Maddy Sage, 17
Castro Valley High School, Castro Valley California
As a Glimpser, my days were filled with program seminars, English tutoring, field trips, and many other adventures. One of my favorite days during my trip was History Day! It was my first full day in Panamá, and I was lucky enough to spend it in a place called Casco Viejo. One of my Program Coordinators, Cristina, took us on a walking tour around the city. To be honest with you, I was having a little difficulty at first. I was with a bunch of new people in a brand new place, and I had had my first real taste of homesickness the night before. I also felt that I wasn’t as prepared for the weather as I should have been, especially the humidity. So, to say the least, my day wasn’t going super well. But the minute we started walking around Casco Viejo, I fell in love with all the beautiful scenery, as well as the people there. Anyone that I saw pass, greeted me with an “hola” or “buenas.” At first this felt a bit weird since I wasn’t used greetings being so normalized, but it gave me insight on what Panamanian hospitality was all about.
One of my favorite memories was when we saw a band practicing in the street under our hostel. We had just finished our nightly meeting, when we heard music starting to play. I looked down and saw a group of women in high heels dancing with flags, followed by men with symbols, drums, and trumpets. We later learned that they were practicing for their annual Día de San Juan festival. I was so fascinated by their unity, and the totality of it all. I thought it was so cool to see people feel free to embrace their culture without fearing societal repercussions. I was left completely awestruck, and I know those moments will stay with me forever.
My favorite day of all was our Deconstructing Poverty Day, when I was also Líder del Día. We visited the local landfill in Chitré, and got the chance to meet the manager, Mauricio Ruiz. Señor Ruiz started off by talking about the effects anthropogenic activities have on the environment, and ways we could live sustainably. Towards the end of our tour, I gravitated towards a series of people who were sitting on plastic carts and empty refrigerators. As LDD, it was part of my job to ask questions, and enrich the experience for others, so I asked Señor Ruiz who they were. He explained that they were regulars who go through the trash in an attempt to find anything that could be profitable. Mauricio explained that these people couldn’t afford to take what they found to a recycling plant, so they were forced to sell to people who sat outside the dump at prices that were next to nothing. I asked if we could reach out to them, and when we did I learned that they were husband and wife. Upon losing their jobs, they were forced to look through the trash everyday so that they could sell what they found to pay for their two children, aged five and seven, to go to school. I immediately burst into tears. They opened my eyes to the international hardship people live with everyday. Having heard their story, it made me realize the true meaning of love and family.
After traveling to Panamá, I was ready to make a couple lifestyle changes. I decided to put my phone down more often, as not having access to social media on my trip was surprisingly refreshing. I also feel that if I would have had my phone, I would not have been as present or attentive, and missed out on many unique experiences. I also returned home with the desire to minimize the amount of waste I create everyday. One thing I noticed that at the Chitré landfill, there were plastic bags stacked everywhere, and it showed me that they are overused and that I should find an alternative that I could use on a day to day basis. I also encouraged my family to stop buying more food than we could eat, and I feel lucky enough to credit my new ideology to Global Glimpse.
My time in Chitré, Panamá allowed to understand some very real problems in this world, and taught me not only that I possessed the skills to make change, but sent me in the right direction on how to do so. Thank you Global Glimpse for all that you do, and allowing me to broaden my knowledge of the world, and the people and problems that surround me.
Special Thanks to my wonderful Program Coordinators: Larry, Cristina, and Sonia; and my Global Glimpse Leaders: Cyndi Oji and Rachel Dial