The Panama-nian Adventure

Day 1

Good evening from Panama! I’m currently in the Ciudad del Saber (City Of Knowledge) after a long day of travel from Dallas. Here’s a rough timeline of my time here so far + some highlights:

04:00 – I am awake, against my will.

04:30 – Off to the airport, surrounded by construction. Imagine that?

05:50 – On the plane – and it’s an aisle seat – score!

This is my view on my connecting flight from Miami to Panama.

06:10 – Pilot announces that we have too much fuel and must spend 25-30 minutes de-fueling. Oh and also, we need to de-ice the runway so we can take off. I was just happy that our flight took off at all with this crazy weather (about half of the group’s flights were cancelled and are going to be here tomorrow – sorry, no canoe trip for you!)

07:10 – Finally, we’re off!

07:30 – I am violently woken up by a flight attendant accidentally spilling water on me.

15:15 – After a layover in Miami, I’m in Panama!

15:30 – I am given some seriously mean looks that say Stupid American for not knowing the exact address of my location I’ll be staying at.

15:45 – I am found by an impatient Panamanian man and four other American students at TCU. Hooray!

16:45 – We have found a random roadside store where I buy Nature Valley bars and my friends get hummus, fig newtons in a strawberry flavor, and chips. Thankfully, they use American money and carry some types of American food.

17:10 – We meet up at the site and head over to a convenience store for more goodies and happen upon a fabulous food court. I know what you’re thinking – Allison, really? A fabulous food court? Yes. That’s exactly what I’m saying. Whatever was on that pollo sandwich (besides the chicken) and in my Very Berry smoothie were delicious.

19:20 – Here I am, sitting in my room, loving the AC. My light keeps going off so randomly I have to get up and open the door. Did I mention this is a LEED certified building and I’m here for sustainability?

Overall, the night is young and I can’t wait for the week to come! I’m alive, can read a bit of Spanish, and I have survived the heat (so far). Catch you tomorrow, Internet!

The Calm Before the Work

Good Morning from beautiful Panama! It’s a warm 81 degrees this morning with humidity surrounding us.

Day 2 was even more exciting than the first! Here’s why:

  1. I successfully ordered a croissant! I did get a really weird look when I asked for it, but I got it and it was delicious! It’s the small things.
  2. We took an hour-long bus ride through bumpy rock-filled wilderness. (+ I didn’t throw up.)
  3. We canoed up a river and a fish launched itself at me. I like to believe this means I’m one with nature, but the jury is still out on this one.
  4. I didn’t fall while hiking with wet shoes on the slippery rocks. I believe this has to do with retribution for completely knocking a girl off a waterfall with me in Australia on her 18th birthday.
  5. The endpoint of our hike was a gorgeous waterfall we got to play in! As seen below, this natural back massage was such a cool (no pun intended) experience filled with fish and friendship sticks (that eventually got lost).
  6. I got to eat fruit from Panama (and it wasn’t nasty BLUU fruit!). Although I’m almost positive the mango was from Ecuador, I can’t say I had ever had passion fruit or papaya before.
  7. I got to explore the land around the indigenous tribe, the Embara. Their beautiful landscape was inhibited by a music video for a horrible British band singing the same horrible song over and over again (no offense, Happy Monday’s). I still can’t get that beat out of my head.
  8. I ate a delicious pizza (yes, I know pizza) at a Lebanese restaurant that took us 2.75 hours from start to finish.
  9. A woman came around while we ate and made the guys (minus Dan) to dance with her. She even had a sword and everything! How does she do it all in high-heels? Maybe it’s Maybelline.
  10. Thanks Makenzie for being born and getting us into a cool club for free! We were the first on the dance floor and obviously the worst dancers there, but we didn’t care. I also believe I inhaled so much of the fog that I could be sick at any moment, but the fact that we were all together and having fun made everything worthwhile.
The waterfall SKAWD. Such a beautiful experience!
Dancing with the natives, AKA Ryan being taller than everyone else
Casually looking at a cliff
What a cool rainforest (JK it’s hot here)!

Day 3 is almost done!

Today was a mess when it comes to food.

Breakfast: a no-go. (I’m a huge fan of miscommunication (; ).

We then went to the Panama canal! It’s totally casual that we got to walk around one small platform and see both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. The technology goes over my head, but it was a super informing experience overall.

Lunch: oh my goodness, what an experience. This three hour experience left us unsatisfied but in hysterics. We kept asking ourself, could this be any worse? My noodles were barely cooked, our service was horrible, and Cliff finally got his chicken breast after 2.5 hours of waiting. What. A. Mess. I walked away hungry but my abs were aching from all of the laughing. I colored a pretty picture of a flower from a children’s menu and we all played the box game while waiting.

If you know me, you know I love museums. Now Biodiversity Museums are not typically my forte, but I can’t complain. Giant replicas of ground sloths made me wish I was alive in that time – they were about the size of elephants! The views were gorgeous and the architecture was inspired.

Dinner: lol. Again, Cliff and I were the clear losers in this department. Guess who’s waitress forgot to submit our orders? The music was loud, but we were at the restaurant of a famous boxer and he even sang for us! I’m so thankful for friends who let me scrounge from their plates when my stomach wouldn’t shut up.

Overall, it was a successful day. I’m still hungry and we have to be ready at 6:20 AM, but I don’t really care. Fantastic friends make for a fantastic day and I really can’t complain!

The Panama Canal
Two extinct animals giving me some pretty creepy stares.
The beautiful BioMuseum we went to
A few of my friends taking a horned frog picture with Duran

CATHALAC

Was I happy about getting up at 6:00 today? Not really. Was I pumped to see animals I could have only dreamed of (or seen at the Dallas Zoo/Aquarium)? More than I could say.

Here is the spectacular list of the animals we had the blessing to see:

  • Dan the Toucan 1
  • Dan the Toucan 2
  • Dan the Toucan 3 (can you guess who named them?)
  • Jesus the Basilisk – could I enjoy the references more? Guess how Jesus got his name (A: he walks on water).
  • Timothy (the female) sloth
  • Justin the yellow butterfly
  • Molly the Motmot (a beautiful blue bird)
  • Esteban/Steve the Mono Titi (the two adorable monkeys)

Today, I learned how truly interesting my roommate’s major can be. Before today, my only experience with GPS systems was with my iPhone but today I can proudly say I marked locations of the following:

  • CATHALAC
  • Lamp
  • Lamp 2
  • Mound of dirt
  • Pavilion
  • Trash

Okay in all seriousness I got a true appreciation for the technology available to people of all professions to make the world more known.

I learned about the wetlands of Panama, learned how to use super cool software (nerd alert), and got to work with the best team to get the job done well. Science could really be my thing (lol, I can hear Alissa laughing at this already) if I get to work in a place like this with people this awesome (shout-out Erika, Cliff, and Dan).

Tomorrow we get TWO field trips. Is this elementary school again? (I mean this in a completely genuine and excited way; I’m so pumped to get out into the field and put this bad-boy Garmin GPS to use.)

After work we went to La Playa (the large food court) and I mistook my friend’s t-shirt for a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle shirt. Then he ordered pizza. And he’s basically a ghost at playground games. Coincidence? I think not (shout-out, G).

Now, I’m sitting in the bleachers with my back that is acting up, watching my friends play soccer. Could this beautiful Panamanian night get better? I’ve got a few new movies and books to add to my list (scaring Robert away in the process) and the whole gang is together. Go Panama, go TCU, go friendship.

I’m off to climb trees; hasta luego!

Watersheds

Today has been hot and a mess – truly a hot mess (but in mostly a good way).

We started out the day looking at the watershed around the Mantasñillo watershed in nine different places, following it downstream. Can you talk about the smell? (okay you can’t, but I can. It was nasty.) It was a great opportunity to look at a different side of Panama City and put my Spanish listening skills to use.

It’s eye-opening to see how the rivers look and are treated by the people + authorities here. The lower-income communities live at the higher end of the watershed and throw literal trash into their rivers. Unlike in Texas, Panamanians have the option to pay a fee to get their trash picked up. This means the choice for many people between food and trash services, which is an obvious choice for the majority (I immediately understood, especially when it come to this awesome fruit). People, even in the ole US of A, think of the here and now instead of the future impact.

Because of these desperate situations, the effects are increased dramatically. People at the bottom of the watershed reap a lot of the muck when they contribute less to the issue (or so it seems) because of their higher disposable income to spend on disposal.

I’ve learned about Riparian Rules and filtration systems and it’s such a different world from the business school. The great thing is that my group comes from different backgrounds and focuses so we all bring different things to the table that I wouldn’t think of without these integrated systems.

One of the most impactful things for me (+ my teammates) was when we went to one of the primary schools and visited a 5th grade classroom. No one in the class could say what the name of the river was just 20 feet from their window, nor did they know much about this water issue at all. They knew they shouldn’t throw trash in it, but their instinct and living situation causes them to have a mindset of survival (of themselves, not necessarily the world around them).

Our project is a work in process so this information is just a teaser. Stay tuned for more complete analysis (I know that’s what you read this for – in depth analysis of watershed issues in Panama)!

We spent lunch at the shopping mall and I ate Subway because there weren’t any true Panamanian restaurants and I’m not about the Maccas (McDonald’s) life. Our smoothies were on point which is an obvious plus, especially considering how much work it took to order + receive them.

After lunch we went to the Wastewater Treatment Plant *cue cheers* where we got an hour-long lecture on the process it goes through to become water that can be used again for certain purposes. I’ll spare you the details on the presentation, but I think the highlight was our bus driver snoring. I’m also lacking on the technical terms in Spanish so most of the time was spent trying to piece things together (semi-successfully). Also, we couldn’t actually do the tour because none of us had work or rain boots (thus, I wore jeans for nothing).

 
“Do you want to take a picture with the treatment plant?”
Super large bummer of the day: our buddy Gunnar (think TMNT) was in the hospital. What do you do with sick friends? Send them selfies.
 
#SKWAD + table selfie
Tomorrow we get to put together our topographical map and analyze more data to get a clearer picture of our project. It’s coming along quite smoothly, if I do say so myself (which I do). Hasta mañana!
 
twin-frat/geoscience stars Nick + Dan at your service.

El Fin

As I sit here in the airport in Panama thinking about the past week, I can’t help but be grateful for the people sitting around me. Everyone is filling out their customs forms, sleeping, or on their phones, but we leave this country as a collective body. We came to the country as awkward TCU students and left slightly less awkward, slightly more cultured, and much more aware of the world around us.

I’ve missed a few days because of some late nights, butt (thanks for that addition, Ryan) so here are the updates:

Wednesday morning was a mess. Our group left the office for lunch having to do some serious TSwift shaking it off. Cliff was ready to jump off a cliff he was so angry. Taking four hours to learn something that should take about an hour was frustrating, especially with our project and presentation looming.

Wednesday afternoon came those group projects and teamwork we discuss daily in business, but I don’t think that I’ve had a better group working together on a project before. Most of this, I’m sure, came from our diversity in majors and perspectives but we came up with a successful solution and had a great time doing it. I don’t think I’ve loved going insane with anyone else.

Wednesday night was full of laughs at random things, creation of powerpoints, and writing of papers. It was a tough, long day but it was so worth it to spend time with these people.

the entire team, including our pal Octavio

Thursday morning was spent cramming our project into about three hours left until the countdown and finally giving our presentation (knocking it out of the park, obviously) and listening to the other groups speak to theirs. It was such an eye-opening experience to see how my friends spent their week. The passion that filled the air was incredible because I knew in that moment that I was in the right place.

awkward smiles were the theme of our project.

Last night we went to a bar that was in a cave. Let that sink in a bit. I couldn’t have imagined a better night than pretending I can dance to both American and Spanish music with my friends, having to get up in just a few hours.

my friends are cool.

Do I have to leave?

Now our flight is a bit delayed and Ryan just declared a “cloth mola” on his customs form and both Gunnar and Cliff are asleep. Dallas, here we come!

shoutout to these ladies both for matching me and being as sweet as can be
ROOMS for lyfe

Update: I’m currently sitting in the Miami airport on the ground by a charging station. Gunnar, Cliff, and I ran across the airport at lightning speeds to make our flight. Ryan was thrown into a weird line in TSA and was only able to get on by the grace of God (+Jane).

Then I realized that I’m not on the same flight and I’ve got an hour until take off. Hey, at least I got my exercise in right (+time to update this post!)

yay for uncomfortable photos
CATHALAC in action
bus selfies + smolder
GO FROGS

(More serious) LESSONS LEARNED:

  1. Expect nothing, be grateful for everything
  2. There is no need for a comfort zone
  3. Laugh when you get caught in a horrible situation
  4. Why settle for anything less than great friends?
  5. Life is good.

(Less serious) LESSONS LEARNED:

  1. Cliff will always be last at getting things, whether it be food or luggage or service.
  2. Flannels are an important staple to my warmth (and style)
  3. Soft smiles can be just as fabulous as normal smiles
  4. Nothing happens on time. Nothing.
  5. I’m a much happier person with breakfast.

Hope y’all have enjoyed Panama through my eyes!


Check out more of my travels here!

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