Disclaimer; LONGEST POST EVER. But this is my journal.
Panama was one of the most incredible experiences I have ever had. I will forever be a changed person. Some of the things I saw are things that will be with me FOREVER. I didn't start my first semester of college so that I could go on this trip. Not being in school has driven my crazy, literally. But I wouldn't have changed my experience for anything. Panama was so much more then I could have ever asked for, it was everything I needed in my life. I feel at times that it was kind of a sacrifice to not be in school, but I gained more in this two weeks then I could have in a whole semester of school.
I left on Friday, August 26th. My parents took me to the airport, we said our goodbyes, and I was off. I was so ready, or so I thought. I flight went from Salt Lake to Houston. When we got to Houston I had a melt down. Seriously. I called my best friend crying. I was sitting in the airport, all alone. I was worried that the whole trip was going to turn into me being alone. And for that split second, I wanted to go home. But deep down, I knew I was where I was supposed to be. I felt peace.
After a 4 hour lay-over we boarded the plane. Destination: Panama! LONGEST PLANE RIDE. EVER. I was excited, again. Culture shock hit soon after landing. "What was this place?" "Why aren't they speaking English?" "I'm supposed to understand you?" "You're supposed to understand me!"
Since we had to take all the Medical & Dental equipment us volunteers checked two bags full of equipment in our names and could only take a carry-on to get all of our stuff to Panama. That's right, a CARRY- ON. So waiting for luggage took forever! To get all of our stuff the the hotel we had to take to moving trucks. I can't even explain the mass of luggage there was.
This (bottom right hand corner) was just one of the moving trucks we used to move our luggage around.
I met so many incredible people over the span of this trip, I find it a little bit unfair that I will never get to see some of these people again. But, I fell in love with these people. They are the most genuine people and they would do anything for anyone. I think that the people are part of who made this experience so incredible. I love them, so much.
The next day was Sunday. We went to a Spanish ward (once again, culture shock) for sacrament. And after that we did a little service project in which they went through the church. Starting out with a family picture and then going onto rooms that applied to their family. Primary, Relief Society, Young Mens, Priesthood. If they had people in their family that were in those age groups they got to go and get stuff from those rooms.
After that we went to another church meeting and we saw all the people that we had worked on the previous day and all the people we were going to be working on through out the week. There were SO many people.
Our night proceeded at the Panama Canal and we had dinner along the Canal. It truly is incredible. It's HUGE.
Monday, Tuesday, & Wednesday. Were all a lot like Friday. Blood, gauze, tears, medicine, and 11 hour days.
On Tuesday I got to go to a newborn hospital to give them humanitarian items and such, and I couldn't help but feel sad. Most of these women were so young, un-married, with no place to go. And to top it all off they were put in a room with 15 other women and there babies just hours after they gave birth. It was something I will never forget.
Top left: Older men that couldn't afford dental work. The man on the right maybe had seven teeth. So sad.
Top right: In the oral surgery room, that's a wisdom tooth extraction going on behind me.
Bottom left: So tired. Glazed over.
Bottom right: This story makes me cry. This boy had been a member for ONE month, he came into get stuff done for his mission and getting a haircut is part of it. So when he came in that morning his hair was past his shoulders, and he cut it ALL. Just so that he could serve the LORD. After only being a member, for one month.
Tuesday night, I GOT PIZZA. I hadn't eaten much this whole trip, to begin I'm already a picky eater, but then on top of that the food scared me, I didn't even know what most of it was and trying new foods is not my forte. I ate a lot of granola bars and pringels. So this pizza, let me tell you. It was a treat!
While we were sitting in the post operation room for the first people to start coming out of surgery I was looking over the pictures on my camera. Then I started to check out my settings & I accidentally REFORMATTED MY CARD! Reformatting = all my pictures gone! I went into shock. Then I started crying. I was devastated. I was on the trip of a life time & all of the pictures and memories of it were gone! I went to a guy that was in the group and used his phone (it could call out of the country). I called my mom crying, being selfish. Then in the middle of our conversation I thought of something I had seen earlier that week. A family living on the side of the freeway, with nothing but an umbrella. I cried more, suddenly my problem didn't seem so big. That vision of those people living there will forever haunt me. It struck a chord with me. & for that, I am so grateful. I ended up getting my pictures back from a website called CardRecovery.com & the help of Stuart Tucker. Hero. But I think that experience was something I needed to learn from. Even though I lost some pictures (very few) I am grateful for that moment that brought everything back into perspective.
That night we went to the mall across the street from our hotel and got some McDonald's. But it was kinda yucky. But I was so grateful to have food in my stomach at that point.
On this lovely day we ventured down the Panama Canal, like actually in the Canal, how cool?! It was incredible. The Locks are massive. I don't know how someone even had the idea to make them. It was pretty fun though, except that night when I was laying in bed I felt like I was still on the boat rocking. Worst feeling ever.
That night was a closing banquet since the next few days were just to relax & have to ourselves. We had a nice dinner, watched the slide show & listened to a little talk by the group director. It was kinda sad though, my trip was coming to an end.
Friday, Saturday & Sunday:
Friday morning we had the opportunity to go to the Panama Temple. It is so beautiful! We had to go ever so early, I was falling asleep sitting up. But being there was incredible.
Later that afternoon we went back for lunch & hung out by the pool, ALL day. Playing volleyball, drinking Pina Coladas, Basketball, and just kicking it. It was loads of fun.
All in all I am a different person because of my experiences. I am not perfect, but I grew, I grew a lot. My testimony was strenghtened. I fell in love with the people. The Country. & the people I traveled with. I am so lucky to have had this experience.