Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Work, Canal, Robbers, & Blonde Boys

On our second day in Panama we went with Scott to work at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. 
We explored while Scott worked. Atley had a great time taking pictures of the strange bugs and plants.
After a couple of hours we headed to the Canal. Morning is the best time to view the ships entering the locks at Miraflores.  The Panama Canal is an amazing feat of engineering. While the history teacher in me longs to give a lesson on all of it, I will spare you the lecture.  Actually, never mind I can't help myself.  Although there had been lots of talk and plenty of explorations in Central America to find the best way to dig a canal and shorten the route between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, it wasn't until the gold rush of 1849 that serious research began taking place in and around Panama. Other countries, including Guatemala and Nicaragua, were explored before finally deciding that Panama was the best choice. Not only did Panama have the most narrow isthmus but the churches that were built in the early 1500's indicated that the area was free of earthquakes and other natural disasters. Initial explorers thought that they could just dig a ditch from the Caribbean to the Pacific. The only problem was that Panama's interior was full of mountains.  This problem was solved by creating a dam in the high country and then the largest man-made lake in the world, Gatun Lake. Engineers then developed a lock system that raised and lowered the ships to compensate for the changes in elevation between the oceans. The canal was completed in 1914 and was controlled by the United States until 1999. Most Panamanians are very pro-America because of the canal and the economic progress it has brought to their country.  One Panamanian told us, "We love America.  It is like having a really good boss."  The canal contains three different locks and passage takes about 14 hours. Miraflores are the locks nearest Panama City.  Two train engines attach themselves to the large ships to guide them through the locks.  Smaller vessels are guided by tug boats.  The cost of passing through the canal is based on the weight of the vessel. Larger ships pay more than $100,000 to enter the canal, while the only man who ever swam the length of the canal paid $0.36. Construction on a new wider canal with a more efficient pumping feature is schedule to be completed in 2014 next to the original canal.

We ate some yummy churrascos and spent the rest of the day at the mall while the hubby tried to earn more money than we spent.  Panama is famous in Latin America for its excellent shopping. We had a thing or two to learn about the whole process though.  For example, after buying a few things in one store we strolled into another, where I was approached by a man whose Spanish was spoken way too fast for my knowledge of his language.  Next, thing I knew he was grabbing my shopping bag. I was fighting him and showing him the one area where my vocabulary flourished-Spanish swear words. Finally, I escaped the clutches of this evil robber only to be told by someone who spoke a little slower that he was trying to tell me that I needed to deposit my shopping bags in this weird little shopping bag prison before entering a different store. Apparently, it is some mall law and I was quite the criminal.  Go figure!  This is the day we also learned that Atley's blonde hair compelled others to cross all personal space barriers and rub his head in excitement. At first we were shocked, but then we started offering a free head rub as payment for services throughout the country.

1 comment:

G&G said...

Happy Happy birthday Atley. Got too late to call before I knew it. Hope our little package arrived. Maybe we can do "face time" tomorrow night.
Day Two sounded awesome, waiting day 3.