Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Pre-Thanksgiving Activities

Boli and Edwar are seen here fishing in a little creek way out in the country. See photos at the end of this post for more details (the photos posted here somehow got out of order).

The fishing party (l-r): Boli, Mango, Edwar, and Elyer. Elyer is holding a piece of sugarcane (see below).

A few weeks ago we went to our friend Emily's site to celebrate the 22nd anniversary of her town's Ecoclub. There was a parade featuring Ecoclubs from around the Veraguas/Azuero area with their school bands. Then there was a large eco-fair featuring food made with vegetables grown by the kids. A teacher who works with the club had us all try batidos de zapallo, or squash shakes. They tasted like pumpkin pie in a shake. In the picture above the kids were making yucca and roasted pork all wrapped in banana leaves. Yum, yum! Ecoclub President Luis (left) is friends with young people in our town.

There were so many people at the fair after the parade! The kids in white shirts and straw hats were part of a traditional dance group. The fair was held beneath a big new pavilion at the primary school.

These ladies in lilac, the color of the town, danced in unison to a marching band in matching suits. This is a very Panamanian parade routine.

This youngster is a drummer in one of the many bands in the parade. Most marching bands in Panama practice three monoths a year, October, November and December, to get ready for the many parades honoring Panama's independence from Spain and Colombia, Flag Day, Mother's Day, and other big holidays.

The bugle players above are from the private boys school in Emily's town. They were probably the best band in the parade. They all wear khaki uniforms to school, where they study agriculture. The local Ecoclub had a lot of environmental banners. One said, "Planting trees and plants native to our region preserves our watershed." Deforestation is causing water pollution and other problems throughout Latin America. Viva Ecoclub!

Before the parade we went to Mass at the church in Emily's town (notice the lilac trim). Lisa also went to a Mass here recently with our next door neighbors to honor Saint Michael.

Lisa had a meeting one day somewhere else, so Matt went fishing with some neighbors. They hiked an hour through the fields to get to the mud- and debris-choked streams some folks fish in during the rainy season. Luckily, the snakes heard the gang coming and took off! Boli took this photo.

This picture shows the campo with an approaching storm in the distance. The sugarcane (right) will be cut after Christmas, but some of it can be cut now for personal use. During the fishing trip everyone chewed on some cane to enjoy the sweet juice. Unfortunately Matt and the fishermen didn't make it home before the storm hit. They were covered in muck upon returning home.

Edwar and Boli went for a dip in a spring out in the middle of a sugarcane field. This water is nasty, but the kids don't care.

The boys caught about 6 of these fish, using sticks, lines, hooks, and worms. They made Matt take 2 of them after they fried 'em (above). People love these little fish in our town, even though they're tiny and full of bones. Most fishermen use nets, yielding way more fish. Matt prefers cans of sardines in red sauce, a Panama classic.

Here's Lisa showing off someone else's Panama hat after the parade. If you're out hiking around or working in the fields or watching a parade, you need a hat here! Lisa's wearing this one the cool way. Our pal Andrew is seen at right. Happy Thanksgiving to our friends and families! We miss everyone in NY and Nueva Inglaterra, not to mention CA, OH, and ONT. We pray you're all doing OK, especially Don. And we hope you have a nice holiday. Thanks again for checking out the blog!

Friday, November 14, 2008

I Love Panama

Here's a view of the yucca trees in the field behind our house. The other day we helped the neighbors cut weeds and they gave us several huge pieces of yucca, which is excellent in soup or fried with ketchup and eggs. When you want to harvest this crop, you look for trees with a bit of broken earth at the base, indicating the root is big enough. Then you dig it up with a machete. The tree can then be stuck back in the ground to grow new yucca.

Christina, a second-grader, is seen here drawing a pumpkin during one of the English classes we held just before Halloween. All the kids learned Halloween vocabulary like candy, costume, and ghost. And everyone drew their own Jack-o-lanterns to hang up in school.

Like Christina, the kid in the middle used a cup to make a perfectly circular pumpkin. All the Jack-o-lanterns were bien pretty. Whenever we have an activity, like drawing or playing a game, teaching is a lot more fun. For second grade and up, we try to have the students take a few notes, practice speaking a bit of English, and then do a related project.

This is Paulita, a neighbor who invited us over to celebrate her birthday November 13. Before the cake, we had rice and shrimp (arroz con camarones) made by one of her daughters. It was a real treat. While we were hanging out on the porch after supper, a relative called to wish Paulita a happy birthday and find out what was going on. We heard her say, "The Gringos are here!"

Reina, Lisa, and Boli made the popular corn drink chicheme the day before Matt's birthday. It's a soupy drink made of boiled corn. Evaporated milk and sugar are added after the cooking. It's especially good served really cold after walking around in the heat. But it's also good warm with a dinner of eggs and bread. The neighbors like it with hotdogs and fried dough.

Before they made chicheme, Reina served guacho, a beef stew made with rice, yucca, tomatoes, and other vegetables. The green leaves floating in this bowl are culantro, which grows all around our house and goes into just about every dish. Even though it's hot out all the time, Panamanian soups are delicious.

On Matt's birthday, November 11, we taught birthday vocabulary and played pin the tail on the donkey. While Lisa got the blindfold ready, our friend Socrates clowned around for the camera. The game was a big hit, but the kids were almost more excited to look at the pictures Matt took.

Matt posed for this photo with his birthday mug. He picked it out himself at the dollar store. It was a really nice birthday. After school, Reina made chicken and pasta for Matt, Lisa, Matt's boss Tim, and Tim's parents, who were in Panama for a visit. In the evening, we went to a barbecue with several volunteers at our friend Laura's house. Thanks for all the cards and e-mails!

And here's Elyer. His dad and uncles work the little farm behind our house. And his little brother Edwar is one of our best English students. In this photo Elyer is wearing Lisa's glasses. He and cousins Arturito and Boli wanted to test them out. The shirt is from the presidential campaign of Ricardo Martinelli.