A SPECIAL HELLO TO TEACHER, CHRISTINE, AND MY ELL STUDENTS AT THE HUBBS CENTER IN ST. PAUL. I'LL MISS SEEING YOU THIS WEEK AND NEXT, AND HOPE WE CAN STAY IN TOUCH HERE THROUGH YOUR COMMENTS AND QUESTIONS. KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK AND LISTEN TO YOUR TEACHER ;-)
It looked like a long ways on the map, but all the hours in transit have really made the point. Seven in airplanes, seven on a bus, another two in taxis and by car. But here I am, at last, in Boquete, Panama, a sweet little town of about 15,000 in the misty mountains of western Panama. Exhausted, I arrived at the home of my host family last night.
|My wonderful hosts, Nivia and Guillermo Bell Miranda|
|Nivia with son Antonio and daughter Stephanie|
I'm sure the kids speak some English, as at least the basics are now mandatory in Panama's public schools. But everyone's going along with the program, which is to help me with my Spanish. The parents and grandparents speak almost no English.
The Bell Miranda house is spacious and comfortable compared with many I've stayed in in Latin America. I'd say they're considered fairly well off by local standards, though there are still obvious differences between their lifestyle and that we enjoy back home. Internet, yes, but still the sluggish dial-up kind (though they're getting WiFi soon); TV—in fact, two—but no big flat screens or hi-defs; no dishwasher; nice furnishings; and, of course, the apparent emblem of all Latin American middle-class homes: the single bare light bulb dimly illuminating each room.
Everyone's been very nice to me. They've included me in many of their normal family activities which, at least so far, have consisted of sitting around and chatting with relatives and friends who occasionally show up, watching TV and eating. Tomorrow's Monday, so I suppose the daily routine will be quite different. This morning, Guillermo and I drove downtown to pick up some groceries. I tried to buy a cheap ($21) cell phone and calling card, but the store proprietor couldn't make the thing work, so I passed for now. I'd still like to have one, since my regular cell phone won't work with Panama's cellular infrastructure.
Tomorrow morning I'll walk into town—about a mile and a half away—to my first classes at Habla Ya Spanish School. There I'll meet my teachers and compañeros, my classmates of the same level of skill. I don't expect there to be more than two or three at the most. Each weekday, I'll have four hours of group classes and one hour of individual instruction. The website promises the instruction won't be confined to the classroom; there are supposed to be many outings to mix with the locals and learn about the area. That sounds good to me, and I'm excited to get started!
I'll have to spend a couple of hours each afternoon tending to my two blogs—this one and my other, more philosophical one, OneMansWonder.com. Even though the Bell Mirandas have Internet, it won't work for my laptop without my first installing a huge software program. Since I can't risk that, I'll have to get my connection at school, at least for now.
From Boquete, ¡buenas noches!