BY CHLOE YEE
We arrived in Panamá Tocumen airport in the late afternoon. A group of 24 Yale undergrads, mostly strangers to each other and to the country, we found ourselves sardine-packed into a tiny bus. With our luggage and medications strapped to the roof almost two stories high, we headed towards a location that our translators could only describe as “East.” We arrived two hours later at El Palmar, where we would stay, a short drive away from Quebrada Cali. Jet lagged and generally dehydrated, we stepped off the bus and were immediately faced with the immense humidity of late-March. Turquoise, bright orange, and lime green colors of homes, fabrics, and the storefronts seemed to sway with the heat waves.
It would be in Quebrada Cali, a small, rural community vibrant and rich with colors and life, that the group of us would set up a week-long medical clinic offering dental care, consultations, and a fully-stocked pharmacy to the local people. We would come across newborn infants suffering from scabies, young mothers with parasitic infections, and over 200 people in need of critical medical attention, almost all of which were treatable or curable with the help of our two sole physicians, our supply of antibiotics and medications, and a little bit of hope.
We had a lot to offer the people in Panama, but not as much as they had to offer us. The entire community welcomed us without hesitation, the women of the Kuna Tribe laughed with us (or maybe at us), the children curbed our inner-adolescent desires and played soccer with us, and the local doctors showed us the true meaning of compassion, dedication, and altruism. We were no different than them, all looking towards one another for support, relying on those we call our friends and community, and ultimately gaining an appreciation for life that we had never before had.