When I told people that I would soon be going to Panama City,  the first thing they would say was, “Panama City, Florida?” After I would promptly tell them that no, I meant the other Panama city, the one in Panama (go figure) they would say “oh no.”

For many this response would be worrisome. Some might even chose to cancel the flight they bought on a whim because their tax return was “just enough” money to cover it. I, however, am stubborn and like to prove people wrong. So, alas, I ventured out into the great unknown (Central America,) and got into a cab in an unfamiliar city, at two in the morning, to a very unfamiliar hostel. What followed, was an experience that I can only describe as interestingly enjoyable.

Panama City is incredibly unique and could be most accurately defined as juxtaposed. There are ruins minutes away from a modern city skyline. There are families dressed in traditional garb next to business men with suits and briefcases. There are streets lined in trash next to streets lined in Hiltons and Marriotts. Panama City is unique, Panama City is colorful, and Panama City makes you think. As I travelled around the city I couldn’t help but think about how people could be living such different lives in the same place. Granted, gaps between the rich and poor are large in all urban areas. However, I hadn’t seen such stark differences as I saw in Panama City. Despite the many dilapidated areas of this metropolis, there was a deep sense of pride. Every local I spoke with was proud to be Panamanian and proud to reside in Panama City. This pride was not only charming, but refreshing. In New Jersey it is rare to find someone who boasts about their home unless they are a reality TV star. In Panama, it is normal and genuine.

But Panama City is more than its varying population, it has a varying geography in jungles-- both of luscious palm streets and of skyscrapers and concrete. It has zooming buses that are impossible to understand, it has incredibly cheap taxis, and it has delicious and plentiful produce. Everywhere in the world has danger, but it is not worth living in fear. Panama City taught me to talk to more strangers, eat more avocados, wear more sunscreen, and be more trusting of myself.

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Published by Jenna Finnis