Panama Survival Guide

When you go to Panama, you need to know the do’s and don’ts of surviving.  First of all, you need to know about the inhabitants. The Panamanians are a peaceful people. They can be very strong-willed, but also very laid-back and relaxed.

The second thing that is very important in this region is food.  The most popular fruits here are oranges and bananas.  We have bothkinds of fruit in our backyard, and the other day we made banana bread from a bunch of bananas that fell from a tree out back.

What upsets me is the fact that when we arrived in Panama, all the once- delicious, ripe oranges that were once on the trees had just passed the point of harvest. They were on the ground molding from the inside out and making the place stink.  So we had to get rid of them.

The third and worst thing to worry about is bugs. From the tiniest ant to the thumb-sized rhinoceros beetle, bugs are the worst. The ants bite harder here than in the U.S. The other problem about ants is they don’t go anywhere alone; they move in groups of at least fifty or so.  If you mess with one, be prepared to mess with the whole army!  I once stepped on an anthill while I was playing “capture the flag,” and the army of that ant hill just bit me up like a piece of rawhide. It hurt!  The worst part was I was tagged in the game so I wasn’t supposed to move.

The cockroaches aren’t any better, though they don’t bite.  I’ve killed probably 30 Cockroaches in our small house.  The first couple of nights we stayed there, we had to check our clothes for cockroaches. Thankfully, I haven’t had any scary encounters with the VERY LARGE Rhinoceros beetle. If I did, that story would have a blog of its own!

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My little brother, JonDavid, with a rhinoceros beetle!
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Water

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Filling the tub to wash my dishes

Water is very precious to us because we have around 1 to 2 water shortages per week.  The reason we have had water problems is there’s a pipe up on the Mountain that breaks and the city has to get a backhoe up there to fix it. This usually takes around a day or two before we can get our water back.

No water means you can’t take a shower, wash dishes (which isn’t that much of a problem for me), or even have a water fight.  No showers is an even bigger problem for my family, because we are still in the dry season in Panama, so there is dust and dirt everywhere! Every time Joey or Emma come inside from playing, their skin color is brown from the dust.

Last weekend, we came up with a solution for when the water is out: we filled up some large water containers (they hold about 10 gallons.) So even when we don’t have water, my mom can wash a few dishes and can help my siblings take a “sponge bath.” It is a happy day when we wake up and we have running water!

So, when you wash your hands or take a shower, remember this blog and you might think of water from a different perspective!

Elon Academy

 

Elon Academy is the school I go to every day. It’s one big room, about 20 by 20 ft. There are windows all around the room. To the back of the room is the door and right next to it is where we keep our backpacks.  There are actually two classes: one class is the “learning to read” class, the other class is for the kids that are Jesse and JonDavid’s age (8 and 10).

The school is actually a school for the local missionary kids and their parents are the teachers.  The first thing we do when we get in the classroom is we get everything situated.  Then, the lead teacher asks us what day, month, and year it is.  Then, someone prays for the day and we get started.  We have a snack break at 10:45 and school ends at 1:00.  One of the things I don’t like about the school is the school schedule in Panama is from February to December. So, no summer break. Bummer.

We brought our schoolwork to Panama and we barely passed the baggage check because we had so much weight in our bags.  I still feel like my parents should have taken my advice to leave my schoolwork at home…. But, that wasn’t the Holy Spirit speaking through me, it was just me!

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My two brothers, sister, and friend “Elias” in front of the school room.

The Chinito (small Panamanian store)

“Chino” is Spanish for a Chinese person.  In Panama, the tiendas (little shops) are all owned by Chinese people. So they are called “Chinitos.”  Me and my family have moved to Panama to live for the next nine months.  We have just moved in to a new house and we’ve been working on painting the house.

One early afternoon, my dad gave me some money and sent us down to the Chinito to get ourselves a pop.  It was about a half-mile walk to the Chinito, and on the way we passed a bar. All the peopleat the bar kept staring oddly at the three “gringo” boys that were walking along the Panamanian path.

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Walking in our Panamanian neighborhood.

We got to the Chinito and casually walked in like we owned the place. Earlier, mom gave me a shopping list, and I started looking around for things.  After the unsuccessful shopping spree, I went ahead and started buying our pops.  I noticed that the glass bottles of Coke were super cheap ($0.35), so Jesse and JonDavid got themselves some pop in plastic bottles, and I got two glass bottles: a bottle of pop for me and one for my dad.

When we got to the counter to pay, we paid for all the pop and started to leave, but the owners stopped us and said something in Spanish.  I figured the prices were so low because I had only paid for the pop liquid, not actually the bottle the pop comes in. So I switched the glass bottle of pop for a plastic bottle, and everything was A-Ok. We then started walking back to our house, sipping our pop in plastic bottles, and being stared at by the Panamanians. Not bad for my first solo trip to the store!