It surprises me how kind and giving the people are here. It happens every day. Strangers on the street help me find things, sometimes taking a fair amount of time to personally walk me to the location and speak to someone else on my behalf. Our neighbor took a morning to help us fix our car and refused anything in return. When I told my teacher about it, she asked – “don’t people do this in your country?” No, they do not. Of course people are helpful when asked, and someone who has been a friend and neighbor for years will stop his work and help you with your car but in general, it’s different. People here help you like they have been friends and neighbors for years, even when they have known you for only moments.
We made friends with a man in the tennis group. He took us to the best store to buy a bicycle, and yesterday he enlisted another friend of his to come with us to Pedregal to find the best fish seller. Then he took us to his house to meet his family.
Our friend at the fruit and vegetable market picks out the best pineapples for us, and tosses in a few free bananas every time we visit.
A stranger at the bus terminal walked me to the bus I needed and handed me off to the bus assistant to be sure I got where I needed to go.
I can site example after example, but last night was one of the most touching. It was Friday night, the night before Mother’s Day, a very big and important day in Panama. The neighbors had friends over and they were celebrating with fireworks in the street. We don’t know these people, but we have said hello a few times as we pass by their house. Last night after the fireworks they come over with a plate of sweets for us, and to wish us happy mother’s day.
So, today I am thinking about the people here. Anytime you pass someone, there is always a smile and greeting. Anytime I talk to someone, there is always patience for my limited Spanish and help offered if needed, help given with a smile and no apparent thought to the time it may take. There is a different sense of community here, a much more open attitude and I like it a lot. I know we are very much in the honeymoon phase of this journey so I wonder how I will feel in a year. From here though, I can’t imagine feeling much differently about smiling, friendly people.