Can you believe it is over? I can't. Here we are back in our own beds, eating regular meals (no more bread and Nutella) and taking showers with water that doesn't attack you with cold. Something feels missing. Last night I slept without waking up to Jerry's aggressive snoring. I ate a hot, home cooked breakfast. What once felt familiar and safe now simply feels lacking.
We started our semester as strangers. Indeed, for the most part, our class progressed this way until our time in Panama. We played with children together; we fed hungry babies together; we laughed together; we brewed over the injustices of public and private healthcare. Our common experience united us in a way that I hadn't known prior to Panama. We grew from acquaintances to friends. From friends to close friends.
As a finance major, a person who is essentially taught to remove emotion, this experience came as a rude awakening. It put me in an uncomfortable place in which I was forced to rethink my priorities in life. I came from similar conditions in Cuba, but that feels like a bad dream a world away. This trip put my mind in perspective. I came face-to-face with what I previously vaguely remembered--adversity, the struggles of the unfortunate. It is a strange feeling trying to justify the selfish pursuits of business after acquiring a first hand knowledge of the circumstances and the struggles that others are living through each day. I feel ashamed when one of these struggling individuals can smile at me, a stranger from a rich country, and treat me like a friend.
We came as tourists and only stayed for a week in that country. But we did not leave as tourists. What we saw in one week most do not ever have a chance to see. We met other students from Florida State University who had been living there for an entire semester and did not even know who the Embara people were. That one week felt like a month--one of the best months of my short life. This is what made leaving difficult. I did not expect to see what I saw, to feel what I feel for each individual in this group.
Saying goodbye to these people whom I shared so much with in only one week was difficult. Person after person we hugged our farewells. After each new friend disappeared back to their own lives I felt as though a little of me went with them. Maybe it is only through reminiscing that these sad feelings are resurfacing. Maybe it will all fade away. Maybe most of us will not see each other again. Or maybe we will. Regardless of the future I cherish this experience. I will always look back on it and smile.
And so it ends.