Visiting the New Locks of the Panama Canal

Last Sunday we had a fantastic opportunity! The ACP (Panama Canal Authority) opened the new locks to the public for one day only, and anyone who wanted to visit was welcome. I had seen photos and read articles, but to actually go to the construction site was too exciting to pass up. Next month they are going to start filling the locks with water so this was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

It all started when someone posted this article on Facebook http://www.prensa.com/sociedad/visita_a_esclusas_0_4201080042.html  All we needed to do was show up at the designated parking area wearing long pants and proper footwear for a construction zone.

So, we took the bus to Panama City on Saturday, booked the Allbrook Inn for a couple nights, and contacted Luis Arce to pick us up and drive us to the site.

We made it to the parking area, and then made our way to the main parking area where there was a long line around the parking lot and down the street.

We were in this line about two hours before we made it to the bus, most of it in light to heavy rain. People were upbeat and cheerful though and didn’t seem to mind getting wet. Here though the rain is warm and getting wet is a common occurrence.

The bus took us on a short ride, and then let us off in another parking lot where there was a huge line!


And, then, we were THERE!


 

I believe I have identified the director in the white hat and black shirt as Guillermo O Chapman, Jr.  and clicking on his name will take you to some information about him.

We boarded the next bus and headed to the “mirador” or look out spot. Every bus had someone in a lime green t-shirt cheerfully telling us where we were going, what we were going to see, and any other information that would be helpful.

At first I thought we must be at different locks, until I looked way down in the distance in one of these photos and saw we were actually at the other end of these same locks. The size and scope of all this is pretty incredible.

This was an all day event, but an excellent experience! I heard later that 45,000 people visited. A lot of credit goes to the people who organized all this, the personnel, the buses, the parking and waiting areas, the water, the bathrooms, the little flags that were handed out to everyone, music, drones, security, and I’m sure a lot more things than we realize. They did an excellent job of handling this many people and making it a great day for everyone.

Here is some more information on this construction project

http://micanaldepanama.com/expansion/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panama_Canal_expansion_project

Plans are for the canal to be open and operational in 2016. I definitely want to go back then, and that will be even more interesting after seeing it before the water!

 

 

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Forces of Nature

Weekly Photo Challenge: Forces of Nature

This was easy this week since I just went to the beach to check out the unusually high tides and big waves.

It's hard to get a photo of how wild these waves were.

It’s hard to get a photo of how wild these waves were.

This photo was taken at Playa La Barqueta in Chiriqui, Panama.

One of my blog readers shared some wonderful information in the comments of a recent post on this subject. These waves are from a system called Ocean Swell, or Mar de Fondo in Spanish. The current swell is from between Australia and South America and has travelled over 10,000 Km. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swell_(ocean)

Here is a twitter feed from Mexico that also explains this  

Thank you oldcameraman for the much appreciated info. Thank you to the sea for many great photos, and for the Ocean Swell that gave me something new to learn about and photograph.

 

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Intricate

Weekly Photo Challenge: Intricate

The first things that came to mind were some of the intricate patterns found in nature.

I've seen this interesting tiny, baby lizard a few times on the terrace, but Joel got a great photo of him.

I’ve seen this interesting tiny, baby lizard a few times on the terrace, but Joel got a great photo of him.

xx

This tiny moth was barely a centimeter across, but so beautiful.

This tiny moth was barely a centimeter across, but so beautiful.

xx

One night this beautiful cicada landed on my table.

One night this beautiful cicada landed on my table.

xx

Among the bugs there was this gorgeous moth on the wall (in Nicaragua)

Among the bugs there was this gorgeous moth on the wall (in Nicaragua)

These photos aren’t new, but are some I remembered from doing some blog backup a while ago.

Here’s a few other posts on this photo challenge:

https://veronicapanita.wordpress.com/2015/05/06/weekly-photo-challenge-intricate/

https://6degreesofberlin.wordpress.com/2015/05/07/weekly-photo-challenge-intricate/

http://theramblinggardener.com/2015/05/08/weekly-photo-challenge-intricate-3/

http://ozarkmountainhiker.com/2015/05/03/weekly-photo-challenge-intricate-in-the-ozarks/

http://hnen.hassenorelius.se/weekly-photo-challenge-intricate/

 

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High Tides and Pounding Waves

Something is going on in the Pacific Ocean, and I have heard that there are unusually high tides and large waves all along the coasts of Central and South America. Some say it is the season, and others say that this is something bigger than anything that usually happens. It is affecting Panama and there have been warnings to stay out of the water and use extreme caution in all Pacific beach areas.

http://www.prensa.com/sociedad/oleaje_pacifico_alerta_verde_0_4204079704.html

Yesterday I decided to go out to La Barqueta and see what was going on. There were definitely high waves and pounding surf!

There were police and guards posted at the public beach area to keep people from going anywhere near the water. When I got within sight of the water the surf was the loudest I have heard.

Ooh, I almost forgot to include the video!

There is a lot of concern now about the state of the earth. The high tides and waves are only a part of it. There is increased volcanic activity in Nicaragua and Costa Rica, our neighbors. The weather has been very hot for this time of year, and people say the it is because the earth is unusually hot which means we are at an increased risk for earthquakes. There was a 5.1 today in Nicaragua and a lot of activity in Chili. We are supposed to be in the rainy season but it hasn’t rained for days. Some days have been hot and humid enough to make even me unhappy, and though the humidity of the last couple days is a bit less, a cooling rain would be most welcome.

After checking out the beach, I knew I was in for a couple more hours on the bike to get home, so I headed inland.

I hadn’t done this long a bike trip in a while, and there was a lot of mind over matter. The first hour out I was thinking – I am hot and tired now. Why do I want to get more hot and tired? Why do I want to see again what I have seen 100 times? I’m 5 miles out, 5 to return, 10 miles total – that’s a good ride so I can turn around. Then, 7 miles, 10 miles, more of the same calculating. I forgot my MP3 and I’ll be bored soon, so I should turn back. On the other hand – I want to see the beach. If I can’t do 40 miles in one day, how do I think I can travel and do 40-50 miles day after day?? I had better get with it!! Once I got out past familiar areas it was more fun and my attitude improved a lot.

On the way back I had a decent tail wind for the first hour, the road was flat, I exchanged greetings with people as I passed, and I had a great time. Then, I was back in the familiar areas again, it was after noon and hot, and the gradual incline from the south part of town to the north started. I could just call Joel to come pick me up. What? You can’t cycle 40 miles?? You have to get picked up?! You know you can’t do that if you are traveling. I could get a drink, something cold with sugar (I passed one too many gas stations with a fridge full of cold drinks and eventually I couldn’t resist). I’ll just go to the next cross street and then I’ll call Joel. Well, maybe just another 10 blocks and then I’ll call. This went on in my head until I made it to the Pan-American. I stopped to rest in a bus stop, where a sweet guy with some of his teeth wanted to teach me the name of every town and neighborhood around (*sigh* I just want to rest). Now it would silly to call Joel when I was this close to home. The rest break and the last of my soda revived me enough to get back on the bike, and I concentrated on moving the pedals around and around until I made it home.

I have learned that so many factors go into bike riding and a big one is attitude. If I’m excited and psyched up for a certain ride it goes much better. If I can get lazy, it’s too tempting to slack off. It’s harder when it’s really hot, of course. And, like anything, I have good days and off days. But, I try my best to keep on it and I’m definitely stronger than I used to be. With any luck I’ll be successful on the road trip planned for late June. But, that will be another subject and other blog posts.

For now though, it is now Thursday afternoon and I am happy to report that it is cloudy, it has rained a bit, and there is thunder in the distance so maybe we will get a bit more! Yeah!

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My Panamanian Neighborhood

It is easy to forget that my every day life is interesting to other people. So, I am going to try to post more about daily things. One thing I see almost every day is my neighborhood, and the two mile route between there and the shopping area where we go most often.

This is what my world on the north side of David looks like. It’s doesn’t look that different than many places in the US. Maybe it’s not as manicured, but it’s still people living in houses, growing flowers in their yards, going to work, playing with their families, putting the trash out on Mondays, and just living their lives.

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More Panamanian Greenery

Today I went southwest towards La Barqueta beach. I thought about going to the beach to check out the waves. There are really high tides and big waves right now all along Central and South America. By the time I got to the other side of town though, I knew it wasn’t going to happen. It’s hot, humid, few clouds, and a long ride in the hot sun was not appealing. I did go a ways into the country though. I love this area of mostly cow pastures and sugar cane.

I’ve had people ask me – Now that you aren’t working, what do you DO all day?? This is what I did today. I rode through green fields (at a slower pace, and I stopped under trees to cool off and take photos) but I was out in a beautiful place. On the way home I stopped by the produce market because they have tamales on Saturdays. Then I showered, ate my tamale, drank a couple liters of lemonade (from the lemons in my yard), answered some emails, made chicken soup, cleaned the bathroom, swept the floors, helped a friend with a computer thing, and worked (played) in the yard. Then I showered again (did I mention it is an unusually hot and sticky day?) Now it’s time to make some dinner and watch some Netflix.

It never rained today. It didn’t look like it was even thinking of raining. Tomorrow is Sunday, a good day to bike downtown because there is so much less traffic. Hopefully tomorrow will be a bit cooler. But, I am thankful it never snows, and I live in a beautiful place with really nice people. Life is good.

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The Rainy Season, or the Green Season

There are two seasons here, the dry season or summer, and the rainy season or green season. The dry season begins in December and goes to sometime in April. It rarely rains and some days are very windy. The temperature goes higher but there is less humidity, grass gets brown and crunchy, and brush fires are common. There are different flowers and fruits which are interesting but by March it is really hot and I am eagerly looking forward to the return of the rains.

We are now back into the rainy season. Some people unfamiliar with this climate are afraid that it rains constantly, but that is not the case at all. Mornings are beautiful so you try to do any outdoor activities then. It starts to cloud up in the afternoon and most days by mid to late afternoon it will rain, sometimes raining so hard it seems like the skies are dumping all their contents on the earth. It doesn’t last long though, usually an hour or two. By dusk it is finished, and it is unusual for it to rain into the night. After the rain everything is cooled off and evenings are wonderful.

I like the rainy season the best. Everything turns lush and green and it’s so beautiful. Today I had a fairly free day so I decided to go biking up into the hills where I hadn’t been since it started raining again. This is one of my favorite areas and though it was beautiful in summer, now it is green again and it’s gorgeous! This is a route that goes northwest of David, and it’s mostly pastures of cows with the hills and mountains behind them.

Sometimes I do a big loop around and come back into town through some more populated areas and crazy downhills. Today though, I just rode up through my favorite parts and turned around and came back down the way I came, carrying an 8 lb guanabana I found for sale up there. My friends are going to be happy. Maybe tomorrow I should go the other direction towards the beach and see if the sugar cane is taller.

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Shopping for Fabric in Panama

I was really surprised to see how much less the fabric costs here! Today we visited a couple fabric shops so I took a few photos. I wasn’t supposed to be taking photos inside but I did sneak a couple, and the rest are from outside.

The first place we stopped was Elena’s, and it’s probably the biggest of the stores in downtown David. They have everything – thread, ribbons, trims, buttons, anything you can think of along with their large selection of fabric. The only thing they don’t have are patterns. They don’t seem to be sold anywhere around here. There must be a lot of sewing going on judging by the amount of fabric for sale, so I figure people here must be quite talented and able to make things without patterns.

Next we stopped by Los Tejidos, which is located on the south side of Cervantes Park opposite the big church. You’ll find it by all the rolls of fabric out on the sidewalk.

The first time I visited David I stopped in to look around in Los Tejidos. As soon as you enter this (and most stores) an employee will greet you and ask you what you need. This seemed so strange and intrusive to me back then, since I was used to the US stores where you have to hunt for an employee if you need something. Here though, I have found the staff to be very helpful. If, for example, I want to make a shirt they will take me directly to the softest and prettiest fabrics that are good for a woman’s shirt or blouse. Once I wanted material for pants with a bit of stretch. One store didn’t have it but the employee told me where to find it in another store. Curtains, pillows, clothes, whatever your project they will try to find something that will work for you.

If any of you have dreams of coming to Panama and enjoying some sewing, you are going to have a very good time here!

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Buying Fruits and Vegetables

This is my very favorite store! I’m probably there 3-4 times/week, either at this shop or another like it. There are many of these fruit and vegetable markets around town. This is one of the bigger ones, and others can be as modest as a table in front of someone’s house.

We are lucky to be here in Chiriqui province where most of the produce is grown, and we have access to these markets every day. This one is down the road from us on Via Boquete, just behind the Toyota dealership on the Pan-American Highway. We have watched it at least double in size and they are always busy. There is another good one across from the El Rey parking lot. It is fairly new but it has also grown from a couple tables to a tent with many shelves and tables of produce, and a lots of potted plants.

This is the front of the market. You can see avocados, passion fruit, papayas, parsley, bananas, pineapples, a bucket of flowers, oranges, and plantains.

This is the front of the market. You can see avocados, passion fruit, papayas, parsley, bananas, pineapples, a bucket of flowers, oranges, and plantains.

We have found the produce in the markets to be fresher, cheaper, and more flavorful than the produce in the supermarkets so we buy everything here.

It is handy to pull up to the back of the market because it's easy to park back there. Here you can see watermelons, lemons, oranges, more plantains, papayas, pineapples, and some ginger root.

It is handy to pull up to the back of the market because it’s easy to park. Here you can see watermelons, lemons, oranges, mangoes, more plantains, papayas, pineapples, and some ginger root.

There is a lot more stuff inside! I’m always discovering something new in there.

The inventory changes a bit from time to time and by the season. On Saturdays you can get fresh, hot tamales for $1.25/each. Lately they have been selling gallinas de patio (yard chickens, or free range chickens) raised by the wife of the guy waving in the earlier photo. Let him know and he’ll bring one the next day ($2.50/lb which is almost twice what I pay for chicken in Canasta Basica, but it is excellent!) There is dried corn, some condiments, and lately there have been bottles of coconut oil and some salsas. I took photos of the price lists which will give an idea of the usual items.

415market1

Lechuga – lettuce, repollo verde – green cabbage, repollo morado – red (purple) cabbage, zanahoria – carrots, remolacha – beets, papa – potato, brocoli – broccoli, coliflor – cauliflower, habichuela – green beans, pepino – cucumber, tomate – tomato, tomate perita – Italian tomatoes, chayote – the squash like veggie we like, peregil – parsley, repollo chino – Chinese cabbage.

415market2

papaya, bananos (3/$0.25), piña – pineapple (range from $0.75 – $1.25 each for a big one, depending on availability), limon – one of the many types of lemon/lime fruits available here, platano – plantain, yuca – root vegetable aka cassava, atoe – another root veggie from plants that look like ornamental elephant ears, name – another root veggie, zapallo – the pumpkin like squash, cebolla – onions, apio – celery, mango, toronja – grapefruit, coco – coconut, naranja – orange, melon – cantaloupe melon, porot / frijol – various types of dried beans, lentejas – lentils, avas – don’t know what this is, guandu – pigeon peas in green, spotted, or black, raspadura – cakes of raw sugar, cebolla morado – red (purple) onions, cebollina – green onions.

Whew! Lots of stuff. What you probably can’t see in the photos is there is a dirt floor, and on the south side of the shop there is a very large tree root that you have to be careful not to trip over. The cat is usually sleeping on some shelf or in some vegetable bin. They will also cut out a bad part of something, put the item in a plastic bag and put it back out of the shelf for sale. This is probably what is going on with the papayas in bags in front of the store. If something can be used it does not go to waste.

I am so used to these markets that I am always surprised when I go back to the US. The produce all looks perfect, and it’s all carefully arranged in beautiful displays. Here though, it is all about flavor and value for the money, not appearance.

I am so used to a lot of things here that this is my normal life. But, I realize that for others not living here, it might be interesting to see where we shop and what is available here so I am going to try to do a post like this now and then.

 

Posted in food, fruit, Getting Things Done, Panama | Tagged , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

Weekly Photo Challenge: Motion

Weekly Photo Challenge: Motion

I’ve been thinking about this for days and have drawn a blank. Birds fly by, hummingbirds visit the patio, many things are in motion but there hasn’t been anything this week that has inspired me to grab my camera.

Today though, I went out with a friend to play some tennis. There was plenty of motion there! But I wanted to play, not take photos of playing. But, how about a photo of anti-motion, the opposite of motion? I have a good one of that! For some reason there were green lizards hanging out in various places on the chain link fence. They didn’t move when we approached them, and they didn’t move for over an hour while we played. This guy looks about as unlikely to get into motion as anything I’ve seen for quite a while :D

415motion1

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