Month: July 2013

Lista! Cinco, Seis, Siete, Ocho!

Today, (Tuesday) we got to get up a little earlier to take an improv class from a Cuban instructor before we went to take class at the University. Although we knew we were going to be dancing a lot on this trip and in humid weather, I was excited to have the opportunity to actually teach dance and take dance in a foreign country. Even though some of what we were doing was different, because most people spoke Spanish, it didn’t matter because dance was the same in every language. The Cuban instructor luckily spoke English. The class was mostly modern and we did a lot of neat movement with our body that went from simple to complex. It was fun to see how other people danced in other cultures and how it had similarities to our own. It opened up new insight for myself to want to engage in different types of dance, because there is so much out there to learn that I don’t know.

After his class, we drove to the University to take class and Syon, Brittney, Madison and myself got to teach. It was fun interacting more with the University students and the girls on our team through challenging each other with dance or introducing new dance steps. Each day was something new and exciting. We learned more Spanish and really started counting cinco, seis, siete, ocho!

Afterwards, we all shuttled to our locations again where we taught the kids. The second day the kids were a little different, they were a little harder to handle. Kids will always be kids. It was tough because although I knew these kids came from broken down homes and horrific backgrounds I still knew there had to be a balance with discipline and fun. Almost like tough love. I know that its good for every kid to have that balance, so we tried our best to do that, and towards the end of the week I think they loved us and appreciated us even more for it.

When we got back after teaching, we usually do dinner on our own because we all end at different times, then meet up later for reflections. It was interesting because some of us stated that a lot of times, when were are teaching dance we are not teaching them to be happy, we are teaching them to express emotion. It is healthy to express all different types of emotion, sad, angry, happy or joyful. One of the girls a couple years ago said to Carina (one of the people with movement exchange)

“She has started to like dancing because for that 1 hour, she can forget all her worries and troubles and just be living in the moment.”

I think that this is exactly what Movement Exchange wants to do. Dance is something where you can forget all your troubles, and live for the moment. That’s why I dance and why a lot of other people dance. 


Taking dance class with a cuban instructor. 



Maddison and I doing a move from what we learned in class.


Brittney, Maddison, Syon and I with the Cuban instructor.  



Eating the best ice cream I’ve ever had with Brittney, Sarah, Nora, Maddison and Syon!



Eating dinner at a local place in Casco Viejo with Syon, Sarah, Brittney, Carina and Maddison. 



Hola Chicas!! Eres Emocionado?

Today, (Monday) marked the first official day we started our busy dance schedules! We woke up, ate a quick breakfast and headed to the University of Panama to take a class with some Panamanian dance students. Each day, people from our movement exchange team took turns teaching an hour and a half dance class teaching 45 seconds of choreography for the dance we would be performing with the University students at the theatre on Friday! It was so neat meeting the students, teachers and the head of the dance department. They were all extremely welcoming and excited to take class. I wasn’t sure what dance styles they did, but after talking to a couple of them in my broken Spanish I found out they take a lot of ballet, jazz, tap and hip hop. So it seemed to match up with what I was used to taking at home. I was excited to come back each day for the next 5 days and interact with the students and see what types of exchanges we could give to one another.

After we were at the University we all got shuttled to our location where we would be teaching the kids for the next 5 days.  First we dropped off three of our team members at Aldea Orphanage. These kids lived with families but had a very poor background. Then the next group went to Danillo Perez, which was not an orphanage but an at risk foundation for kids. Then last was our group, Syon, Brittney, Madison and myself. We were at the Malambo Orphanage. This was a Catholic all girl orphanage, which had a coed school during the day but only girls lived there who came from broken down homes or abused families.

As we pulled up to the orphanage, Brittney and I (the no hablar espanol girls) were trying to look up things to say to the girls as they came inside. Our Spanish phrase of the day was “Hola Chicas! Eres Emocionado?” –“Hi Girls! Are you excited?” We were so excited to see their faces run into the room and greet us, hardly even knowing us.

We could tell that these kids were starved for attention and physical touch. It was so neat to see their faces light up with joy when we played the music or simply gave them a hug or a high five. They were so driven to practice what we taught and do what they were told to get better.

 I knew the language barrier was maybe going to be difficult for me but the coolest thing was I got to reach these kids through teaching them dance and counting in Spanish, there was no barrier. I felt like I could be impacting these children by my actions and by something I knew I did well. I was using my gift that I had in dance in ways I never thought imaginable.

After this day, I saw how much dance has the potential to reach children and people who are at risk with this vision from Movement Exchange.


Taking class with the University of Panama students.


Trying to perfect my stalls with Omid.


 Dance class with the girls from Azusa Pacific Dance Company. (Brittney, Me, Maddison, Syon)



Arrived at Malambo Orphanage!


The kids jungle gym at the orphanage!



The kids loved their piggy back rides 🙂 (This is Olivia, one of the girls we got to teach dance to for the week)


A little note from Genesis, one of the other girls we taught dance to during the week 🙂 



When in Panama

I flew into Panama a day later than everyone else because I was coming from Florida on a previous trip. I was so excited and wasn’t quite sure what to expect coming into a foreign country for the first time by plane. The only other foreign country I had been to, was Mexico in Mexicali. I was excited to see the country and see how we were going to interact with our team Movement Exchange as well as the people in the community and the children we would be teaching. I sort of didn’t know what to expect so I just dove into it and told myself to not hold back teaching and dance my heart out.

The first night we had a really good dinner at a close restaurant. I wasn’t too sure what to expect with the food but it was AMAZING! The fish in Panama was incredible. After dinner we got a quick little tour from Anna of Casco Viejo (the city we were staying in for 4 days.) I kept feeling like I was in Spain, even though I’ve never even been there. We were right by the water, where all the architecture and views were unbelievable. 

Later after we got back from dinner and our short tour, Syon, Brittney, Madison and I (the three other girls from my school at Azusa Pacific University) were practicing the choreography we were going to teach to the girls at Malambo Orphanage the next day (Monday) and also what we were going to be teaching to the students at the University of Panama and the rest of our movement exchange team on Tuesday. We were in a room on the second or third level of the hostel we were staying at. It overlooked the city. We started counting in Spanish, which was fun and it helped some of us feel confident that we knew a little Spanish. But as we continued to practice and go over the dances, we stopped and saw where we were and said, “Guys …were here…we’re in Panama.

We didn’t know what to expect, but we were ready to teach and ready to dance. Image

Streets of Casco Viejo


 Syon and I at Dinner



 Maddison and Brittney


A quick reflection!

Coming to Panama was almost like a “Reset” button for me. It shifted all of my gears and truly displaced any pre-emptive ideas I had for this trip. This was my second time back as a volunteer and it was truly a one of a kind experience. This time time around I had the amazing opportunity to venture and visit both Malambo and Aldea. It was absolutely mind blowing to be around such great spirits!Image

I essentially felt like a floater being able to see each of the groups grow in just the few days that we taught. Being able to watch the children grow confident about their performance and see them actually perform on stage was absolutely priceless. I’m extremely grateful I was able to hop around because I was able to spend an equal amount of time with the other volunteers as well. 

I feel profoundly connected and inspired by all of the amazing people that I have met in the past two weeks. This consequent journey has left me feeling nourished, encouraged, energized, and most of all inspired! From this experience I now feel the courage to articulate my passions for dance even more, and feel that meeting other like minded souls has supported the foundation that I’ve always searched for. The remarkable group of people that I’ve met, I feel I can genuinely call my friends. I only hope that our continuing paths in dance and volunteering will bring us together again.

Now that I’ve returned back to my routine, I feel confronted by the exhaustion that subsides in my future. Though I know my true calling towards movement and dance is near my grasp, I know that these goals will not be attained easily. 

I feel I’ve had many dramatic intersections in my life, and few of those experiences I can say have been as profound as my experience with Movement Exchange. This sensation is like no other experience and continues to elicit more interest.

The Last Couple of Days

The last couple of days have been without blogs because we’ve been staying at the Malambo orphanage where we teach and the internet is very unreliable most times and after a big rain it does not work for a couple of days. But here is a brief recap of the last couple of days as we are wrapping up our time here. Brittany, Alyssa, Madison, and I have gotten the pleasure of living in the house with all the little boys. When we got there, the house mom warned us that little 8 year old Irving could be a handful sometimes. He was so darn cute, so we underestimated the little booger. The next day, he threw Brittany’s hat onto the roof. We love him though. After all, he just wants attention like every other soul in the world, and that’s probably the quickest way he gets any.

Living here we’ve been able to really live with our kids. Play with them, lay with them, eat with them, talk, and just be. Our bathrooms are community style and in the mornings I shower next to the window so I can hear the kids playing outside. I feel so at home here and hate that I have to leave.

Friday, was the day of the big show and it was chaotic. It was filled with makeup, music mess-ups, tears, slices of pizza, Mary McBride, and fun. That is definitely an under-description of that day, but I think that just about covers it.  On the bus ride over, the girls were unexpectedly little angels and one of the girls Genesis, held my hand the whole way there. We got off of the bus and walked to the theatre as the girls pointed and starred at the ocean in awe. We dressed up our girls like little cheetahs and took lots and lots of pictures. They were nervous and excited. They did an incredible job and left the stage with beaming smiles across their faces. 

As much as I wish it does, dance doesn’t fix all their problems. But for those three minutes on that stage, nothing else mattered, they were happy. And hopefully, when they are having hard and sad days, they can think about that three minutes and remember that they won’t all be bad days.

Performing with the university students was so much fun as well, and its pretty cool to say that I have so many cool new friends from Panama.

On Saturday we taught at another foundation in a city called Chepo, and although we were delirious and exhausted, we got through it and we had a lot of fun. After a long and brutal four hour ride back to Malambo, we played with our girls for a couple of hours and then ate dinner and went off to bed. I fell asleep at 9:30.


On Sunday (today) Anna took us to her friend’s house on their private beach. It was incredible and just what we all needed after a very long and tiring week. It was so beautiful, I wanted to take pictures of everything and every moment. But at some point, you have to just stop taking pictures and decide to be there. We played in the water, laid in hammocks, talked, filmed a music video, ate delicious food, played pool while jamming to reggae, and drank coffee while we watched the sunset. Bliss.

Saying goodbye to the kids was hard. (understatement of the year, but I can’t find any other ways to put it.) After rushing home from the beach, we went to the house where most of our girls resided (about 11 of them) and went to say goodnight for the last time. After many hugs, besos, screams, monchinches, and secret handshakes, I corralled them all over and explained to them that this would be the last time we’d be seeing them for a while. At first, it WAY went smoother than expected. They all gave us hugs with sad, yet hopeful faces and gave us notes and presents. After about 15 minutes of that we decided we should probably leave and that’s when things got difficult. They started to block the door, and take our stuff away so that we couldn’t leave. They still had their little mischievous smiling faces on though, so we were still in the clear. After we finally gathered our things and walked out the house, they started following us. And then one started crying, and then they all started crying, and then we all started crying. And as we all just held each other and cried, I prayed for them.  Genesis gave me a lot of things, and even after I kept saying “chica, no mas” she insisted. The last thing she gave me was a little sharktooth-shaped rock. She placed it into my hand, balled up my fist one finger at a time, and then put my hand to my heart. After many more painful “te amo”s and “te voy extrañar”s it was time for us to pry them away, wipe their faces and then ours, and say “buenas noches” for the last time.

Its one thing for them to like me. For them to jump and scream when they see me and give me hugs and kisses. They do that to everyone. They are sweet souls, and they are starved for attention. But it goes deeper than that. Even though it’s been a short time, we KNOW them, and they KNOW us. These kids get mad at me. They get annoyed by me. They get frustrated when I tell them I need my phone back. They manipulate me. I give them instructions that they don’t like to hear. I tell them no. They tell me no. They are comfortable with me and I with them. We share things, and not share things. Its more than just hugs and kisses, and monchinches, and its more than just dance. Its love, and all that it entails.

The next morning, most of us woke up at 4am to be at the airport at 5:30am, said our see you laters, and went on our separate journeys home.

 As I sit here thinking back on this Pure Blur of a week, I am filled  with a conflicted, yet gracious heart. Conflicted with questions about the future, whether we can ever return, and what will happen to all the kids. But grateful for the memories, the laughs, our group of volunteers, and this program that will continue to provide opportunities for these kids far past what we are able to do as individuals.

I have a whole lot of family and a whole lot of love in Movement Exchange. Thank you.

Note: I didn’t get any bug bites until the very last day and yes I’m a little bitter. 

My baby Genesis.






Tayina and I as Cheetah Girls!Image



Our day in ParadiseImageImage


Movement Exchange, It’s been real. Hasta Luego.