Well, the trip is over — at the least the Panama part — and all the students have gone home. All indications are the everyone had a good time and might have even learned something. For certain everyone experienced Panama, and we are hopeful that doing so will make each of their lives more fulfilling. Our goal is to give students an international experience, and I think they got that.
We went North today. We started a few blocks from the Pacific Ocean and drove for an hour or so up to the Atlantic side of country. First, we went to Portobelo to see the ruins of an old fort and the Black Christ, which is an important shrine to many Panamanians.
Next, we drove another half hour or so to Isla Grande and hung out on the beach in front of Pupy’s restaurant. Puply did not cook today, but his son did a great job preparing a traditional Caribbean meal with various types of fish, some unreal patacones, and coconut rice. We stayed on the beach for a few hours and then most of the group slept on the way back to Panama city……resting up for the bar hopping.
Instead of having class today the old fashioned way, we went to Casco Viejo (officially known as Casco Antigua) and got a tour of the place from Fabio, a Panamanian tour guide. He showed us Avenida Central first and it leads into Casco, so we were able to check out the stores and such in Cinco de Mayo, which is sort of the old downtown where Panamanians shop when they are visiting one of the many malls they have here. Anyway, Fabio filled us in on much of the history of the place and we walked around to get a true feel fo the place.
After we left Casco we crossed the street to the Fish Market and had a lunch comprised on fresh fish. We had quite a variety of plates, and it seems most of us were pretty satisfied with the food even if the service is not the greatest.
By the way, we traveled to Caso and back using the Metro, the name of Panama’s subway system. We are getting into the flow and will be real Panamanians before you know it.
Today we got into the novel, Panama. There was a “trivia” quiz on the reading that judges just how close we read the book. There was to be another quiz, a ‘real’ quiz, but we got involved in a discussion and went over several of the events in the book and never got around to the second quiz. We will take it on Monday. No class on Fridays!
After class there were some salsa lessons to prepare the group for the evening event: a chiva parrandera.
It is a party bus, but that is sort of an understatement. Anyway, it was a fun time and everyone survived.
Had the first day of class. Most of the time the students from the United States spent time getting to know the students from Panama. After everyone was acquainted, we went over some basic concepts that have to do with conflict. The idea is that the novel we read for the course has a great deal of intercultural conflict in it, so introducing some theories of intercultural conflict to use when reading the book makes sense.
After class, we had an open afternoon. The original plan was to go to the Gamboa Rain Forrest, but there is some maintenance being done at the moment, so we postponed this excursion until later in the trip. But it worked out okay because it gave everyone a little more time to get acclimated.
The first full day in Panama. We went to the school around 9:00am and met all the folks there. The staff at QLU put on an orientation for the group. The main idea was to tell them who to call, what to look out for, what not to do, how to do what you want to do, and so on. Jean took the group on a tour of the campus and told them all about the place. Then we had a Panamanian lunch complete with tamales, arroz con pollo, potato salad, and sweet plaintains.
After lunch we sat for about an hour chilling out and then went over to Avenida Balboa and caught a city tour bus, the double decker variety. We drove all over Panama City. We went to the end of the causeway, drove around the old Canal Zone, checked out the downtown area (is there one?) and got a glimpse of the canal, Casco Viejo, and many other places.
After the tour we returned to the hotel, but soon left again to go to El Rey’s supermarket to stock up on snacks, drinks, and such. So now we have stuff in our rooms to nosh on when the urge hits us.
That night most of the group hung our around the pool at the hotel.
Well, we are off and running. The first day was not too eventful. We left Louisville around 2:30 and flew to Atlanta and then on to Panama City. Everyone made it. Nobody wandered off in the Atlanta Airport. When we arrived in Panama City we all made it through immigration. Jean was at the airport to meet us, so we packed up our stuff into a bus and headed for the hotel. Checked in — and of course there is always a little drama when you check in to a hotel late at night — and everything seems to have gone well. I hope the first day is a harbinger for the rest of the trip.
We met for two days in Louisville before leaving on May 6 for Panama. We had an overview of what and how we are going to study once we get to Panama. We are not studying Panamanian culture per se; rather, we are taking a deliberate approach to studying culture in general, using Panaman as an example. I hope that I made it clear that we are focusing on “microcultures” rather than national cultures. That way the students can focus in on a smaller group and try to describe that group’s culture. We shall see. Derby this weekend and them off to Panama!