Today was our second day in Panama and like any typical morning some of us awoke to Panama’s national songbird, the rooster, as well as some curious lizards.
Not your typical morning? Yeah it was pretty new for us too, but it is also a great safety net to ensure we actually get up, since the rooster does not believe in snooze buttons. I like to think of it as nature's very own alarm clock.
After our morning wake up call, we stopped at a local restaurant and stuffed our bellies full with a traditional Panamanian breakfast. This consisted of foods such as: cow liver, corn tortillas, empanadas (dough filled with meat and sometimes fruit), chicken, and “Bollos” (Similar to tamales but without meat).
With full stomachs, we gathered our gear and headed out towards the town of Tanara, where we would begin our first day of work. We first stopped at an elementary school where we met up with the Principal and a “maestra” (Female teacher). I learned that the principal spent 20 years in school where he has obtained about 4 professional degrees. What surprised me was the fact that even though he has dedicated a large portion of his life to school, the degrees have no affect on his paycheck. Essentially, to be hired for jobs such as a Principal, you are expected to be very established, which makes obtaining multiple degrees necessary but does not ensure a higher paycheck. While I am sure the Principal would appreciate a higher salary, I could tell that this was more than a job for him; education is his passion. I have always been told that if you are truly passionate about doing something, you’ll do it for free, and that is the vibe I felt while speaking to him.
We also spent some time leaning about some of the economical problems the school and families faced in the area, for example, families here are typically larger with anywhere from 3-4 hijos (children). With low wages and many mouths to feed, it can be extremely difficult for mothers and fathers to provide food for their children. As the teacher explained, many children will come to school having not been fed beforehand and this then reflected in their ability to work and pay attention in class. Hearing this only increased our want and need to help the people in this community any way we could.
After leaning a little bit about Tanara, we began surveying the water filters in some of the homes and making sure they were up to code. While doing this, we were greeted by a passing car filled with 3 local Panamanians, one with a microphone shouting “Sandías!” (Watermelons), and other locally grown fruits. We noticed this and decided we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try some local fruits and bought a papaya. One of the men so kindly sliced it open and handed us all a slice. Of course being the Americans we are, we then immediately got into formation for a necessary selfie. Not too long after we were given koolaide and pineapple “Duros” which are similar to popsicles, delicioso!
After surveying, the Fire department of Chepo so graciously cooked us lunch, and like everything I have eaten so far here, it was nothing short of perfection. After lunch, we began assembling water filters to be transported later this week. It felt great to be able to do more hands on work.
For dinner, we stopped at a local restaurant where we were served what looked like fried chicken, only to find out it was most likely squirrel. Hey when in Panama, right?