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  • Movement Exchange

Love at First Sight

Updated: May 3, 2023

The day of our departure to Panama I felt overwhelmed with nerves and a shaky sense of excitement. I had no idea what to expect, but I knew that this experience would change my life.

I've been through every emotion possible in just two days of being in this new world. And I'm learning that it's okay, to just be. It is okay to feel whatever it is I'm feeling in each moment, and to allow myself the space to vulnerably be my self. I quickly realized that my three years of Spanish in high school would only slightly help me to get around, but I am building up every ounce of courage in me to practice without fear every chance I get. If there's one thing I've learned so far, it is that fear will not help me here. There is so much freedom in letting confidence and awareness of my surrounding take the forefront of my experience. I'm refusing to let myself to be ruled by the anxious feelings that arise with being in an unfamiliar place, and instead empowered by them. Yes, I've cried at least five times so far, but I've also laughed until my belly hurts, and danced until my legs felt like they were going to give out on me. And I am so in love with everything I feel, every beautiful face I've encountered, even the humidity (I have not stopped sweating since we arrived.)

Today was our first adventure visiting the Causeway, seeing the breathtaking views through the windows of our sweet little Movement Exchange bus, walking along the water, riding a six person bike and laughing the whole way. We experienced our first dance class, learning the incredible style of Folkloric, and my heart was instantly filled seeing the bright, smiling faces of my group of amazing dancers overflowing with the joy of sharing new movement over the colorful streets of Casco Viejo. We ended class and were greeted with a tropical downpour most of us had never experienced, and I think that moment will be one of my favorite memories, running through the streets, screaming and laughing all the way to our hostel, arriving at the doorstep dripping from head to toe, with the biggest smiles you've ever seen. We are already growing so close as a group and I feel overwhelmed with the support, and love pulsating through our group of beautiful individuals.

Tomorrow will be our first day teaching at the Aldea orphanage, and everything in me feels unprepared, yet more ready for this than I know.

This feels like home. In the most unfamiliar way. Everything feels right and my heart is pulsing with the radiance of Panama.

- Nashalah McNamara, Dance Diplomat from UC, Irvine

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