Friday, December 22, 2006


Today we had our own Christmas party - the one we have for all of us and our invited guests. We had 50 places set in the dining room and the girls had made 50 little construction paper adornos - one for each place. The places were full. Guests included most of the board members, a wonderful woman (who taught the girls to sew last summer (Janu., Feb., March) and will again and who makes clothes for the girls - really nice and stylish and with a particular touch)all of the staff and their primary and below aged children - and (to eat up the leftovers as he said) our Bishop.

We had white and some red tablecloths (donated a while ago by an hotel). And the menu: turkey and ham, stovetop stuffing, pink potato salad (almost red - made with beets which is a custom here) salad, rice with guandu (a type of pea - at least it is in the pea family and it grows on a bush - almost a small tree. We bought these - they are a great product to buy at stop lights - but will have our own in the month of January. They give a special flavor to the rice)and a delicious fruit punch. Each table had abundant apples, pears and grapes (traditional for Christmas).

After this and before the cake and icecream Santa (myself dressed in a Ngoby Indian dress) gave out gifts. Every child there received something! A lot of the girls got disposable cameras (with the promise of developing the film later)and everyone there got something. There were a lot of kids taking pictures.


Thursday, December 21, 2006


Our 9th grader, graduated Tuesday from Primir Ciclo (7,8,9th) grade. She is the young woman who after being with us for 8+ years (she is now 17) after she was picked up in a bus depot after running away, refound the family which had been raising her, but had no legal claim to her, just in September. She has been reintergrating into this family, who really want her to rejoin them, with some weekend visits. I was here as a missionary when she came in 1998 and have been here all along. Read on for the current chapter in this exciting story.

Tuesday moring was her graduation. Yasuri graduated from 6th grade, but during the last years the government has made graduation from 9th grade obligatory. And, that graduation deploma, is necessary to go on in most kinds of training - academic, tecnologicaland others. The time for the graduation was set for 9, so the 12 girls, ages 8 to 14, who attened, as well as the director, the Godmother she has had while at the home and myself, arrived outside the school just before 9 where we mingles with all of the others about to graduate and their families. That was about 400 students - both from the morning classes and the afternoon classes. (School buildings here are used very well. The morning group starts at 7 and go to school until 12 and then the affternoon group starts at 12:30 and goes to 5:30. All our girls go in the afternoon. The school our young woman graduated from also has night high school and has University Classes. This is multi use to the max!) So, there were 400 9th graders and their families. There were people selling flowers, stuffed animals and also pictures of the graduated receiving the diploma. Her Godmother bought, arranged. for one. Abou 9:30 or so we were invited to enter and find seats in the bleachers for the gym. At 10 AM sharp various groups entered to music - the three young women with top grades, the profesores, and then the 400 students - all in lines and well practiced. The usual things took place: greetings, school song, valdictory speech, prizes to those with top grades, a scholarship for them to go to high school and then the presentation of diplomas. Every graduates name was called out, each received a diploma from their home room teacher - pictures were taken - and then it was over.

Her Godmother from the last 8 years met her newly refound Godmother and some of her family. Pictures were taken, gifts given, we returned to the home and the new graduate, the director and recent Godmother all went out for a Pizza lunch.

THEN, the government ministry that oversees us (MIDES - Ministerio de Deserollo Social - Ministry of Social developemnt) called to say that they were ready to sign the final papers allowing our young lady to move in with the woman who raised her legally!). That happened the next day and it all is a gift from God.

Tomorrow we have our own Christmas Lunch and party and there will be 50 people here!
Stay tuned for a play by play report on that.

Tia Sue

Saturday, December 16, 2006

More fun fiestas!

Pipon the clown came to visit us this morning. He brought several friends with him. He came dressed as himself, not his clown persona and started right in paint everyones' face (I didn't get my face painted today!). Soon after that he transformed into a clown and started some games. The girls dived into two teams and they has a screaming match to see which gorup could scream and whoop the loudest. This was a popular game. Then all of the girls lined up on one side of a long piece of masking tape, which was called Tierra (earth). There was a cravass and then Mar (sea). Our clown friend called out tierra mar tierra tierra mar mar mar mar teirra ............ As he called the entire group had to jump to the correct spot. Anone who was late or wrong moved out. When there were just two girls left (ages 9 and 14) another line was added - Cielo (sky or heaven). The fun really started then. All the girls came back and were jumping wildly at command. Everyone got a Christmas present. We put them under our Christmas tree for later but then realized that we couldn't leave them there - the tree is on the porch - beacuse of Manchi and Canela (Spotty and Cinnamon).

Another group of party givers came along and they had food for lunch (a cute bowl with a sandwhich (cheese), a cupcake, apple and a cookie. Every girls got a Hello Kitty drinking glass with a straw and soda. There were Hello Kitty Bags filled with fun things - including a small washcloth. I have one. The givers were three teachers from a local private school and I think they are very interested in continuing to work with us - we may have some dance lessons during the summer (Jan, Feb, March). One teaching Contabilidad (Book Keeping) which is a hard subject - so she may be able to help some of our students out a bit.

Yesterday 10 girls each received a radio for there good grades. Today all 10 were playing somewhere in the home each at a different station.

Tomorrow we have our anual party with a woman who grew up in the Home 30 or so years ago and works for COPA Airlines. She gives us a special party each year as well as getting together another big party for another large group of children. She had received a donation to help her parties which our driver picked up for her so for a short time we had 34 soccer balls. (We will get several and others will benefit from them two. They came with three boxes of cereal with each soccer ball - you do the math!

Tia Sue

Friday, December 15, 2006


Wow. It has been 7 days since I wrote! Well, school is officially over today. The only thing remaining for us is our 9th graders graduation on Tuesday the 19th at 9 AM.
Today we had a super Christmas Party - given by the Pharmasutical (bad spelling) Company Pfiser. They have been working with us for a number of years and one of the nicest things they do is ask each girl to tell them something they want and also what type of Fast Food lunch they would like. This is soooo nice - because the girls don't get to have a lot of choices in their lives. We also invited the chiquitita, sister to one of our girls, who is just learning to talk. She is 4 and a half. At first she was afriad of the clown who was paining the girls' faces and especially of Santa - but she got over this, had a little heart painted on her cheek, later accespted a gift from Santa. She loves to dance and also participated in a game where everyone jumps up and down and then gets into groups of 3,8,6,4 - whatever number the leaders indicates. She was one of the last two left.

There was Christmas music, face painting, food (a very late lunch). The girls got what the requested and the visitors and adults at the party had a sumptuous buffet - turkey, ham, and another meat. A wonderfull apple and nut salad with a creamy topping, tamales ( a Navidad (Christmas) special). There was a lot left over so we will all eat some of it for dinner along with arroz con pollo (rice with chicken) made by our cook for dinner and made with the turkey that I brought home from a party I went to last night. (Phi Delta Kappa International - a group made up of people who want to be part of it and who nelieve in quality public education.)

Santa brought a lot of gifts. Everyone got a least 4 - one was a bag that had a new towel, a hairbrush and other goodies which I didn't see - probably shampoo, body cream and other things. The girls with top grades also each received a RADIO. I think some of the girls will work harder next school year.

This is our weekend for Christmas parties. We have two tomorrow! and then another traditional one, put on for us by a woman who grew up in the home 30 or more years ago and who now works for COPA Airlines. You will hear about all of them!

That's it for tonight friends.

Tia Sue

Friday, December 8, 2006

Today is mothers' day

Happy mothers' day to all mothers around the world. This is a big holiday here in Panama! And it is a National Holiday - ifficially. Yesterday all of the girls went to their homes or to visit Godparents or friends of the home. So, for most of the day my role was TAXI driver! I dilivered two girls to their homes, returned to the home and immediately took off for the Diocesian Office, with three others (sisters) who were catching a ride to their Godparents with our chaplain. She has her truck loaded with relief supplies as several of our churches in the mountains in the interior had suffered heavy losses of buildings, crops but not lives (in our cases) because of unusually heavy rains in November. The end of the rainy season is nearing and the rains are particularly hard every November.

After that I had a brief talk with our Bishop and headed back to the home to do some work and later in the afternoon bring 40 of the homes 85th anniversary cups to the Diocesian Office for an event. I am very blessed to be able to have as much contact with our bishop as I have, something that wouldn't be likely in my home diocese for example for I would have few reasons to go to the Diocesian office. It is wonderful having such a friendly and accessable Bishop.

After this I drove to Gamboa to care for and spend the night with one my friend's four cats and three dogs while she was away overnight. The cats include my special cat friend Luna and two of the dogs are 5 month old puppies - who look extremely different. Natasha, whoes picture is available at is small, had short legs and curley black fur - similar to her grandmother. Her mother is similar but with blond gold fur! He sister is bigger, short haired, with standup ears and a tail that curves around in a circle. Their dad is a Huskey!

Ciao, Tia Sue

Tuesday, December 5, 2006


Well, this has been a full day. Much of today was dedicated to my local church, San Pablo, where I am on the vestry and the strategic planning committee. Today we had a meeting of the committee. Before I left the home for that I helped our 5th grader practice division of fractions for a quiz today. This young woman (she is 13 now) just learned to read and do math 3 years ago at the start of 3rd grade. She had a lot of help in 3rd grade. I got her reading - in Spanish and then she had a teacher who we hired with help of one of my friends in Philly to come 3 days a week for 2 hours and continue. We did this for two years. Now she is finishing 5th grade and has been improving and improving as the year has gone on. She is taking good notes (her teacher is very organized), studies and reads a lot. I don't think she has a book for any subject because most of the kids in her school cannot afford to buy them so all her subjects are taught by having the kids copy off the board - a common method here. She was doing well in division - I gave her about 10 different ones to do. I am adding more a couple of hours later. She came home with a 96!

While we were eating supper there was a knock on the door. It was a volunteer from an organization that works with adults who have drug addictions and who are living marginally - on the street. The volunteer had 200 pounds of frozen fish and he gave us 100 pounds - which was all we could fit into the freezer. It is ready to cook!!! No cleaning, gutting etc. Another blessing coming to us.

Than my (reluctant) Godchild (reluctant because she wants one that gives her less practical gifts and will take her home (and I live here) for a weekend - especially Carnival weekend) needed a Christmas Song in English. She doesn't like to get help but as yet she doesn't know how to search the net. Together we found one. She said she wanted a popular one and after I sang a few options she picked Deck the Halls. She thanked me after I printed it out but didn't want to know what the words meant.

I had decided to give the committee members some material I have on leading groups where the members all participate in giving ideas, making decisions, and making a plan to bring it off. I had set up to have it copied at the place where I do almost all of my downloading of books (for my books to read project) and who give me a discount. When I arrived there (it is a copy center plus) they had made the copies but had no paper! to print the copies I needed in an hour and a half. I said that I would drive to a nearby Super Market and buy two reams - but a delivery person was there and he offered to go on his motocycle - so we got it done, I took off and arrived at the meeting with 5 minutes to spare.

OH, I forgot to mention that while I was driving to the copy center I looked at the gas gauge and it was below empty! My heart lept. I made it to the nearest gas station and filled up - but it didn't take as much as I though it should - being empty. The gas guage is not functioning right. Until our driver can check it out Monday I will have to rely on remembering when I filled it and do it often enough that I don't run out. That was just another little diversion.

The meeting was a Spanish (I can do fairly well and most of the other members speak Englsih) but after three hours I could scarcely talk. We did get a lot on the table and then we actually accomplished two things and made a plan of when to accomplish them. I was happy and I hope the others were too.

What else??? Around all of this I made a pattern for the girls to use to make table decorations for our Christmas Lunch and celebration on the 22. I located two pictures of Santa so they could draw them, I received the fish, lent tape, glue and now I am looking forward to reading in bed. I just lost the internet connection - but got it back without losing this.

Ciao, Tia Sue

Monday, December 4, 2006

Pictures of the Hogar

Hi. If you would like to see two pictures of the Hogar go to He is dear friend who inspired me to start my blog.

Sunday, December 3, 2006

Saturday - but written on Sunday

Another busy day! I was up a bit early as I had promised to help Brian (name recently changed from Porfilio - which he found he didn't like), the bright 6th grader son of our cook - with his final Englsih project. I do mean help and not "do his album for him". I am quite vocal about staffing giving too much help in homework - ie doing it vs helping the child so she(he) will advance a bit. I realized right away that it was good he had asked for Tia Sue's assistance - since he didn't have a copy of the book he needed. Many many people here do not have money to buy textbooks and the schools are just beginning to supply some. This year most of the kids in Jr. High have acess and can bring home a Ministry of Edcation provided book in Spanish, Math and some had one in Natural Science. I like the books as well and it is much easier to help with homework when there is a book to look at rathr than the (sometime poorly) copied presentation from the teacher.

Well back to Brian. One of our girls was using the same book he was (they are in different schools) so he proceeded to write the various sentences that the teacher wanted using a key sentance as a guide - and having me to clarify the guide and give him feedback if it was right. He wrote sentences about professions (He is a ________.), using the word LIKE and various food words (I like bananas.) etc. He had to illustrate the sentences but I left him drawing the illustrations.

All this was before breakfast - although I did have coffee. Crystel arrived just before breakfast. She is one of my personal projects - but she is related to the home but doesn't live there. Crystel is the younger sister of one of our girls Johanna. She is 4 and 1/2 and is developmentally delayed - the biggest delay being that she doesn't talk. At least she didn't when I met her almost a year ago - she is beginning to! Saturday she clearly say MA for MAS - which means MORE when we were eating breakfast. Her sister Maria says she is using Mama appropriately and often not just pulling her by the had. I have been working with her and the family (on her problems) over the last year. She has seen a pediatrition who comments spurred me on to see a recommended Ear, nose and through doctor and sfter that we have finally gotten x-rays of her head and a hearing test (she can here - which I knew as she can follow a number of directions). Pray with me that she will be enrolled in a Summer (our Summer - January to April) Program for young children and that all off the obstacles of getting her there twice a week will be over come. The obstacles are various: lack of money for bus (less than $1.00 a day for the adult that goes with her), someone to take her to the bus and to the (free) bus to the program, willingness to get up early (not a problem) and walk with her to the bus stop (at least it won't be raining as it will be the dry season) but the walk is more than a Kilometer, someone to pick her up at the pickup stop -- I could go one. I think we will succeed but that will have to include taking into account that her mother works two days a week as does her half brother (they pick up trash in a social program to help poor people and get some money and sometimes (her mother tells me) a meal. Maria, her 17 year old sister (who brings her to the home every Saturday - more about that later) wants to work during the summer as she did last year, caring for children. But the good news is that the work I have done with her first in her home (where I did the walking to get there - my knees didn't like it) and then at the Home every Saturday has paid off. She is eating better (and also getting some food supplement), drooling a lot less, is beginning to talk a little, can now undress and dress with almost no help, she has learned the routine of breakfast at the home - washing her hands, getting her bowl of food, waiting behind her chair for the prayer - quickly. I think they will be pleased to have her in a program. A lot of relatives live nearby. In addition we have been working on having her do things indpendently - walk, dress, etc. and I have been having a coulple of our girls - Rosa Mari and Enibeth are the most interested in playing school with her - with activities I give them - scribbling, matching pictures, gluing things, string beads, dancing, kicking a ball, playing catch etc. She has improved a lot and I now think that in areas other than speach she is function between 2 and a half and three ( she started out at about 18 months when I started working with her. She has a bag of toys at home and I think that she plays with them every day with another person.

After this I drove them as near to ther house as possible - there is still quite a walk - and went to Arocha Pharmacy (like a big CVS or a bit better) and discovered that Yahaira Mitchell, who grew up in the home and graduated from High School about 5 years ago - and kind of did nothing much and had a kid - HAS A JOB as a cashier. She looks great, interacts well with the customers, and was happy to see me! It was so nice to see her success - even though it was delayed.

Back to the home, typed the minutes for the Vestry meeting, left for Gamboa stopping on the way to make copies of the min utes. I arrived in time to have a hot shower, rest and ten enjoyed a nice evening with friends.

Ciao, Tia Sue

Sunday - a day of rest?

This morning, as I set off from Gamboa (where I usually spent my weekends with my friends the Leighs and my cat Luna who lives there) I saw a carpintero (woodpecker) that woke me up to the world of birds and I noted more birds on the drive in - lots of vultures - both black headed and turkey and then on my way out to eat after church a tree full of Tropical Comerants on the causeway. I have a reservation to stay in Canopy Lodge in El Valle for three days after Christmas and will see many beautiful and some exciting birds there.

Frequently I end up next to someone who speaks English very little when we have an English service as we did today. Today he was a mid adolescent and after sharing the hymnbook for every song he was singing by the end of the service! I distributed the minutes of the past meeting of the vestry - reminding them also of our next meeting - next Saturday.I am the secretary - the meetings are mostly in Spanish but I write most of the minutes in English and then the church secretary translates them for me. I tried to turn the responsibility to creating the agenda back to the Senior Warden but he answered that it was my job as secretary. (this is my third year as secretary - not all years in a row - and the last meeting was the first time that I made up the agenda, at his request) so we shall see.

I had a nice lunch looking out over the Bay of Panama but in an airconditioned room which I find is nicer and nicer as I grow older. I take La Prensa - one of the newspapers and read it while eating and relaxing. Then I drove back to Gamboa to be greeted by the four (possble soon to be 5 - another adult Buddah) and three dogs - two almost 5 months old and very different looking. They wanted food, they wanted in, some wanted out, with the dogs we try to keep them from eating cat food and vice versa, although that isn't much of a problem. That took a bit and included some cleaning up as the big puppies are messy eaters and drinkers.

Tia Sue