A Travellerspoint blog

Part 3: More School and Extra Curricular Activities

Drinking coffee and iced-tea, walking the Pipeline Trail and partying in Zanzibar

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Having been newly promoted to an Intermediate Spanish speaker, I was hoping that my Spanish would magically improve overnight. No such luck, the Spanish has been just as hard this week as last week. We have spent the majority of the time repeating the topics of last week, and practising mixing the different past tenses, which if you ask me is the hardest part, so it is probably good they are forcing us to do so much of it.

Outside of class we have also been busy little bees, we have had to be, in-order to work off all the food Grandma has been feeding us! We have had something different every day for dinner and most days for breakfast these two weeks. Though the days we had custard, and then jelly for breakfast were the low point (for me anyways, Helen seemed to love it), I must say thought, we have had truly amazing food.

We have also been café hopping a lot this week, I absolutely love sitting in different cafes, drinking coffee and enjoying the atmosphere, and we have spread our wealth out around Boquete quite evenly, sampling the coffee and the iced-tea in at least five different venues. We have continued to be just as studious; doing homework in the evenings and getting out our various books to practise at the café’s in the mornings. But on the whole it has been a fairly relaxing and care-free week.

Us being be studious

We have also done two of the excursions with the school this week. On Wednesday morning we went on a hike along the Pipeline Trail, a very pretty little trail that follows the river and the water pipelines of the village (surprise, surprise).

At the trail enterance

We went with a very knowledgeable guide, who pointed out various plants and animals for us; including a beautiful yellow flower which could be used as an anaesthetic, some “baby avocadoes” and a translucent butterfly.

The anaesthetic flower

The translucent butterfly

The trail ended at a beautiful waterfall, where we sat for a while taking the view, before walking back down the trail.

The waterfall

On the way back we saw four quetzals (which are meant to be the second prettiest bird in the world), they were quite a way away but Helen has a good camera so we managed to capture a few good shots.

Helen’s photo of the Quetzal

On Thursday evenings the school also does an excursion to Zanzibar, which is a local bar. So after heading back up to the family house for dinner we went back into town for a few drinks with some of the teachers, staff and other students from the school. It was a very enjoyable evening, where I continued my mission of “acquiring the taste for beer” by drinking a bottle of Panama (which I have advised by Granddad is a good one).

On Saturday we then said goodbye to the family who have looked after us so well for the last two weeks, and got on the bus back to Panama city, where we are now excitedly awaiting the late night arrival of our other travel companion for the next 3 weeks, Jo! And tomorrow at 5AM? We are heading to the beach… bring on San Blas.

The Bus

Posted by marajade1_200 19:06 Archived in Panama Comments (2)

Part 2: Lessons, Family and Food

Week one with my new (Panamanian) family; an intensive learning experience…

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Our new family are wonderful and were very welcoming from the moment we stepped through the front door. Grandma cooks amazing food (though is likely to make us fat before we leave), Granddad jokes with us a lot, Mum is great too and makes amazing strawberry smoothie and Little Brother aspires to be either a cowboy or a professional baseball player (he’ll decide later).


Me, Mum, Grandma, Grandad and Helen

The school is also excellent, I have been practising the past tense A LOT this week. I joined the final class of the beginners this Monday - class 6 - and next week I am officially classed as an “Intermediate” or “Conversational” Spanish Speaker! How cool is that? Que chevere!!

It is a very intensive experience though. We talk Spanish at breakfast and dinner with the family; we study during the mornings and then have class in the afternoons, 5 days a week and then unsurprisingly I suppose, we end up in bed by 9:30PM absolutely shattered.

In the mornings we are treated to a huge breakfast courtesy of Grandma, though she stands over us with the eyes of a hawk, watching to make sure we clear our plates. We then hike for half an hour into town and sit at one of the numerous coffee shops, drinking iced coffee or sometimes iced tea, we sit with our text books and notebooks open, eyes flicking continuously between the two. We then skip lunch in favour of fruit and yogurt, on account of still being sssooo full from breakfast, before heading to the class in the afternoon. (Boy, do the Panamanians know how to eat!!)

In the evenings, after the half an hour hike back up hill, home, Grandma stuffs us with a delicious dinner (complete with rice AND chips; or rice AND pasta; or rice AND potatoes). We then sit on the sofa, nursing our full tummies, and later either study more, peal frijoles (peas) out of their pods, or help prepare for breakfast; whilst also talking snippets of Spanish to the family and either listening to Panamanian music or watching telenovellas (soap-operas), which are crazily dramatic!


Me and Grandma, making arepas

Five days of that has been an experience and a half, and we were more than ready for the fin-de-semana (the weekend) but then this weekend has been an exciting adventure too! On Saturday we went to a Salsa lesson at the school, followed by a conversation session and in the afternoon we did the Canopy Tour (where you zip-line through the Cloud Forest tree tops); there were 14 platforms and 12 zip-lines on the exhilarating 3 hour tour, which was a truly amazing experience.


Me and Helen, dancing Salsa


Me, arriving at one of the canopy tour platforms

And as if that wasn’t enough, then this morning (Sunday) we decided to take ourselves on a self guided hike of the area north of the town centre, visiting a coffee plantation (for a yummy iced coffee), viewing an abandoned castle, a quick flowing river and a little waterfall, and enjoying the views of the surrounding area (sounds perfect, and it almost was apart from the gradient of the slope we had to walk up! My legs and feet are killing me now!!).


At the waterfall, with the abandoned castel in the background

Anyway, it has been a brilliant week, though I haven’t missed my wonderful boyfriend or my family and friends any less, I am feeling more at home than I was last week and am feeling more confident in talking to the locals.

All that is left to say is, pues… bring on week two of español!
Besos (kisses),

Posted by marajade1_200 14:53 Archived in Panama Comments (1)

Part 1: The Departure, The Arrival and The Jetlag

A sad story of lost love, friendship and family meets the crazy excitment of the beginings of a new adventure...

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As many of you know my last few weeks in London were crazy and emotional; finishing work, packing up my house, leaving friends and family and saying goodbye to my amazing boyfriend were all really hard, emotionally and physically. But the last two weeks were an amazing two weeks. I am really going to miss London, and all my friends and family back at home, and I hope that I can keep all of you a little closer during my travels through my ramblings on my blog.

So … the excitement of the adventure begins ... with a long and boring flight, a Burrito and a Starbucks in Atlanta and a confused and tired Miss Marshall (already up for 24 hrs) trying to talk to the taxi driver in broken Spanish as we made our way into Panama City.

I arrived at the hostel at 11PM, immediately making friends with Grace, a Canadian Pilot and First Officer (with fascinating travel stories to share) and failing into bed at midnight, somehow having managed to shower and brush my teeth in a tired daze. The hostel seems nice, with a pool and pancakes for breakfast and very close to the night life, which I have been thus far unable to enjoy due to my eyes needing to be held open with matchsticks after about 8PM.

Today is my third day in town and I have spent the first two days with my new friend Grace. We spent the first day we spent exploring the city; walking along the pretty coastal path somehow feeling miles from the city when we were only 10 meters from a highway; visiting the pretty old town and the interesting “causeway”; a concrete palm tree lined road joining the mainland and three small islands.

Panama City, Skyline

Panama City, Skyline

Casco Viejo, the old city of Panama

Casco Viejo, the old city of Panama

A small market, in Casco Viejo

A small market, in Casco Viejo

The second day, already bored of big city life, we took a small airconditioned bus and spent the day in the nearby mountain village of El Valle, we visited a small town market, took a stroll and a picnic lunch to a pretty waterfall and massaged mud into our faces at the "quirky" hot springs.

The jungle walk in El Valle

The jungle walk in El Valle

Hot Springs or Mud Baths?

Hot Springs or Mud Baths?

New the third day, I am taking a well deserved restful morning at the hostel, waiting for Helen to arrive, chatting to other guests and starting my much asked after blog. I am still sorely missing London, my friends and Leon; not quite having got into the relaxed travellers spirit yet. But I am on the way there and am very excited about tomorrow and our two weeks stay in the famous mountain town of Boquete and our studies at the Habla Ya Spanish school!

Much love to you all,

Posted by marajade1_200 08:14 Archived in Panama Comments (0)

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