Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Still hangin'

We've been playing tourist a bit lately. We visited the "walking street" (no traffic allowed) and noticed many of the Kuna Indian women that come over from the other side of Panama (Caribbean) in their unique style of dress. The Kuna are the smallest race on earth after the Pygmies. Panama has allowed them to self govern in their home area of the San Blas Islands. Later, we again saw them as they were selling their hand-stitched molas, which are more known in the Caribbean but are sold here in Panama also. The Kuna women adorn their blouses with their beautiful molas.

Displaying her molas with rows of vivid beads on her arms & legs

(Molas are several layers of different coloured material sewn together. A design is then cut out of the layers with the edges turned under and sewn with tiny stitches. It can take anywhere from 2 weeks to 6 months to make depending on the number of layers and how complex the design is.)

We also went to Old Town of Panama City called Casco Viejo, this was declared a cultural World Heritage site in 1997. So far, it has only been about 15% restored. Many of the buildings have the French Caribbean flair with narrow streets and overhanging balconies. Incidentally, Panama City has had 3 locations in this immediate area. The original dating back to the 1500s was sacked by Morgan the pirate, and then it was rebuilt in the area mentioned above. In the mid 20th century with its need to modernize, its center was moved about 5 miles down the shore and today sprouts up to 75-storey buildings.

Locals call this inimitable skyscraper the Tornado building

Quite often we need to pass through a rough area of town (via taxi) that is very sad to see. The buildings are all extremely dilapidated, some deserted. This district flanks the Old Town area that is being restored.

We strolled from the dinghy dock over to and through the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, a non-for-profit unit of the Smithsonian in Washington DC. Here, students are trained to conduct research in the tropics and conservation is promoted by increasing public awareness. The first area we covered had different species in large outdoor tanks/pools being studied such as turtles and sharks, and different types of starfish, lobster & fish, corals, etc. which was all very cool to see. Next we walked through the forest trails with trees and plants. The Corotu is one of the largest trees in the forest and on a sunny day can take up to 500 (125 gal) of water from the soil.

Jordan completed reading (and I read about 1/2) of a huge book all about the building of the Panama Canal. (Jordan has written a captivating history of the Panama Canal in the link on the right.) We checked out the Museo del Canal Interoceanico de Panama museum (with plans to later visit the Miraflores locks). The museum displays were all in Spanish so we were supplied with headphones (in English) so we would know what we were looking at. After reading the very informative book, it was fascinating to see visually items in the museum.

Panama City has a lot of buses driving around with crazy designs painted on them. The paint jobs are always very shiny and never appear to be dirty as far as we have noticed. As they are always moving, I have unfortunately not been able to get a good snapshot. I would never drive any vehicle in this city! But Jordan did fine when he drove a car a few times. You need to be very aggressive and push your way into the busy traffic. We were told that there are 150,000 cabs here - all painted yellow - and they appear to always be busy. Anytime you need one, there are always about a dozen within view. But at rush hour, 99% of cabs are full!

No comments: