walked over to nearby hot pot restaurant for our farewell dinner with our host families and teachers from the Chengdu Foreign Language School. The restaurant - named “The Hero’s Journey” (advanced translation provided by Leo and Mr. Lowinger) - gave us an entire back room for to fit our group. The room was set up like an outdoor garden and was beautiful and the food was delicious! All in all it was a great last day in China. We are incredibly grateful for the hospitality of the our host families and the faculty and staff that made our visit to Chengdu so memorable. We also want to thank Leo - our guide from Alpha Exchange - for getting us through China safely and making our experience here truly exceptional. Tomorrow we head to the airport bright and early for a full day of travel home!

China - Day 10

From Jane Siwek ‘19:

Today we didn’t have school and could sleep in after a long week! Evelyn and I are staying with the Zhang’s right outside of Chengdu (technically in the suburbs but it looks like a major city). We woke up to an amazing breakfast of dumplings and fresh fruit, while listening to Lucy’s adorable two year old brother sing and chant about cars. After breakfast, we drove to the center of Chengdu and ate a nice “western” lunch of pizza at the mall with Alice, Nicole, and two other friends from the school. In the afternoon, we escaped a abandoned prison (an Escape room)! We also got to see the Chinese Opera and some amazing performances. We ended our day by walking around a busy street market for dinner!

China - Day 9

China day 9:

From Irvine Madenga ‘21:
Today we spent the whole day at the school and got a little taste of daily life at the foreign languages school. First we got a lesson about Confucius then I went to an English class where we were welcomed by a fun remix of the song welcome to New York except it was welcome to chengdu. Afterwards we joined the students in their morning PE and ran 1 kilometer with them. After that we listened to a lecture from Leo about Sino-US relations then attended a biology class that taught us about cancerous cells. We were then treated to a huge and delicious lunch which was followed by nap time, but we jus had fun on the playground instead. We then watched a debate about whether or not age limits should be included in the olympics. It was fun and intense and both sides became heated at points. Then we joined them in PE again but this time I played soccer and we had a Chinese vs America team. Although we lost it was very close. Then we went to an art class and made tie dye. After that we watched students dance and perform song with traditional Chinese instrument that we got to try afterwards. This concluded the school day. I went to my partner, Henry’s, fathers restaurant for dinner. It was delicious. As soon as I got home I was so full that I just went straight to sleep.

From Sophia Silis ‘19:
Started my day today with a steaming bowl of dumplings. My family laid another extensive spread of pastries, fruit and leftovers for breakfast- more food than any four people could eat, but nonetheless delicious. We were into their champagne colored Bentley by 7 and jamming out to 80s rock music. I honestly can’t tell if they genuinely enjoy it or are playing it to make me feel more comfortable. This was our first full day of school with the students. Though the sky was an ominous grey, this didn’t dampen the students excitement. Whenever the SSSAS students walk into the campus, we are treated like celebrities. It’s utterly crazy. We learned about Confucius in the morning, went to an English class, ran in gym to “All About that Base”, saw Leo give a lecture, ate some fun cafeteria food, participated in a debate that got rather heated, had some free time, went to a biology class focused on oncology, Chinese tie dye class, and music/dance class. It was a lot of fun. I can now say I’ve spoken in front of 200 people (which is the most I’ve ever done). After our busy day, my exchange student (Kazan) and I rode in one of those motorcycle carriage things to a street filled with food. We had fluffy cream and chocolate filled pastry wraps, a fried spiced potato dish and some green milk tea with a sweet cheese foam on top. After we ate, we hopped onto the subway to meet Kasan’s uncles, little brother, and parents in a restaurant off of Kuanzai alley. This restaurant was a haven from the chaos of the street. All of the food served to us had an element of drama: chicken was served to us in a pirate ship with a hidden message on the flag, a huge white chocolate sphere was placed on the table and melted away to reveal shrimp. Dry ice was everywhere. But what struck me more than the food was the continuous toasts the adults made during dinner over and over again. We even played a game where you would role dice and it would determine who at the table would toast who. Kasan, her little brother (AJ) and I took to the streets to explore after dinner. We ate sticky toffee, took some pictures, and wandered into a restaurant with live music. On the ride home, AJ sang to American pop hits in a screechy prepubescent voice that brought a smile to my face. I can’t wait to sleep in tomorrow and see what the weekend holds.