I receive an email each morning from the Daily Word. It is a brief thought for the day. Here is today’s Daily Word:
Willingness A willingness to try new things brings freshness to my life.
Thursday, August 31, 2017
There is great wisdom in the conventional saying, “You won’t know unless you try.” Countless opportunities appear in a lifetime, but without willingness to try new things, those experiences will be left undiscovered.
When I stretch myself to try something new, I discover adventures, communities, foods, or interests I wouldn’t have ever known. Deep joy may result from my willing action to do something unfamiliar. Even if I decide that what I’ve tried is not for me, I gain experience and knowledge in the process of expanding beyond my usual activities.
Today I purposely choose to do something new. With a willing heart and an open mind, I experience the freshness of life.
Our travels are about our willingness to try new things. Sometimes it is a bit scary, mostly exciting. I’ve been trying a few new foods. We try to find a new fruit or vegetable when we go to the market. It is a conundrum for me because I want to do this but I am hesitant. We have bought some fruits and tried them. Most of them haven’t been very interesting to me.
I plan to post some examples with our thoughts soon. Stay tuned…
If you have been following our blogs, you may remember that handicapped parking spaces in Costa Rica often have a removable barrier so I wasn’t sure how folks actually used them if no one was around who could remove the barrier.
I’m happy to report that Panama doesn’t have those barriers. I haven’t seen them but I read that people with disabilities can get a handicapped parking permit. They had to submit 2 pictures along with other information; it is a card be something that they put on their dash when they park. It is vehicle specific.
Getting around Panama can be challenging for people with disabilities. Compliance with access requirements can be very inconsistent. Businesses are increasingly installing ramps; however these can be steep. Many roads do not have pavements. Where there are sidewalks, they are often in disrepair, with many potholes or overgrown tree roots.
Panama’s public transport can also be difficult to access for people with disabilities. Buses in Panama City are currently inaccessible for wheelchairs. At the time of writing, projects to enable people who use wheelchairs to board Panama City buses are due to be completed in 2013.
It is very true that sidewalks are often in very bad shape. When we walk to town, I keep my trekking pole out for a while because there are gaps in the sidewalk, at least one or two of which require you to go onto the side of the road because they are impassible by pedestrians and several additional places would be impassible by wheelchair. There are a few ramps especially at newer buildings.
I’ve been wanting to talk with someone familiar with the education system in Panama and this week our B&B host, Lisia, and I were out for a walk and ran into the principal of the local elementary school. Lisia introduced me to him. His name is Candelario. I asked if he might have time this week to chat for a little while; he was happy to have me come the following day.
When I arrived, Candelario was waiting for me at the school. After he rang the recess bell, we went into his office to talk. His office is barely 8’x5′. The secretary or whatever her title is has twice the space as the principal. But it was very significant to me that the FIRST area you enter is to HIS office, not hers! During our 20-30 minutes of talking, at least 4 students came to him to ask quick questions. Each time, Candelario immediately stopped talking with me and focused intently and lovingly on the child. It is obvious that he is there for them.
He often gave the child what they wanted but one child wanted something to do with a non-nutritious snack and he kindly but firmly said that they don’t eat that kind of food at school. One of his main focuses is health and healthy eating…more on that later.
I will divide the information I have on education in Panama over several blogs since it is a lot of information and quite diverse.
The local elementary school is one of only 8 schools in Chiriquí Province where we are currently living. In this posting I will discuss general education in Panama and a subsequent posting will talk about this special school.
Panamanian children attend school from kindergarten (or as Candelario called it “his garden”) through the 12th grade. Schools are generally 5 hours per day (a little shorter for kindergarten). The school year runs from March to a few days before Christmas. Students are off for about 2 1/2 months for their vacation.
I was surprised and saddened to see in at least one article (very interesting article from late 2016) that Panama’s education system is considered the “worst in the world” which would be bad to be worse than Nicaragua or other really poorer countries. Candelario characterized Panama as a rich country whose wealth is centralized among the elite and doesn’t trickle down to the masses. Drop out rate is 20-25%.
Beginning in 2008, children with disabilities are integrated into the regular classroom. I’m a huge proponent of integration but in Panama most of the teachers don’t get any support to teach the child with disabilities. No aide, no training, no smaller classroom. Hard to expect any success for those children in those situations.
More females attend college/university than males who have usually already joined the workforce by their mid to late teens.
This post is about the Volcancito School. As I said in the first posting about education in Panama, this one is one of only 8 schools in this province of Chiriquí. The school is almost entirely indigenous students, k-6th grades. While the kindergartners only attend until noon, the other students attend from 8-4 each day. The students generally don’t have any homework except occasionally to study for a quiz.
Education is mandatory however the principal, Candelario feels that the children are really sent by their parents because they are fed. They each receive a breakfast and lunch. The school receives $3000 per month from the Panamanian government to cover the cost of food. With 180 students, approximately 20 days of school a month, that works out to $0.83 a day for food per child. Despite the limitations I saw a large crate of fresh tomatoes when I was in the kitchen.
Students receive 2 hours per day instruction in English by teachers that only teach English. The rest of the day is taught in Spanish. In addition to English and Spanish, students are taught sanitation, health, relationships, reading, writing, math, and history.
Candelario feels that his biggest obstacles are:
Poverty-as many as 8 people would live in a space the size of his office. If you look at the picture I took of it, you can see how small that is.
Inadequate facilities-Since becoming the principal in 2013, several classrooms have been added however they are barely adequate. The kitchen is approximately 25’x15′ including two large picnic benches where the children eat, refrigerators, freezers, sink, and stove! The Rotary club has helped them add space, including a new classroom that is almost ready to be used.
Abuse-Sadly, physical, sexual, and mental abuse is common in the culture. Girls as young as 10 get pregnant.
This school is truly blessed to have Candelario for their principal. Although he plans to retire in a few years after 31 years as a teacher and a number of years as a principal, he hasn’t done that yet because he feels that he has a mission from God to help these kids.
One goal of his is to add a computer lab. There are currently no computers for the children to use. If you are so moved, let me know and we will see how you can help with this.
When we arrived in David on 7/4 we had passed by the Portugal Circus. I had a mild interest in attending but not compelling enough at the time, especially with Dan having allergy issues.
Well the circus came to Boquete this week. It is a small affair, one ring only. People only, which was fine with me; I hate to see animals caged up.
I won’t say it was exciting but it was a pleasant 2 hours.
The single trapeze artist did everything while he swung with his head cradled in a little Stnd, upside down. No daring flying through the air but he did juggle rings on both legs and both wrists at the same time while he was upside down. He also juggled 3 balls very briefly while upside down as well.
I had as much fun talking to 4 new to the area expats as circus. They were two couples, one formerly from Florida, the other from Georgia. Expats make up about 10% of the population so you run into them quite a bit.
But back to the circus, it also had clowns (not in white face paint), 3 motorcycles racing around the inside of a ball at the same time (probably the only slightly tense moment), and other various acts.
At one point they had any young children who wanted to come up to the “Frozen” movie characters and get a hug. Lots of kiddos did this and seemed to really enjoy that. “Frozen” was the theme of most of the music. All of the music was prerecorded…of course in Spanish. (Did you ever consider that your/child’s/grandchild’s favorite Disney movie was in other languages? We hadn’t!)
Oh, and of course it was ALL in Spanish! The announcer had a wonderful deep voice but I could only catch a few words here and there since he spoke very rapidly. But you didn’t need to understand any Spanish to figure out what was happening.
I am reading House of Rain by Craig Childs. It is non-fiction, about the Anasazi and Craig’s travels to their ruins in the four corners area of New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Arizona. I am enjoying it, even though it has me a little homesick thinking of SW Colorado and areas I have been and those I can go check out. Thinking of friends too!
We have been in Boquete (pronounced Boe ket ay) for the better part of a month. Most of that time we have been in the same apartment which is furnished with everything you could want, including a mixer, knife sharpener, and lots of dish towels. The bed is comfortable and the entertainment center includes a ton of movies via Kodi as well as Netflix and cable TV. It is clean and well maintained.
Now it is even better maintained (minor fixes) because we made a barter for part of our rent payment. I created a website for the apartments and Dan is doing some minor repairs.
Our view is wonderful, it looks out over the town of Boquete. We are on one of the higher points in the area. The view varies from clear to socked in clouds but I enjoy it all. I’m surprised that the almost daily rain doesn’t bother me. I think that is mostly because the temperatures are very comfortable (shorts or capris most of the time), the humidity isn’t bad, and it is usually in the late afternoons so you can plan around it.
While Boquete doesn’t compare to Durango Colorado in many ways, it is about the same size. About 10% of the population is English speaking so you may or may not run into clerks and wait staff that speak English. Our Spanish has progressed to the point that we can usually do without Google Translate when we talk to people.
Boquete is less than an hour from David (pronounced da veed like the lady who used to be on NCIS) which I would guess is about 150,000 people. Doctors of all kinds come to Boquete on a regular basis so you can get most health care taken care of here and many of them speak English. Dan saw an optometrist (no charge!!!) to get a new prescription for his glasses and the new lenses were about the same cost as the ones he got not quite a year ago.
The monetary system is based on the US dollar although they do give change sometimes in Balboas but it is still based on 100 cents to the dollar or Balboa and the coins (except for the Balboa itself which is a two metal coin) are the same basic size and materials as US coins so it is easy to think in US money. (Makes life less challenging!)
We haven’t done any sightseeing since we were getting over our colds/allergies/whatever but we have enjoyed the relaxed pace, doing a lot of reading, some walking, occasional Zumba using the video that Rebecca Thompson kindly made for me.
And receiving packages is easy here. We are using a company who contracts with Mail Boxes Etc. and we have things shipped to Miami, FL and they are forwarded to us. It isn’t cheap since we pay shipping to Miami and then another fee to get it here and deal with Customs but we got our first two packages today, some of the same products that we couldn’t get in Costa Rica, with no problems!!!
If I wanted to relocate, this might be a good place however I understand that it is very windy like Monteverde during the dry season so I don’t think I’d want that. In any case, it doesn’t have some things I really miss from Durango: recreation center (there are gyms here but not as extensive a selection of activities), Seniors Outdoors organization although they do have small groups that hike several times a week, and most importantly the friends we have made in Durango.
So while we keep a look out in the back of our minds for a better place to live permanently than Durango, nothing has come very close to filling that description.