Monday, August 11, 2014

Panama, So Far

I had to squeeze this in before I reached a whole month without blogging.

To be fair, I moved some 3500 miles and have been living out of a hotel (albeit a very nice one) for the last 3 weeks. All while starting a new job. In fact, our first day of school was today.

Panama City is surprisingly modern. I can't imagine a foreign city more like America. The skyline is modern, the old colonial area disappointingly small.  Nearly everything we have, they have. Most everyone speaks some English, and the taxi drivers hardly try to rip me off.

Still the city has some charms. In the morning and night the climate is amazingly comfortable. Jungles, beaches, and Panama Canal are all an hour or less away. There is a stunning array of tropical fruits, and I saw a sloth.

Being completely honest, the transition from America to here has been difficult. A quick catalog of problems I've run into:
  • Shipping my puppy down turned out to be much, much harder logistically than I imagined. Due to his size and the heat of summer, he's really limited on the type of planes he can fly on. He is happily summering at my parents.
  • Used cars are super expensive here. I found a 2006 CRV online, had a mechanic check it out while I was at work. Got the A-OK. Paid $9,000 for it, only to find it has no airbags. There is a flap cut into the steering wheel so big I can stick my fist into it.
    Apparently this isn't a big deal in Panama, so the mechanic either didn't notice it or just overlooked it. Fortunately the school is helping me resell this death trap.
  • The in-service week was the hardest week I've professionally as a teacher. At one point, 9 of the last 10 hours spent there had been in meetings. It was so refreshing to actually teach today.
It's been challenging, especially for my patience, but I think that's a good thing. When we are challenged, we grow. Without a doubt, I will return to the states a much better teacher. My school is amazing in a lot of ways. The campus is beautiful, my classroom has amazing technology, and the president of the country sends his kids here (he was at our morning assembly). Plus, they hired my girlfriend as a pre-school aide, answering that thorny question of what exactly she was going to do while here.

Most of all though, it is incredibly demanding of its teachers. Expectations of planning, communication, and collaboration are higher than I've ever heard of in the states. But they keep class sizes low (22 max) and give you ample planning time, so they make it manageable. I'm excited to see what I'll learn, and what I can accomplish here.

I'm tired. I'm weary. But I'm really, really glad I'm here.

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