We arrived safely home on Saturday. Now that we’re home, it’s time to share stories, post photos, journal, remember, and take what we learned into whatever comes next! Here are our thoughts on being home.

Ashley: Well this is the final blog post and as I sit in my own bed I feel a sense of sadness not being in Panama anymore. Movement Exchange was something that I knew would elevate my life, but I don’t think I could prepare myself for how much it has affected me. This exchange went beyond movement to places where friends became multiplied, aspirations grew, and self-realizations flourished! I leave Panama knowing that movement is its own language and it brings us together every day as people. I know I will come back to Panama one day and continue those wonderful conversations with all of those who have touched me and even with the landscape surrounding me. It was this moment on the roof staring out, exhausted and awake all at once, that I truly fell in love with Panama and grasped the highest sense of knowing that dance is my form of human communication and always will be. Thank you Movement Exchange for allowing me to learn from you and with you, to teach and be given lessons, and to feel warmth always from the earth, from my heart, and from others.

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Michelle: Movement Exchange has done so much more for me than I have ever expected. It’s really difficult to discuss all of the change and beauty of this trip in a short paragraph. I want to be genuine in everything I say because this has been the most honest trip I have been on. We’ve seen change in the kids, change in ourselves, and transformation in our own hearts. This trip is worth so much to me and I will remember it forever. I want to thank everyone who donated and everyone who made this trip possible for me as I take all that I’ve learned in Panama and bring it back home to Arizona and the kids here. I am truly grateful for the experience and hope to go back next year!

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Elaina: I have never felt the way I feel right now after any trip I have ever been on. Usually deep down I cannot wait to be home because I miss all of my family. To be honest, leaving Panama was incredibly hard for me. I wanted to stay there and continue making these amazing connections with everyone. Maybe I didn’t want to come home because I was having such a great time dancing with everyone and making connectiongs that truly moved my soul, or maybe it is because I honestly feel like we created our own family in Panama as well. I had no idea how life changing this journey with Movement Exchange was going to be. I feel so empowered and strong to do whatever I desire. Yesterday I woke up in tears thinking of all the memories we created, the genuine smiles the children would express, laughing with Nilka, taking care of Tinna’s leg after she cut it on barbed wire, and connecting with every member on the trip.  I am so blessed to have these opportunities, and I cannot thank Movement Exchange enough for creating such an amazing experience. Thank you to all my friends and family who supported me and made this possible. I am forever grateful. I cannot wait to continue teaching dance here in Arizona, and sharing all of our memories with our communities!

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Allyson: Since getting back from Panama I have found myself caught between wanting to keep reliving the past week, and knowing I need to move forward into my life back at home. It is so hard to accept that the trip is already over. The one week we spent in Panama with Movement Exchange contained so much growth, beauty, energy, attention, movement, and transformation, that one week spent at home in the U.S. feels quiet and flat by comparison. Panama was like a bonfire: huge, charged, and bright, fueled by adrenaline, a sense of adventure, and newness, over too soon. Now that I’m back home, I need a different kind of energy, something more internal and sustaining. What I feel motivating me now is a challenge: to take the energy and excitement of Panama and ignite it here at home, in my own community. I want to teach at the Boys and Girls clubs and at studios in Arizona with the same commitment and excitement I felt at Malambo and the Danilo Pérez foundation. I want to dance with the same hunger and drive in my classes here as I did dancing next to the students at the University of Panama. I want to connect to my family, friends, and community with the same depth, intentionality, and love as our group in Panama showed to each other. Movement Exchange showed me what it is to live, move, connect, and give with daring, generosity, and uninhibited joy. This is the light I want to show the world as I move forward into whatever comes next.

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Molly: In my undergrad, our dance organization’s motto was to “dance for the love of dance” and this experience in Panama reminded me to do just that. It reminded me to create spaces where everyone feels comfortable to express themselves fully and take risks with their movements. This thought came from all of the various dance environments we spent time in. Everyone was truly moving for the sake of self-expression. This thought will stay with me as I begin to dance in our AZ community again. I have been inspired by this to create a classroom environment that is always energizing no matter what the subject is. Another take away for me is to stay present, always. I was able to be in each and every moment in Panama which was not something I have found easy in my daily hustle and bustle of life back home. It was a beautiful reminder to fully enjoy each and every experience no matter how small.

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Chareka: Movement Exchange was the most rewarding experience. Immersed in a new culture and establishing cross-cultural relationships was so enriching. Interacting with the kids at the orphanages and teaching urban arts at the University was my favorite part of the trip. Words cannot describe my gratitude and love for the people in Panama. This trip exceeded my expectation on many levels. The community that was cultivated throughout the trip has left an imprint on my heart forever. I will never be the same. It’s difficult to be back in the States and not see the children. What brings me joy is to know that I will always carry each of them in my heart. The smiles and the excitement of the kids blessed my heart in so many ways. Witnessing dance serve as a tool of empowerment for at risk youth has foster a deeper desire to spread love, compassion, and artistic expression throughout the United States. Thanks to Movement Exchange I will NEVER BE THE SAME! God Bless!

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Paola: Well now I’m back here in Arizona and my mind keeps wondering to how wonderful and life changing Panama truly was. I knew before going to Panama that I was going to embark on a life changing journey but I never realized how much it would truly affect my life. My heart is still in Malambo with all the boys and girls that wanted to share the experience of dance with us. Movement has its own language and although I was able to speak in Spanish I knew that my body could potentially speak for itself. Panama taught me how to be humble and to appreciate every single day we have on this earth. It also showed me that living in the moment is the best gift you can give yourself so you are able to fully experience whatever you are taking in. I know the future sometimes is hard to envision because so much can change from now to next year but I KNOW I will end up again in Panama.

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