ISU Visits the Country of Panama

A group of  16 students and 2 chaperons from ISU spent a week in Panama as an Alternative Spring Break (ASB).  ASB offers students a chance to spend spring break doing service projects.  

What follows is more notes from the trip rather than a story, but if your curious about Panama, or an Alternative Spring Break trip you might find it interesting:

We stayed in a guest house in Paraiso owned by a nonprofit Christian organization.  They work with SCORE Missions all the time.  Had a nice upstairs we stayed at with bunk beds on each end, and a common area in the middle.  Food was served downstairs just below I another common area with a kitchen.  Another group from a church was there, but maybe 8 or so.

David, Mariaanella Bueno, and their boys Danny and Ezekiel were out hosts/tour guides for the trip.  Both from Uruguay, and had worked there with SCORE for around 6 years.  David was a professional soccer player before becoming a missionary with SCORE.  

Roomed with Tyler with just a 1 bunk room.  Girls stayed in separate rooms down the hall or the other side of the living room.

Day 1: After we arrived in Panama we went to Gamboa village to teach English.  Got to buy a wood hand carved toucan from the village.  Very nice people and the kids loved to play.  This was in the afternoon on the day we arrived.  BTW got to see a black and neon yellow colored toucan fly by the house in the morning.

Day 2: Panama Canal boat ride to Monkey Island.  Followed a container ship out, and plenty to be seen.  Saw several going through the canal.  Got to feed a monkey out of my hand.  Heard Howler monkeys in another area close by.  Popular tourist thing.  Monkeys were wild and came when they wanted to.  Very gentle. Then back to Gamboa to paint bathrooms.  Directly off the Panama Canal.  Super-hot and thirst.  Will bring water with me from now on.      Bought a skirt for Sherrie like the women wear.  In the afternoon we went in to the old part of the city and did some tourist type stuff and shopping.  Highlight was a Freeza (strawberry) smoothie in a nice place.

Day 3: Las Margeritas to build benches, dig drainage ditch, play with kids, and give away stuff.  They fed us a rice dish with tomato and cucumber.  Poor village out a good ways, but not tribal.  Kind of like a vacation bible school.  Hot and sweaty but good work.

Day 4: Tobago Island.  45 minute boat ride from Panama City.  Island was very scenic but the beach was kind of dirty.  Charged for everything.  Not the way to do things.  Got in some good swimming, hiked the mountain with Tyler, Emily, Marylyn.  Super-hot and dry.  Good views.  Most got a good sunburn here since we were there for most of the day.  All kinds of container ships out in the gulf here.

Day 5: Chagres River to Waterfall, food give away, tribal dance and story:

Tribes in the river areas are much the same, with wooden boats with outboard motors and not much in the way of clothes, live on fish and plantains.  Some are Christian, but many are not.  Very interesting and welcoming people.  The crafts they sell are priced on 1 dollar per days’ work, so 25 item took 25 days to make.  They served fish they caught and plantains.  Played around I the waterfall and had a nice talk with David.  Bought some metal bands and fabric bands.  The guys from the tribe wore large silver bands. Some kids got temporary tattoos.  A standard tribal thing.  $3-10 dollars.

Day 6: Mountain school to teach English and give away stuff.  Feed us breakfast like the kids, strawberry, pineapple drink and corn roll fried with some hotdog slices. Play baseball and freebie.  Worked with elementary, middle school then high school last.  Did a song with the elementary kids. Played baseball with middle school Played dodgeball last.  Met two ladies working with the Peace Core here.  One was a 2014 grad from IU.  Other was from North Carolina.  They signed up for 27 mouths. Lunch was a rice dish with coleslaw and a bit of tuna mixed in.  Lots of laughs with the kids on the bus this day.  They taught me more Spanish than I taught them English.

Side notes:
Learning to play Kemps (card game) was really fun.
David and Mariaanella Bueno are the best!
ASB students rock!
Panama Canal was a 10 minute walk away.
Got to run twice down to the soccer field and back.  3 miles trashed me with the humidity.
Nice to have meals with the people from Panama that we served.  
Also some physical labor on this trip was good to do. 
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