Panama City

Arriving in Panama in the evening, exhausted, sunburnt, and still a little wet from San Blas, we collapsed in bed. We were just awake enough on the ride into the city to notice how nice and developed the area is. For some reason I thought it would be like Lima or even just a huge slum-town, but that certainly isn’t the case. The next day, we had a full 24 hours in Panama City before finding a bus to northern Panama. We decided to spend it at the canal. Jordan read up on the canal and the period of American expansion/imperialism as a preteen and really enjoyed the subject matter, so visiting the canal in person was kind of a big deal to him. There are two canal museums, but we picked the nicer and more English-friendly of the two, Miraflores Locks. The other was more out-of-the-way, completely in Spanish, and fairly anti-American from what I hear. I wish I could’ve seen the anti-American stuff, though. That would have been really interesting. IMG_6996 Miraflores costs 15 USD per person, but takes ISIC cards with a reduced price of 10 USD. It includes a 10-minute video with creepy 3D animation detailing the history and current processes of the canal, a viewing platform, and a museum. IMG_7004 You can read all about how the locks works here. And there are many websites and books about the building and management of the canal through history, which I highly recommend looking into. The canal hit it’s 100th birthday last year, and it has been an interesting ride. While the United States has done a lot of development work and modernization in Panama, the most noticeable being the canal, they did it pretty much without asking permission, getting input, and expected gratefulness and thanks. Panama, receiving nice gifts of immunizations, work, and education, felt pretty conflicted because these gifts (which they didn’t really ask for) came with strings attached. In the 1970s, however, the U.S. relinquished its hold on the canal, and now Panama operates it as a sovereign nation–which made them a lot happier. That’s a very short, condensed version of the historical events and relations between the two countries, but there you go. IMG_7030 Within the museum, there were sets showing the inside of a tunnel beneath the canal, the communications hub of a typical boat that passes through the canal, and other things. It also had lots of original photos from the construction and even an exhibit on local insects, animals, and whales in the region. We were still recuperating from going-going-going in Colombia and the lack of sleep we got on San Blas, so the canal was about the only thing we had the energy to do that day. Later in the evening we did go see a movie at one of the malls. I recommend this activity if backpackers begin to feel homesick. Especially American backpackers, because malls in Latin America tend to have American chain businesses. The food court had Subway, Taco Bell, Burger King, Sbarro, and all sorts of other familiar foods. The mall even had a Chuck E. Cheese, which none of us can stand in the States, but seeing it made us all so happy. Sarah Ann couldn’t contain her excitement and squealed through most of our visit. Although none of us visit malls frequently or would consider that commercialized image of America “home,” it was familiar enough to ward off the homesickness for another week. IMG_7002

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Morgan S Hazelwood

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