Friday, December 28, 2012

Lifting our spirits!

At the aerial lift bridge in Canal the snow!

Saturday, July 03, 2010

What could be more exciting?

Not a lot on this blog, but there is definitely activity in my life - check out over here.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

It's official!

It's been a long time coming, but I have finally received my Bachelor's degree! A paltry 13 years after the first attempt, I have attained my Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies (Global Health) from Antioch University, Seattle.

Now, on to the next step...

If only I knew what that was right now.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Wrapping up Panama

OK, of course, there's more to talk about. I spent a further two weeks in week finishing up life, the universe, and everything, and then a very fun week with Sky traveling around and generally having a good time. So...where to begin?

The last week of class was fine if unexceptional. Various folks left class at different points during the week; it was strange to feel like the last of the 'original' group (even though that wasn't the case) but good to get more studying in and feel like my Spanish definitely improved with the one-on-one classes that I received as a result. Ups and downs, right?

The last week of study/work followed the spirit of the previous three - fairly quiet, not a lot going on, just trying to get things to stick in my head, finding a drink or two in the evening to unwind and not worry about grad school, passing the time...Friday was officially my last day of class (amazingly, I had spent four weeks there!) and I was required to present "something" to the rest of the students. I decided to present the recipe for tiramisu that I had learned (and tweaked occasionally) at Bottega. That went fine, although colloquial usage for verbs having to do with cooking is, apparently, considerably different from dictionary-stated applications. Words for browning, pouring, etc., are not...hmm...what you might guess. That's how I learn, I suppose!

That pretty much does it for the last of my studies! Now I have to wrap up all the requisite bits to get my credits all lined up - writing some papers, doing an interview to verify I made progress with my Spanish skills, collating some photos and getting ready to finally receive my bachelor's degree in June!

I'll write up the tourist portion of our travels in the next post...that'll be the one with the fun stories.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Semi-weekly update

Not a whole lot to talk about, actually. But a little retrospection for those who like such things.

Let's see...Since last Tuesday? I didn't go to the clinic at all last week, I instead focused on getting some Spanish into my head. Everything was going well until the subjunctive. Unlike most of the rest I've learned here, I've never learned the subjunctive before - I didn't get that far in High School. So I'm trying to learn tenses for which there is NO English equivalent for the first time. It's been going less than stellar. Oh, the conjugations are simple enough, but learning to recognize when I'm supposed to use the darn things and having it occur to me in mid-sentence is rough. It just takes practice, I'm sure.

I'm running into the 'standard' stumbling blocks of Spanish-for-English-speakers, but otherwise I feel like I've made good progress. While I'm not going to return to the States a fluent Spanish speaker, I have a lot more at my disposal and I can hold conversations with people I don't know, usually. Kind of depends on the accent. I can often follow any conversation with the exception of the occasional verb or noun, and while I might not recognize in the moment exactly which tense I'm hearing I get the gist more often than not.

Interestingly, with the Pig Flu Pandemic of 2009 happening, I've learned that I understand a lot more when I can see someone's lips moving as they talk. For instance, this week I'm in the clinic a lot (trying to get some of the 'medical' of my 'medical spanish'). They have required that the doctors and nurses wear face masks in the clinic, which extends to me. I've learned that my comprehension goes way down when the doctor is wearing her mask...often to a very, very low level. That's a bummer.
The time in the clinic otherwise is...well...not that exciting. But undoubtedly good for me. And I've had some neat discussions with the doctor.

Let's see...what else has been going on? Last weekend one of the students left (Bye, Akilah!) and the others headed out of town. While I briefly entertained the idea of going with Hank, Sara, and Dewi, I ultimately bowed out and just stayed home. It ended up being a relaxing weekend. I visited the Panama Canal Interoceanic Museum, which took hours actually, and was quite interesting. Unfortunately, it was a lot of reading. In Spanish. That was...quite the exercise. Neat stuff, plenty of words I didn't know, but I was pleased I went because (a) it was a good museum if you like that sort of thing and (b) I felt like I was able to actually understand almost all of the 2 floors worth of reading and exhibits. I had to pull out my dictionary from time to time, and it took a while, but all in all I was pleased with myself.

I also tried to visit the National Anthropological Museum (closed), the Afro-Antilleno Museum (closed), and one other museum (closed). The weekends are, apparently, not a good time to visit museums in Panama City. So I hit the mall, which was just like malls everywhere in the world except that they have better options in the food court (asado...mmm) and it didn't feel very "real". Sunday, then, I hit the "real" shopping area, Avenida Central, where Panamanians who aren't rich go to buy their t-shirts or what have you. I loved that. I literally spent hours just sitting in the Avenida with my Coke (followed by coffee) just absorbing the rhythm and pace of life, listening in on conversations, people watching...It was a good time. It was freaking hot, though. That was less nice.

Today at school (after being in the clinic, and after trying to comprehend the pluscuamperfecto tense) I learned to make arroz con coco (with frijoles), which is a lot like the gallo pinto Niall and family are eating in Costa Rica only different, somehow. The owner of the school is actually Costa Rican, and she went to great lengths to tell me that it was NOT the same thing and that this dish is afro-antilleno in origin as opposed to gallo pinto which is Costa Rican, but as near as I can tell the only difference is that arroz con coco includes some coconut milk. It's good stuff, though I think I'll spice it up a little bit if I make it at home.

Which brings me to the food of Panama City. The food has been less than stellar, edible and cheap though not delectable. I'm hoping when Sky and I get out and about a bit more it picks up a little. I think I had high hopes after Honduras - where I really liked the food. On the one hand, I like that I can get pretty tasty asado chicken pretty much everywhere, or even whole fried fish. On the other...well, I'm a bit tired of chicken. I've had the ceviche a few times (when we've been places it's offered), and it's tasty enough...I don't know that I was expecting to be floored by the food, but it's just seemed rather on the mediocre side. Perhaps part of the problem is that I have to find my own lunch every day, which means I've been eating out for the main meal of the day and the neighborhood in which I'm living only has so many options. That's probably a significant part of it, actually. Now, however, I kind of dread having to go to lunch, as it ends up a toss up of food court places which I've already eaten at a few times. I guess that should be a lesson to me - don't stay somewhere long enough the food can get 'old'! (we moved around a lot more frequently in Honduras).

Bright spots about food - when they've made me Panamdian food at home, it's been quite tasty. I've had many things whose names I have forgotten, but I recall sancocho (chicken soup), arroz con coco (see above), bufe (liver in criollo sauce), bollos (i think, fried corn fritter things), and tortillas (which are thick and dense and utterly unlike Mexican OR Honduran tortillas), also pollo asado, beef asado, some salad they make with potatoes and's nice to try new things! Also the ceviche is good pretty much uniformly good (ok, sometimes they're a little heavy on the acid, but i'd rather too much acid than uncooked fish). The whole fried fish you can get most places are often cooked excellently, which I would be hard pressed to find in the States. And they usually know how to make a very nice Cuba Libre (with the exception of the one place I expected them to know it, being the nightclub). So it's not fair to say the food is bad, it's not. I've just hit the point of 'been there, eaten that' for my little neighborhood.

Last thing, the whole country is in pre-election fever for elections being held this coming Sunday. Everywhere you look and any time you turn on the radio (or, presumably, the TV), it's all about the elections. Exciting times, apparently. The right-wing candidate is leading handily in the polls but all the real people I've talked to think that the social democrat is going to win. Regardless, there's going to be a big-ass party in the City on Monday. We'll just have to wait and see!

Friday, April 24, 2009

figured it out

no thanks to you all...though the photo is poor, the below bird is a crimson-backed tanager. Very striking bird in person.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Another ident, please

There are lots of neat birds here, unfortunately they're often juuuuust out of range of my non-telephoto lens, and then they like to sit in the shade. Which is fair, I suppose, as I like to sit in the shade myself.
In any case, as a result I had to push the exposure on this shot up pretty far after the fact to make out the color, and it's nowhere near as brilliant as it is in person. It's a bright blood red rump and breast - quite striking. And the beak is actually white, that's not glare.
So...what bird?
(it also hates to sit still...I've seen the bloody thing a half dozen times, now, but by the time I get my camera raised, it's gone! I can't understand why anyone would want to try to take pictures of birds for a living - talk about frustrating!)