Que Viva Panamá

Lesleigh and Tony Memmel during a visit to Casa Ronald McDonald in Panama City, Panama.

Lesleigh and Tony Memmel during a visit to Casa Ronald McDonald in Panama City, Panama.


As a part of our exchange, we are sharing music and culture from the United States with the countries we are visiting. Our setlist includes original songs I’ve written, and covers by influences like Johnny Cash, Tom Petty, Paul Simon, and Weezer.

We’ve also prepared songs that are important local favorites to the countries we are touring. The song we learned for Panamá is called “Que Viva Panamá” (Roughly translated: Live Panamá), and that is what this week has been all about… Living Panamanian life to the absolute fullest.

Our time here has been rigorous, and incredible. We’ve seen so much, and met so many people in just a few days, it’s hard to believe our time is already coming to a close.

Panama City, Panama

Panama City, Panama


We’ve held concerts and conversations at universities, visited the Panamá Canal, performed as part of a bill with local street performers and buskers, eaten beautiful fresh seafood (including ceviche – a cold seafood based soup that is said to be the best in the world), attended the local Argentinian embassy’s Independence Day celebration, visited a children’s hospital, and also a Ronald McDonald house.

Group photo with our new friends from the Special Olympics at Balboa Academy, in Panama City.

Group photo with our new friends from the Special Olympics at Balboa Academy, in Panama City.


As we start to think about returning home to the states, I have been contemplating how I’m going to explain our time here to family and friends. Anyone who has traveled knows that what you are able to relay to those at home is a fraction of what you’ve felt and experienced. You paraphrase and simplify, but there’s always something left unsaid. Something felt, but unexplainable in way.

I’ve seen people moved to tears at our interactions, and I’ve been moved to tears at times. There have been periods of elevation and exhaustion, and we’ve always felt eager for the next event. I’ve been so blessed to travel with my beautiful wife, and my wonderful friend, and I will treasure our time together always.

Pictured: Lesleigh Memmel, Tony Memmel, and Ben Picker at the University in Colón, Panama.

Pictured: Lesleigh Memmel, Tony Memmel, and Ben Picker at the University in Colón, Panama.


We have one more day of programming… In the morning we’ll be working with a group of almost 300 youth with varying backgrounds: hearing and visual impairment, Asperger’s, and other physical and cognitive differences; in the afternoon, we’ll visit an orphanage, and in the evening we’ll have a conversation with a youth group at a church. We are eager for what tomorrow holds.

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