The Village of San Antonio

Today my mom and I had the opportunity to visit our friends in the village of San Antonio. We have known Luz and her family for ten years now, since we first came to Panama. One of Luz's daughters, Kenia, is my age. A couple years ago I made a video where she showed me her life in San Antonio and the obstacles she must overcome to get to school. These obstacles include an arduous multi hour journey to school everyday, monetary struggles, and Spanish as a second language. Kenia and her sister Nair were part of the first generation from the village to get an education. Kenia just had a beautiful, healthy baby boy on December 29, 2014. Kenia's sister, Nair, is 21 years old and has three daughters. They are five, three, and two. The five year old will be starting school this March. Nair, too, is in school now. She graduated with a diploma from high school and is now seeking a degree in nursing. Her family sees the importance of her education in the changing landscape of their lives. San Antonio is only a five minute boat ride from the town of Gamboa. This means, unlike some of the other Wounaan villages in the Darien, the people of San Antonio have constant contact with the economy of Panama. One of the largest struggles for the forty person village is health care due to the distance from care and the costs. When Nair gets her nursing degree it will benefit not only her and her three daughters—financially and educationally— but an entire village of people. Nair and Kenia's father, Filipe, calls the work Nair is doing to get a nursing degree "un sacrificio," a sacrifice. Nair is working now on earning this degree, on top of her job working with the frogs for STRI (Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute) which means long commutes and long days of work and school. The village, however, is struggling with the money to send her to school. They just payed to bring one of Luz's older daughters and her ten children from Columbia to Panama, an expensive, but necessary endeavor that drained San Antonio of their money. That is why I am asking you to consider donating to Nair's education fund. The money she needs is only 3,588. While it is a forbidding number for the village, it is a small price for the monumental improvements it will cause to the lives of Nair, her family, and the rest of the village.
Taking the boat out to San Antonio
 Luz with Nair's youngest

 Luz, Filipe, Nair's two older daughters, and me
Nair was not in San Antonio the day we came, due to her busy schedule of work and school. Above is a photo of her working with the feed for the frogs in Gamboa.


Cartagena, Columbia

Although our ferry ride was less than ideal, Cartagena itself was stunning. It was like being in an old European city with the architecture and gelato places, but with a Latin American twist. Our hotel, La Passion hotel, was the most gorgeous place that either my Mom or I have every stayed. It is in the center of the walled city, but inside the walls of the hotel it is silent. On the roof of the building, near the swimming pool, they serve a phenomenal breakfast with fresh fruit, eggs, toast with jam, coffee, and freshly made juice. Outside the doors of the hotel tourists, mostly European, bustle around holding gelato pops and candy from the candy factory. Locals dress in head to toe white, so contrasting from the colorful edifices of the buildings (and opposite from the New York uniform of black). Bougainvillea poured onto the streets where horse drawn carriages and yellow cabs stayed slow to avoid trampling pedestrians. The city was magnificent and colorful, everything Casco Antigua in Panama could be, but isn't yet.
 Really tried to figure this one out. Thinking he must have a chair apparatus that connects into the bamboo stick.
On top of our hotel.

 We watched them make candy at Swikar, an amazing candy shop. This little boy was so excited, exclaiming, "un otro color!!!"
 There were 10 horse drawn carriages in a line.

This vacation was beautiful, so close to Panama, but in many ways a different world. I would suggest this to anyone. We were right next door to the Paraiso gelato place, which I would also suggest to anyone. The gelato and the ice-cream pops from the pop shop were both amazing. Until next time, Cartagena!


Ferry Xpress

When discussing a mini trip to take from Panama over winter break we decided Cartagena, Columbia would be the most interesting and affordable vacation. Flying, however, was not affordable. So, we decided to take the Ferry Xpress, a new boat that leaves from Colon and runs to Cartagena. People have been hoping for something like this for years. I came in optimistically expecting to enjoy the ride. While it did get us to the beautiful city of Cartagena, (more on that later) the actual ferry itself left more than a little to be desired. We left Colon on time, at seven in the evening on Monday. That night other than some rough waters and terrible food (apparently being vegetarian isn't really a thing in these parts) we felt pretty good about the trip. On Tuesday morning though, everything changed. At eleven we heard an announcement saying we would be docking not at one as planned, but instead at 6:30 in the evening. The news itself was distressing, but it was also quite bothersome that nowhere during that announcement was there a single apology. I'm used to airplanes where the crew apologizes for everything. The trip there was far less than enjoyable, but the trip back was even worse. When we arrived at the terminal at three, the time appointed for us to arrive, they informed us the boat would not be boarded until 9, two hours after the original sailing time. Since the boat gets so behind—due to weather—on each sailing to Cartagena with the quick schedule it can't catch up. Bags in hand and nowhere to go the majority of people, us included, waited at the cruise ship terminal for the boat to arrive. The only upside was that the cruise ship terminal had animals walking around. We ended up not boarding the boat until nearly one in the morning. At that time the mob of angry people waiting had begun to break into fights, one that brought the police in. The boat ended up leaving at four in the morning. Ultimately, our boat which was supposed to arrive in Colon at one didn't make it in until 8:30. All this was with no apology. I have made the Ferry Xpress ride a separate blog post from the rest of Cartagena because it was such a disaster. We loved Cartagena and our hotel. The city was wonderful and we would recommend it to anyone. The boat ride way of getting there, however, was not wonderful. We are recommending to all Gamboa people and anyone else to find another way. In theory it is a great idea, one we have all hoped for for years. However, in practice it leaves something to be desired.
 On the boat
Flamingos in the boat yard wildlife park


Back to Gamboa

Before leaving NYC I knew I loved the city, but now I know for certain that it is my true love. Leaving, only for a month, has been more difficult than anticipated. I miss the bustle and energy of the city I now consider home. Although that is challenging, I believe it is a good thing that I love the place I live so much. While I do miss New York, being in Panama has also been quite nice. I got to choose whether to come to Panama or Washington for break and I am infinitely glad I chose Panama. The weather is warm in stark contrast to the snow on the East Coast. I get to eat my mom's cooking which is a friendly break from the dining halls, and I have more time to read for pleasure. I've reunited with old friends and family. We are soon taking a short trip to Columbia.
Gamboa is a colorful community. Above is the school house.
Since we sold our car the buses are our only real way into town. The Coop Saca buses are colorful, ill-maintained, and crowded.
The canal is right down the street from our house.
These little girls are from the village of San Antonio near our place in Panama. We have been friends with their grandmother since we first came to Panama ten years ago. We are hoping in January to make it out to the village. One of the girls I have known since I first came just had a baby boy and we are hoping to have the opportunity to meet him. These two loved our little tiny Christmas tree. Susan, below, made the basket she is holding. She is only five. This spring she will be starting Kindergarten in a nearby town.



I recently reencountered the letter I wrote to myself in fifth grade that was sent to me on my high school graduation. Since I reread it I've been thinking a lot about what my eleven year old self would think of me today. While I won't pretend my 18th birthday (the day itself, other parts were great) was the best ever, I do believe that fifth grade Angela would be proud.
She would be proud that the first chance I got—which was the day after my 18th birthday—I registered to vote. I went downtown to Canal street and filled out the papers to be a NYC voter. Fifth grade Angela wrote about how disappointed she was that Hillary Clinton was not the democratic candidate, but conceded that Obama would do a fine job. Eleven year old me would be proud that I met Hillary Clinton this year. Also, on the back of my computer now there is a sticker with a picture of Hillary Clinton saying "twenty-sixteen." Mini Angela would be proud. I now have the ability to act on that civil liberty I was so excited about in 5th grade, registering to vote after turning 18. I registered in the afternoon after my last final. I then walked uptown to Columbus Circle where I caught the subway. There is so much of New York City that can be seen in an afternoon walk. I passed my least favorite part of the city, Times Square, but other than that it was all my favorite. Plus in that letter I talked about the economy and the inflated gas prices that according to me made it over four dollars a gallon, so I guess fifth grade me would see it as smart that I no longer drive a car around. Eleven year old me would be proud that I now live in the city I've dreamed of since my From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and The Akhenaten Adventures days. While studying for and taking finals is definitely not my favorite activity, it is the intellectual stimulation that fifth grade me desired out my classes, but didn't find until college (well, possibly a couple high school classes, too).
Anyway I am 18, officially an "adult" though that means so little. I've been living alone for months. I am excited to vote. Other than that I guess this means I can get my own hotel room.
I didn't really know what photo to attach to this post. I considered one of Rory Gilmore saying "who cares if I'm pretty if I fail my finals," though in my case it was who cares if it is my birthday if I fail my finals. I also considered the picture I screenshot-ed of the happy birthday from google, but found that a little too forever alone-esque. My other option was my screenshot of my snapchat saying "now a registered NYC voter," but I thought I would spare you the lameness. So instead I leave you with a photo of 11 year old me. It is scary and even more terrifying that this was my first blogger photo from when I started this blog. The photo is from 5th grade graduation.

Finishing First Semester

It is hard for me to choose a favorite season in New York City. I have now been here for each season. Spring brings flowers and central park grows leaves again. Summer is warm, but I love the heat. The crisp fall air and foliage are magnificent. Winter brings an amazing holiday spirit, beautiful lights, and snow. I feel that despite nights spent in Butler library cursing my psychology class I really made the most out of my first (of very very many unless I die soon) December in the city.
I went to the pre-taping for the Rockefeller tree lighting with Idina Menzel, Seth McFarlane, Sara Bareilles, and (supposed to  be) Maria Carey. The last on that list actually left us waiting in the cold for two hours before canceling her set due to "circumstances out of her control" AKA rain. I was so glad to get to go to the pre-taping since the actual tree lighting was too crowded and we were unable to see it.
Love the lights on college walk. I can see these from my dorm room.
John Jay dining hall got all decorated for the holidays. My roommate and I had a nice roommate dinner during the Christmas festivities.

I went to see the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall. I loved it and though it is a bit cheesy I would love to make this a Christmas tradition.
Barnard has an annual midnight breakfast after the last finals study night. I ended up covering a protest during it for Spec, but before the protest I had a great time enjoying the event with Millie the bear (and above my friend Elena.)
Finally my friend Anna from the summer program at Barnard who I visited in Dallas came to visit me in New York. We went to the Nutcracker, iceskating, Radio City, and other fun christmas in New York things.
Pictured above is the snowy view from my window. We really didn't get any real snow. We got a dusting and Caroline and I set up a fireplace on my computer. The fort sign is from the intense for we built the previous night. All in all it was a great December even if my 18th birthday consisted of two finals and studying for a 3rd. I'll talk more about my birthday in a future post, but for now Happy Holidays!


Thanksgiving Weekend

The holiday season in New York City is magical, it is romantic. As the snow fell, and Santa passed us during the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade I felt that magic. You always see the Macy's Parade on television of in movies like Miracle on 34th Street, but what no one tells you is how cold it is. No one tells you that as you walk back to Grand Central Station to take the train up to the suburbs for Thanksgiving dinner that your toes will be so numb from the cold that your walking speed is diminished by at least half. I'm here to tell you that happened, but I'm also here to tell you it is magical. The parade is just as wonderful as in the movies, the streets of New York dusted in snow are just as romantic (at least in the beginning before it turns to ugly slush which I haven't seen yet). Grand Central was crowded with young people leaving to go to Westchester or Connecticut for dinner. While the lines were endless, I loved feeling like I was part of the large group of people going to see their families. I actually went and had dinner with a very nice family who Barnard matched me up with through the Barnard Alumnae Thanksgiving thing, but still. I guess what I am saying is New York is what you make of it. A lot of people hate it, but I love some of the exact things other people despise.

Celebrities including Nick Jonas, Pentatonix, American Authors, Lucy Hale, and KISS came by. Above is Idina Menzel

The day after Thanksgiving I went to the Met to see the Christmas tree

The Lions MAINE

Over fall break, which at Columbia falls on election day weekend, the Columbia University College Democrats (Columbia is the Lions) take a trip somewhere to campaign. This year I decided to go. We headed up to the frigid and deserted state of Maine. I had been to the southern tip on a trip to New Hampshire freshman year of high school, but this was my first time in Portland. The city itself was quaint, but the snow was horrific. We campaigned for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Michaud. Unfortunately he lost, one of many making the 2014 election tragic. Though the trip was fun, it did make me realize how much I love New York. New York is home, and I was relieved to return.

Amy Poehler

I took too long to write this post, way too long. The day my mom left, back a month ago in October, I went to a book signing and met Amy Poehler. As she signed my book I blubbered something about how she should speak at my graduation from Barnard. She said commencements were hard, but Barnard is the best. It seems bringing book signing conversations back to Barnard always works, as it at least shows I am smart enough to get into the school. Anyway, I had already bought tickets to see Amy Poehler the next night at 92Y before I knew about the Union Square book signing, so I got to see her again the following night. Seth Meyers and Amy Poehler talked in a hilarious back and forth. Afterward I met them both, for Amy Poehler, again. The book is good: read it. I read it between acts of As You Like It for English and long readings of Marx for my Women's Studies class. I can honestly say I got more out of Yes Please than either of the before mentioned readings. Maybe that is a problem, but whatever.


My Mom's Visit

My mom came to visit for parent's weekend and it was fantastic. I've missed her so much and it was great being able to spend the weekend together. It all ended too quickly, though. We finally took the tram to Roosevelt Island.
 We saw First Aid Kit in concert. They were quite the show. Definitely not as polished as Taylor Swift, but they were great singers.
 We had our traditional Alice's Teacup date!
We saw If/Then with Idina Menzel. It was an amazing show that I could connect with so well. Idina is even greater than I could ever have expected, way better in my mind than Frozen.
We celebrated Barnard's Birthday with a GIANT cake of Barnard Hall. I'm so ridiculously proud to go to this college, which, by the way, is the the most rigorous University.
 Our amazing President DSpar led us in Happy Birthday with the new Barnard Way street sign.