By Meg Lazarus, ’13, Contributor
Before my visit to Panama this past summer with CCDS, I wrote down three key things: Be prompt, don’t over pack and prepare yourself for a completely different culture! We all learned that being tardy would earn nothing but a punishment. The constant groan throughout the classroom after hearing this news was surprising to all but one, “Senorita” Elvira Carrillo, middle school Spanish teacher and trip chaperone, who has had extensive experience dealing with kids and their punctuality issues ever since she started organizing trips for CCDS with the Casterbridge program. The fact that this was such a big deal to one of my fellow travelers, freshman Alex Brady, foreshadowed that he would be the first to be punished for such an offense.
During our pre-trip meetings, we were told of all the threatening viruses and diseases we might be exposed to while in Panama, including yellow fever, malaria, Hepatitis A and B, and all sorts of tetanus possibilities. Unfortunately, everyone was expected to be well-vaccinated against these diseases. I personally had four shots before jetting off to Panama. The vaccine that gave me the most discomfort was the one for yellow fever. The injection spot, the back of my arm, was sore for two weeks. Although the live vaccine made me extremely drowsy, I felt at ease at the thought of being in Panama and safe from all the harmful things I would be exposed to there.
After the short flight to Panama, we arrived tired and ready for bed. However, it was not yet time to sleep! We met our first tour guide who took us to a Greek Restaurant with some of the best food I have ever tasted! Our second day consisted of touring a hotel and meeting some of the natives near our hotel. We had a water fight at the hotel, which ended with wet and laughing kids and a soaked unhappy Mr. Johnston, a middle school teacher at CCDS, who was one of the trip chaperones. On the third day, we began our venture to the Islands of the Kuna Indians, where we stayed without running water or electricity for two whole nights. During our time on the island, we met two families and saw a giant shipwreck. Experiencing life on the islands was very rewarding, as I learned to appreciate everything that I have and to see through the eyes of the many in need. I enjoyed the trip so much that I plan to go back to Panama or on another trip to Spain and Portugal with Senorita and Mr. Johnston next summer! B