Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Parque Natural Metropolitano de Panamá

Parque Natural Metropolitano de Panamá - Day 1

Hello friends!
Because today is the first day of the New Year, many places were closed so we had to alter the schedule a little bit. Even though this was an impromptu outing, it setup an appropriate context to learning about the challenges of building a canal in Panama.
After eating breakfast at the hotel, the 20 of us students split in half, and grabbed a taxi van to the Parque Natural Metropolitano de Panamá (Metropolitan Natural Park), which was a 15-minute drive from our hotel. This is the only wildlife refuge in the city and that’s why it has gained the title as “the lung of Panama City”. We arduously sprayed ourselves with bug spray and ventured into the humid jungle… literally. Even though there was a stone walkway, it felt as if the jungle could reach out and touch you. For example, the animals we saw were monkeys, butterflies, caterpillars, turtles, and leaf cutter ants. Below is a picture of an ant working hard…

The terrain was and still is impenetrable. There are trees with spikes for example.

One can hardly imagine how the French and Spanish crossed Panama without modern technology. That’s one reason why the canal is so spectacular, simply in its location. Our TA Trevor was certainly impressed:

The state of the jungle also demonstrates the extent at which people were willing to go for trade. Regardless, it always maintains a captivating beauty

 as well as entertaining flora and fauna (refer to the fallen fluffy tree flower and caterpillar bark carpet).

After the jungle, we scrambled to find some lunch because we were starving, hot, and thirsty. Some of us went to a locally recommended cafeteria called Nikos. It was delicious and cost me $4.75. I had 2 cups of rice and black beans, lentils, steamed vegetables, and arroz con leche (rice with milk). The quality of food here is delicious and the price is also appealing for us college students.
After lunch, we gathered at the pool deck, under the hot sun. Remember, we’re here for academics too! We discussed the jungle and motivations of why the Spaniards showed such an interest here. Then, we went on an adventurous scavenger hunt, where we were assigned to find a bear (in Panama??), cranes (which there are a plethora of), Christmas trees, and a Panama hat – just to name a few. I’m sure that we looked like super tourists, which is not always a bad thing, but I’m sure that we entertained the locals and we got to know the city better.

After working up a huge appetite, we embarked on an eating escapade. Though we don’t remember the title of the restaurant, we do know many important facts such that you should go here if you venture to Panama City. Here are the basics
1)     Serving a party of 21 is not an easy task… but it’s doable
2)     You pronounce double “L”’s on the menu as a “y” such as rollo = royo
3)     Watermelon juice smells like summer
4)     It is possible to serve Lebanese, Japanese, and Panamanian all on one menu and all very well
5)     Professor Berger knows insider tips on eating edamame, and always will order ceviche when he comes here.

Now, we are sitting here letting the food settle and downloading the reading for tomorrow. As the first day of 2014 comes to a close, in the famous words of Bunua Varilla (a French engineer of the canal), “let us think only of the fight of tomorrow and of victory”. 
Signed, your day 1 bloggers, 
Elyse McMillen and Lara Sisman

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