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Bearcats on the Road

Lessons Learned during my First Month in the Peace Corps

Posted by Abby Bryant on Wed, Oct 09, 2013 @ 04:00 PM
  1. When speaking Spanish, “fake it ‘till you make it.”  When speaking the local indigenous language, give your sweetest southern smile and cross your fingers they understand your Spanish. 
  2. Regarding food, America is as good as it gets.  Though the local rice/beans/meat/bananas dish is pretty good, living in the country means pretty much nothing except boiled green bananas, and occasionally rice or chicken.  And obviously, nothing can replace Chick-fil-a or the Shack’s Can’t Leave ‘Em Alone bars. 
  3. Panama has incredible eco-diversity.  In my village alone I’ve seen sloths, toucans, poison dart frogs, and tons of other animals.  We live in a protected forest, and thankfully the locals are both proud and protective of their natural resources.Abby Bryant as  Peace Corps Volunteer in Panama 
  4. English is really, really hard to explain, and teaching is hard work.  After lesson planning, class time, and evaluations, I have so much more respect for people who have the gift (and job) of teaching!
  5. Rural Panama reminds me of what I picture 1950’s America to be like.  Everyone knows everyone, and you should expect to have a conversation with anyone you may pass during your commute. 
  6. While kids can sometimes be annoying, they also will generally be the first to become friends with you, and will share a wealth of local knowledge… like where the snakes live. 
  7. It’s really hard to go from a 19 hour semester with two jobs to life as a Peace Corps Volunteer.  When there’s work, there’s a lot of work, but when there’s not, there’s a hammock.  You should invest in a good hammock. 
  8. After living with the locals, you will feel both incredibly grateful for what you have, and probably even a little ashamed of the wastefulness of Americans.  We truly are so blessed to have been born into what foreigners seem to see as the land of plenty. 
  9. Having a pet makes somewhere foreign feel a bit more like home.  Thanks to my host family, I now have a 1 month old puppy named Massy, and people have already started asking if he’s going to be going home with me in two years.
  10. Long days, especially those in which there isn’t work to do, will make you feel sad, lonely, and homesick.  Thankfully, the locals will also feed you way too much, treat you like their own family, and make sure that you feel welcomed.  So far, life as a Peace Corps Volunteer has a nice way of balancing itself out.  

Topics: Peace Corps, Panama, Volunteer Abroad, Abby Bryant

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In Bearcats on the Road, students chronicle their lives while studying abroad or completing internships away from campus.

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