Sunday, November 1, 2015

Answered & Unanswered Questions

We are officially on our first vacation this school year. As a teacher of Kindergarten students who are always counting things, I can tell with certainty that we have attended school 59 days without a break. Now, the students had a break several weeks ago when we had Parent-Teacher Conferences, but no such luck for the teachers. So, with a full week to celebrate some Panamanian holidays, Team Chowning is  geared up and ready to go.

 With 59 days under my Kindergarten-Teacher Belt, I have encountered some interesting scenarios and questions. I thought I would make a list of those here. Feel free to help a girl out, if you can.

First, a list of unanswered questions:
1. How many shoes have I tied since the beginning of the year? If you have a kindergarten or 1st grade student, for the sake of their poor teachers, please help them learn to tie their shoes. Untied shoe laces are a great source of worry for my students, especially in the middle of lesson times.

2. How can a child possibly sneeze that many times and STILL have more stuff that can come out? Again, for the sake of your child's teachers, please teach your child how to anticipate a sneeze and get a kleenex prepared for said event. Better yet, teach them how to blow that junk OUT!

3.  How can 16 kids possibly make THAT much noise? I'm not sure, but somehow they do.

4.  How can one kid talk THAT much? I'm not sure, but I can tell you that I feel like I hear my verbal-processing student talking even in my sleep. I'm not sure if there's ever a time that he isn't talking.

5. Did the inventors of Cheetos know how messy Kindergartners could make that snack? If so, do they have a partnership with hand-wipe companies?

6.What is the absolute fascination with Sharks that Kindergarten boys have? I get that they're cool, but so are some other animals. Let's branch out to other dangerous animals sometime.

7. How can a child sound out c-a-t (each sound correct) and then look up and announce proudly, "DOG!"?  Hmmm. I feel like we're missing some pieces here. I've got some work to do.

8. On the other hand, how does a kindergartner already know how to do 2-digit subtraction that requires regrouping (borrowing for those of you who learned subtraction like me)?  Looks like I'll be finding extra enrichment assignments for this kid.

And now for some answered questions and things I've learned:

1. Why would anyone teach kindergarten?  Yes, this is a question I used to ask myself. Let me tell you. . . I get to see the most wonderful learning moments, hilarious moments, and heart-warming moments. From being asked (almost daily), "How do you say '-----' in English?", to the rest of the class cheering when a student who has been gone for 2-3 days returns, to watching them learn Bible truths, to having them randomly run up and give me hugs, to listening to them explain to their peers in Spanish something I just said in English that some didn't understand, to watching them write in English with their wonderful Spanish phonics, etc. This has been a most rewarding experience.

2. Am I going to like/get along with my teacher assistant?  I could not have been blessed with a better helper in my classroom. Tatiana is a God-send. She has been in the K5 classroom for the last 5 years, so she is helping me SO much. She is hilarious, loving, strict, God-honoring, and all around wonderful. She is amazing, and I can't imagine riding this Kindergarten roller coaster without her.

3. Can I make it through until November without a break? Barely, but I did. And a week of vacation never felt so needed.

4. Now that we are in November, exactly how many holidays does Panama have during November? Five holidays. November 3rd: Independence from Colombia. November 4th: Flag day. November 5th: Colon Day (celebrating the province of Colon; this has nothing to do with the human digestive system). November 10th: First Cry of Independence in Los Santos. November 28th: Independence from Spain.  Add in the American holiday of Thanksgiving, and we are only in school about 3 weeks during the month of November. You can go back to my post from 11/13/2010, Panama's Independence Day,  to see some pictures from some of the parades to celebrate these holidays.

5. What time will I fall asleep each night in order to be able to get up at 5 am every morning and go all day long with teaching Kindergarten?  As soon as I get in bed. Gotta be careful that I don't stop moving too early in an evening. Still=Asleep.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Random Thoughts from My First 2 Weeks Back in Panama

Team Chowning is officially back in Panama. We arrived on June 24th, so we've been back for 2 weeks now. As I sat this morning, with ideas for blogs swirling in my head, I couldn't decide on a particular, singular idea. So, here's the list of random thoughts, realizations, and reminders from the first 2 weeks back in Panama.

1. My ears apparently have forgotten Spanish all together. At best, they listen much more slowly than they used to. I'm hoping this starts to remedy itself. And just as bad is that I can't seem to think how to SAY things in Spanish either. Thankful for Panamanian friends who are patient and gracious as I re-acclimate to Spanish.

2. Panama City is HOT. It's been in the upper 90's with humidity only slightly lower. Therefore, the "feels like" temperature (heat index for those scientific folks) is in the 100's. Even the Panamanians are saying it's hotter than usual.

3. Church in El Valle was just as good, if not better, than I remember it. The people and their passion are contagious. It is an amazing place and God is doing fantastic things there through His people.

4. Traffic in Panama City is just as bad as it ever was. With the newer, nicer car than we had while we were previously here, we think that more people are out to get us. It's either that or we care more about our car now.

5.  Although there's much more technology to keep in touch with folks (Viber, WhatzApp, etc), we are still finding it difficult to make a regular phone call back to the states. And since internet is spotty at times, that adds to the difficulty.

6. Our bank's fraud protection department is very diligent. In fact, so diligent that it took 4 tries to get money wired (from US bank to US bank) to the gentleman who sold us the car. And, we had to verify ourselves at least 3 times before they gave us back our online access and allowed us to make purchases in Panama again. And, yes, we had put a travel alert on the account. Like I said, they are VERY diligent. Grateful, through clenched teeth.

7. Speaking of cars, I think we officially set the record of getting a car the quickest upon our arrival here. We had possession of our car within 12 hours of setting foot here. That is unheard of! But we have a God who has provided richly and quickly.

8. Having an apartment door (2nd floor) that automatically locks behind us and a downstairs building door that requires a key to exit the building is a bit troublesome. Our first day here, Aaron got the building key stuck in the building door, it would not unlock, and we had no other way out of the building. The kids and I finally went through a neighbor's apartment and out through the backdoor so we could hang out at friend's house, while Aaron stayed and tried to "unstick" the key. Finally, around 8:00 pm that evening, a different neighbor was able to get the key out and give us a lesson in key turning so this wouldn't happen again.

So, these are some of the random thoughts and experiences we've had here so far. We are glad to be back, and excited as we get started on this next chapter.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Saddle-sore yet?

Hmmm. Considering that this blog is entitled "The Adventures of Lambie and Baby Doll" (see one of the first posts to understand why it was given this name) and that Lambie and Baby Doll never made it back from the first Panama Adventure (Lambie stayed on permanent vacation in Costa Rica and we think wild dogs carried off Baby Doll), I'm wondering if it is better get back in the saddle. . . or maybe go find a new horse.  I guess I'll get back in this saddle. I might get a little saddle-sore, but here goes.

I started this blog as we began our first Panama "God-venture." And boy was it ever one. As much as we had hoped to be able to get back to Panama when we first returned to The States, the timing wasn't right. Until now, that is. The doors are open and the lights are green, so it seems.

Team Chowning is headed back to Panama. The God-venture is taking place in a little different location this time. We will be in Panama City. Yeah, I know. We swore we'd never live in Panama City. Never say never. We will be working at Crossroads Christian Academy, a small American-style, Christian school on the outskirts of town that caters to Panamanians (40%) as well as missionary kids, and expats from all over the world. I will be teaching Kindergarten and Aaron will be the Instructional Technology Coordinator (teaching & integrating technology). Aivlyn will be in 2nd grade and Mylen will be in 5th. Watch out CCA; Team Chowning is coming!

We have signed a 2-year teaching contract, enrolled the kids, and started ALL the bundles of paperwork for FBI background check, partnership with RCE (Resourcing Christian Education), etc. We are swimming in papers! Oh, and did I mention that we moved during all this? Yes, we've sold our house (3000 sqft) and moved into a 2-bedroom apartment for <2 5x10="" a="" all="" and="" bear="" couldn="" earthly="" for="" have="" months.="" our="" p="" part="" storage="" t="" to="" treasures="" unit="" we="" with.="">
So, here we are.  In a short-term holding pattern. Finishing up jobs and school here. Getting ready to start our next God-venture (not that a God-venture ever really ends). I hope to start blogging again to document the God-venture that is leading us BACK to Panama. I'm pleased that you might be joining me. Jump back in the saddle with me. We might get saddle-sore, but at least we're riding together!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Jesus is. . .

Before I begin, I need to address my absenteeism from this blog and keeping it up-to-date. Yes, I have been absent! Alright. . .now that that's out of the way, on to the next post.

Aaron and I host house church in our house each Sunday evening. We have between 25-30 people each week. A couple of weeks ago, Aaron and I were having a discussion about what we should study in this Bible study time. We decided to look at who Jesus is, his life, and what that means for us. So, this last week, we had our 3rd lesson along those lines. It was a powerful time of discussion for me, and with a little encouragement from my sister, Karen, who was here for that lesson, I decided to share some of our discussion with you, my blog-reader.

We were looking at the text in Luke 4:31 - 37 in which Jesus drives an evil spirit out of a man as well as Luke 4:38 - 44 in which Jesus goes on and heals many others. We read these stories separately and then finished the sentence, "Based on this passage, Jesus is ____. . ." We had a lot of interaction with lots of responses.

The second thing we did was to think about what that meant for us. For example, if Jesus is compassionate, what does that mean for us. We, too, in an effort to be like Jesus, need to be compassionate. We let people individualize statements about what that meant for them. And, again, we had good interaction and honest reflection.

To wrap up the evening's thoughts and discussion, Aaron read through the list of qualities, characteristics, and titles that we had mentioned about Jesus from the evening. As I listened to this list, tears came to my eyes. That is the God we serve. . . and He is so much more than that! His description cannot be put into words!

I am going to share with you what our church came up with on Sunday night. Maybe you'd like to read through that scripture and share some of your own thoughts about it. And even if you don't share your own, maybe you, too, can be moved as you remember, realize again, or learn for the first time how great God is!

Jesus is. . .
The Authority
Son of God
To be obeyed
Miracle Man
Personal and approachable
Purposeful and has a plan
A Teacher
Light of the World

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Ok, so I might be a pioneer woman!

Well, we have started 2011 off with a bang here in Panama. New Year's Eve is quite the event here. We had been warned that there were a lot of fireworks. However, it was more than we expected. We began hearing them around 8:00 pm or so. Then at midnight. . . WOW! Aivlyn was awakened because the "fireworkers" scared her so I got to hold her on my lap for 30 minutes or so. Because we live in a crater of an extinct volcano, the massive amount of fireworks seemed even more massive with their continuous ECHO, ECHo, ECho, Echo, echo. . . well, you get the picture. The fireworks continued until 2:00 am, but slightly less than at midnight.

We also rang in the new year without a working fridge. If you recall (or maybe you hadn't even heard), this is already a replacement fridge for the one that burned from the inside of the freezer out. The second one wasn't brand new, but it worked well for a month. Anyway, we came home from taking the Encalades back to the airport to find a mildly cool fridge. Slowly, over the next couple of days, it got warmer and warmer. Not good when you're talking about a fridge.

Because of the holiday, we weren't able to get an electrician out here until early this week. Due to all of his work, we had to have our electricity off for 2 days. Let me just say, "It gets VERY dark here at night." When the sun goes down, you can't see your own hand. And without electricity to run our hot water heater, the showers were VERY cold. Invigorating!!! Normally, we would have skipped showers, but we had been to the beach that day. No way we could skip showers. So, we all endured icy showers!

We have now lived for 9 days without a working fridge. My pantry is completely empty and I'm getting tired of "being creative" for every meal. We typically don't buy meat in El Valle (due to the lack of freshness), but we have bought chicken a couple of times now. And we haven't gotten salmonella poisoning. . . yet. We've also eaten out more than usual due to the extreme circumstances. Yummy, but starting to get tired of it as well. I think I'm ready to be able to cook my own meaty meals from my fridge or freezer.

I am told that "manana" the electrician will have the copper pipes and other materials to repair the fridge. I'm hoping that turns out to be true and that our fridge will be back in commission by tomorrow evening. Then, just a trip down the mountain to restock it. . . again!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Preparations for Christmas

The holiday season has already proven to be quite different here in Panama. I'm not talking about local traditions, but my own view and preparation of the holidays. My shopping, rushing, eating, etc. and the lack of commercialization of the holiday.

In the states, I hear a lot of talk about eating too much over the holidays. In Panama, I've heard no one talk about that or about how after the holidays they will begin their diet. Eating seems to be going on at it's normal pace here in Panama. No extra goodies everywhere and people trying to avoid them. I kind of miss all the yummy stuff!

In the states, people are rushing around stressed out and thus, stressing others out. Shopping, buying, buying some more, and then buying extra in case they need more gifts. In Panama, there are gift baskets in stores. They are small ones and include such things as a box of cereal, toilet paper, and beans and rice. Nothing extravagant, but what a gift of necessity. I have seen an increase in shopping, but not an increase in rudeness or stress. And I haven't seen an increase in rushing. I'm not sure that Panamanians rush anytime, and I think, for the most part, that is a good thing.

We haven't seen people climbing ladders to hang Christmas lights and put up extreme house decorations. In fact, we have only seen a handful of Christmas lights up here in El Valle. However, we did see our neighbor climbing a ladder into a pine tree to cut limbs to make his Christmas tree. It is now beautifully put together up on his front porch with moss (hand-picked) underneath with a nativity scene.

In some ways, it doesn't feel like Christmas here. However, as I look around, I somehow feel like this helps me focus on what Christmas is really all about because commercialized distractions have been removed. I can remember that this a celebration of the birth of my Savior. A time to reflect on the love of the Father who sent his only son to be born into a people who would ultimately reject and kill him. A time to focus on the other great gifts that the Father has given me. And a time to share the Father's love with those around me.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

90-Day Mandatory Vacation

We are here in Panama on a tourist visa, which means we can be here for 90 days with no problem. However, at the end of that 90 days, we must exit the country for 72 hours and then we can re-enter for another 90 days. We just encountered our first 90-day mandatory vacation. This time we chose to go to Costa Rica.

I thought that Costa Rica would be very similar to Panama because they are both small, Central American countries that share a border. However, it was quite different. Attitudes, landscape, nuances of the language, and even the food were different.

Day one we took a cab to El Museo de los Ninos. It was so fun. They had at least 35 exhibits which included exhibits on airplanes, marine life, astronautics, light and color, body health, fossils, etc. Did I mention that this museum was in the old penitentary? It was quite entertaining!

We chose to be touristy tourists on this trip, and so we took a day excursion. First, we went to see the ruins of Cartago, which used to be the capital of Costa Rica before they moved it to San Jose. Lots of ghost stories regarding the ruins and the Catholic cathedrals there.

Next, we went to the Irazu Volcano, which is the tallest, active volcano in Costa Rica. It was extremely cool. No, really, it was probably in the 40's. The week earlier there had actually been snow on the top of the volcano. It was also very beautiful! We got to walk down into one of the smaller craters of the volcano. And in the largest crater, there was a lake which was a beautiful green due to the minerals in the water. Awesome.

From there, we got to have a traditional Costa Rican breakfast at a small restaurant, and then we headed to the Sarapiqui River where we got to ride a boat down the river. We got to see iguanas, howler monkeys, American crocodiles, cattle egrets, toucans, a sloth, squirrel cuckoos, and numerous other birds. Keep in mind, this was not a zoo, but these animals were in the wild. . . in their natural habitat. Again, very awesome!

We got to go on a horseback ride - short, but sweet. Aivlyn thought that was the best thing EVER! And at this place, they also had a butterfly house, a frog sanctuary containing poisonous frogs, and a snake house. Interesting!

Last day, we went down to the Mercado Central. What a crazy, busy area. Store after store after store. And in the middle of the sidewalks, people would lay down black plastic, and set up shop selling CD's, purses, hats, underwear, etc. You name it, you could find it. Whew! We didn't stay there too long because it was too crazy.

We thoroughly enjoyed our first mandatory vacation! And made some great memories doing it.