Today was an early start. Everyone was up at 6 a.m. to begin what would be a busy, but fun day. We are just getting to know each other and our first activity of the day would give us all a workout and teach us new dance steps.

We were driven by bus to the La Cápsula dance academy. Our instructor was Eduardo, a young man that started us off with stretches and then some vigorous body movements. That was just a taste of things to come. We were taught three Panamanian dances, Denesa, Viva Panama, and El Punto. Each influenced by their area of origin. Two young ladies, Samantha and Lilia, were given polleras, traditional Panamanian skirts. Samantha was paired with me to dance along with Eduardo and Lilia in front of the entire group. This pushed me out of my comfort zone, and I found I really enjoyed myself. I thank each of those young people for making me feel comfortable enough to do something I would never normally do. We all ended happy, tired, but energized. This is what the program is about. Pulling us out of our comfort zones as we learn and experience new things in a distant place.

Our second experience with Panamanian culture was a visit to the La Arena area of Chitré. It is known as the Portal of Chitre because its main source of income is the design and manufacture of diversified crafts. We were introduced to the making of pottery items by hand. A spinning wheel, powered by foot was demonstrated to us. Then we each were given a piece to decorate as we pleased. The group was engaged and numerous masterpieces were created. I sat with Shrey, Sergio, Kim, Esther, and Mustafa as we designed new works of art. It was an amazing experience for me to be a part of this journey as they playfully bantered with each other.

There is so much more I could include in here, but there just isn’t enough time or space. I know that each day will bring more new experiences and open the eyes of our future leaders to the wonders of our world.