The College of Saint Rose and UDELAS in Panama

A partnership about education, culture and the exchange of ideas

Final Thoughts On a Timeless Experience

-Liv Alvarado

The cabin air began to blow and the engines fired up.  The pressure changed as the wheels of the aircraft left the earth in Panama.  As the wheels left the ground, I could feel my heart sinking as the sensation of weightlessness took over, as it does every time I plane takes off.  The higher the plane rose, I could feel my heart sinking lower and lower.  I could feel the lagrimas (tears) welling in my eyes as I watched the banana trees and palms  grow smaller and smaller.

My plane

It felt as though my heart were left there to roast in the hot sun on the tarmac of the flight line.  “How is my life ever going to be the same?” I thought as the ground got further and further away and my ears began popping.  “I can’t do this.”
It is a bitter sweet ending as the peachy-orange sun shines through the airport window here in Newark.  My heart is aching for my Panama and for my friends.  Speaking in English again is hard and the customs that we have here in the states seem so strange.  The people here are so short and rude.  The only friendly person thus far on my return has been the bartender, a petite puertariquena (puerta Rican woman).  I am so happy to be home and see my family, yet my alma (my soul) is aching for my Panama.  The smell of the air, the taste of the patacones (smashed and fried plantains), the sound of taxis beeping as they are asking if you need a ride, dancing at the local bars with my friends… the list can go on and on.
Saying good-bye to a country the first time can be hard, the second time around is even harder, casi imposible (almost impossible).

Good bye pinata with my students

I had too many days of saying good-bye.  Friday started it all when I had to say adios to my students at La Escuela Josefa Montero Vasquez.  They were begging me to stay sayng: “Oye profe, puedes vivir conmigo!  Porfavor, no te vayas!”  (Teacher, please don’t leave, you can live with me!).
My second round of good byes was at Hogar Triskar, the orphanage.  Many of the kids remembered me and liked me.  Saying good-bye to the angels at Triskar broke my heart.  They were hanging on my hips as I was walking to the gate, asking me when I was coming back.  I felt the rock in my throat grow and my heat sink as the heavy metal gate slid open.  “How am I ever going to get through this?” I thought as I drove away and watched as the kids waved to me.   I can still smell the exhaust of the construction vehicles building the highway as I drove away in the car, watching the kids at the front gate.
The third round of good-byes occurred my last day in Boquete as I bid my final adios to all of my friends.  Their hugs and well wishes could not quell the ache that still is burning in my alma (soul).  I fought back the tears that I could feel welling in my eyes as they bid me good-bye and safe journeys.  “Cuidate.” (Take care of yourself) Rosa said as I hugged her for the final time.  Even though modern technology exists, and can keep us connected, it cannot replace our friends or our memories that can only occur in real life and in real time.  It can keep us connected, but cannot replace or make up for the reality that we experience while in country.
The dim lighting at Coka Cola ( the only dance hall in town), late nights at Zanzibar (one of the local bars with salsa dancing), dinner at Sabroson (a restaurant with the best cheap 3 course meals in town $2 drink included) are only small things that make up what is the local life in Boquete.

Final Good-byes to the other girls in the city

Dinner at friends’ houses, eating real Panamanian food,  having only non-gringo friends, and being “latina” cannot be duplicated here in the states. Everywhere you go, your friends are there and if the person is a stranger, they are simply a friend that you have not yet said “Buenas” (Good-day) to.  Here in the states, I truly feel alone in a public place.  It is hard to start a conversation wit a stranger.  They look at you like you are crazy and should be highly avoided for talking to them.
As I sit here, waiting for my delayed flight in the Newark airport, listening to tipico all I can think about are the last 3 weeks of my life, playing over and over again like a favorite song on repeat.

More amazing friends

I can still feel Panama in my heart.  The beat of tipico is beating as if it were the rhythm of my heart.  Marissa, the lady with whom I sat next to on my flight from Panama City to here put this sensation in palabras perfectas (perfect words) “Panama, and its culture, open the hearts and souls of its people.  The people are such a mixture of cultures and people that all are welcome and are enraptured by its magic.” I could not agree with her more.
And it is with this that I bid you adios mi Panama y mis amigos.  Cuidanse mucho.

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