Today marks one full year that I have been living in Panama. My how time flies. Having arrived on Independence Day, I knew I was in for a bit of a struggle in terms of “settling in”. Roads were closed, people were partying in the streets, and I, the outsider, had just arrived with baggage in hand to partake in the chaos. This was, in my eyes, immersion test #1: how do you respond to this type of event after a long flight, no access to your apartment (thank you roadblocks), and nowhere to put your luggage? You jump on in of course! After all, November 3rd marked the day that Panama gained independence from Colombia and became it’s own country in 1903, quite important! Luckily, my friend had space in her car to put my things so we could celebrate.
Why have I been here for a year? When abroad, I enjoy longer stays, sagas if you will, within my host country. When I say longer, I mean months instead of mere weeks or days. When staying in a country for only a week, I experience less of the web of interconnectivity that grants you access to so many different people and places. I realized this my first time living abroad in Peru. Had I been a passer-by, I would have had no reason to return (I visited Machu Picchu and almost every other tourist attraction on my list). But because I stayed for 6 months, I, instead, now have many reasons to return. I actually feel a longing to “return to my home” in Peru, which is why I returned this year in February. With time comes attachment, I suppose. That being said, staying in a country for longer than a few weeks requires a certain commitment; a dedication to embedding yourself within the country’s intravenous web of life. This is exactly what I decided to do in Panama.
“The sea that calls all things unto her calls me, and I must embark. For to stay is to freeze and crystallize and be bound in a mold.”-from ‘The Prophet’ by Kahlil Gibran
I read this right before I got on the plane to Panama. Living here has definitely proved to be transformational (no crystallization here) and looking back, I have much to be grateful for. So, I want to give shoutouts to a few people that have guided me through the transition period. First shoutout goes out to my girl Tinna for a) picking me up from the airport on that chaotic day and b) offering her home and her heart to me on so many occasions. You are my soul sister and we miss you so much down here in Panama. Second shoutout goes out to Moises, my boyfriend of almost a year, who has helped me learn about everything from wacky Panamanian customs (like never showering after you eat hot food) to how to take a Diablo Rojo downtown, thank you for your patience and love, te amo! And my final thank you goes out to my family (love you Mom, Dad, and Heather!) as well as the dance community and Movement Exchange team in Panama, if it weren’t for you all I’d be entirely lost. Here’s to another year!