Saturday, January 16, 2010

GOODBYE TO PANAMÁ

Friday morning.  The voyage is coming to an end, with so many sights, so many memories.

The last leg of the drive to Panamá City was uneventful, even enjoyable, now that I had figured out the system (or lack therof) to driving.  (See next post for helpful hints about driving in Panamá).

Here were some of the sights along the way.

This little church was the prettiest I had seen in this rather unadorned country:













Capilla Villa Rosario

Here was the first glimpse in this direction of the Puenta de las Americas (Bridge of the Americas) over the Panamá Canal:


Bridge of the Americas

And here is a fleeting glimpse of the Canal:


Panamá Canal

Soon the third passage of the Canal will open.  This, one of the largest construction projects in the world, will bring even more revenues to this rapidly growing economy.

Next the rapidly growing profile of the City punctured the sky:


First glimpse of Panamá City

Then the City was revealed fully.  Note all the construction.  It's quite apparent that the economy of Panamá is expanding in spite of the global recession:


View of Panamá City from Avenida Balboa

I arrived at Tocumen Airport with no wrong turns and had a leisurely lunch in the airport.  The new international airline security measures were much in evidence.  All our carry-on baggage was manually searched at the gate, and we were all frisked just before boarding the plane.  It was the first time I'd ever been frisked.  This was in addition to the usual X-ray check at security.

The trip back was very tiring, mainly because of having to deal with the crowd at immigration and customs in Miami.  After the immigration agent documented our arrival, we all had to claim our bags for customs, then re-check them and pass through security again. The procedure in Panamá had been much simpler:  the customs agent had just waved me through without even stamping my passport.  But Panamá doesn't need to worry so much as the U.S. about people coming into the country.

And then we were gone.  I watched the little country fade from view and wondered what the future would hold for it and for me. 

Flying over Cuba revealed long plumes of industrial pollution illuminated by the setting sun.  These are the horizontal lines going fom the coast of the bay toward the bank of clouds on the right:


Plumes of pollution in Cuba

This view served as a reminder of the need to readjust to the reality of my job in environmental health, especially with the new challenges facing the world in the recovery of the people and country of Haiti.

There is much to do, but I will always be grateful for this interlude in Panamá, and for the friends and glimpses of a new life that it presented.

And so this phase of the blog and of my life is drawing to a close, with the wish that you too may be able to find a similar life-changing experience. 

"The real voyage of discovery consists not so much in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes."
-Marcel Proust

-bjd



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