While some probably think living in Pedasi is a permanent vacation, we actually have developed a pretty regular schedule. Time is weird here. It moves slowly, but also seems to fly by. By Friday, I’m always wondering where the week went and why I didn’t get anything done. I think part of it is that it takes forever for anything to happen here. Grocery shopping can take all day. However, especially with kids, we have to keep busy and scheduled or else we would all go crazy. We’ve been fortunate enough in this small community to find regular activities that keep the kids inspired, entertained and thriving.
Of course the largest time commitment is their school. In March, the brand new Pedasi branch of the Oxford School opened. We had been waiting desperately for a school solution. Before this we had been struggling to find a consistent and effective school option, especially for Asher. Oxford is a very traditional Panamanian, private school that follows British curriculum. It isn’t my ideal educational environment, and especially not what I envisioned when moving my kids here. They don’t even have a playground. The kids spend their whole day inside. Because it is their first year, the school has a lot of kinks it is working out. However, the teachers are passionate and they love the kids. Our kids seem happy and they get a lot of personalized attention, so I really can’t complain. Asher is in first grade and only has 5 kids in his class (2 expats and 3 locals). It is exciting to see him starting to grasp the foundation of reading and math while also growing in his independence. The teacher said he is doing very well academically. He just needs to work on his handwriting and his “habits” (by which I think she means his complete disorganization). I also think he spends any moment he can drawing superheroes instead of doing work.
Parker is also attending Oxford school. Their pre-kinder program is actually one of the bigger classes in the school (around 10 students). Luckily his teacher is the same teacher he had before at his Pedasi Learning Center. He continues to thrive with her as she finds ways to teach him his letters, numbers, shapes, colors, and challenge his fine motor skills. He LOVES his name and always wants to write it. He also enjoys typing all of his friends’ names on the computer and seeing the letters come up. He gets a little homework on some days and always begs me for more. Some of his friends from the Learning Center are also in his class at Oxford as well as new friends.
One of our main goals for our time here is to teacher the boys Spanish. Paker doesn’t get any Spanish in the pre-k program at Oxford, and Asher only gets one hour a week. So, we needed to find a solution of our own. We started sending them to Spanish class three afternoons a week. The amazing teacher (who is the same as Parker’s pre-k teacher) has been helping them learn vocabulary and sentence formation. She uses fun activities, games, songs, and field trips to immerse them in the language. She also makes an effort to introduce them to other kids and community members to encourage their assimilation. They are slowly progressing, and I was blown away when Asher started to read in Spanish (he is about the same level reading in Spanish as he is in English). Parker is probably the most conversational in Spanish because he doesn’t care about making a lot of mistakes- he always finds a way to get what he wants.
When we don’t have Spanish, the other activity we regularly do is Jujitsu. We feel so lucky to have an amazing instructor in Playa Venao that offers classes for kids. Almost all the expat kids in the Pedasi and Playa Venao community participate so it has been a great way for the kids to socialize with friends that don’t go to Oxford. The class also gives the kids a physical outlet while instilling some core values of respect, discipline and sportsmanship.
Other than that- what do we do? We take advantage of this beautiful place where we live. We spend a lot of time in our pool, at the beach, on playdates, eating good food, and just enjoying life. In those ways, it is like a vacation. A very long, structured, vacation that is real life.
Of course, it is still real life. It still involves stress- power outages, navigating the bureaucracy, managing working remotely, and of course all of the normal parental angst. But overall, we have many blessing to count.