The last blog post I wrote we were two full days into our study abroad here in Panama. Now, we’re two days out from leaving this beautiful country. The experience has been incredible, rewarding, educational, exhausting and full of new friendships. I think the thing that’s set this study abroad apart from others, and why most of us chose it in the first place, is because here it’s truly all about nature. For almost two weeks we’ve hiked through a variety of terrain- from rainforest to mountain tops. We’ve not just seen incredible plants and animals directly in their wild homes, but we’ve been learning about them along the way. We’ve tested our research skills as well as our patience. We’ve fought off swarms of vicious ants. We’ve hung in the canopy 120 feet above the ground and been no more than 12 feet from a slow-climbing, seemingly smiling three-toed sloth. We visited an indigenous village of the Embera people and ate a delicious meal in bowls we made out of leaves. We climbed a mountain and took it down (we didn’t take it down, I just couldn’t resist a Dixie Chicks/Stevie Nicks reference).
So basically, this experience has been more than we could ever ask for.
As I sit on a balcony overlooking Barro Colorado Island, my classmates are in the background collaborating on the final details of our group research projects. Remember how I told you how great the mango trees are here? Well my group ended up doing our research on them…and it wasn’t just an experiment to see which mango tree tasted the best (even though that would have been wonderful). But instead of getting into the gnitty gritty of our research, let’s step into the clearing so I can tell you a bit about something that’s NOT about nature. Woah, unprecedented, I know. But I can’t avoid the fact that yesterday we visited Panama City. A few nights ago the group ate dinner at a wonderful little restaurant called Las Tinajas. It was fantastic, but we didn’t really get to see the city because our dinner excursion took place mostly while it was dark. Yesterday, however, we were in the city in the afternoon and got to experience the difference of the city lifestyle when compared to our everyday rainforest lifestyle.
First, apparently nobody in Panama City gets up before noon. We arrived in the city around 10am, hungry and ready to explore. In that order. But the city was empty and so were its restaurants. Most don’t open until after noon. As it got hotter and we got hungrier, we realized why nobody comes out until later. THE HEAT. Don’t get me wrong, it’s hot and muggy in the rainforest, but the city is a different kind of climate. Finally, we found a nice little pizza place that opened early for us and served us delicious slices and coca cola served in bottles. The owner played us Enrique Iglesias music videos, pumped up the air conditioning, and raved about his home country of Venezuela. It was wonderful.
We then left our new friend to go explore the city and the incredible architecture. We did some shopping at local side stops, found an incredibly old and beautiful Spanish inspired church, and gazed out at the ocean and the large ships making their way to the canal.
The rainforest follows us everywhere though, as we did all of this in the pouring rain. I’m proud to say that rain doesn’t really phase us anymore. I think we must’ve really become one with nature! (I know I said this part isn’t about nature but I mean really, what isn’t?)
This trip will stay with me for a lifetime and maybe the next time I visit I’ll know a little more Spanish than just “Hola” or “donde es el baño”…
Adios y tienes un buen dia! (Ashlee helped me with that one..)