April and Kevin in Kuna Yala, the northeast coast of Panamá

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Year end school party

At the end of the school year, which occurs down here in mid-December, just before the summer break, there is a party.

But it is more than just a party for the students. It is a party for the students, the teacher, and the madres and padres de familia (in essence, the PTA). This year, the students actually did some fund raising to help pay for the event, in the form of tumbulas, or raffel drawings. (Admittedly, similarly to in the states, most of the chances were purchased by the family, not by selling to neighbors and such, so the fund-raising burden was on the same audience.) The Padres de Familia (PdF) also had raised funds over the course of the year, including a chicken project (buy chicks, raise them, and sell them as 4-pound hens for about $1 to $1.50 a pound), and selling some teak wood planted on school property.

So what does all that fund-raising get you in a year end party?

Well there is the food: arroz con pollo (shredded chicken in flavored rice with olives, raisins, carrots, and other additions), ensalada papa (potato salad, with a pink or reddish color when made Panamanian style due to the beets they use), some bread (a rarity in our community), and the traditional Christmas foods of an apple and some grapes. They love apples but do not eat the pple skin...they bite off a chunk, chew until there is only skin and then spit out the skin.

Then there is a gift bag for all 21 students, with a toy and a Tshirt. And a gift for each parent, generally a nice shirt for the dads, and a fancy shirt, nightshirt or a cosmetic product for the moms.

And the piñata, full of confite (candies) and confetti.

(Swinging the bat at the snowman piñata; see the line of boys behind, ready to go)

(Sometimes a hit doesn't break the piñata but results in a few pieces flying out; despite the possibility of another swing with a metal bat just over their heads, the kids go diving to recover the candy; I'm not sure if the woman in yellow is a mom trying to protect them from getting hit, or trying to grab a piece too. April's comment- She is diving for candy...pretty sure.)

This year's piñata was a good one, that took a while to break. April took a video of them swinging, the handler pulling it out of reach, and then it finally breaking and the mad dash to grab as much candy as you can, children and adults alike. (But video is too big to upload, so we have no pictures of the final mad dash.) Everyone brings a plastic bag to carry it all home.

(The piñata handler in the back of the room, watching the swingers and pulling the rope to make them miss; when the piñata started leaking, he also decided to pull it up of reach or shake it to break it and get everything out)

(Afterward, the confetti is fun to play with; Roxana and Soray swept the floor not to clean up, but to toss it back on each other)

They also bring plastic bags to carry home the distribution of left over school food. The education ministry supplies the school with rice and beans and lentils for the school lunches that the moms cook. But the distribution sometimes lags, with the first batch of food not arriving until school has been in session for a few weeks, and the last with no time left for the kids to eat it all. So the parents divide it up amongst themselves, since it won't keep over the summer until school starts again in March.

The maestra (teacher) and Cecilia (one of our host family moms and the president of the PdF) and some of the other moms pulled out the 50-lb. bags of rice and set about evenly distributing them into the bags the parents had. It was a bit of a mob scene at times, despite knowing they would all get some, in part because they could leave once they got it. At one point, Cecilia winked at April and said, "Parace como Somalia, no?" ("Looks like Somalia, doesn't it?"). For a woman without a TV, who just gets the news from the radio, it was an interesting observation.

(Cecilia distributing beans; the source bag, on the ground, is marked with the Panama flag and the government name)

(Distributing beans, with everyone waiting in line)

Oh, and while we were waiting for whatever was the next step of the party, Kevin became the entertainment for some of the smaller kids with the You-Jump-I-Lift game. Considering how much taller he is than most Panamanians, it was a bit like flying and rather exciting for them. Luckily, one of the moms finally came over and told the kids in line (they cycled back into line numerous times, organizing themselves and encouraging in the more timid littler ones) that Kevin needed a break and this was the last time. :)

(The You-Jump-I-Lift game; some got the concept and timing better than others)

(Kevin lifting Bebo (José), but note the look of excitement on Carlito's face)

It a fun time for all, and a pleasant way to end the school year and calendar year.


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