International Development in Panama

As a student in the International Development Program at Centennial College, I had the opportunity to participate in the Faculty-Led International Program (FLIP) to Panama of the Services and Global Experience (SaGE). As the program’s name implies, the idea was to complement our learning at Centennial College with experience abroad, to know more about the work of international organizations on the ground.

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The destination was the City of Knowledge (CoK) in Panama City. CoK is a hub where UN agencies, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), think tanks and educational organizations share a space to facilitate mutual cooperation on development issues.

The academic aspect was our top priority in the trip. We had a valuable and incomparable experience. But, we also had the opportunity to taste and enjoy the Panamanian culture. We took a tour of Panama City and learned about historical and cultural sites. The visual contrast between the old and new parts of the city was surprising. The city has two different faces standing literally beside each other; that was like being in two completely different parts of the world when we were in fact in the same city.

As expected, the gastronomy is highly based on seafood as the city is surrounded by water – so we got to try it. But, as expected for travelers like my classmates and I, we decided to try different things every day, not only from Panama but also from different Latin American cuisines. Food lovers would understand why we do not regret it!

According to one of our hosts, diversity in Panama City can be compared to Toronto but on a smaller dimension, as one can see many people from different backgrounds in one city, this can be attributed to the Panama Canal and its importance in trade for different nations. Our trip was short so we experienced just a bit of that diversity.

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My recommendation: If you get the opportunity to participate in this kind of experience, just take it! It will force you to get out of your comfort zone, challenge you to adapt to a new environment, open your eyes to different realities, allow you to experience a little more of the world you live in, know more about different people and cultures rather than what you are used to and, along with all of that you will learn a little more about yourself. If you get an opportunity to go to a different place, learn, discover, do yourself a favor and be a traveler, not just a tourist.

Violeta Bastida
International Development

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Mi Trabajo

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During my time here in Panama City I have been given the wonderful opportunity to work as a Child and Youth Worker in a foundation called Fundader. This foundation is located just outside of down town Panama in a city called Arraijan. This foundation is founded by a woman named Marilyn Vallarino-Selhorn, she opened this center in hope to better the lifestyles of the mothers and children within the high risk neighbourhood of Arraijan. It has been great working with the children everyday and working alongside great coworkers. I have learned a lot from everyone here as they have from us as well. Since being here I have learned a valuable lesson about life, communication is a key factor when working with others, yet language is definitely a barrier ….but if you want to communicate with others you sure find a way of doing it! It is going to be difficult leaving this work place. I feel that this experience has been different the any other placements or coop’s that I have done. The reason being is because while being here it has been a lot of work, communicating with thoses back in Canada and working in a completely new environment it has all together helped build a stronger relationship with everyone involved during this experience. Working with the children has been a challenge as well but it has been a challenge that has helped me grow more as an individual. I am very happy to be able to say that I have got to experience everything that I have during my stay here in Panama. I will for sure miss the children, and saying good bye is going to be hard on both parts. That is why I intend on leaving here as an impact on the children by motivating them and inspiring them as much as I can before I leave this wonderful country. By that I will feel more comfortable with myself knowing that I have dedicated my skills and implemented them effectively as a professional Child and Youth Worker.

Written by - Jessica

Bienvenidos a Panama City!

Welcome to Panama City!

Nothing was better than hearing those words “Welcome to Panama!” while standing at customs in the airport. My journey here was a lot more difficult than I expected it to be, I was lucky enough to be travelling with my roommate which helped the process go faster. First problem we encountered was in Miami during our lay over; by the time my roommate and I were able to find our terminal it looked deserted. We were very confused so we asked an airport employee who was kind enough to inform us that our plane had already left for Panama City about five minutes ago! That’s right we missed our flight! We were directed to speak with our airline, which we did so and then found out that it was the last flight of the night….the verdict was that we ended up sleeping in the Miami airport until the morning. It was definitely an experience to add to the books! And to even top it off the fire alarm went off in the airport around 5am, we could just not win no matter what. We caught our flight and landed in Panama City a day later than expected. The release of stress could have not felt better until…….we started looking for our luggage and it was not there! We then had to speak with an airport employee who looked into it for us. We were than told that our luggage was still in Miami and we would not be able to receive it until the flight landed which was six hours later.

Driving to our place from the airport I was shocked, I looked out the car window and seen nothing but a city surrounded by beautiful big sky scrapers .They sure were right when they said Panama City is the mini Miami! A few days upon our arrival we started our internship which is at Fundader and located on the out skirts in a city called Arraijan. The excitement was a lot to handle and the eagerness to meet my fellow coworkers and students. We were educated about the foundation and introduced to everyone, it was great the people are so friendly and welcoming it’s unbelievable. They made my roommate and I feel very comfortable right away. We discovered that Fundader is a center to help those within the community that live in poverty with chances of opportunity to succeed in a career to help better their futures free of charge. It has been great to be taking part in a foundation such as this one. The experience’s have only been getting better day by day.

Written by: Jessica

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WHAT IS GREAT ABOUT PANAMA CITY SO FAR?

THEIR 4.5-DAY WEEKEND!

Carnivales is a celebration filled with lots of partying and dancing and apparently very little sleep.  It occurs 4 days before Ash Wednesday every year and people come from far and wide to take part in the festivities.  This time of year is Panama’s summer where school is out and the weather is hot, hot, and hot.

The dates for Carnivales February 2013:

Fri 8 Sat 9 Sun 10 Mon 11 Tues 12 Wed 13 Thurs 14
Work day:

Considered “dead day” because people leave work early to travel to Las Tablas or other destinations for the holiday.

Carnivales:

Some shops close early at 5pm and do not open until Wednesday after 1pm.

Carnivales:

 

Carnivales:

Some employees are required to work.  Sucks to be them!

Carnivales:

The official holiday.

Ash Wednesday:

I believe some people go to church in the morning and return to work at 1pm.

St. Valentine’s Day:

The joke I was told is that some couples will break up before Carnivales, so the couples that make it to this day have gone through the test of time lol!

Most of the time there are celebrations leading into Carnivales and lasting up to the following weekend after Carnivales.   I was told by a local the history behind this celebration is to eat, drink and be merry before the 40-day fasting of ‘sins’ and meat begins.  Think of it as Toronto’s Caribana Parade but the difference is that everyone gets drenched in water! And with the heat you’ll be screaming for it “Agua! Agua!”  Another tradition is the crowning of the Queen and/or Princesses.  There are festivities that happen small and large in small towns and major cities such as Las Tablas (well renowned for the competition of Queens between the lower and higher streets), Bocas del Toro, Penonome and of course Panama city.

For more information please follow the link:

http://www.destination360.com/central-america/panama/carnival

My roomates and I were in Penonome.  Word of advice, wear clothes you can get drenched in and comfortable shoes (not sandals) because the crowd is thick and your feet are bound to get trampled on!

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Cell phone in a zip lock bag because you are guaranteed to get soaked!  And my roommate Jessica Chester, Centennial College student in the Youth Worker Program doing her placement and enjoying Carnivales!

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Do you see the water hose?!

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Notice all the companies that partake in the celebration as well?!

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My $6 super soaker!

So if I ever come back to Panama, it’ll probably during carnivales!

Since I have to catch up with my blogging, you guys get a 2-for-1!

RECEPTION AT THE CANADIAN EMBASSY

I met John Baird, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada at a small reception hosted by the Canadian Embassy while he was on tour visiting some Latin American countries.  Canadian companies in Panama were invited and there were a lot of older ladies and gents at this reception with lovely hors d’oeuvres and wine being served.  I wasn’t sure what to do at an event like this.  Mingle?  Talk to random people?  Network?  I ended up “hanging out” with people representing Canadian Colleges.  When the Minister of Foreign Affairs was announced, he made a brief speech about some agreements Canada is working on with a few Latin American countries and as an international business student, his speech was inspiring and humorous.  The minister then made his way around the room meeting everyone, shaking their hands, doing some small talk and even taking pictures.  We waited patiently for “our turn” as others swooped their way in at every opportunity, I think that was a networking technique or something lol.  When we were introduced to the minister by the Canadian ambassador, what I really wanted to say was “I’m gunning for your job sir!” but instead I said “Can we take a picture with you!” I guess I just needed the evidence lol.

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In photo from left to right:

Lisandro De Leon – International Liason for Centenial College (Panama)

John Baird – Minister of Foreign Affairs

Soupy – Intern at Centenial College (Panama)

Thank you for tuning in…until next time…

Soupy

HOLA FROM PANAMA!

I can’t believe how much time has passed already!  There is so much to see and experience not only in Panama City but also the neighboring towns and provinces.  Since my arrival in January I felt like I dove into the deep end of a pool not knowing how to swim.  I was completely immersed in the Latin American language and culture of which I had very limited knowledge and armed with a 3 word vocabulary.  So my introduction to Panama City proved to be a very exciting first day.

JANUARY 9TH, 2013 – MARTYR’S DAY (ALMOST GOT ARRESTED!)

My roommates and I were at the supermarket which is open 24hrs and would you know they carry alcoholic beverages.  I must have been really tired not to notice the caution tape and large enough sign that says “PROHIBIDO” (wonder what that means?) across all the alcohol.  As I was browsing the aisle (I wasn’t planning to buy anything, just browsing and shocked at how cheap the prices were compared to Canada), there were security guards creeping on us and we quickly backed away from the merchandise.  That same night we found out from a local that it was an official national holiday where consuming, purchasing or selling alcohol is prohibited…well until 12 am in the name of Martyr’s day.  This holiday celebrates a significant moment in Panamanian history in 1964.  A group of patriotic students protested by attempting to put up their Panamanian flag beside the U.S. flag in the canal zone which was owned and controlled by the U.S.  Unfortunately the outcome was fatal but this event led to other historical events that changed Panama forever.

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Please click the link to read more:

http://news.liveandinvestoverseas.com/Travel/panamas-martyr-day-explained.html

I haven’t gone to the canal yet so I don’t have any pictures…sorry.  But please stay tuned for more photos and adventures!

Written by: Soupy

Aimee’s Global Internship Story 3 – Panama

I went to the Panama Canal last weekend. It was beautiful. Unfortunately because it was a Sunday the information building closed early! We were hoping to learn more about the canal’s history and see pictures or video about it. Instead, we went to a restaurant that overlooked the canal.
According to Wikipedia, the Panama Canal (Spanish: Canal de Panamá) is an 82-kilometre (50 mi) ship canal in Panama that connects the Atlantic Ocean (via the Caribbean Sea) to the International maritime trade. Actually, the canal was not very big, the route was more narrow than I had expected. In fact, whenever two ships shared the canal, they were always travelling in single file! Maybe two ships cannot pass at the same time?
Anyway, the weather was amazing and the view was also great. I hope to go to the Panama Canal again to see more! See ya Panama Canal!
After visiting the Panama Canal, I went to the biggest shopping mall, Albrook mall. It was a really big shopping mall; it looked like the Eaton Centre. The shopping centre has animal mascots: an Elephant, a Giraffe, a Tiger, and a Panda. They were cute. The mall also connected to a casino. I have had never been to a casino before and I hope I can go before I leave.
Unfortunately when we got to the mall it was already late so most of the stores had closed. Some stores were selling clothes for $1.00 or $2.00! It’s so cheap! Have you ever bought clothes for only $1.00? Also tax is only 7% in Panama. You can buy something cheap, and only have to pay a small amount of tax! If you are a shopping addict, you should come to Panama! Panama is a great country to enjoy shopping.

Written by: Aimee

Aimee’s Global Internship Story 2 -Panama

 

Part 2.

The School Fair

It’s is my first school fair promoting Centennial College in Panama. Before I went to the fair, I was excited because THIS is what I really want to be doing as a career! Lisandro, Heaven, and I went to the fair to promote the College. Around 9:30am, there were already many people at the fair. We watched the performances of many bands for different schools. In order to promote Centennial we handed out pamphlets to lots of people in crowd. We did our best to explain what information we could about Centennial College, but there were very few people interested in Centennial College. I can’t blame them, though; these were parents of 5-8 year old boys and girls! Ultimately, the school fair was not too successful, so I am a little bit disappointed. I hope the next school fair will be more successful.

Aimee’s Global Internship Story 2 -Panama

Part 1.

The Wine & Food Fair

My co-worker Lisandro invited me to go the wine & food fair last Saturday. It was the first time in my life going to this kind of fair. So many people were enjoying themselves there; drinking different kinds of wine, and eating different kinds of food. I especially enjoyed looking at the pretty muffins and cookies! I am desert lover! I got a business card of one of the bakers. I am going to contact with her through Facebook once I get the chance. I am so happy and enjoying my life in Panama a lot!

 

Aimee’s Internship Story -Panama

 

Hola! Encantado de conocerle.
Soy Aimee.

I am leaning Spanish in Panama! Most of Panamanians can’t speak English, so I need to learn basic Spanish for day to day life in Panama. There is a lot of work involved but I love learning new languages!

First dayI was really exhausted when I arrived in Panama, because I couldn’t sleep.
-Story 1
I fell down in the Panamanian airport so I hurt my foot and legs. Luckily I had my roommate, Heaven, to help and take care of me. Thanks to Heaven, I am feeling better!
-Story 2
I was falling sleep all the time when Mara, Heaven, and I were talking, and when I was going to apartment in the Lasiandra’s car. I was really tired!
-Story 3
We went out for dinner with Lisandro. Back in Toronto, I had friends from Panama that recommended a Panamanian dish called “Ceviche” so I was excited to try that! It was very interesting!

Second dayI was really feeling lonely, because Wi-Fi in our apartment was not working! So, I couldn’t call with my family and friends. I hope it will be work soon!
We went to a grocery store; the market looked like Metro; clean and neat! We bought some foods and products in the market. It was so exhausting that when we got back home, we just knocked out and fell asleep. Around 6:30pm, we started to cook dinner. The dinner was really nice. Actually, I am not cook so Mara and Heaven taught me how to cook! It was a great chance to learn to cook from my roommates!

Third dayThis was the first day at the office for my internship. The building and office are awesome; there are so many restaurants and malls nearby! I finally used internet for first time in Panama because the internet in our apartment is still not working. So, finally I could call with my family and friends after two days of being here! I don’t know how I endured that time!! I was really happy to be able to keep in contact with my loved ones. I hope the internet in my apartment is going to be work soon! Also, I hope I am going to be a good fit at work, and be able to communicate in Spanish soon! 

Forth dayI have learned some office tasks from Mara. Actually, her Spanish is really good, so she does her job very well. I have to be improving my Spanish in order to work efficiently in the office!
The Spanish language is really very interesting! Some words are exactly same with English, while so many others are different. Also, the pronunciation of Spanish is a little bit similar to French. For example, although “hotel” in English is the same word in Spanish, the English word “coffee” is translated into the Spanish word “café”! I hope to be comfortable listening and speaking Spanish soon!

Fifth day
It is Mara’s last night in Panama. I have received my responsibilities from Mara; she was very helpful at the office. I thanked her for the help! I am so worried about working alone in the office after she leaves. At the same time, I am looking forward to working and living by myself; I believe in me and so far I am doing well! I will do my best here! 

Written by:  Aimee

Even in Panama, All Good Things Must Come to an End…

So, it’s finally here, my last day in Panama. Wow. I can’t believe all of the stuff I brought with me to Panama fit into one suitcase and one carry on last time. Clearly my packing skills are lacking this time around, because I’m having serious difficulties. I’m pretty sure the bags are over the weight limit, but we will find out for sure at the airport in about 3 hours.

The last three months have been an experience that I’m never going to be able to convey to others as well as I want to, though I’ve been trying with my blogging. On one hand, it feels like I’ve been here for years: I’m used to it now, and I’ve adjusted to living here. On the other hand, it feels like it’s only been a few days, and I’m not ready to leave yet; I’ve just gotten settled!

Panama has changed me. For the better, I firmly believe, though I will let the people at home in Canada decide that for sure. I’ve learned more about myself and the world in the last three months than I could have ever hoped to; my whole perspective has shifted and my eyes have been opened in more than one way. It was a true learning experience and I have grown, as has my understanding of the world.

As I am a part of the first group of students that Centennial College has sent abroad with their newly established Global Experience Office, I feel as though I should shout it for everyone at Centennial to hear: “do this internship!” As I’ve said before, you can only read and hear about international experiences so much. You need to need to absolutely get your boots on the ground and experience it first-hand. This was my first experience travelling internationally individually, and some experience it was.

There is a lot of advice that I would impart to students following in my wake. Keeping it brief, these are my words of wisdom:

  • Don’t come in with any preconceptions or ideas; whatever you’re thinking, it’ll be different than what you expect.
  • It won’t be a perfect experience. Just like any kind of travel, there will be ups, there will be downs, there will be hiccups, and there will be changes in your plans. Don’t let these things deter you; stay positive, and go with the flow. It’s all a part of the experience!
  • Bring your sense of humour with you, along with an acute awareness of culture and cultural differences. You will need to use both. A lot.
  • Be as prepared as possible, with information, advice, and knowledge from anywhere you can get it, but understand that you will never ever be prepared for everything.
  • Bring a phrasebook. Or a dictionary. Or if you have a smartphone, get a translator app; you’ll need it.
  • Embrace it all; the culture, the language, the food, the music, the sights, the sounds; meet the people, put yourself out there (always remember to keep your personal safety in mind) and enjoy.
My Panama