I left South Florida ten days after I accepted this job in Panama with full intentions of starting a blog. Three weeks into the second quarter, I have found the time and a good enough reason.
I am not going to try and fill you in on EVERYTHING that has happened to me in the last 3 months because it would be impossible. I am simply going to try and explain Fiestas Patrias to you and hopefully you can get a glimpse of what my life has turned into.
Panama has something like three independence holidays all in the month of November, which means lots of days off school. Depending on the president different requirements are given to the schools as to how they should celebrate. Sometimes its just a day off and sometimes its a day off on Friday and on Saturday you're required to march in the national parade that passes the presidential palace along a 3 mile parade route in the Panama humidity. Seriously.
Crossroads Christian Academy has been preparing for this journey a long while. Taking whole class periods out of my day to practice our routine. The kids line up, Diego (one of my students) drops a beat and we march. We have a special group of girls who have a routine to salute the president, everyone wears matching polos, khakis, black shoes and white socks. Its intense. Not really.
Our students are great sports. They did this with minimal complaints. In such a small school/community they've known each other for a very long time and they are content as long as they are together.
The original plan was to march Saturday and Sunday. Then Meduca (the ministry of education) said only Saturday. We were supposed to salute the president but he didn't show up. Usually the schools march first but this year the police departments did. Usually we can hang out at school and get there later but we had to be there at about 9 and didn't march until 2:30.
Sounds like I have a lot to complain about right? Not. I LOVE my job. I think the weird cultural things that come with it are part of the adventure. I got to walk through Cosco Viejo on a beautiful sunny day and celebrate a country that I didn't think twice about until I moved here. I got to spend time with my students who marched for and hour and a half with different world flags held high (for the most part). They've stolen my heart.
I was talking to one of my students about what I was going to do when I "go home" for winter break. She reminded me that I was home. Weird. I felt okay saying that. I am home. My heart is here. It is invested here. I am happy to be here.
Being in Panama has fulfilled desires of my heart that I didn't even realize were there. When I talk to God sometimes I have a hard time expressing how thankful and happy I am for bringing me here. I remember the beginning of this year God was trying to tell me something. He was preparing my heart for a big change and I remember several times just bursting into tears because I knew that whatever this change was I didn't deserve it.
Here I am. Undeserving.