Drip. Drip. Drip. (broken ac)
6:00am alarm goes off.
7:15am came early after the long day of flying. I ate Cherrios, a banana, and the rest of my Starbucks iced lemon pound cake.
We were off in the bus by 8:30am to drive to Chepo, a small city in Panamá, where we would meet 40 children that are part of a organization that has a small (after school type) program that teaches dance! Muy Bueno!
We decided that we would split into three groups of volunteers to start a carousel of 30 minute interval dance classes. I taught in group uno, ballet of course! There was also a jazz group and a salsa group!
The serendipity was that los niños lit up my morning. Amazing capacity for focus and love came from these young bodies as we taught dance and movement. It came a lot easier than I thought to teach dance in another language. Basically, all we do is count and talk about body parts and say to watch me or follow what I am doing. It was so amazing to see that dance can be a strong connecting foundation for the language barrier between Spanish and English.
Today was El Día del Niño (The Day of Children) and the hospitable people surprised us with unch (rice and beans) and cake! I also tried REALLY sweet pear juice! Ai ai ai! Anna (the amazing lady that started Movement Exchange – ME) found a sweet crocodile jaw by the river where we were teaching; um yeah let’s talk about how cool it was to teach ballet outside in the jungle of Panamá by a river! Basically I loved Chepo!
Next we rode back to the hostel and grabbed our swim suits. We hopped on a new bus with René, and rode to Malambo – the orphanage that ME often works with. It is primarily run by Catholic nuns and houses about 100 boys and girls from birth to 18, 23 are HIV positive. We met all the kids and then took two groups to the pool on the property. There is also a church and a school at the community. The children don’t get to swim often because their house mother has to take all the children or none AND pay very close attention to them.
For example: as soon as we got to the pool today, all the children started pointing at the center of the pool and yelling. A boy was drowning and one of our dancers quickly jumped in and grabbed him. He had swallowed A LOT of water and started throwing up. Luckily one of our 12 volunteers is not only a doctor but a surgeon. We didn’t have to go that far, but it sure was a scare and the little boy is okay and we spent the rest of the day teaching him to swim.
A lot of the dancers went swimming with the kids but I decided to be an on looker and play with one of the girls that didn’t have a swim suit. Diana was looking at ‘Dora The Explorer’ English to Spanish color flash cards. She taught me Spanish and I helped her with the colors in English. She learned ‘White’ by pointing at my skin- haha! It was just wonderful! I also made friends with Dania and she loved taking pictures with my iphone!
After we left Malambo we stopped at a supermarket for snacks, got in trouble by the police for bringing in bookbags, got cat called, and spent $8 on 2 waters, 1 gatorade, 1 pack of oreos, 12 mini boxes of raisins, and 1 package of fresh pineapple. Not to shabby!
In the van ride to Anna’s friend Lider’s house, everyone was asking me about being married and about being Mormon. It was a great discussion and I loved sharing about my life and my religion, my values and what I believe.
Lider is a Harvard graduate but Panamá native. He is very knowledgeable about plants and wildlife conservation. Unlike most of Panamá, he lives on a huge plot of land. He has two large homes in the middle of the rain forest that overlooks the ocean. He has hundreds of naturally growing orchards and little poison frogs everywhere (black with green polka dots) and noni. He has a small stream running through the grounds that used to have a crocodile living in it and a cobble stone bridge pathway. There was a gorgeous pool that we were able to relax by and discuss the day and our plan for the week. Lider told us about the culture and background of Panamá and the way that it broke the connection between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
We left Lider’s house and came back to the hostel, changed and went out to eat at Café Coca Cola that was around years ago, even Cuban Fidel Castro ate there. Dinner was delicious (Panamanian queso e flan for dessert) and very cheap and we got to experience and be immersed in the true Panamanian lifestyle.
Small notes from today that I would like to remember:
*Dance is a small community and my new friend Typhani did her master’s in dance with BYU faculty member Kori Wakamatsu
*Typhani is also probably the complete opposite of me but I love her and she likes to tease me about all the funny quirks Mormons have. (we have a ton!) she says that I poop unicorns because I am so sweet. she calls me princess (but in a good way). she thinks i don’t fart (i kind of don’t, ask Cam). She is one of the most interesting people I have ever come across, I love her story, her passion and ambition for dance and for life. She is very empowered and I love her laugh!
*I also met Carina who teaches ballroom. She now works with Panamá’s ‘Dancing with the Stars’ and when I told her that I had doubled emphasized in Ballroom and Ballet at BYU, she knew all about BYU’s ballroom program and the directors and how wonderful it all is. She was telling everyone that it was the only collegiate ballroom program in the US and I think she said world – but I wasn’t sure.
*Today at Malambo, we were being introduced to everyone and a little girl quietly slipped around the corner and started hugging me from behind. I hadn’t even seen her and started to cry from the love this complete stranger was giving to me and the love that she so greatly needed in return. I love these children and it is only day two.