This blog began in 2010 as part of the publisher’s promotional materials for my travel book, The Single Girl’s Guide to Meeting European Men. The book rose to #1 on Amazon’s Best-Sellers List within two weeks of publication, and is still selling. The blog has been expanded to cover my other pursuits.

From an Orphanage to a Stage

November, 20, 2014

This Travel Thursday post is about an American couple who traveled to Panama and back for love, and their Central American daughter who used her love of dance to overcome obstacles. Yiselina (Yise, pronounced “GC”) is living proof that happiness isn’t an outcome, it’s an outlook, and setbacks can be stepping stones to success. She and her parents have agreed to let me share their inspiring story with all of you to help others facing tough times. After all, none of us goes through life without roadblocks.

Yise A

Yise, a member of Panama’s Embara Tribe, was adopted at the age of six-and-a-half. She had spent her life in a series of orphanages in her native land when her future parents received a picture of her with the sentence, Do you want her? That was all the information they had, but they fell in love with that little girl and her infectious smile. When they picked her up, they were stunned to see that she was the size of a three-year-old, enormously thin, and missing half her hair due to a fungus.

Yise B

Yise was welcomed into her new home and immediately faced more challenges. She fought to become healthy while learning a new language, assimilating into a new culture, and entering school in an environment where all the students her age had started their educations long before she did.

Yise C

She also had to learn trust. Yise had never experienced a stable life where she could remain with people she had grown to love and there was enough food to eat. For a few months, after each meal, she even took food back to her room in case there would be no more.

Yise D

As Yise grew stronger, her parents introduced her to sports, but nothing appealed to her until she tried ballroom dancing. Then her love for dance helped her push through the rough patches of life. She let me film her and her partner doing some of their routines.

Based on her experiences, Yise believes, “Everyone has something she can do well if she keeps trying.”

Now when she faces a challenge, Yise reminds herself that, “Dance has taught me not to give up and that good things can come out of what seems to be bad.”

Looking back, Yise recalls, “When I started dancing for myself, just for the joy of it, my dancing got better because I loved how it made me feel… I think just remembering this will help me through hard things that happen in the rest of my life. I now know that good can come from just about anything.”

Yise E

That was a major turning point for Yise. Her schoolwork became easier, she began winning major titles at dance competitions, she received invitations to join more team dances, and she found the perfect partner, Derek. I got to know him while I was filming the two of them. He is talented and kind, with a gift for knowing the right balance between work and fun. I used him and Yise in this video that I was asked to make for National Dance Day. Now that you know the journey she has made, it will have deeper meaning for you.

I couldn’t be more proud of Yise. I first met this darling when she was adopted and have known her at every stage along the way. At first, we were all teaching her, but as you can see from this clip, she has taught me some steps.

Dance, combined with her positive attitude and perseverance, has helped this girl overcome hardships against seemingly impossible odds.


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