On Tuesday morning, participants in each of our three communities celebrated with host families, teachers, and kids at the schools the meaningful week they had all shared together. Each school hosted a Despedida party where many of the schools prepared presentations such as dances, fashion shows, or singing for the participants and then participants took the stage to read their Thank-You speeches in front of everyone. In El Barrero, the participants even sang “America the Beautiful” and “This Land is Your Land” for all in attendance.
After saying their goodbyes, participants loaded up onto the bus and headed to Penonomé to reunite with all of the participants and jump on the big bus to Panama City. Upon arriving to our hostal in Panama City, the participants all got together to do an AMIGOS Debriefing session. We talked about the Single Story and the weight of the social responsibility that each participant carries when returning home. We discussed how when a participant talks to others about their experiences, they have to be conscious that those anecdotes end up forming the impression that others who do not know Panama or its communities have of the country and its people.
That night participants chowed down on pizza before having free time to hang out with each other.
Wednesday morning started off with another AMIGOS Debriefing session, followed by all the participants loading on the bus to do some touring around Panama City. With our guide, Guillermo, we traveled to el Casco Viejo, the old colonial part of Panama City and got to see all of the important, and beautiful, plazas, monuments, and views. After eating our packed lunches in the central Plaza, the participants had time to buy souvenirs to bring back home with them.
After shopping, we traveled to the Panama Canal. After going up a long escalator, we arrived to the Miraflores Locks Visitor’s Center.
Participants first got to see a short film that discussed the history of the Panama Canal and then toured the interactive museum. After we finished the museum, we all went out to the viewing deck and were able to see two huge cargo ships pass through the locks. While it was very crowded with eager visitors trying to get a good view of the ships and the Canal, participants were able to see the incredible engineering that powers much of our global commerce.
Here are the locks that are the key to the success of the Canal:
After a few hours visiting the Canal, we headed back to the hostal where we did a Participatory Evaluation, a key component of AMIGOS’ programming, where participants got the chance to evaluate their experience and provide feedback to AMIGOS staff on the aspects they enjoyed as well as the things that can be improved for the future. The participants provided really thoughtful feedback that will be a tremendous help for planning our programs for next year.
After a dinner of spaghetti, participants met to discuss the AMIGOS Leadership Ladder and we did a Q&A on the different opportunities they can take advantage of in the following years. Participants called home for the final time and afterwards, said our more formal thank you and goodbyes to the whole group.
Thursday morning started off at 4:30AM in order to arrive to the airport. Once we checked in everyone, it was time to say goodbye. The best moment was once we had all said our goodbyes, the participants, instead of walking to security, mistakenly went up the escalator, everyone waving goodbye, until they realized that wasn’t security and all had to run back downstairs to make it to the actual entrance to security.
Session B, you will be missed. You are already missed! You have been amazing – so funny, energetic, crazy, smart, thoughtful, and most importantly, willing to challenge yourselves to grow as individuals through engaging fully in an experience like this one. Stay curious and open! We hope to see you again soon. ¡Hasta pronto!