Renée Ramirez
Renée Ramirez
Panama, 2022-2023
My name is Renée and I’m spending a year in Panamá working with Fundación Calicanto. Calicanto is a Panamanian organization combatting gender-based violence through social and economic empowerment programs. I’m a Nashville girl and graduated from Belmont in 2021 with a double major in Entrepreneurship and Economics. This is such a privilege, thanks for following along! Read More About Renée →

My First Week in Panamá

I’ve been in Panamá for 72 hours! It feels like home! It’s warm! I can speak in Spanish all the time! The mangoes are huge!

One of my best friends from Nashville, Tiff, also moved to Panamá to participate in a church plant with the global movement, Every Nation. There’s a team of 20 that has already been in Panamá for a couple of months so we’ve had built-in community and support as we get adjusted. I feel immeasurably grateful for them and to have one of my closest friends here!

The team picked Tiff and me up from the airport on Tuesday with flowers and helped us settle into our place. We later met up with everyone at a rooftop restaurant overlooking Casco Viejo to celebrate one of our team member’s birthdays. The city is so interesting, there are mountains to the west, oceans, high rises, and barrios all visible in one 360 view. The temp averages between 85 and 90 degrees with a breeze because of the close proximity to the ocean. I love the weather! Panama City is super international. Because of the trade opportunities the canal provides, there is a lot of foreign direct investment, western influence, and infrastructure. It is one of the most developed cities in Central America. Geographically, it connects Central and South America so there are a lot of immigrants from neighboring countries along with international ex-pats who have moved and settled here. For example, my first two local friends are Venezuelan, not Panamanian!

Unfortunately, our apartment fell through the day before we left Nashville, so we rented an Airbnb for a week in the center of the city while we search for a new one. We spent Wednesday with a couple of realtors looking at available apartments and found a perfect one! It’s super close to coffee shops, parks, and markets and has plenty of space to host new friends. It’s also safe but approachable which was an important combo for me.

As I’ve gotten settled, I have been very aware of the importance of maintaining my routines and practices. I love people and new things but can struggle to get started and stay engaged with myself and what’s going on around me. I’ve recognized that taking time in the morning to myself is a great way to ground, fuel, and engage myself before zipping off to do things. One of my intentions this year is to practice being before doing and keeping morning and evening routines have been a great way to practice that along with keeping a sense of normalcy in such a new environment.

A poem I’ve been thinking about a lot recently is:

“I have a need
of such clearance
as the Savior affected in the temple of Jerusalem
a riddance of clutter
of what is secondary
that blocks the way
to the all-important central emptiness
which is filled with the presence of God alone.”
-Jean Danielou

As I’ve moved away from Nashville the clutter, baggage, and secondary things that need to be temporarily set aside, reprioritized, and let go of have become more apparent. It feels really good to have distance but also support from people I love, and space to experience new things and grow! Additionally, it’s becoming clear that some of the less healthy habits I’ve been leaning on won’t cut it here. I could get by being on Instagram all the time (one example of many) and recover faster from the resulting negative effects on my mental health because I had such a strong support system in Nashville. If I am to care for myself and others with maturity and love in this new environment, I need depth in my habits and practices. Depth for me looks like acknowledging and respecting my physical and emotional limits, setting boundaries with myself and others, learning more about my faith, prioritizing time to be quiet and still, and taking steps to pursue my personal learning and growth goals.

I haven’t even been in Panamá a full week and could share so much more. Planning a rest day tomorrow to recharge before I officially start work on Monday!

Hablaremos más pronto!

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