Planning a trip to Panama, my first inclination aside from setting my agenda for schoolwork, was researching all the local clubs to experience in Panama. Panama night-life was something I had read extensively about and had heard from previous Panama Scholars. Seemingly, night life is more acclimated into everyday life than it is in the United States. In the United States, recreational activities and “play” are rewards for hard work and long hours during the week. However, in Panama, I have come to notice that “play” is normal part of a person’s week and lifestyle. Panamanians are able to integrate recreation into their daily routine, to provide themselves with some sort of stress relief and relaxation.
In the book Panama, hardly did I ever read or learn of the main character Hank’s recreational activities. Similar to all Americans, he was used to his arduous work cycle that left him without any sort of socializing and recreational time. In my opinion, the United States is a workaholic’s paradise, and even though many clubs and recreational areas are available, they are usually reserved for rewarding hard work, or for younger children to play. From a young age, American kids are familiar with the term “recess” or “play” but that word quickly becomes foreign when students enter secondary school and their six-hours school days are completely consumed by schoolwork. That same indoctrinated lifestyle exists in most Americans into their career years and until they die. In Panama, recess and play are consistent aspects of living and enjoying life. As in America, if someone enjoys going out, they are shamed for not taking their work serious enough and partying too much. This idea is different in Panama; to work hard and enjoy life are both essential parts of a fulfilling life.
In Communications 440, students from Panama, Venezuela, Colombia, and several other Central and South American countries express their love for adventure, experiencing new things, and enjoying “play.” In our class discussions, I have found that the American students are more reserved in expressing their interest and enjoyment of play and going out. I hope that eventually in the United States, parents and teachers alike will understand the importance of leisure and relaxation in one’s life, to enjoy, to live, to relax, and to explore. For that reason, I find myself wanting to explore the world, to learn more about people and what makes our brains tick, our hearts beat, and our lives truly worth living.