Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Day 16: El Casco Viejo

Our day began with a change of plans due to the potential for rioting. Instead of visiting a women's prison we went to a museum that collected and displayed historic pieces, papers, and information about the Panama Canal. We learned about how first the french then the Panamanians and finally the United States struggled against the forces of nature to build the canal which is the length of the entire United States from Oregon to New York City, 55 feet wide and 10 feet deep. Amazing! We also learned that the Panamanian railroad equipment was imported from Pennsylvania.After our museum tour we did get to see some protesters; however, they were protesting the fact that there main street of business was closed by the government for construction and they weren't making enough money to eat.

Next we stopped for 45 minutes shopping and bartering session at Centro Municipal de Artesanias Panamenas where one could find all sorts of hand made arts and crafts. This was our third and final market, but we still found some little treasures. After our shopping spree we headed for lunch on the causeway, sound familiar? Even the name of the restaurant was Bucanero's! Maybe we do miss home... a little.

Finally we stopped at the Smithsonian Institute's Marine Research lab. In addition to a beautiful nature trail complete with wildlife, they had two awesome exhibits. The first included a movie about Isla Caiba (quite far from where we are staying) which became a national park and wildlife preserve that its only accessible by boat and quite costly ($100-200 to get there). Outside exhibits taught us about the different types of sea turtles, how they are protected here, and how far they travel. The Smithsonian is able to track sea turtles via satellite, and one turtle swam from Panama threw Costa Rica and up to Nicaragua in less than 30 days! We all got to hold a sea urchin and two different types of starfish.

There was an incredible view of bay, their research beach, and the city. A large out door tank the size of a swimming pool contained many exotic fish, turtles, and some nurse sharks. What a beautiful day! Tonight we have a class discussion and group dinner. We are all looking forward to our "hands on" experience with the University of Panama mobile health clinic tomorrow.

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