This weekend I was privileged enough to visit another country: Panama. I was so excited to see what it was like, and I definitely had an eye-opening experience.
Getting into Panama was new for me as well just because it was my first time crossing a boarder by land. Customs are different in ever country and I was a bit nervous. The difference in atmosphere between Costa Rica and Panama was drastic. I think it is because Panama has an army and Costa Rica does not. However, we were not prepared or had been warned about anything in Panama like we did for CR so we went with the flow. The people are different but they are very nice and love to say “Hello.”
The place we stayed in was Bocas del Toro, Panama. It is a series of islands with restaurants, beaches and hotels that offer activities like snorkeling and touring popular areas where dolphins swim.
I had never snorkeled or even went to the Caribbean Sea, so this was one of the best things I have done. The place was indeed, beautiful. It almost felt unreal for me to spend a weekend in a hotel at the foot of the sea. The beaches were clean and full of wildlife.
I cannot stress enough how beautiful the islands were, but what I will remember most was the culture shock I faced once again.
The first thing I resented was the heat. Panama is hot and humid in a way I had never experienced. The sun is no joke there. On top of that, even at night it is hot. I cannot say I was ever dry during my stay.
Panama is one of the countries that struggles with having accessible drinking water. I had learned about it in school this past semester, but now that I lived through it, and mind you it was only a few days, I appreciate the conditions I live in more than ever.
Not having water was the worst. I cannot believe people can live like that. In addition, air conditioning is not a thing you’ll have in public places. No restaurant we went to nor store had air conditioning.
Panama is truly a developing country, more so compared to Costa Rica. Although the place we stayed in was a touristic town, we walked into the island enough to see the community that resides there. The houses people live in are shacks made from scraps. There were also built on top of stilts of sorts to help during floods.
The streets were filled with stray dogs, sleeping in the middle of the road or venturing behind people hoping to get food or water. The sewer system there is not the best, so the streets smell. Kids walk to school alone through the jungle or on the edge of the roads where it can be dangerous with passing cars.
My definition of poor has changed drastically now that I saw Panama. Regardless of the heat and culture shock, this trip was not only a fun trip but a learning experience.
You can find more photos in my website.