Today the Costa crew took a rigorous expedition through the national reserve of Cerro Ancon which is the highest hill peak in all of Panama City. We started off by walking in the old American Zone which is where U.S. diplomats living in Panama that were apart of the Canal Administration resided. On our way to the peak we found a local Panamanian school, El Hijo del Carpintero, and began walking along side them to the peak. People that needed to interview locals for their project were given a golden opportunity to collect data for their research. We were able to practice our Español with them and they were able to practice their English with us.
Once we arrived to the peak we took time to walk around, take photos and talk some more with the kids from the local school. Once we were all finished exploring, Irene, our EF tour guide, had us participate in some ice breaker activities. It was a fun and interactive way of meeting the people we are going to be spending the next 10 days with. Overall, it was a lot of fun and this was definitely a hike that none of us will ever forget.
One of the best parts about today was visiting a historical area of Panamá called Casco Viejo. The small town is currently being rebuilt/remodeled for new restaurants and shops. We visited a church and a few spots where churches once stood. We learned that a lot of the town was burnt down by the leaders of that time because pirates were consistently invading Panamá to steal their valuables like gold. So to prevent that, the people burnt down their town to keep the pirates from coming. It was all rebuilt eventually but architecturally a lot of the buildings were abandoned and had a very broken down appeal to it.
I love history so learning about all of that was an amazing experience for me. It was even better for a history nerd like me when we participated in a scavenger hunt to test our ability to communicate with our teammates and locals to learn new knowledge about the area. My task was to study a famous statue and memorial about the history of the Panamá Canal where I learned about the dozens of countries involved. One of the most amazing parts of visiting Casco Viejo was when we steered into the local market shops where it was full of beautiful things made by the natives which took a long time to make but it was still produced wonderfully. It gave off a great feel of Panamanian aesthetics and culture!
Mira Flores Locks - Panama Canal
For the last thing we did for the day, we went to see the Miraflores Locks on the Pacific side of the Panama Canal. While we were there, we went to a balcony where we could see the entire lock we were at with two ships going through it at the time. When we were done at the top, we went outside to learn many facts about the canal and the lock we were at. Right after that, we saw a short movie about the canal, showing the history of it and how each of the locks work. Right after we saw the movie, we went to a museum that was there. At the museum, we saw an exhibit showing machines that were used to dig the canal, as well as some wildlife living in the area in the next exhibit. The last exhibit showed how the canal was engineered to work using gravity, as well as how a ship would move through the canal. We had a lot of fun there, and were able to take plenty of pictures.
Mira Flores Locks - Panama Canal
The Panama Canal is crucial to the Panamanian Government. It generates millions of dollars in revenue a year and, without it, the Panama would not have nearly enough money to truly support its people. The Panama Canal is so important, it can't even be stopped to replace the original locks from 1914. To do so would require them to shut down the canal, which the government literally can't afford to do. The canal is the single most lucrative resource in Panama, and they protect it as such. To even enter the Canal, a ship has to be cleared and have a special canal staff member to help navigation. Cargo must be checked and legal, and no crew member is allowed to leave the ship while in the Canal.