My loved ones in Soná

You probably don't know me, haven't spoken to me in years or never followed me on social media if you don't know that I don't run out of things to talk about Panama. I have, as the late Wim Jansen (until his death the president of the Solidarity Panama Foundation) said, gotten the Panama virus. I did not contract it consciously but it has grown that way over the past few years.

It has been almost 5 years since I was preparing for my last World Youth Days. I was aware that it would be the last one. I can still remember tips mentioned before the trip began. My mind is full of memories of my trips to Panama. My head overflows with Spanish words. Sometimes I talk Spanish to myself or pray in Spanish. I have also noticed on occasion that I have even dreamed in Spanish after a late intensive session with Duolingo. Sometimes Spanish words are easier for me than English words.

I am often asked what I love about Panama now. I can safely answer that it is not Panama City or the Panama Canal that Panama is so famous for. No, I actually always say it's the nature and the people. The nature is so wonderful which cannot be found in the Netherlands. Only some garden plants are in our living rooms. In Holland everything is so flat and compact, while in Panama everything is mountainous and vast. Often a ride in the car or bus is like a roller coaster ride. In the video above, you can clearly see that.

But the people make it why I keep going back and why I can call Panama my beloved Panama. I hear a lot of stories about crime and drug trafficking. But I haven't noticed any of that. Maybe I deal with the right people. People who accept me into the family and love me as if I were a son or nephew abroad. The warmth and kindness of the people give me so much joy that I cannot help but return. Next summer will also be fantastic again. A different accent, though, but still it is nice to go back to my beloved Soná. Soná the place where I was infected with the Panama virus.

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