Our heads pulsated to the pounding of latino music while our mouths shouted out.... uno, dos, tres......cinco, seis, seite as our feet and hips gyrated to the salsa beat. Two silly gringos in the midst of about a hundred Panamanians in a huge ballroom in the heart of Panama City. Yes it took gringo gutsy-ness to take a salsa class here all in Spanish.
Free salsa lessons are one of the benefits that Spanish Panama, our Spanish school offers it's students during their studies. After we expressed an interest, we were told to show up at the school at 6:15 tonight. We assumed that the lessons were at the school and expected only a few people. We met with Ray, the school's social director who took us a few blocks away to a huge ballroom. Once inside we joined a group of people that were warming up, so we were told. It started out more like a zumba exercise class than a salsa lesson. The instructor was a loud, friendly, black man who was gyrating, bumping and grinding his plump hips on stage along with some basic salsa moves. Clyde and I had taken salsa lessons for about 4 or 5 weeks before leaving Texas so we knew the basic moves already but he lost us on the other stuff.
After the warm up we were divided up into "beginner" and "intermediate" group classes. We joined the beginner group but probably could have handled the intermediate except for the language problem. The black man took over our group and soon realized we didn't understand what he was saying. He asked us in English if we spoke Spanish and we told him "only a little." He proceeded to tell us "you need to learn Spanish....you're in Panama now." We tried to explain that we are learning Spanish. He announced to the group that this class would be "bi-lingual" for us. After a while he seemed to forget about the bi-lingual part and we were left on our own to figure out what was going on. Since dance is about movement we were able to follow along. When he realized we were counting out loud in Spanish he came over and asked "where we learned to count in Spanish?" I explained again that we were taking classes to learn Spanish.
I don't know that we really learned anything since what he taught we already knew, but it sure was quite an experience of immersion! We have buried ourselves in a new world, with a new language and new culture. We are open minded enough to embrace the differences of this new world and allow ourselves to experience all that Panama has to offer.