Today, our last day with the Malambo girls, was gratifying, exhilarating, and heartbreaking. We have been bonding with a lot of these girls for four days now and through my broken Spanish I was able to learn about them and about myself. For the past three days we have been working with both the older and the younger girls on different warm ups and combinations. Watching them progress, change and grow has been such an amazing experience.
Before going on this trip I didn’t expect to bond with one person as much as I did with Aris. From sitting in front of me on the bus day one, to helping me speak Spanish day two, to telling the other girls to keep dancing on day three, to coming up with her own choreography on day four, Aris taught me how strong friendships can be even with a language barrier. I would hold her hand, teach her steps and watch her interact with the other girls. When something was troubling her I was their to cheer her up.
I was happy to be there but I was also frustrated because I could not explain to her how much she meant to me. I wanted to explain in words and not just hugs, dance, and facial expressions, how proud I was of what she had accomplished in 4 short days and how inspired I was by her dancing. I decided the only thing I could do was write her a letter. With the help of Edgar, who is fluent in Spanish, I crafted a letter that explained how I felt and how I would always remember her.
I will never forget the look on her face when I gave her the letter, or how 20 min later she returned with a letter of her own explaining how I was her best friend and she will continue to dance. Holding back tears I hugged her and thanked her for everything.
I then taught two more classes and helped the girls perform in the show all while thinking that this could be the last time I see her. After the show she told me she had a surprise for me. I followed her into one of the houses and covered by eyes. She came out with two teddy bears explaining the big one was me and the little one was her. She walked me to the bus and we said goodbye. Sitting on the buss in our way back to the hostel the tears finally came, for everything I was leaving but especially her. Her kind eyes and knowing smile touched my heart in a way I was not expecting and I am so glad I was able to make that connection with her. I’ll never forget Malambo and the connections I made there.

- Brooke Bierling, Move-Ex Dance Diplomat
UC Irvine