I deleted all of my social media apps as soon as I arrived in Casco Antiguo. So I have now gone five days without Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter all buzzing on my smartphone as they usually do daily. I made this decision because I didn’t want any distractions from “the outside world” while I was here. And, more importantly, I didn’t want to distract myself by posting my Panamá experience more than I was actually living my Panamá experience. Another reason I didn’t want to post about the trip while here was that I was very concerned about making it seem like a touristy vacation. That was NOT my reason for wanting to come here and I didn’t want my family and friends to think that it was.
I had to take some time to think about why this made me so antsy. Why I had this phobia of portraying the trip in that way. Ever since arriving in Panamá I have felt this strange discomfort in my heart because I didn’t want this trip to be what they call “voluntourism”. I didn’t want to fly down to this new country and simply walk down the streets like I was watching a documentary. I didn’t want to see all the flashy, popular scenes and teach a dance class or two and then leave. I wanted to IMMERSE MYSELF in this culture and make true connections with the people here. My discomfort has been stemming from the fear that I cannot accomplish this immersion in only a week. And fear that the amount of fun I am having won’t equalize with the amount of giving I should be doing while I am here.
Luckily, I feel that as each day passes that discomfort is slowly decreasing because this Exchange has given me the most beautiful opportunities to immerse myself in Panamanian culture and life, and I am beginning to realize that we have given more love and positivity to the children through these dance classes than we will probably ever know or understand. In just five days I have learned so much about Panamá’s history, food, dance culture and more, and I have shared so much laughter and love with these children.
And who said that this immersion has to end after this week? I am looking forward to a journey that extends beyond these seven days. I feel that leaving Panama in a couple of days wont be the end. I am happy I have realized that I don’t have to feel like an outsider looking in. I can participate in and contribute to the life here as well, and I look forward to making the most out of that.