A sensation of belonging, a single note, light shines outward from the center. The stones cast about awaken, The gift of life flowing to the rhythm of the beat. The barriers break, the stones begin to move. The circle bursts forth, “con vida”, as the sun shines on the earth, the music rebounds about the circle, illuminating the souls within.
This June, I was given the amazing opportunity to attend the University of Tulsa’s “Jumpstart in Panama” program. Never had I imagined that of all people, I would get to travel to another country. After arriving at the airport, someone else in a “Jumpstart TU” t-shirt approached me. Her name was Mary Grace, and not only was she stunning, she was a presidential scholarship recipient, and essentially a genius. Needless to say, I was a fan.
After a plane ride, followed by a short excursion to the hotel, I was greeted by not just one, but two roommates who seemed rather discontent with me. The three of us had a hearty laugh when a third bed was rolled in for me. Being the only person on the trip with more than one roommate? Needless to say, I was not a fan!
Our first day in Panama was honestly among my favorites. We spent the day trekking through the rainforest, seeing the flora and fauna of the area to immerse ourselves into the environment. We saw various birds, including a species that had only been seen by the guide once before, as well as sloths. Our second day, we visited the Old City, and saw monumental buildings, such as the Old City Cathedral. The pope visited in the very church this January.
We later met Alfredo Hidrovo, a man with a dream. He started his studio, Luna Llena de Tambores, with the mission to spread music to families worldwide through the power of the drum. At first, when he was teaching us to play in a drum circle, many of us had no life in us. We were comparable to stones, even. However, he displayed to us the power of music, by acting as a single shining light in the center, with all of us reciprocating his beat. Slowly, but surely, we came to life.
We played with the elderly, seeing them spring to life with a new fire. I was shocked to see some of them dance. We played at a Congo cultural center in colon to better understand the drum we played. These all inspired within me a new understanding of the Panamanian culture, and music’s healing powers.
On our day visiting the cultural center, we visited a hidden cove, where I explored the beach. I saw various corals, damsel fish, and crabs, and played with everyone after a beach salsa lesson. Yes, I can now salsa. The trip back to the hotel found us exhausted.
For our final activity, we played with children who were suffering with childhood cancer. This deeply moved me, inspiring me to want to start a non-profit in the future with the goal to put an end to childhood cancer. I could simply not endure hearing these children speak of their dreams knowing some of them may not get to achieve them.
When I returned home, I felt reborn. I was cultured, awakened to the power of music, and had a new perspective of the world around me. I even asked out Mary Grace, and was promptly rejected. However, no matter my relationship status, the life that was breathed into me on this trip will never expire, and I will always cherish it.
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