Panama Canal 100 Years Later

Ask anyone in the world what the first thing is they think of when they hear the word “Panama,” and the nearly universal response would have to be CANAL! One Hundred years ago the opening of the Panama Canal literally changed how the world worked. Shipping no longer had to make the treacherous voyage around Cape Horn, one of the worst places for shipping on the face of the globe.

Eventually, though shipping outgrew the size of the Canal’s locks. The lock chambers are 110 ft (33.53 m) wide by 1,050 ft (320 m) long, with a usable length of 1,000 ft (305 m). These dimensions determine the maximum size of ships that can use the canal; this size is known as Panamax. For years many new ships have been referred to as Postpanamax because they wouldn’t fit. Now, though, the country has been on a construction project unlike any other ever attempted. They’ve been building new locks to accommodate the larger ships. The new lock chambers will be 427 m (1,400.92 ft) long, 55 m (180.45 ft) wide, and 18.3 m (60.04 ft) deep. They will use rolling gates instead of miter gates, which are used by the existing locks.

To give you some idea of the immensity of this project take a look at these two videos updating the progress of the new lock system. Work is close to 90% completed. Income from the Canal today, and what will come from increased traffic (though it will take decades to pay off the several BILLION dollars the project will cost) is what makes Panama the most prosperous country in Central America and much of South America as well. Not only had the Canal project been a boon here ports all over the United States and Europe have been on a building boom, too, to match the anticipated volume of large shipping that will be coming their way with the completion of the Canal.

One thing worries me, though. This project has been a boon to construction workers in the country, and people don’t often think of all the businesses that support such a project…concrete companies, the drivers who haul the concrete and the land that’s being excavated. The mechanics who maintain those trucks. And it gets right down to the little corner “Super Minis” of “Chinos”, Panama’s answer to convenience stores where the workers spend their pay checks. What happens to all those people when the project is finished. What will they do for work then? Will it cause social unrest and massive unemployment? Time will tell, of course.

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to argh is pirate

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April 8, 2015 · 9:42 pm

The Dog Gets A Painful Lesson

You may notice that I said “The” dog, not “My” dog. That’s only because she’s only “my” dog by virtue of the fact that I feed her. And even then, it’s not every day. She’ll disappear for a couple or three days every now and then. She kind of accepts that her name is “Dirt Dog” though she’ll only come to that name when I call her if she feels like it. The reason I call her that is because she’s mostly white with a couple of BIG black spots and one of her favorite things to do is to go down to the river, take a dip and then lay around in dirt giving her a coating of mud sometimes.

She came limping into my life a couple of years ago with a broken leg. Naturally I took her to the vet and got her fixed up. Who wouldn’t? And I took her to one of the spay and neuter clinics that are held around the area monthly. Chiriquí doesn’t need anymore dogs.

Anyway, this morning when I went to feed her I noticed there were a couple of things hanging from her lower lip. It looked like a couple of pieces of dried grass. She does spend a lot of time roaming around in the brush, and right now towards the end (hopefully) of the “dry” season most of the grass and weeds around are the color of straw. But when I was able to get up close to her I saw it wasn’t grass. It was a couple of what looked like porcupine quills.

I was able to pull them out of her lip. She shook her head and walked off without touching her breakfast. I wondered if there were, in fact, porcupines in Panama and this is what I discovered…

It’s Rothschild’s porcupine (wouldn’t you know those rich bastards would have an animal named after them?).

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

According to Wikipedia, Coendou rothschildi, is a species of rodent in the family Erethizontidae.  It is usually considered endemic to Panama. This species can be found in lowland deciduous and evergreen forest. It is nocturnal and arboreal; it sleeps during the day in vine tangles near the tops of trees. The diet includes fruit and leaves. Well, I had a cantaloup that was going bad and threw out in the back yard the other day. I noticed yesterday morning that one large part of it had been dragged off to another spot and it was probably one of these guys, and last night the dog decided to tangle with it and got a surprise.

I tried to get a photo of the quills but they didn’t come out. They’re about an inch and an eight long, black on the barbed end and about two thirds of them are straw colored.

That’s your lesson for the day, kids. And your new vocabulary word is endemic. There’s probably never going to be a time in your life when there’ll be a chance to use the word Erethizontidae but you might be able to work endemic in somewhere. Endemism is the ecological state of a species being unique to a defined geographic location, such as an island, nation, country or other defined zone, or habitat type; organisms that are indigenous  to a place are not endemic to it if they are also found elsewhere. Huh, I didn’t know that until this morning, did you? You would, of course score HUGE points if you could work Erethizontidae into a conversation some day.

big words

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Just Do It!

“Whatever’s good for your soul… do more of that.”

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Sight

You know, sometimes we think of our mothers as just “moms.” Later in our lives, we often realize how unique and special they really were. I’m not talking about moms like Hillary Clinton who might some day be president of the United States. I’m talking about the moms who cooked your breakfast in the morning and packed you a lunch for school. That kind of mom. Sometimes they do things that really surprise you by doing something you never expected.

I was looking at a quote just now that reminded me of something my mom did a long, long time ago that I haven’t thought about for probably more than half a century. But before I get into that, here’s the first thing she did that blew me away…

I’m the first of seven sons. Two of my brothers died in infancy. They were buried at my father’s plot in Woburn, Mass. My mom’s family was buried in Westminster, Mass. When she died she had herself cremated. Part of her was scattered with the boys in Woburn and the rest with her family in Westminster. I remember I thought that was one of the coolest things I’d ever heard of, and I was really proud of her for doing that. (As a sidebar: My dad was also cremated. Part of him was scattered off the mouth of Venice Inlet in Florida, a place he loved and had fished at a lot with my mom. Most of his ashes were buried in Woburn. After that my brothers, David, Jeff and Mark, and I went out to Westminster, each with a small Ziploc bag and scattered what remained of him at our mother’s grave.)

But what started this whole thing off was seeing a Louis Bourgeois quote that said: “Just remember that others don’t see what you do.” It was back around 1945 when my brother Jimmie died. Of course, back then, there was nothing like heart transplants going on, but they were doing corneal implants and despite her grief my mom’s thinking was so ahead of her time that she donated her baby’s eyes so someone else could see. It’s a shame that I hadn’t remembered that for so long, and remembered what a unique way of thinking she had.

That’s me on the left in the photo, and my brother Jimmie on the right.

Mom with me and Jimmy copy

 

mom's stone

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House Sharing in David #2

oldsalt1942:

I have not been to this house, but I have met Cedo on a couple of occasions. She’s a sweet woman, and her house is quite typical of middle-class Panama.

Originally posted on The Panama Adventure:

This home is in Villa del Carmen, a quiet middle class Panamanian neighborhood on the north side of David, just within the city limits. The neighborhood is surrounded by woods and a beautiful river runs along the east side. There is only one way in and out so it is quiet and safe, and the neighbors are friendly and welcoming.

My good friend Cedo has an extra room in her charming little house. There is also a recently arrived expat lady from the US staying there, so you would get a mix of Spanish immersion (Cedo speaks no English), and a gringa friend having a similar experience.

Cedo is easy going and not fussy about little things, and will do anything she can to take care of you and make you comfortable. There is internet in the house, and use of a washing machine.

There is a neighborhood bus that…

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March 26, 2015 · 4:11 pm

House Sharing in David #1

oldsalt1942:

I’m sure there are people who read my blog who wonder what housing is like here in Chiriqui. My friend, and fellow blogger, Kris, has two stories on her blog about houses where short term room rental is available.

Originally posted on The Panama Adventure:

Some people have popped up recently looking for short term rental possibilities in this area, so I am putting together a couple things that I know about. Here in David short term rentals are probably a bit difficult to find. Even long term furnished rentals are harder to find than unfurnished (and unfurnished means no stove or fridge or washing machine). But, I know of a couple house sharing possibilities and a couple casitas for rent in Cuesta de Piedra, so I’ll put together some photos and some information in case it is helpful to anyone.

This house is on Ave Tomas Herrera close to Colegio Nuestra Señora de Los Angeles. (A google map should bring it up – look for the school on the north side of David, north of the Pan-American highway) This is a very nice neighborhood with some beautiful homes. It is close to a bus…

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March 26, 2015 · 4:07 pm