It is great to be back home! Today marks one week since I returned to the States. However, a lot happened in between my last post and the end of my trip.
I had my last week of work, which ended on July 10th. I really enjoyed working with Logistics Services (Panama). The environment and my co-workers were great, which meant that I didn’t even realize how much I was learning. On my last day a couple of my co-workers organized a send off, including cake from Momi, the local famous bakery in Panama.
On Saturday, the 11th, I took a bus from Panama to David. It took 9.5 hours! I stayed the night in David with a friend I made in my last German class at the UofA. The next day I continued on to Boquette. Boquette is a great town located in the mountains of Panama. The weather is great, around 20 degrees cooler than the rest of the country. I spent four days exploring the area.
On Monday I met up with one of my friends who lives and works in Boquette. I had met him previously in Panama while with the UofA group. He gave me a tour of the area including up through the mountains, and the high point – that it is safe to go- on Volcan Baru. Originally I had hoped to hike the volcano but it is too dangerous during the rainy season to go up all of the way. We managed to make it up high enough to where we could see the Pacific Ocean.
Afterwards we went to a large hydroponic operation. I taste tested several different flowers and herbs. The next few days I spent more time hiking and relaxing in nature.
I traveled back to Panama City on Wednesday and spent the night in the city before flying out on Thursday. I had a great time in Panama, but am glad to be home with my family. I hope to go back to Panama with in the next few years! But for now, Adios!
On Sunday I got up insanely early and took a bus from the Gran Terminal at Albrook to El Valle de Anton. El Valle is located in the caldera of an inactive volcano, the second largest in the world. It is about 2,000 feet higher than the lowlands.
First, I hiked to Chorro El Macho. It is one of three main waterfalls in the area. I then went to Los Pozos Termales. These are natural volcanic springs (mud baths, really) that are supposed to have relaxing and healing qualities. The water felt great, at 100′. After rejuvenating in the springs I went to the Butterfly Haven.
Here I ran into a man who was from Pennsylvania but moved to El Valle a few years ago. He works at the Butterfly Haven and loves hiking around town. I spent quite a bit of time watching the butterflies. There were around 200 of them, between the 12 species they had.
To finish my day I went to El Nespiro. This zoo has the legendary golden frog which is going extinct. I also got to see two of the jaguars. But the coolest part were the birds. They had all different types of parrots and toucans.
Around 2 I took the bus back to Albrook, and then returned home to rest up for work on Monday. This Friday a delegation from Arkansas will be visiting Panama. One of my bosses from the World Trade Center Arkansas will be with the group. I am looking forward to seeing him and meeting the rest of the delegation.
I spent the day exploring Panama’s Caribbean coast. I went to Portobelo where there was a strong Spanish Colonial presence. They had several forts including San Lorenzo and San Jeronimo, which I visited today. The forts were interesting, filled with canons, tunnels and escape routes.
The city of Portobelo was used as the main shipping point for sending Peruvian gold back to Spain. It was attacked several times. William Parker captured the city around 1600 and Henry Morgan attacked and captured the city around 1670. The port was recaptured by the British again in 1739, and then reclaimed by the Spanish in 1741.
In addition to the forts I toured la Iglesia de San Juan de Dios (Black Christ Church). This church has a huge festival in October celebrating the miracles performed by the black Christ. There isn’t much of a consensus on how the black Christ came to be living in Portobelo, but one of the stories is that he came with immigrants during the building of the canal.
I also visited the customs house where they counted the gold before shipping it off to Spain. After countless attacks on the ships carrying the gold, Spain started moving it across Panama by land and shipping it from the Caribbean side. It seems a little weird to me that they didn’t count the gold before leaving Peru. I can imagine some of it has probably gone missing in transit!
After my stroll through the fascinating history of this small town, I went to one of the Playa Blancas near Isla Grande. Sadly I didn’t have time to cross to island, but I loved relaxing on the beach. The water was perfect!
And to round off a great day, I got to SKYPE my family for the Fourth of July!
I have been working for Logistics Services (Panama) for a month and a half. I have already worked on some really great projects, and am hoping to finish up a couple more before I leave. In addition to the valuable work experience I am gaining, I also get to work with some great people!
My coworkers are really fun to be around and they are extremely helpful with learning Spanish. Most of them also want to learn English or improve what they already know, so it’s more like us teaching each other. Although I do have a handy online translator pulled up on my computer most of the time. Another interesting aspect has been watching the office transform during my time here. My first week we moved into a new facility.
It was pretty barren but is slowly starting to fill up. Last week the kitchen appliances arrived including an automatic tea kettle and a panini maker! I am hoping that I will get to try them out before I leave.
There is also always something happening at work. This last week was especially busy. On Tuesday, we hosted
representatives from the United States Commercial Services department of the U.S. Embassy, here in Panama. And on Wednesday, we had a Board meeting. Turns out, the mother of the man who is head of the Board, graduated from the University of Oklahoma! And one of the first things he asked me was “Where is your accent?”. Encounters like this really make me think about how small the world really is, and about how it just keeps getting smaller.
But as small as the world is, there are countless things to do and places to see. However, this weekend I decided to take it easy and haven’t strayed too far from home. I went to the Plaza last night (small strip mall / restaurant area) and had dinner and am currently in a cafe sipping some coffee and watching the palm trees sway in the breeze.
I am excited for work (I feel like I say that a lot, but it’s true!) and can’t wait to get back to my projects!
Thursday we took a different route home and I am always amazed by how beautiful Panama is. I had big plans this weekend, but am ready to get back to work.
I took Friday off from work and traveled with my host family to Chitre, where we spent the afternoon. For dinner we ate at a restaurant overlooking the valley and then headed into Las Tablas. We spent the night in Las Tablas and went to a beach in Pedasi on Saturday morning. We ended up waiting out a storm but had a great time in a small cafe near the ocean.
After heading back to the city I went straight to bed! I woke up early this morning to catch the first ferry out to Isla Toboga. I took the 8 a.m. departure and returned around 3 p.m. I visited the main squares, the church and the cemetery. Pictured on the left is what remains of an old pirate fort created by Henry Morgan. I also visited El Morro, an island that can be walked to at low tide, and holds the remains of an old Spanish fort.
Tomorrow it is back to reality and work. We are trying to finish up several large projects this week which have been very interesting. It is hard to believe that I only have three weeks left!
I have had an exciting weekend learning about the history of Panama. Today I started out at Panama Vieja, which was founded in 1519, and is the oldest European settlement on the Pacific coast. It was later raided by famous pirate, Henry Morgan, and the town had to move to what is now known as Casco Viejo. In 2003 Panama Vieja was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
After spending a few hours exploring the extensive ruins that cover what is estimated to only be half of the full area, I went to Cinta Costera. While there I bought some food from street vendors and had a picnic while looking out over Panama Bay and modern day sky scrapers.
It is hard to believe that today marks the halfway point. I have just finished my first month at work and am really feeling settled in. I am also working hard on my Spanish; in fact, I am using it as my primary language right now. I have to use pretty basic words, but I have improved a lot from day one.
I spent last weekend in Colon at the Melia Panama Canal. During my time there I kayaked, hiked and swam! They had a live jazz band on Friday and salsa music on Saturday. Sunday it rained most of the day, so I stayed in and read a few books.
For meals, I tried several of the local dishes. My biggest tourist moment was when I thought one of the dessert drinks (leche de arroz) was yogurt! I added different types of fruits and nuts thinking that I was making a parfait. No wonder other people were giving me weird looks, and I was certainly surprised when I tried it.
Additionally, there is a really interesting soap opera that I discovered this week. It is in Spanish, but I can get the major details from context (the musical score is helpful, too). It ended on a cliff hanger last night- I may have to buy the series if it comes with subtitles.
This week has flown by and it is hard to believe that it is already Friday. I haven’t made any plans for this weekend yet, but I am excited to see where it takes me.
I have spent the last two days with the University of Arkansas group that is studying abroad here in Panama. Yesterday morning we rode the train to Colon where we toured Manzanillo International Terminal (MIT). MIT is the largest port in Panama, and 83% of its cargo is transshipped. We then went to the Canal Expansion Observation Center on the Atlantic side and ate lunch at the restaurant overlooking the construction.
This morning I met the students back at MIT. They had four groups give presentations over business plans that they had developed during their time here in Panama. Some of the ideas included exporting Panamanian coffee, importing golf balls, manufacturing sports apparel, etc. It was very interesting to hear what the students had learned and how they were applying it to their ideas.
This afternoon I gave the group a presentation about LSP. My coworker, Guillermo, led a tour of the Randolph Distribution Tour (the building I work in on a daily basis) and I gave one for our operations in France Field. Afterwards we headed to the MIT Logistics Park and toured the Pharma side of J. Cain.
I gained a lot of knowledge from joining the students on their tours and am sad to see them leave. They fly back to the states this Saturday. However, I am looking forward to this weekend which I will spend on the Atlantic side of Panama.
I had a great weekend filled with many adventures. Friday was a holiday celebrating African Ethnicities in Panama. At work we wore traditional African hats to celebrate. After work, a coworker and I met up with the other students from the University of Arkansas that are currently Studying Abroad in Panama. We met them in the old city, Casco Viejo, and went to a festival in one of the squares celebrating the holiday.
On Saturday we toured an Embera Village. We had to drive about an hour out of the city and then take a boat for 45 minutes down river. During our time at the village we hiked to a water fall and visited the local “market” where they sell their crafts.
On Sunday I returned to Casco Viejo with my host family to tour the area. I enjoyed walking through the area which is more reminiscent of Europe than Latin America. Casco Viejo was built by the Spanish after the famous pirate Henry Morgan and his crew raided their fort. I have still not been to the original fort, Panama la Vieja.
After such an interesting weekend, I am wondering what adventure might be next!
I have started really getting to know Panama, the people and the culture. The more I talk to people the more I learn and understand about the fascinating country I am in. I have walked Cinta Costera and took an early morning hike in Parque Metropolitano. I saw turtles, snakes, sloths and monkeys! I have also been spending time
with my host family; we went to a housing expo and one of the malls, Multi Plaza. (Where I tried blackberry and brownie ice cream flavors!)
Tuesday evening I attended a lecture presented by the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) at the Universidad Tecnologica de Panama where University of Arkansas Professor Terry Esper spoke about the importance of staying ahead in supply chain management. He emphasized this need not just for companies but also for employees. Future growth in this sector will come from understanding technology and how to strategically apply it to the business.
In addition to exploring Panama and learning about my surroundings as well as one of the primary industries in Panama, I am learning at work as well. I am currently working on several different projects which are exposing me to various sides of the business. Although I am not a supply chain or logistics major I am definitely benefitting from this experience. Not only am I learning about these topics in a real-world environment, but the depth of detail which goes into the planning and execution of these operations is astounding.