It’s incredible that I’m so near to the end of my study abroad in Panama! After just over four months, I am in the final countdown of the days I have left here before I’m on a plane back to U.S., back to the place and culture with which I am familiar! While I am eager to return and see my family and my friends, I will never forget the experiences I have had here.
Posts from the ‘Panama City’ Category
I consider myself an adventurer of sorts which is why I was so excited to spend a few months in Panama, a place that is so different from anywhere I’ve lived before. My incurable wanderlust means that I’m always keen to travel to new places, visit local hotspots, try the regional cuisine and meet new people (sound like a familiar condition to anyone else?). I feel comfortable doing these things solo, but even the most stalwart traveler has to admit that friends make these experiences all the better.
I’ll be the first to admit it: I absolutely love to drive. I could spend hours cruising around in my candy-apple red Hyundai Elantra, enjoying the feel of the ride and the focus of controlling the vehicle. Of course I always opt to take the scenic route, just to have that extra time behind the wheel. When I came to Panama to study abroad, you can imagine how much I missed having the ability to be the driver and know how I would be getting from Point A to Point B.
I have been in Panama for almost two months now, and I’ve learned pretty well how to get around. While I obviously stand out as a foreigner, I try my best to behave like a native Panamanian when I’m out and about – it’s totally cool to see the astonishment on a local’s face followed by an appreciated grin when I can pull it off! Here are five fun facts that I’ve picked up that you can use to make people believe you’ve been living in Panama for years:
Everyone learns about its construction in a classroom as a young student, and is taught its historical significance for its capacity to link the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, cutting through the land that joins North and South America. Allowing massive ships to pass through its waters utilizing natural gravity and a system of gated compartments, called locks, the Panama Canal today is still a vital route used to interconnect trade ways of the world.
Driving to the airport in Panama City on my way back home, I looked out the window and saw a completely different scene than the one that had greeted me on my way into the country. After my time there I had become used to the abundant greenery and aggressive driving. The Spanish language was no longer completely overwhelming and I had some idea of where we were location-wise. Read more
After a 7-hour drive, my friends and I finally arrived at Pedasi, a small town on the Pacific coast of Panama. We took a short two-hour nap and then hopped in the car again. It was around midnight as we traveled to the beach where the large sea turtles lay their eggs. With small flashlights we trekked through thick mud that reached our knees at times, then hopped on a boat, and finally we arrived at our destination. Read more
Panama has been incredible and I have seen and experienced so many unforgettable things. Some highlights from my trip thus far include:
Rowing a Cayuco:
I tried rowing in a cayuco, which is similar to a canoe, and our boat swamped in a lake filled with crocodiles and manatees. A guy who was with us actually had part of his finger bitten off in this lake by a manatee one time when he had swamped. Read more
One of the places I have spent the most time at in Panama has been the mall. This may sound dull and you might think that I can do this in any city, but this mall is special. It is called Albrook Mall and it is one of the largest malls I have ever seen! There are hundreds of stores, a carousel, a bowling alley, banks, restaurants, an internet café, a movie theater and a casino. There is also a little train that drives people around. This mall is so large that some stores have more than one location just in this mall. For example, there are three Cinnabons, two Conways, two Titans and many other places have a multiple shops here.
Another experience from Panama that has been notable though it seems ordinary has been the rides I take on the public buses. These buses are called Diablo Rojos, meaning red devil, because they are notorious for having bad drivers. They never close the doors on these buses even when people are packed into them, with some forced to stand on the stairs leading up to the main area. I have only seen them close the doors one time and that was because a police officer drove up next to the driver and demanded that the driver shut the doors because people were hanging out of the bus. Another time I rode the bus there was a big traffic jam so my driver made a U-turn in the middle of the narrow two-lane street as several people honked at him while he turned around the large bus.
Though this sounds like a less than desirable form of transportation it is very cheap and costs about 25 cents anywhere you travel in the city so the buses are always filled with people. However, they are not very reliable and there is no bus schedule. I believe that the drivers do have a route, but they seem to have a lot of freedom in deciding if they follow this or not. Therefore, you never know how long you will wait until the next bus comes. These rides are an adventure and I often acquire interesting stories to tell after hopping on a Diablo Rojo.
In Panama there are only two seasons, wet and dry. I’m spending time here during the wet season, which means there is about 90 percent humidity and it rains about every single day. This extreme humidity makes it feel about 10 degrees hotter than it actually is. It also gives one the feeling that he or she is trapped in a sauna, always wet from the precipitation in the air.
Another thing that struck me about Panama was the unique fruit and animals. I feel like I am a fairly educated person that has traveled a bit and has a good knowledge about various things. However I am bewildered by much of what I see here. I have seen mamonchino, nances, and I tried lulo and guanabana juices. I also am excited to see some animals that are common here including sloths, toucans and agoutis.
I have done some incredible things here already. I took a city tour and saw the Panama Canal, which is truly remarkable. I have also been to the local zoo where people were actually feeding and touching some of the animals such as the monkeys, even though this is not allowed. I also went to a beautiful black sand beach with my host family, where the water is the perfect temperature and soft waves hit the sand.
I have only been here a week but I already love Panama and hope to come back some day. People have been friendly and welcoming and the land has a beauty that no other place I have seen compares to. The greenery and exotic plants and animals I think will always amaze me. If you are not sure where to take your next vacation I highly recommend you come to Panama and see if this place is all that I described it as.