¡Hola amigos y bienvenidos! After three plane rides and three taxis, I have finally arrived in Bocas del Toro, Panamá. The first two days were spent in Panama City. We were picked up by our tour guide, Claudio, at the airport and spent the next few days touring the city with him, specifically the Miraflores Locks of the Panama Canal and the canal zone. There is visible disparity between the wealthy and poor in the city. On one side of the highway there are people living in high rises while across the way there are people living in tin-roofed shacks. The Miraflores Locks are one of five locks on the Panama Canal. These locks allow passage between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Officially, the canal project was proposed by France and ended up being completed by the “United States.” The canal was built by laborers from Africa, China, other Caribbean islands, Panamanian indigenous communities, among others, for low wages and during extremely dangerous working conditions. The canal zone was instilled until 1979 and described the 10-mile-wide area along north and south sides of the Panama Canal. This area was inhibited by thousands of Americans and was considered United States soil. Panamanians, and other groups of people, were not allowed in the canal zone because access to the canal zone had to be permitted. The School for Field Studies campus (SFS) is located on Isla Colón, about a five-minute taxi ride from Bocas town. The campus is comprised of 4 cabins, a dining area, a classroom, and a pool area. Each cabin houses four students, except ours that houses five. We are the only cabin with a front porch that has been utilized for phone calls home, reading, and hanging gear after snorkeling. A Caribbean Sea beachfront is about a three-minute walk from campus and is a common spot for students to go after daily lectures. This week was mostly comprised of introductions to our classes. We are taking four courses: Culture, Language, and Community Engagement, Principles of Resource Management, Tropical Coastal Ecology, and Environmental Policy and Socioeconomic Values. We will continue these classes for about a month and a half before students transition over to focusing on directed research topics.
Exciting things to report:
I had my first walk in a neotropical forest and saw a snail. It was small with a light grayish shell residing on a large leaf of a plant on the forest floor.
I snorkeled for the first time at two separate reefs. Sadly, on the way there it started raining and we got absolutely dumped on. Happily, I captured a picture of an anemone while snorkeling and have attached it to this post for your viewing pleasure.
The food here is amazing. Breakfast is usually comprised of cheese atop thick tortillas, eggs, and fruit. Lunch and dinner are similar and usually have rice, bean, protein, and vegetable options.
I’m excited to go into my second week here and tell you everything there is to know about Bocas. Stay tuned!