What’s crackalacking ya’ll.

Andrea and Izaak here, writing from Las Tablas – our home away from home.  We started our day with a soul wrenching wake-up at 7:30, filling the halls with moans and groans on the way to breakfast. Despite our inner grumblings at this early wake up time, we geared up and pushed through. Then, to our joy, we were treated to quesadillas by our lovely hosts at Hotel Piamonte.

After breakfast, we were introduced to two members of a local environmentalist group called Salvemos Nuestra Casa (Let’s Save Our House). Angel and Aurelina are spearheading sustainable change for a greener Panama. Our guests introduced themselves, and we strapped in for a lively 25-minute ride through Panama’s lovely countryside- we were headed to the small but vibrant community of Vallerequito to visit a local school. We were greeted by the school administration, and a mob of screaming kids, who shared cultural songs, dances, and theatrics that showed their awareness of the environmental issues that Panama faces.

We were then given thirty free minutes of play time with the kids. Chaos ensued. The younger children noticed that we welcomed the idea of playing with them, and so they climbed onto us as if the floor was lava and we were the only high surface for survival. Playing with these kids was no joke: it’s either you get hurt or you get hurt- there’s no way out. However, it was amazing to see how incredibly comfortable these children could get with people they just met.

Afterwards, we met up with another member of Salvemos Nuestra Casa, Yeimy. Alongside Angel and Aurelina, she gave us a tour of the pueblo of Vallerequito. As we walked, we put up signs with messages of environmentalism made by children of the school. The goal was to make the community aware of their impact on their natural environment. As our tour concluded, Aurelina, Yeimy, and Angel were given a tear jerkin’ goodbye (by me, Izaak. Aren’t I great?). We returned to the hostel via bus, blasting Tokyo Drift all the way back. Our spirits were lifted by the experience.

Two o’clock rolled around, and we went out to secure materials for our Community Action Project (CAP), while the other group members prepared their project for execution. Both parties were successful, and our CAPs are now ready to go! We ended the day with an ice cream social held at Ferretti, a neat local ice cream shop.

Being Líderes Del Día (Leaders of the Day) was an enriching experience. It allowed us to step up and be proactive, and pushed us to be the best versions of ourselves. I, Andrea, will say that this experience helped me to step out of my shell and to express myself more, which allowed me to have a closer bond with more people in the group. And I, Izaak, found myself realizing that being a leader is about more than just leading. Rather, it is about listening, supporting, and recognizing others’ thoughts and opinions.

From Izaak: Shoutout to the environmentalists that push for a better world every day. There is no easy path to a more sustainable tomorrow, and the work that they are doing is not simple. Yet they continue, they continue because they know that every step they take forward means a safer future for those that will be here long after they are gone.

From Andrea: Shoutout to our leaders, Nate, Arleen, Remy, and Stephanie. They show what a true leader should be: interactive, understanding, and courageous. I have really learned a lot about them, and how I can relate to different aspects of their lives. The fact that they are brave enough to share a housing space with groups of people they don’t know, and lead them so well, makes me realize that I could be a leader as well