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!

God Speaks

Every Tuesday I’m going to try to get a blog out. If, for some reason, I do not get a blog out, you can assume:

A. I am at a place where there is no internet,
B. I never got around to writing one, or
C. the super old excuse: “My dog ate my computer.”

I suggest you go with the first two and save option C. for desperate times.

While we have been visiting our family in Joplin, I have been attending a tiny Christian school. It has altogether 25 students, and each Tuesday we have chapel. The first thing we do in chapel is sing a few songs. Every week, they have a guest speaker who speaks for a while. This week, who better to have for a guest speaker than: (drumroll please…) my mom!

Mom pointed out some great tips about being a missionary, and she talked about hearing God’s voice. After about an hour of discussion, she told us to bow our heads, and let God speak to us. When someone felt like God showed them something, they would tell my mom, and she would share it with everyone. If there was someone in the room that wanted prayer for that specific need, they would raise their hand, and the other kids would pray for them.

I really wasn’t too surprised and I actually felt kind of proud that my fellow students were hearing God speak to them. One kid felt like someone had pain in their knee. Another person raised their hand that they were having knee pain, and he got prayed for. Someone else felt like there was someone in the room that was struggling with depression, and someone else with suicidal thoughts. People raised their hands and received prayer. As I looked around the room, I saw kids praying for each other, and eighteen year olds crying like babies in the presence of God. This time of prayer and ministry lasted an hour, but it felt like 15 minutes.

After chapel, the kids started praying for our teachers. Shortly after, we went to lunch, but after lunch, my teachers felt like we needed to pray more for one another. We ended up praying the rest of the school day. It was a great day. The only thing that could have made it cooler was if this day of prayer had happened in schools all over town!

House Build Blog

On our fifth week of outreach we got to build houses for five different families.  The families we were building for were part of a people group called the Ngäbe (pronounced no-bay). There were 5 groups working on the houses, as well as a group that worked in a clinic, and another group that went door to door giving out Ngäbe Bibles.  We had four days to build the houses, but our lead builder was used to building houses in two days, so we got our house done first.

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Michael and I painting walls.

When we got to the build site, there was already a new poured concrete slab: 20 by 16 feet. We began right away by building the wall frames.  When all four walls were up, we painted around 20 4×8 Flat boards. We put all the flat boards on the walls and then painted the outside of the house. While we were doing that, other people were working on the roof.

My parents were the “electricians” of the group. The new house had only four lightbulbs: a bulb in each of the three rooms, and a porch light. There were also four wall outlets in the house. The house had two small bedrooms, and a larger room with a table and chairs. There was no porch, no running water, and no bathrooms inside.  There was a bunk bed in the larger room because the bedroom was too small for two bunk beds.  Even though the house was the size of most people’s outdoor shed, the family was so thankful to be getting a house that would keep out rain, dust, and disease.

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Michael, myself (Isaac), and Jeyson.

On the last day, we had a ceremony where we handed the keys of the new house to the family.  Since our team is a “music and missions team,” we did some worship. Then, we stood in a circle and passed the keys around the circle. When you had the keys, it was your turn to say something to bless or encourage the family. Finally, the moment came when we handed the father of the family the keys to his brand new home!  Then, the family went inside by themselves and shut the door. We gave them some time to go through the house as a family. After a few minutes,we knocked on the door, and they welcomed us into their new home as the first guests.  We went into the house, read a few verses, and prayed a blessing over the family. The Ngäbe Indians are very shy, and don’t show much emotions, but they were smiling from ear to ear, and hugged us tightly when we said goodbye.
Even now, I think about the family we built a house for. Their lives are so different now. They have a house with glass/screened windows that keep out bugs; they sweep their concrete floor, and have safe electricity. Four work days for us became a lifetime change for a Ngäbe family. And I think that’s pretty awesome!

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Happy Family!

Missionary Kid Chaco Sandals Review

Chacos are flip-flops that don’t flop and sneakers that don’t “sneak.” The reason they are better than regular shoes is when you get themwet they take ten minutes to dry. Unlike regular shoes, which take about a day to dry.I got my Chacos for Christmas ( because we were in Costa Ric and had our Christmas on the 12th of December, so I’ve had mine for a while.)

The cool part about Chacos is that it has straps running through its sole.  My mom looked up on YouTube how to adjust them to the right size and learned how to do it in five minutes. So if you don’t know how to adjust them go to YouTube.  My dad has almost wore them the whole time he has been in Costa Rica and Panama.  They are sturdy enough to hike up mountains and makes creeks easy to cross.

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I’m giving Chacos a 9 1/2 out of a possible score of 10. I am taking a half point off, because they can be a bit tricky to get on, especially when you first wear them. So, whether you’re in the jungle searching for a village, or on the beach relaxing, Chacos are the best!

Haircuts in Panama

People have asked me what is different about the mission field, so in this blog, I’ll write about how getting a haircut is different. While in the United States, the cost is between 10 to 20 dollars per haircut. Here in Panama, I got a haircut for 4 dollars. Since haircuts in the U.S. are so expensive, my mom cut
our hair herself. When mom tries a new style of a haircut, my dad makes us go first so if the haircut goes wrong, my younger siblings and I walk around with a bad haircut.  When we found $4.00 haircuts, my mom was excited, because she did not have to cut 5 heads of hair. Not only did it save money, it saved my mom three hours of time.

  The barber shop in Chilibre, Panama, was painted bright orange, and was the size of my Nana’s closet. The barber first trimmed using an electric razor, then clipped with scissors. Finally, he used a straight-edge razor around our necks and ears. I remember a Calvin and Hobbs quote, “Don’t upset the guy with a Razor.” (Especially if you have no clue what the barber and my dad are talking about.) I did my best to hold still and not say anything that would put my ears at risk! My dad was with these barbers for half a day and was able to minister to them after building a relationship while the 5 Harryman boys got their hair cut. It was a new and different experience from back home, but it was fun. 

  The moral of this story: if you want cheaper haircuts, move to Panama. Bye

Showers, Bugs, and Lizards!

I haven’t been able to send out a blog lately because the base we’re at is in the middle of nowhere and there is no internet so we can’t call my cousins, grandparents, etc. So, by the time you hear my “tale of woe” I am somewhere that has internet. There is another outreach group here, and the base they trained at is huge: it has a full-time kitchen staff, a soccer field, and they don’t have to wash their own dishes.    
So, at this base (in the middle of nowhere,) one of the girls was going to take a shower. She asked dad what shower he used, (as if the one we used is any different then the others) and my dad told her which one he used. Then, she asked,

“Are there bugs in it?” 

There were bugs in all of them, but my dad looked in and said he didn’t see any bugs. However, five minutes later we heard a scream. While she was taking a shower, a bunch of bugs and a couple lizards found their way into her shower.  
The reason that the bugs and lizards were in the shower was because the bugs are attracted to light and lizards eat bugs. Everyone is a little careful about taking a shower at night so they don´t have “visitors.”
She was so mad at my dad. After her shower, she told him,

“My shower DID have bugs in it! AND lizards!”

My dad laughed and explained that next time she should shower during the day instead of at night. 
So, the spiritual lesson to be learned:

“Thou shalt not shower at night and it will go well with you.”
 

Fathers

So, what I want to talk about today is Fathers.  Everyone has one, whether they were raised by one or not, or like mine, is leader of the family.  They are very important people in our lives. (I don’t mean to bash mothers or anything, but the title does say “Fathers”).

Did you know:

-85% of children who show behavior disorders come from fatherless homes? [Center for Disease Control]

-Fatherless boys and girls are: -twice as likely to drop out of high school;

-twice as likely to end up in jail;

-four times more likely to need help for emotional or behavior problems. [US D.H.H.S. news release, March 26, 1999]

We went on local outreach to a rehab (getting out of drugs and alcohol) center and some of the boys there gave their testimonies. Many of them talked about the fact that their fathers never helped raise them.  One young man named “Jorge” said he never knew his dad. He talked about how much it hurt that he didn’t have a father who took him to the park, picked him up from school, or celebrated Christmas with him. Another guy’s mother broke up with three different men by the time he was fourteen.  When he actually found his biological father, he described how he jumped up and down and screamed,

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Joey with some of the Rehab guys..

“YES, I HAVE A DAD!!!!” He was fourteen years old. He stayed with his newly-found dad for three months. One day he got a text message from his father saying,

“You have to find another place to live.” He went into a deep depression, and was about to get heavy into drugs, so his mom sent him to the rehab center.

I wonder how these guys’ lives could be different if they had Godly dads?

I’ve taken some time to talk about earthly fathers, but now I’m going to talk about our spiritual Father, God.  The speaker for this week was a great man of God.  Three times, God raised people from the dead through him. He said that when you’re little and your dad’s driving, you don’t sit in the back seat worrying. You don’t ask,

“Do you have enough gas?” or “Have you changed the oil?” or “How’s the transmission?”

Kids just enjoy the ride. They don’t ask,

“Are you sure you know where you’re going?” “Do you need me to help you find the way?”

They don’t ask those questions because they know “Pops” has got it under control.  It’s the same thing with God. It’s hard sometimes, and we want to ask Him a bunch of questions. But, just like riding in the car on a trip with Dad, we need to trust God in EVERYTHING!

Bye.