I woke up just in time to be flying over the North coast of Panama and the start of the Canal on the Gulf side. Helllooooo Panama! We flew over most of the canal, the large lake in the middle of the country, and then over the Pacific to land. The current canal is a fascinating accomplishment for mankind. Although its current capacity does not support the size of today's ocean faring vessels, it is the same canal and locks build over 100 years ago. Until they complete the expansion, the size vessel that can pass is known as a Panamax ship. Because of the bottleneck, many ships arrive at the canal and wait their turn to either pass if they are proper size, or have their contents moved to a ship that fits. As you can see in this picture, there's quite a line, and that's not all of them.
It was 92 degrees F when I landed. Landing and customs went smoothly, although I did misunderstand the immigration packet that my hosting LC sent me. I thought I was to do an interview with customs there in the airport, so when I walked out into the waiting area, I was still looking for the office that would register me. I was instead greeted by 4 AIESECers who had come to pick me up. They spotted me immediately (its like I stick out in Latin America or something), introduced themselves, and gave me a welcome gift. For me, there is nothing like traveling abroad to remind me how bad I am at remembering names. I have them all now (Alexi, Ingrid, Mauricio (Bolivia) and Joanna (Colombia)), but for the first day I had to avoid using names.
|Beer on the Causeway|
After dropping off my bags, the 5 of us went exploring. We drove the city, by the canal, through the city of knowledge by where Joanna (the colombiana) will work, and ended up at the far end of the causeway a bit after dark. We strolled the causeway with a perfect view of the city and stopped at a bar for a couple drinks. Unfortunately I was very tired so I'm afraid I wasn't very fun, but I tried. After, we dropped everyone off, I was last because I am practically in Colombia (joke, its just really far East from the city) and I passed out in anticipation of an awesome next day.
The original plan for Sunday was to go to the beaches of an island just off the city named Taboga. To get there, you have to take a ferry. You also have to arrive an hour early for the ferry. I was the first to be picked up so I woke up at 5:30, was picked up around 6:15, and we headed toward the ferry. After all the stops, we missed our 7 am mark for the 8 am ferry but it didn't matter. There were so many people headed to Taboga that there were no tickets until the 11 am ferry. We changed directions.
|Joanna and I after crossing the river|
Instead we headed east to the beaches outside the city. Ingrid was able to get us into an exclusive beach club an hour from Panama City that was secluded and beautiful! We spent the whole day in the sun, in the water, and relaxing. During the laziness, the beach walks, and the dips in the Pacific, we talked about AIESEC, dances, our roots, and the funny cognates or misunderstandings in different languages. I also got to experiment with my new, waterproof camera. Needless to say it went in the water, and there are a lot of the same pictures in different setting. Awesome, awesome Christmas gift! Thanks mom and dad!
At low tide we waded across the river to the other side of the beach where there was a beach side restaurant. While the food and drinks were good, the service was impossible and we ended up cancelling half our order when it hadn't come an hour later. The platter of fried meat we did receive was amazing!
|Mauricio's First Time!|
All joking aside, Sunday was the perfect day. More so because of the change of plans than in spite of because we made the best of what would work and the company we were with. I believe that over the next 2 months, these people will be some of my best friends and confidants. I cannot wait to get to know them more and make more memories!
|Joanna and I playing with the panoramic mode|
On the way back to the city we hit the weekend traffic. We didn't even think about how many people would be returning after a weekend on the beach. Whoops. The car-ride was just as fun though, even if it did take 3 hours. Since we took a different route, we got to cross both the famous bridges over the Canal. After dinner at the Buffalo House (yea, I ate wings in Panama), we all went home and passed out. All in all, a successful day.
Today is my down day before work tomorrow. I am spending time with the family and getting myself prepared. As I mentioned, I will be moving houses later this evening to be able to get to work easier. I'll post again in a couple days with updates on working life in Panama!
|Drawing mode on camera|
|Sparkle mode? I <3 anything that says sparkle|