6 things you learn on an exchange

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1: The heat is no joke

Panamanian heat is a new level of heat. You learn that it is essential to wear sunscreen at all hours, embrace that frizz life, and convince yourself that sweating isn’t gross, but is a “toxin cleanse”.

2: Upper body strength is key

Silks class will test your will power and arm power, but not as much as the little ones who you play with before and after class. They ask for piggybacks, airplane rides, and generally to be picked up and flipped at any and every moment. I advise doing some major upper body work before your exchange for best results.

3: Your heart has much more room for joy than you ever thought it could

These children have no sense of the American idea that “play” is frivolous and unproductive. I haven’t seen children as simply and truly happy as the children at the orphanages who we got to play with. They derived so much joy from a game of tag, or a silly face, or a play fight. It will refresh your inner child and give you insight into how you can bring “play” back into your life and experience that simple contentment.

4: Intense conversations can happen in children’s playgrounds

Today we discussed a very serious topic: why we exchange and whether or not we have “savior complexes” or not. A quick summary is: if we receive as much as we give, see the children as equals and part of the human experience alongside us, and do not try to make them “exactly like us” or teach them the “right way” to live, we are successful. This exchange will make you critically think about why you volunteered and how you can better understand giving and receiving.

5: New friends will inspire you

Movement Exchange has a magnetic way of bringing together those who are passionate about the expressive and developmental power of dance. Each time I meet new Dance Diplomats, I’m inspired by their individual successes, dreams, giving hearts, and welcoming personalities. Once you meet the others on your exchange, you will connect like you’ve known them for much longer than seven days.

6: You won’t want to leave (again).

The first time I left an exchange, I had such a strong connection to a little boy named Alex. He was shy and quiet around the orphanage, but when he began to dance, he had a bright smile that never left his face until the end of the dance! We instantly became friends and I was devistated to leave him – wanting him to have so much more than I could give in a week. Then this week when we went back to the same orphanage, I saw him again! He is 15 now and has grown so much. He still has the exact same demeanor and smile and it is apparent that he has never stopped practicing. I took a picture with him on my first exchange and again on this exchange and it’s incredible to see how much dance has truly become a regular part of his life. Once you connect, you will have your heart filled to the brim with love and affection for these little ones.

Overall, you learn why you began dancing and continue to this day. I’m so thankful for the reminder that joy isn’t difficult to find, it is hidden in the every day moments which we often look past.

Besitos XOXO, Sarah

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  • Sarah this is incredible! Love that you have a before and after picture of Alex! My favorite part: “The first time I left an exchange, I had such a strong connection to a little boy named Alex. He was shy and quiet around the orphanage, but when he began to dance, he had a bright smile that never left his face until the end of the dance! We instantly became friends and I was devistated to leave him – wanting him to have so much more than I could give in a week. Then this week when we went back to the same orphanage, I saw him again! He is 15 now and has grown so much. He still has the exact same demeanor and smile and it is apparent that he has never stopped practicing. I took a picture with him on my first exchange and again on this exchange and it’s incredible to see how much dance has truly become a regular part of his life.”

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