Saturday, July 30, 2011

Only 2 more weeks to go!!!

Hola amigos!! Hope everybody is holding up in the mini heat wave you're having up there. Soooo....just what have I been up to, you ask?? Not too much....really...not too much at all. Thursday morning I decided I wanted to take a mental health day, so I stayed home from the lab. It was a nice, quiet day spent relaxing in an empty apartment. The evening was spent the same way...the room mates came home, the neighbors came over, and we relaxed. And then the rain started....yeah, it rained as usual during the afternoon, but then it started back up in the evening and rained all night long.

Friday morning, Kaza, Abby and I took an early morning walk down to Avenida Central to look for some soccer shoes, forgetting that Panama time is in effect so there weren't any stores open at 8:30 am! The rain had stopped at some point in the early morning hours. After our fruitless walk, I went with Kaza to the Tupper labs; she took over a project from another student and I helped her run the water samples. The project is testing the salinity of waters from different tropical regions, but she is also testing the amount of chloride ions that are in the water so I was able to run samples using a titration machine! Very cool stuff!

Being that it was Friday, soccer was in the air! But I begged off this time...I have been injuring myself quite a bit since I've been here and needed to give my body a rest. The afternoon weather was great: sunny skies, big, puffy clouds. But in about 3 hours....yeah, you guessed it: RAIN! And it rained for the rest of the night....

And here we are: Saturday afternoon....and it is still raining. it's 1:40pm (we are only one hour behind the east coast) and it's a downpour, with thunder and lightning thrown in. It's been raining since I woke up at 8:30...probably before that even. But I don't mind it....perfect excuse to curl up in bed with a book! Only thing that's missing is ice cream, TV, and 2 big baby boxers, one curled at the foot of the bed and the other underneath the bed.

Until next time...enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Another day...

So I have spent the better part of this morning updating my blog....yesterday was a busy day. We helped Abby collect more data, but this time she had to collect salinity samples of her tide pools from the time the tide left until it came back. So from noon to midnight....I was in the noon-six shift. We had to record the time the tide uncovered the pool then take a water sample every hour after that. Lots of climbing, sweating and tanning! Saw an iguana sunning itself on our way to the site and at around 5pm, I heard a family of raccoons fussing...and then saw an injured one picking his way across the rocks towards me. Such intellegience I saw in those black rimmed eyes. It was almost like he was thinking, "I know this human has to have something for me". He really was heading straight for me. But then he made a right....right towards my backpack! ha! i got up and followed to see what he would do, and sure enough...his little paws were in my backpack! LOL! He was trying to get a banana peel I had in there. I quickly shooed him away and then watched him meander down the beach trying to find crabs in the sand.

My goodness, my legs were like rubber at the end of the day and I was starving! I was having visions of pizza (Napoli's) and ice cream (GranClement-which I have yet to fully describe and post pics of....another day!). I sent an text to my housemates and finished my day. By the time I got home, showered, and dressed, everyone was ready to go! We caught a taxi to Napoli's, but....nooooooooo! Esta CERRADO!!! (it was closed) So off to Casco Viejo we this point I could have gnawed off my own arm. I had una hamburguesa con papas fritas y un mudslide. Yummm! A great end to a tiring day. I slept so good last night....

It's been so long...

I have to admit...I haven't felt much like writing anything on here lately. I've been trying to post pictures as often as possible, but there hasn't been any description to go with them! But I'm back...and I have much to share! At this point, we have 2 1/2 weeks left to go...the time has gone by so quickly!!!

So, I will spend a bit of time this morning rearranging photos and adding descriptions. I hope you all enjoy!

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Gatun locks in the Panama Canal

Saturday night blurred into Sunday morning. I got home at 2:15am, showered, set my alarm for 3:30, and laid down. I think I slept all of 30 minutes. Up out the door by 4:15 am. Destination? The Gatun locks in the Panama Canal in Colon. 
I get on the Panama-Colon bus at 4:30 am....and wait another 45 mins for the bus to move. Now when I say bus, I'm not talking about a nice, smooth, air conditioned greyhound. I'm talking about one of the modified school buses that are abundant down here....noisy, hot, and bumpy. But you can't beat the price: $2.15 for a 2 1/2 hour ride to Colon. 

Now, my cousin Ricky told me what to do, what to say, and what bus stop to get off at. What he didn't tell me is that the bus was going to move at a snail's pace, stop and every local stop, and squeeze as many people on as possible at each stop. And then, even though I knew the name of the stop and had asked the driver to tell me when to get off, there was this fear of not knowing where I was or where I was going or how long it really took to get there. So, yes, there was some nervousness. But, finally...I made it. I see Ricky waiting for me and get off to start my next adventure. I am getting the true Panama experience!

So off we go to the locks. Ricky is a great tour guide....showing me where he used to work and pointing out the area where they are building another canal. We meet up with his friend Bobby, who is the captain of one of the tugboats. These are the tugs that guide the ships into place as they approach the locks.
The precision that is involved in this process is amazing!! There isn't a traditional wheel that the captain uses....just about everything on this boat is computerized. You can see in these pictures...the 2 joysticks on either side of the captain is what he uses to steer. These new tugs can move 360 degrees around!!

Once the ships are in place, these "mules" on the sides of the locks attach themselves by rope to the ship. As the ship moves through the locks, these mules (there are eight total....2 on each side at the bow and 2 on each side at the stern) keep the ship in place so it won't scrap against the sides of the locks. The canal locks are only 110 ft across.

In the locks...

 After attaching the tug to the ship, Bobby slowly guided it into the locks. After the ship is safely in the locks, the tugboat's job is done and usually it turns around to get more ships. But Bobby had to get to the other side, so we were able to move through the locks with the ship!! How awesome is that! So these next few pictures are of that. Here, you see our tug still attached the ship....

And here, we are a safe distance you see the churning in the water? That's the propellers of the Mariposa....which is what we needed to stay away from.

The Gatun locks

The gates....they range in height from 47-82 feet, are 7 ft thick, and weigh 662 tons each.

 The gates closing and filling behind us...

Through the locks

Doing what they do...

And the end of the day....once we came through the locks, Bobby had to assist some ships back through the locks, very interesting!

And then the view!! Oh my...I just stood on the boat and let the breeze flow over was wonderful!!!

The engine room

I have a confession to make....I heard NOTHING about ANYTHING that was going on down here in the engine room......all I know is that the noise was deafening and it was about 200 degrees down there.....I know now what hell's waiting room feels like....

Oooooo...I know that this was the air conditioning compressor! I took this picture for my Dad!

Habana Panama!

Saturday was a pretty busy day....produce market in the mid afternoon....then home to shower and a taxi to Albrook Mall. The intent was to go grocery shopping and then come home. Well, that was my neighbors' intent...I already knew I wanted to do some shopping. Somehow, their intent changed once we actually got in the mall. So a few hours of shopping began! Of course, shopping makes you hungry, so we stopped for a late lunch and then mad our way to the grocery store and home. Relax for a couple hours and then.......this was the night I've been waiting for...a night of salsa dancing! I would say my shopping excursion was successfull....I found this amazing shirt there!

 The girls looked equally as lovely: Kathryn, Kaza, Sarah, Marianne, and Abby.

 Habana Panama....not what I expected at all! There was a LIVE salsa band playing...a HUGE dance floor....a balcony. It was lovely!! Most people came there with their significant others, would would have seemed awkward, but with all the girl power we came with, that didn't even matter.

It was such a great night...I danced until I sweated, rested, and then danced some more!! Unfortunately, I had to cut the night short to get ready for my early morning field trip the next day, so I made those 2 hours worth something!!

Don't ask me what this was....

Friday was a great day...I brought the dinner I didn't eat the night before with me for lunch, only to find out that we were going out for lunch that day! It was Rachel Collin's birthday! She is the scientist that wrote the grant that enabled me to be in Panama.

The dynamics here in this lab are great! It's like a cozy little family. Maricela (who is kind of like the lab manager...she knows EVERYTHING!) came in with the most delicious smelling flowers and a cute card, Matt provided the vase, and everyone chipped in for the cost. We all signed the card and then waited for Rachel to come in. She was pleasantly surprised.

Most of the lab decided to go down the causeway a bit further to a restaurant called Beirut....the food was awesome, but once again...I forget to take a picture of what I ordered (I mean, who really whips out the camera and takes a picture of their food??) but I did remember to get a picture of dessert....and hence the title of this entry. At first I thought it was some type of mash potatoes and gravy thing, but this was dessert! I tasted a bit of was a mixture of pudding and some type of flan, sweet and a bit chunky. That being said, it really wasn't to my liking. But I tried it!


 Thursday was a very interesting day...the morning was spent doing what we had been doing all week: counting eggs...but lunch was a treat! We walked further down the causeway (I was actually on the hunt for pizza....I know, I don't get it either!) I haven't ever went past Mi Ranchitos while I have been here, but I'm sure glad I did!! There are many more restaurants and and a smoothie stand and a convenience get my point. We passed by a place that had an executive lunch menu for only $4.95! So, of course I had to stop in.....and feast!!!

Thursday evening was even better. We (me, Kaza, Kathryn, and Abby) caught the 4pm busito back to La Jaula. Kaza and Abby made dinner (yes...I helped!) very quickly...but not quickly enough. We had to race to Tupper to catch a 5:30 bus out to Colon for a seminar. We rounded up as many tupperware containers as we could find and brought our dinners with us...only to get there and wait on the hot bus for another 10 minutes! Erggggg! Waiting....and waiting....hungry.....but the bus driver says no eating on the bus....sighhhhh. Finally, we are leaving....and we go from sweating to shivering as the AC is put on full blast. But, it was a comfy 45 minute ride out to Colon.

The talk at Colon was given by a young PhD student named Maya deVries. Her research was on the camaron mantis (mantis shrimp) in Punta Galeta. She also spoke about some of the educational outreach she is doing with children in Colon. But here's the catch...the entire talk was in Spanish! And I followed along....and understood just about everything! Granted, she isn't a native speaker, but still! I was very proud of myself!

The talk was given in an old American battery, Battery Morgan, on the coast of Colon. This place was given to Punta Galeta and used as a sort of meeting house for the community. It was a really informal talk....some of the kids that she worked with came and the volunteers that helped with her research also came.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Futbol: Panama v Mexico

How could I pass up the opportunity to see a live futbol game in Central America????? I mean, this is possibly a once in a lifetime experience. There were 2 games: Portugal vs Nigeria, and Panama vs Mexico. It was the Copa de la Presidente de la Republica....and it is the road to the World Cup, apparently. Ok, I admit...I am NOT an expert on soccer, but being a the game was just amazing, I tell you. i already knew Panamanians had muchos orgullosos (a lot of pride.....I mean, I'm only half and wasn't born here and I have pride for this country!) but to see it first hand was exhilarating!! Here are many of the pictures I took....

My ticket...                                                                                             The flag....

The national anthems of both countries were sung.....          

The band and "cheerleaders"...

The score ended in a tie: 1-1.....but it is something I will never forget!!!

Amigos y futbol

JaJaJa! Futbol was amazing!!!! Here are pictures of me y mis amigos!

On the and Matt sat in the back of the bus which seats up higher than all the rest of the seats....

Las  bonitas: Maricela, Kaza, y yo
La gente de Panama: Maricela, Axel, Abrahim, y yo

Just some random fans...but they were rockin the stadium....flags, scarves, everywhere! They even had a drum and were dancing and chanting....I got caught up and danced and chanted along! The game was intoxicating!!!!!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

El Busito

I realized that I have mentioned el busito several times in my posts, but have never described it to you or showed you a picture. Well, here it is....looks small, right? But this bus is one of the lost Autobots.....seats somehow magically appear inside and this little thing can fit up to 15 people!


And this is what Monday looked like...

The work day began as usual: the 7:15 am ride on the busito to la Isla Naos to the lab, a full day of comparing pictures of snail eggs for Abby with lunch at Mi Ranchito (chuletas y arroz blanco, of course! My fav!), ending with the 4pm busito back to La Jaula. But then...the evening begins!

Me, Abby, Kaza, Sarah, and our new friends from the lab, Victor and Mark, walked through town to Casco Viejo. It was a very interesting walk...many stores, fruit stands, and natives selling their handmade crafts. The smells were both enticing and repulsive. I saw sneakers and sandals that I want to go back and get (of course). Victor told us to keep our phones and cameras away, so I have no pictures of these sights.

We made it to Casco, and meandered through the streets, winding up at the best ice cream shop in the world...and y'all all know how I feel about ice cream. I was so caught up in the sheer bliss of the flavors that I forgot to take a picture....don't worry, I WILL be visiting this shop again, and will take plenty of pics!

But our final destination....wowwww...I'm not really sure my words can do this justice. Just sit back and soak it in.....

Standing on the pier...the steps went straight down to the rocks.....that is part of Casco Viejo in the background.

Kaza and Abby....2 of the interns I work with and my neighbors.

Is this not awesome?!?!? That sky seems to go on forever.....

This evening ended up with everyone at our apartment; our original group and we called Andrew, Kathryn, and Matt. Dinner was a hands-on affair: pasta (regular and gluten-free), tomato sauce with so many vegetables that I had to just close my eyes, chew, and swallow, and roast chicken. Panama beer (the brand name is actually Panama), white sangria, Abuelo rum....and we had a party...on a Monday night! It was great...we ate, drank, played games, talked, and just had a good time. 

This is what it's all about, folks!

Until next time....hasta luego!