Saturday, March 31, 2012

Today´s agenda

All is well today.  The boys are in class now.  After class we will head to grab a quick lunch. then head to the movies at the nearby mall.  All they learned today will be used in the mall and during the movie. 

Tomorrow we will head to the Panama Canal and the beach. 

First up though is picture taking time with the students from Bermuda.  The Bermudan girls have let me know that they think all of our boys are ¨so cute¨ and they want to take pictures with them and exchange Face Book and Twitter contact information.  The B.E.S.T.  Boys will not only have new Panamanian friends but also new friends from Bermuda.  Talk about going global...

New friends from Bermuda

Friday, March 30, 2012

Transporte Público

After classes the B.E.S.T. Boys were starving, but you know that Sra. Pereira is always 2 steps ahead.  I ran to the store bought them some snacks and $.50 Gatorade boxes, before they could even say they were hungry.  After they devoured the snacks they hung out with some of the Bermudan kids for a few minutes, then we headed to our volunteer spot, Casa Esperanza.  Melody was our guide and she knows her city!  First we stopped at an authentic Panamanian restaurant and ate chicken, rice, and fried plantain.

We then went to a supermarket to buy our bus passes and got on the bus.  What you don't know is what it is like crossing the street in Panama.  Caleb pointed out that "in Atlanta you can buck when you are crossing the street.  No one will hit you because they don't want to go to jail. But HERE!? THEY WILL KILL YOU!"  We did not get on the pimped out buses because there was genuine concern that the heat and lack of AC on those buses would kill us.  Instead we got on the less hot (but still hot) new buses.

At Casa Esperanza Jabir, David, and Caleb volunteered with the pre-schoolers, the had fun playing like big kids.  Robert and Amadou volunteered with the 9-12 years old for a while then went out to recess to play soccer.  Before we left we had a chance to help out in an English class for the teenagers.  There were cute girls in the class that seemed to really appreciate the help from my boys.

B.E.S.T. Boys helping out in an English class

There are certain messages that I`ve been asked to share.  David is about to go insane because he found a PSP vita for $39.99, Amadou noticed that every household has a barking dog, Jabir loves everything despite the heat,  Robert loves his neighborhood, and Caleb is loving it all.  I had a long talk with Amadou and Jabir`s host mom.  She adores them and says that you can tell they come from "very good families.  They are bien-educado"  Bien-educado best translates as well-mannered and classy.  I have not doubt that all the host moms feel the same way about my boys.  These boys are tough, fun, and open-minded; I´m so proud of them!

Today was soooo busy!  I know everyone will sleep good tonight.

Eyes wide open

We are in Panama!  While on our flight our students had to fill out immigration and custom forms.  Basically this lets the Panamanian government know who you are, what you will be doing in Panama, where you will be staying, and for how long.  I think everyone was most excited about getting their passport stamped.  Some people are addicted to tattoos but once you go global you become addicted to passport stamps!

When we stepped out of the airport our driver Ricardo was waiting for us, holding up a sign with Mrs. Pereira name on it.  We got into our van and after that our eyes were wide open. Immediately we could feel the heat.  We could only imagine how hot it would be in the day!  On our drive to our side of town we saw a lot.  Every American fast food franchise you could imagine is here.  David was most excited to see that you can buy 3 pizzas for $5 at Pizza hut.  All the boys were happy to see so many pretty girls and we all agreed that Panama is the place where old American school buses come to get pimped out.  You´ve seen the pictures already but what you haven´t seen is the flashing lights that they have at night!

Each pair was dropped off to their host families and so far everyone is very happy with their host moms (and even happier if they have a host sister).  Caleb loves his Panamanian host mom and dad and said that they are already spoiling him.  They all said that breakfast was good.  Amadou and Jabir said they thought I was exaggerating when I said that food is important.  Their host mom watched them eat every bite, and was happy that they liked the food. In the morning they walked to school, David and Robert were driven.  We are studying at Ileri Spanish Institute.  There is also a big group of students here from Bermuda.  If you don´t know where that is look it up! 

Right now everyone is in class making sure they have can say what they need to say in Spanish once they are done, off we go to the next stage of our adventure.  Oh yea, did I mention that it is HOT?!


We are waiting at the boarding gate.  We've made it through security.  So while we are waiting let me introduce you to B.E.S.T. Academy's extraordinary gentlemen.  Let´s go in alphabetical order.

Jabir, Robert, and Caleb

First up, Amadou.  Amadou is currently a ninth grader at B.E.S.T.  Amadou enjoys traveling, hanging with friends, doing well in school, and trying new things.  While in Panama he hopes to learn more Spanish and go to the beach.

Second up to bat, Caleb.  Caleb is a tenth grader.  He likes to write songs, rap, and listen to music.  He hopes to return from Panama with new experiences to write about.

Next we have David, who is also in the tenth grade.  David enjoys playing fotball, basketball, and video games.  He hopes to enhance his Spanish vocabulary and learn how to cook Panamanian food.

Our fourth young man is Jabir.  Jabir enjoys playing sports, reading, and sleeping.  While in Panama he hopes to improve his Spanish and visit landmarks.  He is also in the tenth grade.

 David and amadou

Last but not least, Robert.  Robert likes to play video games, study, and play piano.  He looks forward to eating new foods in Panama and enhancing his Spanish vocabulary.

It is almost time to board the plane and unable to post pictures from my phone at this time.  As soon as I can, I will.  Off we go!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Actitud de Gratitud (Attitude of Gratitude)

Tomorrow is the big day!  Everyone is packing last minute items, putting their plane tickets and passports in a safe place, and saying "hasta luego" to friends and family.  We didn't make it this far alone, many people helped and it is deeply appreciated by as all.  Each of us knows that we are making history for newly founded B.E.S.T. Academy High School and we know that the experiences that await us will leave us forever changed for the better. 

We are grateful and we want to take a moment to say thank you to all of the organizations and individuals that got us to this point. 


- The 100 Black Men of Atlanta
- Ray Singer
- Student & Youth Travel Fund
- Emily Milligan
- B.E.S.T. Academy High School administrators and administrative assistants:
Mr. Hurst, Mrs. Simpson, Mrs. Carter, Ms. Ross, and Mr. Allen 
- Atlanta Public School Teachers/ Administrators who generously made financial contributions: 
Mrs. Tanner, Ms. Malik, Mr. Brinson, Ms. Otis, Mr. Muhammed, Ms. Riley, Mr. Lennard, Mr. Arnold, Mrs. Williams- Garner, and Mr. Thornbrough
-Study Abroad advocate Schantel Mitchell- Caroll

It goes without saying that parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles also played a huge role in this by exhibiting the foresight and bravery to consent to their child's participation.  The sacrifices made by all mentioned above, and those who choose to remain anonymous, are now priceless investments made in five wonderful young men.  You will hear about each of them tomorrow while we check in at the airport.  We are on our way to Panamá, baby!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Preparaciones finales

Arial view of Panama City, Panama, Central America
You may be wondering what we are doing to get ready for our trip.  Let me reassure you that we are doing A LOT.  In addition to acquiring passports and plane tickets we are also getting ready for a full-immersion learning environment.  Since we will be visiting Panamá as travellers, and not tourist, we will be fully immerged in all things Panamanian and that takes some training. 

There are 3 components to this trip that make it unique and meaningful.  One, students will be living with host families, two students per household.  They will be served, breakfast and dinner by their non-English speaking families and are expected to spend time with them to learn about their new environment.  Two, half of the students' day will be dedicated to learning the Spanish language in small group classes every morning.  Finally the third component is volunteering with Panamanian children at our community service site, Casa Esperanza.  The newly Global B.E.S.T. Boys and I will walk to school every morning and will take public transportation to and from Casa Esperanza.

Colorful Public Transportation Bus in Panama City, Panama

In order to prepare them for 10 days of full force full-immersion I conducted a culture course and administered the following quiz:  Are you ready for Panamá?  Take the quiz and check to see how well you did.

What to pack and what travel shots are needed are also an important topics.  I provided students and parents with the following document: What to bring to Panamá?  What shots to get? 

Tomorrow is our last parent meeting before our trip on Thursday.  Parents and students will be given phone numbers and addresses for their children's homestay.  We will finalize our meet-up time at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jaskcon International Airport and I will answer last minute questions.  This trip will be the first of many for my B.E.S.T. Boys and we will make it a life-changing and fun learning-experience!

♫ Por Panamá ♫

Canción:  Por Panamá
Artista: Romulo Castro y el grupo Tuira

I found this great salsa song about how dearly Panamá is loved by its citizens.  This song was written very much in the spirit and some of our students' favorite songs about Atlanta.  As the artist sings about Panama's beauty and natural riches, it makes me get very excited about our trip.  What is your favorite song about a place?  Please share and enjoy the música!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

2 week count down!

We are leaving in two weeks and boy are we a happy bunch! My students and I started planning B.E.S.T. Academy High School's first ever study abroad program in August of 2011, now we are at our final count down and will be departing for Panamá City, Panamá in two weeks. For some this will be their first time out of the United States and for all their first time in Central America.

Please join me and my amazing group of high school boys in our journey to Panamá. During our 10 days there we will be living with host families, studying Spanish, volunteering, and touring. This is a great adventure for us all and I'm sure it will be unforgettable. My goal as their Spanish teacher is to expose them to the wonders of international travel and to create life-long learners of the Spanish language, and its many cultures. As global citizens it is our responsibility to actively participate in the betterment of our planet and humankind; our journey begins in Atlanta, Georgia, USA and brings us to the beautiful country of Panamá.