As our time in country comes to a close, below are a collection of thoughts from each of our participants throughout their 8 nights in community.
“I have made really good friendships with the other AMIGOS that I came with, like Jordan and Kai and Malcolm.
So many things are different. For example, I don’t have frogs at home. One thing the Panamanians do differently is eat more. Another thing they do is treat animals differently. They also let their animals roam free.
The community service project went well. The extra curricular activities went well too. The students were having fun with the games. The kids think it is funny when I mess up my Spanish but it is fun for me too.
Our goodbye party was fantastic. I felt good about my speech and everyone else’s. I was surprised about dancing and cake but it was so fun and exciting. It makes me sad to leave because this experience has been one I won’t forget.” -Davis
“I have learned that it is hard to sleep in humidity. I have made friends with all the people here.
I like working and helping around the school. We took shovels and dug out dirt and rocks to make a staircase for the kids. We put tires into the space that we dug out. We also cleared out weeds so other plants could grow. We painted tires which was a mess but was fun.
We also played games and interacted with the kids in the school. We did extra curricular activities with them which is when we play games with them and work on things together. I liked playing with them. It made me happy to see them happy and enjoy playing our games.
The goodbye party was very fun. We said some speeches and danced with the other kids. I felt happy and excited to be there. The dances that we did were Panamanian dances. The little kids led us in the dance because we didn’t really know how to do the dances. We had cake and there was a pinata. I learned that the Panamanian culture is a very hospitable and happy one.” -Kai
“In community, I learned that I can thrive with not a lot of the things that I am used to. The locals do a lot of things differently here. Their garbage disposal system is a pit they make near their house where they burn any and all trash. They also have a different public transportation system.
The community service project was a lot of fun for me. On Monday, we dug holes to fit tires so they would form a staircase down to the school’s garden. Then we painted tires that they used to plant flowers. It was hard to paint in the rain due to our oil based paint but it was a good experience to work with my new friends.
The goodbye party made me feel very welcome and happy, even though it was our last day at the school. It made me feel very special that they would share their culture with us.” -Jordan
“One thing I’ve learned since arriving in Panama is that speaking a new language is very difficult and tiring and cold shower water feels very good in hot weather.
I felt positive during our extra curricular activities when I was teaching Panamanian children in our community school about the importance of protecting our environment. I was running an activity where some kids were trees and other kids were animals. In the activity, the kids who were animals ran at the kids who were trees and the animals that did not have a tree were out. Then we cut down one tree so that there were less trees than animals. We continue the game until there was only one tree and one animal left. The game taught the kids that if we keep cutting down trees eventually the animals will die out. When we were debriefing the activity kids seemed to really understand the importance. They said that if we don’t protect the environment the animals will die and we won’t have any more fruit. It was a little extreme and very cute but it really made me feel like I had made a difference in these kids’ lives.” -Malcolm
“On the ride to community, we saw rivers and the national butterfly. We went up mountains were the roads were twisty and bumpy. After about 45 minutes, we arrived to our host mom and dad, Dona Faustina and Don Agustina. They made us arroz con pollo. Then they taught us how to play dominoes and we drank tea and listened to music.
During our stay here, the kids were shy and wouldn’t really talk to us; they would kind of just stare and smile. But it just so happened 2 days before we had to leave, the kids started opening up. It was so hard leaving after we had bonds with the kids. Today they put on a little show at our goodbye party. They held up a little sign saying “safe travels and we will miss you” in English and it was honestly a tear jerker because we were so welcomed into their community and they made us feel so important and special.” -Madison
“One morning, we woke up and had delicious eggs and patacones that we helped out host mom, Dona Faustina, make. Then we all went outside and hung up clothes from the laundry to dry in the warm air of Panama. At 10:30 we went to a beautiful church service with our host parents and our project supervisor, Nuria. It was very interesting and eye opening.
We became friends with our kind companion, the English professor who laughs and shares stories with us during every meal. We enjoyed our time in community as we learned the ups and downs of experiencing an exchange in a new culture. I will never forget the people I have met and the memories I have made in this small town. As we push ourselves to speak in Spanish and try new things, we develop as people and Spanish speakers. I can’t wait to see what’s to come.” -Anna
“This was my first time doing a home stay in a Spanish-speaking household and it went well. Our host parents have lived in San Miguel Arriba for many years now, running the town’s kiosko that is visited by many people every day and spending time together under a roof that Don Augustin built with his own hands.
During our week in community, the school was studying tourism and its ability to promote world wide connections. On Thursday, more students from the city made the commute to San Miguel Arriba to participate in a day of activities about tourism. Each rancho on the school grounds became a different area of Panama and kids got to visit each place to learn more about it.
My partners and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute in the vibrant culture of San Miguel Arriba.” -Thea