Friday, September 25, 2009

One last trip...

We're down to less than a week left here in Panama and we've decided to go out with yet another beach excursion. This weekend we're off to Kuna Yala the autonomous region of the indigenous Kuna people. We'll be spending Sunday and Monday on Franklin's Island here in Panama. Apparently it's nothing more than a bamboo hut on a white sand spit, a few palm trees and a lot of turquoise water. Our three meals a day will be delivered by Elixto Franklin, the Kuna owner of the island, and his family. We expect fish, a bit of fish and perhaps some fish. Panama beaches have been our absolute favourite part of our time here. Stay tuned for more photos and Max and Zella's reaction to being stranded on a true desert island.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Hellooo? Anyone still out there??

Sorry. Sorry. Sorry. It's been more than two months since I've updated this and so much has happened. Perhaps that's part of the reason I haven't blogged....who wants to hear the minutiae of our upside down lives?
Here's the update in a nutshell.

We went home to Canada for an AMAZING summer vacation. Rob's job in Canada couldn't extend his leave of absence for him to continue working with the UN so we made the difficult decision to return to Ottawa. In retrospect this is wonderful. We miss home. We want to go back to Ottawa. Badly. We get our dog back. Our house back. Our family and friends back. Siiiigh. :)

We're in Panama until October and then will move back to Ottawa to enjoy the Fall colours. In our last few weeks here we've been beach trekking every weekend and are taking in all the turquoise water, tidal pools and sea shells we can. Man, will we miss the beach. The above photos are a mix of what made our Canadian summer vacation so poignant and our last few weeks here in Panama so special.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Sick of sick

Let me preface this post by saying that we, as a family, have been sick since since January. At no point in the last 5 and 1/2 months have we all been healthy. Rashes, sniffles, sore throats, fevers, putrid bug bites, vomiting, phlegm- you name it, we've had it. And I'm SICK OF BEING SICK! Our family doctor down here has described Panama as "the perfect petrie dish", meaning viruses love this environment. It's damp, it's hot, it's humid. Voila! You're sick. Add to the mix that there must be viruses down here that are new to us, as in our systems don't have any way to fight them and it feels like we're under attack. On this note alone, I'm ready to come back to Canada, where at least the viruses are ones we've had before and maybe have a measure of being able to defeat. Zella has had it the worst, I believe. She doesn't even know that she's sick. As only a kid could do she has figured out how to use her snot-filled nose to to hammer out a disgusting version of Name That Tune. No kidding. She says things like, "Mom, guess this song..." then proceeds to breath through her nose in time to various pieces of music. ENOUGH! It feels like Panama is beating us right now. Now, if you'll excuse me I have to blow my nose for the 30th time this morning.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Our amazing Zella

When I dropped Zella off at her school this morning I went in to ask her teacher couple of questions. This isn't quite so easy as it is at home in Canada. I have to study for this sort of everyday interaction. But I had prepped my Spanish and felt reasonably ready to accompany her into her classroom.
What I wasn't ready for was what a rock star my kid is. As we walked down the long hallway towards the Kindergarten B classroom ("it's the one with the brown bear on the door, Mum...") Zella was accosted by girls of all ages. Hugs were given, her name was called, friends came out to walk her down to her room.
When we actually got there, with many friends in tow, I found out a few things. A) Zella is speaking and understanding Spanish fluently in the class. B) Her teachers love her. C) She's giving impromptu English Lessons to the high school girls in the hallways and cafeteria. And D) She hates to colour in the lines.
This is all amazing news. Even the colouring...because as Zel so eloquently puts it, "What's the deal with the LINES anyway?"

Monday, June 8, 2009

A Day in the Darien

I hate to force you over to another site, but for an update on how our trip to the Darien province went please visit-

This is our new website and will provide lots of updates in the months to come. We had an incredible trip dropping off supplies and learning more about the people we're committed to helping. Take a look at the new site and check back often.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Bridging the Gap

For the last six months my American friend Jenny and I have been working on a fundraising project. Over many rounds of coffee and playdates we began to organize a small grassroots group called Bridging the Gap. The goal of Bridging the Gap is to raise funds and seek out donations in kind for the children and communitites of the Darien Gap.
If the Darien Gap is new to you Wikipedia has a quick overview-
Needless to say this is, perhaps, Panama's poorest region. Schools are without textbooks, medical clinics are without the most basic of supplies (think antibiotic creams and Tylenol) and the people of the Darien (a mix of Indigenous, Afro-Carribean and Columbian refugees) have struggled for years to develop self sustaining work that would support their families. Add into the mix a reluctance on the part of the Panamanian government to acknowledge there's a problem and the constant threat of Columbian drug terrorists and the it quickly becomes obvious that anything one can do to help would be much appreciated.
So Jenny and I organized a series of events with our network of women here in Panama. The response has been incredible. We have raised enough money to purchase textbooks for an entire school (one of the few in the region, children travel upwards of 2 hours to get there) and when we asked for donations in-kind of school art supplies we were absolutely overwhelmed by the load of paper, paint, glitter, play-doh and other fun stuff that arrived.
Our partners in all of this have been the United Nations High Commission on Refugees, they have been helping us to find where the best use of these resources will be. And tomorrow Jenny and I will accompany a UN Team to the Darien communities that we've been working to support.
I can't wait to meet the kids. I can't wait to give them the textbooks and supplies. We have been told that they have been working without textbooks, without pencils and without notebooks. We've also been told that the school has never had a major shipment of any of the above and would never have expected to receive the fun stuff, like crayons and glitter.
I'll report back after our trip. With photos. And I hope a renewed committment to Bridging the Gap.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Our very big boy

Max turned three yesterday! And we caved and bought him a Disney Bed shaped like a fossil fuel guzzling sports car, (Lightening McQueen for those of you not initiated into the world of Cars). Oh to be idealistic young parents that we once were..."No DISNEY. No GENDER BASED presents."
In our defence Max also received a baby doll named Matthew. As he was tearing off the gift wrap and caught sight of Matthew he yelled in a confused state, "ZELLA! THIS ONE IS FOR YOU!!"