Day three of our visit to Panama and we are finally starting to fall into a routine. The heavy humid air and the moistness around us it something that is becoming easier to adjust too after the dryer months we left behind in Florida. Walking up to the bus that is waiting for us in front of the villas fills me with a sense of anticipation and excitement because of what the day holds. For me, some of the most interesting moments have been looking out the windows watching Panama pass us by. It is unbelievable watching the contrasting areas and drastic differences of the city.
Driving through the "slumy" areas on the way to Hospital del Nino was an eye-opening experience. Children run barefoot on the uneven sidewalks that are scattered with garbage and broken bottles while their mothers watching from decaying balconies and their fathers gather together on the street corners discussing the dealings of the day. Stray, underfed dogs weave through hanging laundry patrolling the same streets the children play on. The slums have a certain beauty about them that makes it difficult to look away, while the poverty of it also fills you with a sense of sorrow and pity. Its amazing to think how many of the adults from that area have never left that area or experienced a different part of the world and whether their children will share that same fate. It makes me wonder what they think of us foreigners and whether they can't help but feel irritable towards Americans. I got a similar feeling from the parents and patients at the Hospital del Nino.
Simply put, Hospital del Nino was a heartbreaking experience. Terminally sick children, whose mothers' abandoned them, crying mothers of new-born babies, and an overflowing neonatal ward were norms. Walls in need of paints jobs and ceilings with water damage was seen every corner we turned. It was not hard to see what a desperate and needy state the hospital was in. However, inside the private hospital you almost forget that you're in a third world country; it feels similar to back home in the states. Clean, crisp hallways and the obviousness of the higher class people using this hospital is a complete contrast to what can be said of the public hospital. We were in shock how two hospitals only miles away look like they are worlds apart.
Then leaving the Hospital Punta Pacifica affiliated with Johns Hopkins Medicine International we again see how a city can hold so many differences. On the way to Casco Viejo we see a completely different beauty of Panama City. Gorgeous, green parks and shining skyscrapers surround us on both sides, and the old city itself is something out of a storybook or fairytale. It is a completely indescribable sight. The post-colonial architecture of the buildings is absolutely breathtaking...to say the least. Clustered together along the narrow cobblestone streets looks like a view from a Crayola crayons box. The vivid yellows, pinks, purples. and blues of the buildings adds a romantic feel to our adventure. The buildings themselves are a beautiful scenery, not even taking into account the view from the old seawall of the Panama City skyline. On top of that, add Juan's stories and history of the area makes my jaw drop that this antique world exists only a five hour plane ride from home.