Moving to a new country brought many changes. MANY changes.
But the stage we are in life would have brought so much changes anyway. Jack will be attending Florida State by the end of this month. Neil started high school. Young adults we love as our own are heading to other universities, new jobs, many different paths. These kids we watched grow up are so grown up! Wasn’t kindergarten just a moment ago? Weren’t they all Cub Scouts and Brownies just last month?
I think of kids in Jack’s kindergarten class and the plans they are making, the dreams they are pursuing. Amazing.
We are watching Neil’s classmates make plans and choices for high school – cheer, dance or theater, basketball or football, band, honors classes or/and vocational classes. Neil’s new school has a college fair in a few weeks. Neil’s planning on making a permanent friend of the University of Oregon representative. Neil has to wear a uniform to school, but he has figured out he can sport his Ducks socks that day.
In my Facebook feed, this memory photo showed up. It’s Neil, Graeme and Jack the day before school started last year. We didn’t even know Panama was on the horizon. Julie was teaching so I took the boys. They really didn’t need me. Two of them were drivers already! But it was tradition so I made them pile into my car and we headed to the bowling alley.
Turns out this photo marks the end of a back-to-school tradition. Each year Julie and I would take the kids bowling before school started. We had quite a crew when the tradition started. Jack might have been in 2nd grade, Neil in preschool. Graeme in 1st grade. We also had Morgan, Gavin, Quinn, and maybe an additional friend or two. Morgan and Gavin went off to college; Quinn is in Colorado.
Graeme started his senior year today. We are in Panama.
And a favorite tradition has become a treasured memory.
I sat down at my kitchen table for my morning cup of coffee when I spied a very tall, very thin ladder out the window. Wait, there’s a leg at the top of that ladder. What? That does not look safe. And then I heard the chainsaw. I’m pretty sure that really isn’t safe. I wasn’t here the last time the gardener came, but I’m thinking that’s Jorge up there.
No lawnmowers (that I have seen) in Panama, just weed-wackers. Even when the huge open space next to us was trimmed.
In California, it seemed as if malls were dying a slow death. Too much online competition, alternative spots or specialty stores, or just not enough disposable income. Maybe it is just a temporary decline.
But in Panama, malls are everywhere. Big malls, little malls, strip malls. They all have a mall name: Multiplaza Mall, AltaPlaza Mall, Ocean Mall, Multicentro Mall, Soho Mall, Albrook Mall (the largest in Latin America I am told), Metro Mall, etc.
Everyone charges for parking. Even many of the strip malls. And if the mall doesn’t charge for parking, there are often men who post orange cones in parking spaces and then ask for money to let you park there.
The photo above is from AltaPlaza. It’s very close to us, smaller than Albrook so it feels more manageable. We are guessing it is very new. Parking gates and payment stations aren’t up and running yet.
For us AltaPlaza is perfect — the A/C is on high, there’s a movie theater with subtitled movies (subtitles in Spanish means the dialogue is mostly likely in English) and somewhere to eat.
Neil survived his first day of high school! New country, new home, new school! This kid is knocking it out of the park. High school is daunting enough but Neil put on a uniform and walked into the unknown. I swear he’s the bravest of us all.
I’m so proud of him.
He has 7 classes, including the dreaded P.E. His P.E. teacher is the basketball coach. That worked out nicely! He’s taking honors geometry, English, world history, Spanish, biology and graphic design.