Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Luxembourgian, a Welshman and a Rockette walk into a bar...

For such a small community, Boquete, Panama certainly has it's share of foreigners. I've met more nationalities in 2 weeks here than in 2 years in the States.

Each week, local bar Zanzibar hosts a charity quiz night. Owned by a couple from Luxembourg, this is a North African themed bar.

The first night I went, I met the owner's daughter who is married to the Panamanian who owns the language school I go to (Habla Ya), a girl from Manchester, England (whose parents live here), 2 Americans (one who lives here and one who is a Rockette back in NYC) and a Columbian.

So random.

The next week, I met this horrid 25-year old Canadian dairy farmer, a Scottish girl (who is one of the only Scottish people I've met who I could actually understand), a gay Welshman and an Australian guy (not to mention the people I'm volunteering with--an American woman from DC, a guy from Essex, England and a Belgian girl).

I've also started Spanish lessons and 4 hours a day (5 days a week) of conversation is tough.

I'm in the advanced class and there's only 1 other girl in my class (a German lesbian who has been living in NYC for 5 years with her Puerto Rican partner), but trying to have a 4-hour conversation in English is difficult enough, let along another language.

But we manage.

Today we get a new student--a guy named David from California. Hopefully he's decent.

I've also been volunteering. I spent a morning at a recycling center helping to sort materials and helped to paint a literacy center way up in the mountains.

I teach an English class 3 mights a week, which I love. Teaching really is so fun, but this group presents some serious challenges, since they are extremely low. Like some of them can barely manage "Hello" and "Thank you". There also aren't really any materials. Remember this is a free class run by volunteers, not a language school.

Luckily, the Canadian handyman/English teacher who works for my Mom let me use one of his beginner's books.

Tomorrow, I have a vocabulary competition planned and grammar about location prepositions. They all want conversation but they don't have the words yet, so I'm going to focus on vocab building. Also, they've only done the present and past tenses, so maybe we'll work on the future.

They are all at different levels and some have had absolutely no English, but others have had at least 4 years in school and are still really low.

I have to speak to them in Spanish for part of the class, but I make them repeat it in English afterward. I know there are people who say that you should only speak in English, but I think it's better to at least understand what someone is saying to you and then learn it in English.

For example, if they don't know the word for cow in English, I could spend 10 minutes saying things like, "It's a big animal who lives in the fields. Usually it's black and white and it gives milk...blah blah blah"

Or I could just say, "vaca".

I brought a lot of ESL material with me to donate, but it's all WAY too advanced. Although I did bring a Bingo game that is used to review the past tense.

The 67-year old housewife in my class is excited about that at least.


  1. ESL bingo, too cool. :-) Nice update on the trip, I feel like I'm along with, although where are the 4 PM cocktails?

  2. Hey Heather!

    Thx for the comment. You are too right about the need for some cocktail posts! Although my cocktail hours have been a little curtailed since I don't get out of school until 5:30 and then teach until 7 p.m.

    The next cocktail get together, I'll be sure to take lots of pics!

  3. Wow! You're doing so much & so much is going on! All great things :-) Hope the rain's lightened up & wish you a great weekend!

  4. @Isabella

    Thank you! I hope you have a great weekend too. The rain is getting better but it's still kind of a downer....