Hibiscus overhanging Koi Carp pond, Mi jardin es tu jardin, Boquete

My Time as a Travel Writer for Mondo Explorer

As an erstwhile writer and photographer for Mondo Explorer Panama (erstwhile because my translation career has taken up more and more of my time), I thought it would good to have a selection of my articles together in a Panamajama post. I was so pleased to write for Mondo Explorer – to get paid to gush about the place I love seemed like a dream come true. My other dream is translation, however, and a more lucrative one, so this has taken priority over the past year or so.

A selection of my Mondo Explorer Panama posts – please click the title or the photo to read:

Panama City day tripsJesus atop San Francisco de Asis church, Panama City

Nature Hikes Close to Panama CityOrchids, Parque de la Amistad, Panama

Nature Walks Further Afieldcropped-old-howler-monkey-and-friend-playa-bonita-panama.jpg

Gardens of BoquetePainted Dolphins, Mi jardin es tu jardin, Boquete

Things to do with Kids in PanamaAnteater at Summit Zoo, Panama

coco marca combinaciones

Cambio Creativo Christmas Appeal

coco marca combinaciones

The 2013 Christmas appeal by Cambio Creativo is even more ambitious than last year’s, with a donations target of $10,000 to help the children and youths of this deprived community in one of the poorest parts of Panama.

The generous people who donated last year (THANK YOU!!!) will be interested to learn how their money has helped this community grow and expand and is enabling the people of the community to feel connected even though they have been divided. The Panamanian government has claimed part of their land to expand the port of Colon, meaning some Coco Solo residents have been relocated some distance away.

Thank you from Coco Solo!

Thank you from Coco Solo!

Giving what you can to these great people, to this great community, is such a worthwhile Christmas present! A Christmas present for the deserving of Coco Solo, who are learning thanks to libraries provided by Cambio Creativo who next year are looking to provide sponsorships for fourteen students during 2014.

Many thanks in advance for your generosity – this is a phenomenal charity, and one where you know the money is going direct to where it is needed the most – an important consideration in these days of vast charitable organizations with poor accountability. Here is the donation page, which I hope you will be inspired to visit after reading this, the appeal letter, which says everything better than I ever could!:

cambio creativo: an unwavering vision
Dear Friends of Cambio Creativo:

Cambio Creativo has an unlikely story. Our organization started against all odds, without funds or much experience. But we have an unwavering vision and this has been priceless. We envisioned an organization driven by the serious needs of the youth in the community, run by Coco Solo residents, and that also created an international network of solidarity. We wanted to create a space open to cross-cultural collaboration, where community members and visitors could exchange knowledge and skills. We wanted to break stereotypes through consciousness-raising and work together to empower Coco Solo youth.

Today we are doing just that, our vision has come together.

We now have an educational center and a library open to 150+ students who attend after-school classes 3 times a week. We facilitate monthly workshops, training programs, and field trips. We host international volunteers including consultants from the University of Texas. And we collaborate with such amazing and diverse organizations such as Roba Morena, Bio Museo, Earth Train, Estudio Nuboso, and Festival Abierto. All of our paid staff are Coco Solo residents, thanks to a number of prestigious grants.

However, this year will be one of our most challenging. But our vision and commitment has not wavered.

The Panamanian government has sold the land in Coco Solo to an international shipping company so they can expand their ports and yards. Over half the Coco Solo population have been relocated to a new community to Buena Vista, some 25 miles away.The rest of the Coco Solo community, however, is still waiting for their houses to be constructed. Our community has been divided, and yet Cambio Creativo is still operating educational programming in both communities.

To face these challenges and continue to improve the quality of educational opportunity for our students, we need your help more than ever. We need you to be in solidarity with the youth of Coco Solo and be part of our international community.

Please donate to our materializing vision. For this year, we need to raise $10,000 for student scholarships, program operating costs, our emergency fund, and our annual Christmas party. We truly appreciate your support.

Happy Holidays! And much love,

Cambio Creativo Family

Birds of Prey Migrating

Raptors migrate annually over Panama, and, thrillingly, every year they pass over our house. This year I managed to run outside and take a little video of them circling above in their hundreds. Not the same as seeing them in real life, but it certainly gives you a small idea of the spectacular display.

What a privilege to see these majestic birds gather and swarm in such numbers!

Twisty Tower, Calle 50, Panama

An Unusual Perspective

Twisty Tower from below, Panama

I took this quick shot with my crummy camera phone out the passenger window yesterday. Doesn’t this perspective make the twisty tower on Calle 50 look like a giant drill bit?

Here is the normal (exquisitely beautiful) view of it:

Twisty Tower, Calle 50, Panama

This is our family’s favourite building in Panama. It may not be the tallest skyscraper in the world, but it certainly is one of the prettiest!

The Frog and the Caiman by Coco Solo7

Coco Solo: How the Frog and the Caiman was Created

Coco Solo audiobook team

Coco Solo audiobook team

Remember ‘The Frog and the Caiman’, the beautifully illustrated audiobook by the children of Coco Solo from earlier this year? http://panamajama.com/2013/03/21/the-frog-and-the-caiman-illustrated-audiobook-from-the-kids-of-coco-solo/ Here is the story of how the project came to fruition.

The audio book workshop was led by Lorena Endara and Eduardo Arenas, the idea fitting perfectly with this year’s goal of increasing literacy at Coco Solo. In Lorena’s own words:

“Eduardo noticed that a lot of the kids who don’t know how to read also don’t have someone who will read to them. He also believes that hearing the sounds while seeing the letters is integral to learning how to read. This was a great way to empower the kids into creating their own learning tools. The audio book exemplifies Cambio Creativo’s mission at its best!”

Coco Solo Recording Session

Recording the Frog and the Caiman

“The young participants (8-14 year olds) were so excited to realize that their story would be “published”. The Cambio Creativo team developed the story together, each child adding to the story line one by one. Then Winnie Natero narrated it while another group recorded the sounds effects. Afterwards, several of them made illustrations. Eduardo mixed the audio, and I edited the video.”

Coco Solo illustrators hard at work

Coco Solo illustrators hard at work

“We believe this audiobook is a great resource for the youth of Coco Solo, as well as for the public at large. It is amazing to see the enthusiasm and confidence that comes about creating something so purposeful and that kids everywhere are keen on multimedia pieces, you tube videos, apps, etc. This is a way to take that medium and use it towards educational endeavors. We are all so proud of collaborating to develop these projects!”