Thursday, January 9, 2014

A man. A plan. A Canal. Panama.

Hola Amigos!

For our last day of class here at Panama, we revisited Casco Viejo!

         Colonial Architecture of the French                                             Cathedral                                         

Here, we separated into three groups and had a very hearty discussion about referendum of the Panama Canal expansion project.

One of the group discussion at a local coffee shop

After discussion we had free time to explore the area and take more pictures. We also spent a good amount of time shopping for souvenirs and visiting local stores and restaurants. 


Today was kind of an interesting experience for us because Panama is commemorating the 50th year of Martyr's day. On January 9, 1964, an incident occurred at Balboa High School where a group of students wanted to raise the Panamanian flag along with the US flag but were forcibly stopped by the American soldiers. This resulted several casualties of the students. This is why today, we also had to be extra careful with our behaviors in public in observance of this solemn holiday.

The best part of the day was dinner! We gathered as a group, dressed up and had a fancy dinner at La Casa de Marisco.

Classy Dinner

We all then met back at the pool deck for the last time and brought closure to the course. Everyone offered their input and acknowledged certain people who have made their trip unforgettable.

So long, Panama!
Thanks for all the memories! 

local restaurant at Casco Viejo

From your last day bloggers,
Edric, Maximo and Greame

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Hola amigos,
Today we visited what used to be Balboa High School, and what currently serves as the offices for the Canal de Panama administrative offices.  The architecture resembled the institutional layout that we saw yesterday at the Cuidad del Saber.
Upon arrival, we headed into one of the classrooms to begin our day's discussion
Dean Berger shares his insight into the complex political Panamanian system of the 20th Century

Our discussion today was centered around the economic and societal consequences that stemmed from the Commissary system that was set up by United States government in the Canal Zone.

Above: a shot of the main administration building of the ACP.  Below: a panoramic view from the top of the steps.

After a nice lunch at Niko's cafe, we headed back to the hotel for an evening full of working on our research papers (joy!)  

We got a nice break from our studies when we got a visit from a friend of Dean Berger's from the US embassy.  He gave us a brief oral presentation on the significance of Panama in modern day economics as a free trade zone of global significance, second only to Singapore.  

Since Daniel took the Anchorman Reference I was planning, I'll leave you with an Anchorman 2 reference..

Don't just have a great night everyone.. have an American night.

-Benny and Chase

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Ciudad del Saber

Hola amigos!

Today we visited Ciudad del Saber(the City of Knowledge). What was once a US military outpost has now become a bustling hub of Panamanian knowledge. The government of Panama has taken great pride in this establishment making it a center for learning.
 Contrary to what this photo suggests, this is our only class being held in an actual classroom. Most of our days consist of visiting sites around Panama City.

 Dean Berger dropping some knowledge on our eager minds. He has worked his voice hoarse making us aware of the full scope of the social and technological significance of the Canal de Panama. Thank you, Dean Berger. We hope your voice feels better soon so that you can further impart your insight upon us.

 As can be seen this 'City of Knowledge' gives the appearance of the institutional American infrastructure it sprang from. These buildings which once housed the barracks and offices of the military contingent on the Isthmus, are now the homes of Panamanian schools and businesses.

The rest of the day was much less enthusing as students worked diligently on their second persuasive essays. Many being driven to the edge of madness in their attempt to create a proper representation of sentiments on or around the canal in its earliest years. Keep it up, boys and girls, there are only a few days left.

Photo credits: Daniel Arango
photos available for purchase. $24.95 per piece

Stay classy Panama City.
-Matt and Daniel

Monday, January 6, 2014

Monday: Back to Work!

Hola amigos!

We had an early start to the morning as we headed out to the canal expansion site. There we met with Luis Ferrera, one of the engineers of the canal, who taught us all about the expansion project and its progress. The new locks will allow for boats to be 70 feet wider, 400 feet longer and will bypass Lake Miraflores. This means that in 2014, the canal will transport vessels carrying 12,000 containers as opposed to current vessels which are limited to 4,500 containers.

The new locks will use sliding gates as opposed to the hinged gates of the old locks that roll on wheels, sealing each level. There are two gates between each of three chambers that open in a parallel manner to allow the passage of vessels once the chambers have been filled or emptied.  These gates were constructed in Italy and are over 30 meters tall.

Not only is the expansion a matter of technological advances, it also considers the rich natural environment of the canal through reforestation, wildlife protection, archaeological rescue, paleontological research, and water conservation. This led perfectly to our visit to the BioMuseo, a building designed by Frank Gehry.

There we learned about the plants and animals native to Panama and the Americas. Just 4 million years ago, the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans formed one large ocean but seismic activity united North and South America, separating the oceans and creating new species of plants and animals.

After the museum, we walked 45 minutes down the causeway to a steakhouse where we ate with a former UVA graduate. All along the causeway and at dinner, we had a great view of Panama City.

After dinner, I think it is safe to speak for all of us when I say that we were all stuffed with all sorts of wonderful dishes.  When we got back to the hotel, we did some work for our research papers before retiring to bed after a long and exhausting day!

Your Day Six Bloggers,
Shannan and Lauren

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Sunday Fun-Day!

Hola amigos!

Today was the continuation of our break from work until this evening. Wanting to take advantage of the beautiful weather, we decided to go to Playa Bonita, one of Panama's most beautiful beaches. On the way, we crossed over the Bridge of the Americas, which bridges over the Pacific side of the Panama canal; meaning we crossed from the South American continent to the North American continent when we crossed over the bridge!

The resort we visited was called InterContinental at Playa Bonita, which was coincidentally owned by the same company as the hotel at which we are staying, the Crowne Plaza. As a result, we were able to use the resort facilities and the beach free of charge!

Although it's difficult to tell in this picture, from sitting at the edge of the infinity pool that overlooked the Pacific Ocean, we could faintly see the ships mooring in the bay waiting for their turn to take a passage through the canal. We know they were waiting to cross to the Atlanticas opposed to having just crossed from the Atlanticas we learned Friday at the Miresflores Locks. For half the day (half of 24 hours as the canal operates at all hours), both lanes run from the Pacific to the Atlantic, until pretty late in the evening, when both lanes switch to allow vessels to travel the opposite direction.

After our beach adventures, we headed back to our hotel for an extremely long, albeit interesting, discussion on the American attempt at building the canal. We covered a plethora of topics, ranging from the extermination of the yellow-fever carrying mosquitoes due to brilliant efforts of William Gorgas to the system-level engineering genius of John Stevens that forever changed the way the canal effort operated.

From your Day Five bloggers,

Kelly and Karen

Saturday Half Day!

Hola Amigos!

After almost a week of hard work, Saturday finally came! We all had big plans for our first half day of the trip, however a quick reflection and discussion came first. Reflecting on all of our experiences in Panama so far, we delved deeper into the social issues regarding the post revolution Panama and United States control of the Canal Zone. Many great points were made as we all gained further insight about this crucial topic.

After this morning of hard work, we all split up to head out and enjoy our day! Many of us traveled to the Gamboa Rainforest Resort to relax and explore the jungle. Gamboa Rainforest resort is located in Gamboa, which was once a Canal Zone township for canal workers. Traveling there was quite interesting, as we saw remnants of the old towns and housing that the Canal workers once used. Gamboa was initially populated by mostly "silver roll" workers, which is quite apparent in the very different layout and design than the old American military base that is now the city of knowledge.
We also got one last great look at the Miraflores locks in use while driving by. It was great to see another perspective of the locks we had spent time at the day before.
Gamboa itself is located on the Chagres river and can only be accessed by this one old single lane wooden bridge.  Although we did not experience it first hand, we heard that this site was where massive flooding had happened in late 2010 that caused the Panama Canal to close temporarily. Seeing the massive scale of Gatun Lake and the power of the Chagres river, one can only imagine the incredible forces of such a flood. 
Shown above is the incredible view of the Chagres seen at the Gamboa Rainforest Resort. Because Gamboa can only be reached by one road, there are sections of rainforest here that are considered to be some of the least disturbed in all of Panama. Its amazing to think that land just as wild as this was upturned to built the canal. 
After enjoying view of the rainforest canopy and exploring the nearby jungles, we hit the pool for some relaxation before heading back to the city. The proximity of untouched, beautiful rainforest to the city is incredible. Never before have we seen such a juxtaposition of terrain and layout.

From your daily bloggers,

Richard and Ted