Self Expression Magazine

Escaping Winter: It’s Summer in Panama City!

Posted on the 25 January 2013 by Belapertiwi


“It is such a nice idea for me to go away from the winter and enjoy the sun for a while in a tropical country which feels like home. I know some people, well, in fact, most of my friends were questioning why Panama, do you wanna see the canal or, for those with bad geographic memory, where on earth Panama is?!”

Haha, I feel funny but those are worth questioning though. I mean, Panama has been long defined by its canal and many people have no idea what’s worth visiting other than the canal. Besides, if people visit Latin American countries, there are other countries which are more visited as tourist destination. So, why Panama?

As other travelers who have their particular preference in traveling, I have this mission to visit friends whenever I live nearby. Joining several forums, I have friends from all over the world whom I want to reconnect with. So, while I live the States, it is certainly a great opportunity to visit that of in Panama which must be less likely to be visited when I am in Indonesia.

Also, visiting Panama Canal has been my dream since I was child. My mother is a geography teacher and I remember she had encyclopedia on America which had the great picture of the canal – monumental and crucial canal for the world maritime trade. I was like, “I want to visit this place someday!” Haha. I never knew my dream is becoming true now.

The last but certainly not the least reason is ecaping the winter. It is my first winter here in the States and it is just desperate to see the sun but it’s not warm at all. So, going to coastal area like Panama will be a good idea particularly when I can’t afford going back home to my beloved Indonesia.^^

So, this is how the journey began..

Travel needs a good preparation. I always remind myself that the cost of being unprepared is expensive. Particularly visiting the region which you never visited before, they may have regulations in order to enter the country. In case of Panama, immigration and health information are crucial.

For those of you who want to visit Panama, make sure you check the latest immigration regulation because different countries have different regulations. As a holder of US visa, I was exempted from visa requirement. Instead, I should get a 30 dollar tourist card which I suppose to get on my arrival. But I think it has already been included in our ticket because I didn’t get any in the point of entry.

Another important information to check for your travel is health and vaccine requirement. Panama used to require yellow fever vaccination and anti-malaria drug in order to enter the country and they still apply this regulation for some countries. Fortunately, US visa holders are exempted from this regulation too. They only recommend those vaccinations if we are going to the eastern part of Panama.

The Flight

I used Copa Airlines for my travel this time. Honestly, I’m blind about airlines in America. Even I just notice that Copa is Panamanian airline. I thought it is Colombian. Haha. My friend’s sister is a bit offended saying that Panamanian are very proud of this airline which have been known for its timeliness. But it is true for my first flight though. I just do not really enjoy the meal =)

During this 4 hour 50 minutes flight direct to Panama City (PTY), there was something that I just noticed. Of course I didn’t surprise to find my self as the only one wearing hijab in the flight but I was just surprised to find many Jewish in the same flight simply because I never thought there will be many of them in Panama. That’s very interesting. My friend told me they have huge community of Jewish who are also dominating economic activities in Panama City. Even there is one big avenue named after Israel. Wow.

The imagination about this community makes me curious about other communities particularly Muslim  But apparently, I didn’t need to wait any longer because what happened in the airport explained quite a lot.

As I arrived in Tocumen International Airport, I got stuck in the immigration. I don’t know whether it is about my nationality or my religion or anything else but while I was waiting for my passport control, the young lady in the immigration post asked many things. It was informal conversation but she asked me a lot of things about my hijab, like why I wear this (they initially didn’t recognize I am a Muslim because apparently many of those in Panama City wear burqa). They also asked whether I have to wear it all the time, whether I can put it off because I have no family here, and of course they asked about polygamy  It was typical question for me, but it was just somehow frustrating because I can only speak a bit of Spanish and it wasn’t enough to explain what I want to explain. But anyway, it was nice conversation with them and I was so glad I could finally meet my friend and his family!

Welcome me, the city of abundant fish! Let’s see what happened the next day!


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