Monday, November 7, 2011

life in Panamá: four months in.


Sunday made four months here in Panamá. I can officially report that the honeymoon phase has ended. I can no longer coast off of the magnitude of what I've done in relocating here. Now, I must fully commit to building a new life here, to moving forward and actually doing something with my time in Panamá. The month break I took from the blog was absolutely necessary. While I'd love to be able to write here daily, I can't. Life got really real in the last few weeks. Gained some new English students. Lost a few students. Made some great friends. Met someone I find "interesting." Or something. Eating as if I'm pregnant. Still managed to lose a few pounds. Had a phone involuntarily removed from my person. Replaced it. Had the replacement removed from my possession. Shit happens, eh? In the end, I have my health, and am alive to experience the subsequent anger.


WORK.
 I'm still teaching private English classes. Over the past month, essentially every student left the city for some period of time at one point or another. Because these classes are the bulk of my income, I absolutely felt the hit of this inconsistent work. I've been with everyone for a month or more, and am seeing progress in everyone. This, of course, is the most rewarding part of the job. For example, I teach a 23-year old model/bartender from Caracas, Venezuela, who was recommended to me by a television producer/former dancer I met. We meet three days weekly, for a total of 7 hours a week. We focus pretty heavily on grammar, which she loves. Seeing her face light up when she grasps or remembers something challenging really brings me joy. It appears she knows of a song lyric or title or a television show/movie name that reminds her of virtually everything we cover. I see her deflate when our time together ends. I see her assert herself when she tells me what she wants to do in the next class. And I love it.

With all the students, it's amazing to witness the building blocks being assembled, seeing the dots connect, the concepts strung together. As I've said before, I feel good knowing that I'm helping these people improve their personal and professional lives. I'm getting to know their lives, stories, learning styles and quirks. There's the project manager living in Panama as Director of Operations for a Spanish construction company, who hides my fee in his budget while counting down the days until he returns to Spain to quit his job on Christmas day. He struggles with the differences between and usage of "say" and " tell."

There's the newly appointed director of Manpower in Central America/Dominican Republic who needs English to improve communication with the company's US-based headquarters and potential clients in the region. He always forgets that we don't really use "childrens" and "persons" in English, and loves to use newly acquired English expressions incorrectly. It's charming, really.

Overall, I learn just as much from them as they do with me. Upon entering and as I gather my books, we typically chat in Spanish, and I get to practice speaking. They all correct me when I make mistakes, and I usually pick up a new word or two most days. When I switch into English, if we encounter a new word, I'll look it up, or explain the idea in English, which they'll usually explain aloud in Spanish to themselves. Win. And: I've decided to take some sort of Teaching course within the next year. So, yeah.
see "Two Months in Panama"

My live ass Zumba-adjacent cardiodance class is going alright. They honeymoon phase has definitely ended with that shit. Now, it's more like something that I can do well in exchange for some change. I think that if I earned more money, my enthusiasm wouldn't have waned so much, especially when I see how much the school brings in monthly. I teach three classes weekly, and many ladies only take my classes. I have favorites. I have students who hype me up when I'm feeling blah. It's enjoyable enough, but I'm at a point where I'm realizing I can secure an external location and do this on my own, earning more with even a fraction of the students. All that's really left is to do it. I don't want to overextend myself, which I'm good for doing. We'll see how long the ride lasts.

I've been dancing with a few dance groups here, learning their styles and sharing mine. Unlike the States, the scene here is based heeeeeeeavily in crews, and they are accustomed to regular rehearsals for shows in lieu of actual classes. This is my biggest issue with dancing in Panama. I try to convey that dancers can't expect to grow if you meet a few days a week and rehash the same choreography time and time again. Rehearsals lack structure. The dancers lack discipline. But, after all my frustration, I say often that "this isn't my school." If the owners/choreographers don't encourage changes, my pleading and deep sighs can only help so much.

Having trained in New York and Los Angeles, they are often in awe of the people I've studied with. That I've even danced the choreography of these teachers and choreographers who have, in turn, danced beside international stars who "make the songs we hear on the radio," as one student here put it, somehow transfers to me. Strange to me, but for dancers here who learn choreography from Youtube, what I've walked away from is essentially what they fantasize about having, even if only for a week. That is humbling as fuck. I have my first performance this Wednesday in Chorrerra. I contributed choreography to BEAT Dance School, and will be on stage for the first time here. Not quite sure what the event is, but I've been told it's essentially an outdoor party, and there will also be adult beverages, and, if my logic is correct, an abundance of fine ass people also drinking adult beverages. That, and the performance will be used to market my dance workshop there on November 19th. Plus, again, the fine people. Only good can come of this.

So much has happened since my last check in. I'm still happy here. Still loving what I'm doing. Now, to make all of this result in something tangible. Toodles or whatever.

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