Experimental Tropical Marine Ecology

Taking Panama City by Storm
by -- October 20th, 2008

Last day in Panama and it wasn’t ready for us.

Early morning…woke up before 7, brief breakfast and then the taxi driver called 15 min early saying that he was there already.  We hauled our bags out and this man FLUNG them into the back of his van and yammering the whole time like he had a hornet’s nest in his shirt.  He claimed the driver of our second van was “borracho” (drunk) and that “el avion no espera para nadie” (the plane doesn’t wait for anyone).  He bullied the first group of us into the van, dropped us at the airport and went back for the others…something tells me that his real motive was to get there and get the other group so he could get paid double before the drunk guy woke up and remembered the job.

As it happened, the plane didn’t wait for anyone.  The first one left it’s passengers and immediately took off again w/ no explanation.  So we just waited another hour there for the next plane.  Welcome to tiny Caribbean airports.  We were also lucky to get our luggage since they only guaranteed our checked bags that were under 30 lbs (only 5 of them).

I was dispirited to see the little old puddle jumper again because my ears didn’t think much of the plane’s pressurized cabin process last time and Andy expressed that he was hoping for something “aerodynamic” that “wasn’t so much like the Magic School Bus,” but we’re still alive, no harm, no foul.

Landed in Panama City and went directly to Niko’s for lunch again.  Still not too exciting.  Non-Spanish speakers still confused.  Food still really cheap.

Next, the Panama Canal.  Went to a little museum at Miraflores locks, saw the movie, and watched some giant tankers carrying ~1500 containers each go through the locks with about a meter to spare on each side.  Totally crazy.  There’s a lot of very interesting history on the Canal and who controls it and who built it and who is building the expansion of the canal, etc, but the version I would tell would probably be incomplete, so I’ll direct you to Humberto, Wikipedia, and John Perkins’ books.

Next, Humberto played the role of translator/tour guide while we drove around the city and saw the old sites, heard the history, and crossed the bridge over the canal separating North and South America.  Close to sunset, we stopped at a nice restaurant on the water for our last supper together.  Dr. Forward bought the first round of drinks and we then proceeded to gorge ourselves on some pretty delicious food.  Probably went too far, because everyone was moaning and holding their bellies when we left 2 hours later.

That didn’t stop Humberto from taking us to get ice cream, however.  Most people complained of being too full, but then got ice cream anyway.

Finally, back to the hotel with the sweet pool which we once again did not use.  A few of us managed to stay up long enough to have a beer outside, but we slunk back to our rooms before too long knowing that it would be another early morning.

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