Buenas, Panama!

By Jeanie Park

First impressions are always important, and my first impression of Panama was in one word, fascination. As we toured the city on the first day, I was surprised to see run down shacks on one side of the bridge and giant shiny skyscrapers on the other side. Additionally, I was struck by the various remnants that still remain to serve as a reminder of Panama?s rich history. Though rundown and really, just barely standing, they stubbornly persist as if to remind the people of Panama that the shiny and the gilded are not all that is essential in life.

Meeting the staff at the 24 de Diciembre health center was very pleasant. I was struck by the genuine welcome and hospitality everyone showed us. What was really shocking was that despite their extremely busy schedules, they sat and talked to us for hours. After spending a couple days working with them, especially Inspector Franco, I feel indebted to all of them for being patient with us, for being so willing to help, and for sacrificing their time for us all. In addition to the staff at the clinic, all the people I met in the community are quite amicable and willing to cooperate. I cannot say how grateful I am that everyone I’ve met puts up with my fumbling, almost incomprehensible Spanish and still smiles at me, encouraging me to continue.

Impressions beyond the first are in my opinion more important, and the more I experience Panama, the more I’m convinced this is a beautiful country. Nice to meet you, Panama. I look forward to getting to know you better.

About the MPH Panama Practicum

A group of University of Southern California graduate students are researching public health in Panama City, Panama, for a two-week international practicum, organized by the USC Master of Public Health (MPH) program. This post was excerpted from panama.usc.eduView all posts in this series »