Playing in Panama

All work and no play is not good for anyone, and WorldTeach volunteers are no exception. During your term of service you will certainly have the opportunity to travel during school breaks and experience a whole different side of your host country. Ali, a WorldTeach Panama volunteer, recounts one of her favorite play days and the beautiful adventure she embarked upon. 

My phone alarm goes off at 6:30am and I'm awakened from what was not really a good sleep anyway. I wasn't exactly happy to get out of bed, but knowing the plans I had for the day definetly gave me that extra motivation. I sleepily dressed myself and packed a book bag with extra clothing and some essentials for the trip. Like a zombie, I tidied up my room and waited for a phone call from Eda, one of the professors I teach with. Sure enough, right at 7:30 on the dot she called and told me she would be picking me up in ten minutes. Its nice to finally be hanging out with some punctual Panamanians! Panamanians have something called Hora Panamania. It basically means that if you plan to meet a Panamanian at 9... it could be as late as 12 when they finally show up. Myneisha and I waited for an hour once for a friend of ours who we assumed after that amount of time was not coming, but of course about 20 mins after we left we got a call from him wondering where we were.

Anyways, Judith made me a much needed cup of coffee that I quickly chugged down and then ran out the door to meet Eda, Oscar, Pablo, and Myneisha for our day trip to the province of Colon. For the first 20 mins of the ride I was desperatly attempting to stay awake in the backseat while Eda and Oscar explained the scenery and took requests for the radio. After about 30 mins we stopped at a small little restuarant for breakfast, which I once again made the mistake of ordering salchicha (sausage). It was actually just chopped up hotdogs, but when you're hungry... why not eat hotdogs for breakfast? We hit the road again and maybe 30 mins later we were entering the town of Portobelo. First we visited an old church built in the 16th century that is now very famous in Panama. The first time you go there, you can make a wish to a small statue of Christ in the back corner of the church, and rumor has it that the wish will come true if you have faith. My wish was pretty simple... That this experience leads me to make the right choices in life. That through being here, I will discover my true passion and be able to build upon it from this point forward. I have faith that my wish will come true.

After the church we took a nice stroll through the town passing many small shops mainly directed at attracting the attention of tourists, several stray dogs, lots of garbage, run down old buildings, and even a monkey. We made our way through the ruins of Portobelo; Climbing over the canons, exploring the old jail, wandering through the old armory, admiring the beautiful view, and of course taking a lot of pictures. The ruins date back to 1758, but once again Captian Morgan made his way over to the Atlantic side this time and destroyed the city leaving a distrinct trail of destruction from coast to coast.

Playa La Angosta was the next stop on our list. We spent a few leisurely hours relaxing and swimming at the beach before washing up and heading to the City of the Colon. It is said to be very dangerous and I was warned by more then a few people not to go there... and so naturally I ended up going. I was with 4 other people, 2 of whom had previously lived in Colon and knew their way around so I felt plenty safe. They would never take us anywhere that they felt was un-save, they are very protective. We admired a beautiful view of the Atlantic ocean with dozens of ships waiting in line to cross through the canal. It's hard to believe that driving less than an hour could take me completely across an entire country. Crazy right? We proceeded to get some "street corn" (literally corn on the cob on a stick sold in the street) and do some more exploring. We watched a marching band practice, took pictures with a huge statue of christ, had a coffee and a brief dancing lesson from teacher Eda at the casino, visited a bakery and ate the BEST pastries I have ever had, and toured a beautiful hotel. Exhausted from the sun and all the walking, we decided to call it a day and head back home.

On the way home we stopped at Rio Charges for a beautiful sunset photo-op and to take a look at some fish that were being sold on the side of the road. Who knows how long ago they had been caught and they were just hanging there in the deadly Panamanian heat with no ice or anything! Needless to say we did not purchase any of those! We proceeded to Camping Hotel for dinner and another quick dancing lesson from teacher Eda in theDiscoteca. I should probably clarify that she's not teaching everyone how to dance... just me. She thinks she'll have me dancing salsa by the time I leave here... I just have to laugh when she says that.

All in all today makes my list of top five days. It's absolutly mind boggling to me that I can wake up and see the pacific ocean and not even an hour later be putting my feet into the Atlantic. No where else in the world could you do something that. Today I crossed an entire country and I saw two oceans. I have now seen the canal from both the Atlantic and Pacific views and I can say it definitely is the "world's biggest shortcut." It's a blessing to have the opportunity experience all this history and learn so many new things about the canal while volunteering and discovering my path in life. Panama is filled with a remarkable collection of wonders, both man-made and natural.... I'd say the phrase, "The land divided, The world united" pretty accurately sums up one of the greatest man-made accomplishments throughout history.

I knew where I was going when I woke up this morning... but I don't think I realized the significance. I woke up next to the Pacific and after one hour I was exploring the Atlantic.... try doing that in the United States.

Interested in teaching in Panama and exploring what this beautiful country has to offer? Click here for more information!

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