Introspective Boot Camp

October 7, 2012


Sometimes we reach a point in our lives where we look back at a particular event or scenario and realize, as we say to ourselves, wow, those were the days…..Then with maturity, the hope is that we can get to a point where we don’t have to look back…we can realize how good things are right now…in the moment!

This was a trip such as that…where I could feel the significance of the moment in real time…and allowed myself to live it!  Living the Dream…Day-by-Day…

For me, this Begs the question: what do we need to crack open our minds…to make our perspectives and thoughts malleable for change…to make change in the world, we ourselves have to bring about internal changes.  I am a firm believer in our ability to shape our minds through experiences.  Some would even say that our minds are the sum accumulation of our experiences.

We are born into a world that already exists, and our personalities in large part our shaped by our response to what already exists. Our experiences can support what exists…. which then concretizes our personalities.  Or experiences can undermine our perceptions and acceptance of what is actually not real…this can send us in a completely different direction…. towards reality.  At times, our response to what exists gives us a burden to carry.  That burden may be shaped by culture, family, race, gender, ethnicity, religion, economics…I know mine…do you know yours?

What would it feel like to release the burdens of history, those that are real and those that are figments, and to live and experience life without the burden…like a fully grown newborn baby 🙂 The feeling of releasing the burdens of history!  No longer trapped within an idea…the idea that makes you consistently and continually relive an experience…relive a self-projected vision only taking place in our heads and not rooted in the reality of the globally human experience…

Personal experiences, at times, can narrow our humanity…focusing singularly on our own experiences makes us ignorant…makes us ignore the experiences of others…it makes us ignore the world around us…and how others feel…and how those experiences shape our interactions and engagements…that is one reason why knowing history is important…but not just our own history…this story needs to be told within the context of the history of others…

Many lessons about personal development come to mind as I reflect on the Panamanian experience…much of it is based upon the diversity of its people and its built environment…even the architecture of the old world and the new world, the meticulous nature of the old world provides the foundation for a new world…looking at some of the buildings and the streets, the size of the materials used in their construction represents the artisan…they used materials small enough for them to handle…versus the designs and the forms that represent a preference for mass and speed over individual units and patience….

Those individual units represent a person that has dedicated their life to something and it is so unique and excellent that we shall wait on their product…so, what about our own individual units.  What are we using…what materials are we using to build our own lives.  With growth comes new buildings next to old ones…a contrast…a comparison…can we see that type of diversity in ourselves.  If we can, we are growing.  If not, then our growth has stagnated.  If we are not growing and if we are stagnated then there are reasons for such…the key is to be aware of our growth or lack thereof.

To grow, there are times when we have to adjust what we are exposing ourselves to…meaning we may have to create experiences that may feel asymmetrical or counter-cultural…they may go completely against the grain.  But, when someone asks us what we are building our lives with, we have to be able to say something other than I am developing my life with nothing other than my life…I say, “I am using the experiences of others to construct my ideal life…for to me, my personality and my life are much more than a response to what existed before I got here”…

In essence, I don’t want to be a product of my environment…I want my environment to be a product of me…. (Got to Love Jack)!!!!

Thank You to all of my Panamanian friends…Thanks for the new building blocks…

As this adventure in personal and professional development  continues on, there were several observations that really stood out!  If you are working on your Spanish, here is an easy one for you….care to translate? 🙂

‘A man’s got to make his own way’….all over the city you see plenty examples of people doing whatever they can do to make ends meet….this fellow was pretty good!

Now this gentleman was very interesting….several times a week I would pass him by….we would sit there on his stool with a violin…most times when I saw him he was tuning it…or so I thought…one day I walked closed to him while he was playing…in reality, he couldn’t not play that thing any better than any random person could speak yiddish…he would just glide the bow back and forth over and over…look up at you…and expect you to put some change in the cup….well, it’s working for him…so I am for him as well 🙂 Get your hustle on 🙂

I really enjoyed this one!  This guy reminded me of an artisan working his craft…Old School Style Shine Booth…He even had quite the tune going … made that rag sing!!!!

Having spent a significant amount of time appreciating Historic Preservation in Savannah, GA, I can tell you that there are some amazing examples of historically significant structures in Panama…this Catholic Cathedral….the architecture and craftsmanship are amazing…to the degree that I even went to Mass 🙂  Of course it was all in Spanish…but, again…some things need to be respected on their face….

Growth and Development at times forces the new to be mixed with the old.  This is a great example of the New Buildings standing in contrast to the Old Buildings in the forefront…certainly there is duality in how those observations apply to our own lives 🙂

Now the F & F Tower speaks for itself…standing by itself is one view…when observed within the context of the skyline…it seems to give Panama an additional nuance of uniqueness….

One of the reverted areas has been dedicated by the government to the advancement of knowledge.  thus the name ‘Ciudad de Saber’…’the City of Knowledge’….love the name and the purpose…

To go along with that…they even have a governmental ministry dedicated to innovation…the Ministry of Innovation…it resides in a building named after the man that helped address Malaria when the canal was being built…beautiful structure…

Another governmental building with an old world feel to it…great use of cloth and structure…

The picture doesn’t do this building justice…but the color array stood out, as well as the crisscrossing nature of the balconies…right down by the waterfront…

A Panamanian of Jamaican descent…master story teller….and is serious about getting his hustle on… 🙂

The common view around the downtown area….in Panama City…Traffic Traffic Traffic 🙂  The metro line may alleviate that…let’s hope so 🙂  This was my daily view when walking over to the Super Market….See the Red Devil?

These were a line of food stands that sit next to the municipal building.  You can see the municipal building in the background…great variety…and great food…

Warning…McDonald’s delivers….Be Careful!!!! 🙂

And, as always…it is always about the people…and projects such as this always keeps me rooted on doing what we can to work on our humanity….

Life can be full of Life, if we let it….

And so, I could not very well spend all of this time in a Latin country and not get a little dancing in…and so I had the good fortune of walking into a place where the world renowned salsa singer Joe Arroyo was performing live with his band…

Yes, people…I got busy…in my own way 🙂

It’s been 30 days of some serious work…on a huge project….that actually means something…it’s not just work….it’s life….This project was organized by my new friend and colleague Magali Jurado, on my left,…has spent a career working for the central government but is now doing work for the Municipality of Panama to support its development!  Her friend to the her left, is a dear lady also 🙂

Talk about Class!  This is an experience that demands gratefulness…

Hiram…spent days with me, interpreting speeches, guiding me around the city, looking out for my well-being…translating my presentations…never complained, always looking out for me…touched my humanity…he organizes the flag-football teams for the kids in the City of Panama…and is a student, and those who are immigrating and seeking a better way…man…I came as a Fulbright…but, these people….they taught me so much…

Cindy, well…just as the sun rises….shes comes with a smile…warm, always there…the type of person you want in your office…certainly helped that she also spoke English…Next time I see you Cindy…my Spanish will be much better 🙂

Melana…always on the move…keeping things progressing…next to her is Rhonda Phillips…a Fulbright Colleague of Mine from Arizona…highly competent, her specialization is Indicators…our project focused on the linkage between Indicators and Geographic Information Systems…Go Rhonda! 🙂 Go Melana 🙂

This was the night of Rhonda’s first presentation…’She Rocked It’…also pictured is the Director of Planning for the Municipality of Panama….Talk about Sharp, Cultured and Refined…My Man…is Serious…a pleasure to be around….the consummate professional…provides motivation just by his presence!

My Colleague, provided an invitation to speak at the Universidad of Panama…School of Architecture….Phenomenal experience to spend a morning with their students discussing tools to associated with effective City and Regional Planning.

And yes, the slides are in Spanish…I don’t have an ear for the language because I haven’t been practicing the speech; however, I can read it fairly decently….what?  back up now? 🙂

This is the Decanto of the Architecture Program…The Dean…grand the entire experience…

You’ve already got the scoop on Juan Carlos Diaz and Jaime Montenegro….What a fine group of people!!!!

Foods of Panama

October 6, 2012

When I am in an International Setting, then I want to be International!  We have the rest of our lives to be and act accordingly to where we are…so, having the chance to immerse into a projection from another culture…well…bring it on…. 🙂  So, when I am in an International setting…they usually have American style restaurants around…but, I avoid those at all costs when I can!  Because of U.S./Panamanian history…there is some shared culture…however…we find the nuances when we pay attention:

You see, being a Georgia boy…I know seafood markets…grew up shopping them..the smell, the feel…the vibrancy…it is a different kind of feel…so when I say ‘this is on point’…well…I get my drift 🙂

Lobster, snapper…sea bass…corvina….well, next time I am here..need to get a place where I can cook…because yes, this environment…makes me want to burn….

Feel it yet?  Or are you still thinking about where is the McDonald’s…laughing…get off of my blog…right now!!!! 🙂  This was lunch on a Friday…seems in many places in the world…Friday is a fish/seafood kind of day…look close now…I know shrimp…this is shrimp with the head still on it…okay kids…this is grown folks business…’Melvin’ from Baby Boy :)…

Since I would rather have the authentic experience, I only did breakfast at the hotel…phenomenal every morning by the way….but after that…it was to the streets…this is a vendor that I  came to see almost everyday….she helped me with my spanish…so I could learn to order wherever I went….Colombian Lady…kept a busy stand…in Asia…it would be chicken satai….here…let’s just say….some special sauce…a bit of salsa picante…muy calliente…mmmm….so good….after a month…felt connected…hope she stays well…good people!!!!

Another spot I frequented…the owner spoke a bit of English…he would practice on me and I on him…amazing how, you don’t have to really be fluent in the spoken language…but you need to be fluent in the language of humanity…which is the speech of humility…I came…with humility…he gave it back…few days later…we were conversing in Spanish and English….makes a person feel good….lesson for us in the U.S…Picture of the staff in the evening…

What would you order? 🙂

Fish Fridays!  While I was eating….there was a lady standing next to me, fussing the entire time….I poured Hot Sauce all over it…she was fussing because she is the one that made the sauce and that it was too hot for me to do such…so as I ate…she fussed….I imagine she was telling me it was too hot for me to do that…smiling….man, I’ve eaten fire in Asia….I can roll with the best…for a little while anyway…retraction :)….it was delicious, I put on the right amount 🙂  The fussing was all in love!!!!


Gotta love the international setting where there are the baby coconuts….it’s like this all over the world…wherever you find tropical settings…Africa, Asia, Central America….He has Jugs full of coconut water and meat…fresh baby style….

Cool…Refreshing…Fulfilling…Man…I was full, like I had a meal after two cups…In my ‘Training Day’ ‘Denzel Washington’ Voice….’MY MAN’….”That’s what I’m talking about”….:)

On the left, a fish roll (corvina) stuffed with shrimp….on the right, shrimp soup with rice and vegetables….working with it….

Fish with the head still on is symbolic, now if you are still thinking about McDonald’s….well, you probably can’t relate…but while you struggle with relating…I’ll be treating this one line a piece of chicken in the south…cap the end of the bone…and pull the marrow right on out…served with papatas….

Corvina with fish salsa…authentic spot down the street…let me know my Spanish was coming along…had to read the menu, talk to the waiter and order from their intellectual space….and it was magnificent 🙂  ‘Papas Fritas’…fries 🙂

Okay, now we are getting into a very traditional soup in Panama….Sonchocho Panameno….something like chicken soup….boiled chicken with a root by the name of ‘name’…sip on it a bit…the root starts breaking down…and the soup starts getting thick…mmmm…..twisting my lips, and cutting my eyes  “okay now”…laughing….

Sopa de Mariscos…Seafood Soup…little bit of everything…and a lot of octopus…nice broth…chunky…filling…satisfying…

El Trapiche…has it going on…if you go to Panama…make sure you get there…right outside of the banking district….yes, ordered in Spanish again…give me my props 🙂

Saw this fellow a few times….gotta love the person standing out on his own…hustling… “A man has got to make his own way…” Shaved Ice….on a hot day….

Many Thanks!


Inter Alia, amongst other things, going further into the Panama Canal.  This was an expedition that inspired a lot of excitement.  Had not thought of the Panama Canal and its system of locks as being one of the ‘Wonders of the World’ and one of the ‘Great Engineering Master Pieces’ of our time….and now…I KNOW!

This morning started out quite early, taking the train the runs along side of the Panama Canal to the Atlantic Ocean/Gulf of Mexico side of the Canal.  The train is an old style train, and had the type of feel to it that you could really take in the moment…if so inclined.

Boarding the train and settling down for a nice cup of cafe….we are on our way to Colon, Panama.  The train rides right next to the canal, so along the way, there are plenty of container ship sitings.

And, there is plenty of the canal to see….

It is a nice ride full of serenity, and gives you a chance to consider all the lives that have gone into constructing the global chain of production that most of us pull our resources from.  Getting to Colon, it is immediately obvious that we are still in the midst of a major trade zone.  Containers are spread everywhere….

Colon is Panama but it also has that old world look to it…where if you consider what it looked like many decades ago…its vibrancy was fresh…it is still here, its just that the paint is not as fresh as it used to be 🙂

Driving along, next thing you know we end up at the Colon Free Trade Zone.  I am talking about…this place is HUGE!!!!  Nothing but shopping absolutely everywhere…items from all over the world…guess that has something to do with so much commerce traveling through the canal… 🙂  Okay, I’m more than guessing…this place somewhat reminds me of Seoul, Korea…and it is interesting that such a none-shopper as me…is back in one of the most intense shopping areas in the world!

Okay, I won’t freak out…they have street food 🙂  I’m Kool!

Along with the savory taste of the street food 🙂 You have to love an open air market…the fruit…so much fresh fruit…it has a completely different feel to it…often times in the commercial markets, they have to ship the fruit when its so young, that it matures differently…here, as in many other countries…it’s right where you need it to be 🙂  Papaya’s as big as children… 🙂  Love the feel!

And, how wonderful it is…to see the ‘little people’ being little ones no matter where you go…conversation looks deep!!! 🙂

Just spent enough time in Colon to get a feel for the place…lots of things going on in this side of Panama…not far from here a mining operation is starting up…looks to bring some jobs to the region…however, just as in many other places, the hope is that those jobs will be more than just resource extraction and will produce some skill sets that are higher up the chain of production…that way the progress can be sustainable….and who knows…maybe an agglomeration style economy will start up and expand….

Heading back into the Canal…you can definitely feel the presence of an older world here…it’s remnants remain, and they do speak volumes…always like to capture a picture of someone unaware and doing there thing…regardless to the circumstances, ‘a man has to try and make his own way….’….

Okay…here we go through one of those extremely rare places on the planet…may not seem as much to some; however, here are one of the locks in the Panama Canal…specifically, one of the Lake Gatun locks…behind this gate are 100’s of thousands of gallons of water…we are actually driving through it…heading to the other side…through these gates/locks…many a ship has traveled…in fact, more than likely…your underwear came through here 🙂

This is the back side of Lake Gatun…the Lake actually serves as a major section of the canal….the locks actually work to life ships from sea level up to the level of the lake…and then back down, as they progress through the canal…during certain times of the year…they close this section off…because the water you see rising up…covers the road we are currently on…

Stopping at the Miraflores Locks so that we can check out a few ships moving through, get up close and personal, and catch some fine dining…

These are the locks through which much of our global trade a commerce passes through…

Here is a ship that is currently in process, and there is a line of others waiting…it takes approximately 8 hours for a ship to make it all the way through…however, they may have to wait a few days in line on the outside of the canal…waiting for their turn to progress…during this time, a ship captain who works for the canal will board and guide the ship…captains working for the canal are the only ones allowed to command ships in the canal….

At this point, the ships are under control of the canal command.  Those machines you see on the rails are called mules…they pull the ships through the canal with cables…

Here you can see the locks in operation….the water level will even out…then the gates will open…then off to the next area…

As always, must find the human being in the story….he was on the ship that was passing by….I wonder where this fellow is from, where he is heading, what’s his life story….and what is he doing now…so connected yet, not knowing so…

Full Day, I’ve got plenty now to think about that…so that when I am up at night contemplating everything in the world… 🙂 I now have this to think about also 🙂  The Shrimp Soup was like nothing I have ever tasted…outrageous…the food was fresh, and the ‘Cerveza’…well…a friend of mine always has a reply that he is ‘living the dream’ day by day….well, like I said on the side of that hill in Bali…. “Life’s Good”!



Going deeper into Panama takes me away central downtown area out into the Corregimiento’s….I have to admire the sincerity of my hosts, for they just aren’t showing me certain sections of the city.  They don’t want me to support them with a myopic vision.  Thus, I get a chance to really get to know Panama!

Heading out into the districts…we will visit Ancon, Chorrio, San Felipe, Bathania, Tocumen, and Mananitas!  We’ll also be talking with some of their district representatives to get some much deeper insight into the quality of life and what is influencing it in their respective communities.  First stop – Ancon.

Ancon resides fairly close to the canal zone, and faces a major dichotomy.  One one side there are thriving communities, beautiful architecture, good economic activity….very warm aesthetics…on the other side, you have many of the individuals staying who came primarily to work around the canal…including the recent expansion projects.  Great meeting with the local representatives….great discussion on issues that many cities face: quality of life, housing structure, storm-water drainage, etc.  Great Start!

Beautiful home with the traditional roof…man, feels like I am hosting HGTV or something….not my thing, but amazing things do demand respect and acknowledgement!  An issue that has required a resolution is population density.  Next to this home you see a multi-family style residence.  That is their attempt to increase density throughout the area and reduce population sprawl.  Again, the contrasts are constant, I found this next house to be really interesting on the eyes 🙂

There are plenty of other photo’s I could show for the other sides of this neighborhood, but I don’t want to be overly repetitive.  Some of these areas, although in different districts, look quite the same.  So, I won’t show all the areas…just the representative ones…

Heading out to another district, we stopped to get some refreshments:

This stand sells ‘Sugar Cane Juice’.  You know, the juice that comes from a stalk of sugar cane….it is somewhat greenish in color (light)….and it is sweet to the tongue.  Really highlights the difference between commercialized juice and non-commercialized.  The juices here are ridiculous.  Pineapple, Melon, Papaya, Orange, Baby Coconut…don’t have the acidity and thickness associated with what you would by the store.  This stuff is fresh and light, makes it seem as though you will outlive Zeus 🙂

Next stop is Bathania.  Took a really informing ride-a-long with their officials….we went deep 🙂  I’ll save that information for the strategic plan 🙂  However, their community center resides right next to their athletic facilities.

If you know anything about Latin America, then you know that they will ‘cut’ you over Football (Soccer) or Baseball! 🙂  To the left of the main building is an indoor soccer area….clean…very very clean….

And, just so happens that a scout from the Washington Nationals was there to observe a few young men strut their stuff.  This facility is located right next to the soccer area….some of these kids start playing baseball as young young children…driven by their aspirations to make it to the big leagues….and the big leagues are always down here looking to oblige the local talent.

Heading out into the other districts, we find similar structures.  It’s as if Public Housing has a particular design that is used all over the world.  Remind you of anything particular in Chicago:

Something that is readily apparent here though despite any circumstances or challenges….faith is something that permeates this culture.  Everywhere you go, you see tributes here and there as reminders of faith:

and at another park in the middle of a small neighborhood:

Interestingly enough, for what could be said about some of their challenged communities…they have done a pretty decent job of getting the private market to engage these communities.  All over the United States there are discussions on how to get markets, stores and other service providers to establish locations in challenged communities…well, obviously, there are some things to be learned from Panama:

Have to make sure there is balance in the perception.  While Panama has its share of high rises…and its challenged communities, it also has its share of regular neighborhoods…although the colors at times let you know that there is nothing comparatively regular here 🙂

I was once talking with a friend of mine about overseas travel, and the discussion led to how there is a perception, at times, that in the U.S. we warehouse our older people.  That concept, I found to be really amazing.  And, as I have traveled, I can see where that perception gains its strength.  Driving through this community, we see where the government is installing machines in the parks.  These machines are for mature and elder citizens, so that they can have a place to exercise to maintain and improve their health….quite interesting:

Heading further out into the periphery of the city, we get to areas such as Tocumen and Mananitas.  These areas have been influenced by high degrees of migration from across the region.  The infrastructure was not necessarily in place to manage this growth, and so what you find in this area are the ‘Informal Settlements’.

Some of these areas can pose challenges to maintaining a good quality of life, the rains and the drainage here always must be faced!  But, I don’t feel the need to focus in on the challenges, they do deserve to be addressed; however, the ‘little homey’ here seems to be doing his thing…and I find that to be more delightful 🙂

I certainly am grateful for the opportunity to become immersed in such an educational experience.  This was our guide for the day, who took us throughout the district and explain life in her community.

On the way back to the central city, we are reminded that in the world we live in…someone has to be around to, as we say, ‘hold it down.’  At any given time, you may see these gentlemen…two on a motorcycle…weaving through traffic….’Nino Brown Style’…trying to keep the peace!

And, although this world has its challenges….it’s always nice to have a truck load of fresh pineapples to remind you how sweet life is….I bet some of you saw the Mcdonalds sign in the background and though I was referring to the sweetness of Mac D’s…NO…not the case…what did I say earlier about contrasts…

But, at the end of the day…whether we are discussing sweetness or challenges, we have to remember that this should be about helping humanity….can we look passed the environment, regardless to whether it is challenged or sweet, and see a person’s humanity….and work to maintain that pearl….

Effective Strategic Planning is not performed in a vacuum…the process must engage the environment it is intended to impact.  Getting to know Panama through a strategic planning process is highly recommended 🙂  That may have just ruined the vacation orientation for some, but exactly, I am not on vacation!!!!

Structurally, the Municipality of Panama is made up of Corregimiento’s….This is a sub-division of a larger district, what some of us in the states may refer to as a neighborhood, except in this instance it is also a political district…led by an elected representative.

International travel should have an impact on a persons perception.  In my case, I have experienced enough of the community dynamics in international settings that I don’t focus in on just problems.  As Jane Jacobs once wrote “A City is a Problem”…”a Problem in Organized Complexity”.  To focus on the problem is to focus on the obvious….which doesn’t really show much regarding depth of insight.  Most cities have similar issues…complex in nature, they may vary in degree, but similar issues all the same.

I write that to say that I post pictures of areas to show the relative nature of realities…so that others can get a better take on the concept of viewing dynamics within their relative context…not within a judgmental negative context.

Here is Curundu!

Curundu is one of those areas where some urban renovation projects are being applied.  Like most areas that have challenges, the one that jumps out most visibly is the condition of the housing.  The Population of Panama has grown significantly over the past 10 years with individuals migrating from the rural country-side as well as from neighboring countries.  That is why, conditions can not be assessed in a vacuum.  Regional dynamics must be considered in the cause-effect equation as well!  Add in the redevelopment that is taking place in some of the districts, and it creates a need to address the provision of housing.

Any of these photo’s could be ascribed to locations all over the world.  The more you travel the more you see that although cultures have their variations….they also have high degree’s of similarity.  In fact, either one of these pictures of housing in Curundu could be in several cities in the United States.

And, it does extend itself as in rows and rows…layers and layers….

In some instances, the government has taken extra steps to provide some additional forms of housing…this building is set up like a warehouse to provide a structure to build smaller homes within.  It is actually similar to shelters in other countries utilized to provide housing…so that people still feel a sense of personal ownership, organizations have even used lines on the floors to distinguish personal space in shelters throughout the United States.

As I mentioned though, it all still has a relative aspect….for I didn’t see a bunch of people sitting around loathing themselves or immersed in self-pity.  Instead, I saw many, just like this little one, who looked like he was dreaming of one day having his chance to kick in the game winning goal for the National Team of Panama 🙂

The government has to be given credit for its attempts to provide housing for those in need.  Again, this is a city of contrasts…and typically these contrasts are highlighted because they rest right beside each other.

The newly developed housing stands in stark contrast to the older housing…the brightness of the colors does, indeed, speak volumes….

It is refreshing to see progress being made.  In fact, seeing the old mixed in with the new really provides some serious food for thought.  Throughout this trip, consistent and comparative contrasts stand out!  By the end of this trip, I am sure much can be gleaned from that….

Panama Pacifico

October 4, 2012

Over the years, I have participated in many community development projects.  Having been trained in City & Regional Planning, it is particularly interesting to me to see a city rise.  As I stated before, Panama is going through drastic changes characterized by major developments and expansions over the past 10 years.

As part of the treaty that gave control of the canal over to the Panamanian government, the United States reverted back lands it had taken possession of when it was in control.  This included several former military bases.  The question then became, what does a government do with all of that land?  In this case, the project was successfully put out to bid and now you have, in essence, a new city being built on top of a former base.  This project is called Panama Pacifico.

This project is the first comprehensively master-planned community in Latin America and sits on approximately 3,460 acres of land.  It sits right between the Panama Canal and the Pacific Ocean and when completed will have a international business park, residential living areas, schools, a town center, recreational areas, an airport amongst a lot of other amenities. Ideally, many of the companies that ship parts from around the world through the canal will use these facilities for additional component assembly.  Talk about the Global Chains of Production….

The project is amazing in and off itself; however, as a planner….it is even more amazing to me.  To watch a city built from the ground up….nothing short of amazing….to see a city go up in such a short amount of time…well, they are doing in 10 years what some haven’t been able to do in 50.  There are also some other insights that should be considered here….

There are a few structures still remaining from the former military base; as you can see they have that Latin styled roof…..nice…

But, as I said…contrasts abound!  This is the new styled housing they are building which pretty much went 100% sold out immediately.

Now the most interesting part to me regards the recognition of the global context and how that reality needs to be integrated into the process of planning cities.  Hence, the very interesting educational system they are developing in this community.

Here we have a Jewish School, Next to a French School, Next to a Venezuelan School….quite interesting….and full of implications….so often we get stuck in our own little world just like a ‘Dung Beetle’….and we only have the same view as the ‘Dung Beetle’…this is further evidence that if we don’t open up our minds and develop ourselves…the world will keep moving right along and we will find ourselves and our identities completely obsolete to the globalized world.

Once this place is built out, there will be plenty of wonderful views to behold….at the base of this hill will reside a new recreational facility….

A penchant I have developed over time, especially in an international setting, is a love for culturally authentic food.  I don’t mean fancy food necessarily, but food that supports a culturally authentic experience.  So, for lunch we Jaime, Juan Carlos and Myself stopped by the Kiosk that isn’t far from the municipal building to get a nice snack.  Just so happens the owners of this shop are family of Jaime.

No mechanically separated chicken, whole food, with plantain, beans, rice, and some salsa picante….pleased I am!!!!

On to Curundu!

Into Panama I Go….

October 4, 2012

Something that is readily apparent in Panama City is that contrasts abound.  As I mentioned, the past 10 years this city has experienced exponential growth in multiple areas.  This has created the type of intense diversity in the city scape also seen in the people.

Outside of the native populations and, of course, the European influences initiated when colonization was the dominant model of globalization, a large part of the genetic pool was created from the human migrations that took place to support the construction of the Panama Canal.  Individuals came from Barbados, Martinique, Guadalupe, Trinidad, Jamaica and others such as the Spanish, Italians, Greeks, Hindus, Americans, Armenians, Cubans, Costa Ricans, and Colombians all have blended in this country.  Include in the native Panamanians, and you have every single nuanced skin color, body shape, type and style that is known to man.  It is like a human botanical garden.

For the past 10 years, the City of Panama has been growing exponentially and is in a thriving construction boom.  This adds in multiple contrasts….The skyline is a rare find…there are two Trump towers, no pictures of that though…I figure ‘The Don’ get’s enough publicity 🙂  Condominiums litter the downtown area and give the impression of high density:

Turn another direction, and it appears the population is sparse and the accommodations are a bit more earthy 🙂  I am being careful here because although there are challenges with the housing market.  Most cities have huge challenges when it comes to housing markets.  So this example should only be viewed as an example…for I’ve seen these all over the world….

Then turn in another direction and there are people everywhere, shopping, perusing, rushing about…the regular siting on the markets…the street food, the shops….the type of place where you can just stop and people watch…

Gotta love the markets…and trust me when I say “THE PRICE IS RIGHT”…papaya, bananas, baby coconuts, fresh pineapple (ripened perfectly, low acid) all types of fruits that I would need help in spelling…all for a few cents…

This is the Central Avenue market area…it is generally closed off to vehicles, but since we are rolling with the City…we get the VIP Tour 🙂  Lots of people, activity, shopping, and a perfect example of the intangibles you find in an international market area.

Now, transportation in many international settings is serious business.  We are talking about moving a lot of people, inexpensively over large stretches of territory.  They have a formal public bus system and they are currently building a metro rail system (excellent forethought)!  But, a major form of transportation comes in the form of these private bus lines.

Ever seen a tricked out school bus?  Look at the murals painted on the side of the bus!  Check this out: at night, they are lit with fluorescent lights… and based upon the sound system, it would be reasonable to assume that they are pushing ‘Beats by Dr. Dre’.  Ohhhh….it is indeed a sight 🙂

The locals call them the ‘Red Devils’….as the drivers….are no JOKE!  I mean when you see them coming…you best get out of the way….they put it down!  For .25 cents you get to ride through town listening to latest Beats! 🙂

I’ve been a little slow with my posting….they have been working me hard!  This is a complete immersion experience….I’ll be catching up over the next few days!!!!


Most who know me, understand that I generally don’t get terribly excited about food….however, they also know that I have no problem leaving bad food behind.  One thing though I have picked up from my travels, is that I do get rather excited about experimenting with new food in different cultures.  So after having such a delightful Ceviche experience, time to take a stroll to the adjacent neighborhood.  Taking another look at the cultural style of the boats in waiting, and catching a bird in flight…I head down the road.

Going from the market to the Old City is a rather nice walk!  Immediately, you can see the shift in architecture and the shift in the feeling.  The city has done a great job of creating a pedestrian friendly walkway connecting the fish market and the Old City.

Getting closer to the Casco Viejo, you can make the old style of the buildings out a bit clearer.  The back side of the White House you see, is the Panamanian version of the White House in the United States.

One thing you have to love about architecture like this is that the scale and style really warm you up and make it easy to relate to the physicality of the neighborhood…proximity, closeness, colors…it pulls you in….it gets your attention…

It just a short walk; however, pausing to look back gives you another view of the downtown area.  As I mentioned, it is the rainy season so the lighting and the huge cloud banks make for quite and interesting view.  This is the view from the Old City, however, it is the second Old City for the first one had to be moved as a result of the Pirates.  As you may recall, the English, French, and Spanish…amongst others were vying for various parts of the world and so the original city had to be moved away from the range of the cannons.  The skyline you see now, is the 3rd iteration of the city.

Considering what it looked like back before the mid-1600’s before all this was being established….

All the lives, the families, the people that have come through this area…really reminds us that time is a continuum…and this period is just a spec in the broader dynamic of civilizations and humanity. Unique about this area is that it represents a major point of confluence in the history of European expansion.  Names such as Vasco Balboa, Amerigo Vespucci, Hernan Cortes and Pedro Davila all come into play when discussing the early history of Panama.  Not lost on this history are the many cultures that were here upon their arrival….this history is so significant, that the Coat of Arms of King Fernando (Queen Isabel) of Spain still stands as the Seal of the City:

If you have been singularly in other parts of the city, then here you get a completely different feel….

The feel is reminiscent of Savannah, Georgia or Charleston, South Carolina and some other places, but this has more of a Spanish style to it…obviously….

The small streets and intimacy give you a sense of comfort.  They obviously have done a remarkable job in restoring some of these buildings…of course with Historic Preservation work, there is always more to be done 🙂  Casco Viejo gets an A+ for these efforts…

Nestled in between the structures, you will find a variety of restaurants…and if you are more of a cafeteria style person….well, you will find that as well…

Several projects currently involve building restoration, but you can tell as well that much is being done to bring back the brick style streets…absolutely amazing….gives a sense of solidness to the experience….after a bit of walking…it is so beautiful…there is no need to do much but to look….and absorb….meticulous is the detail….

Having worked in the Historic Preservation community in Savannah, Georgia and having a great appreciation for its significance….I could not just walk by this sign and not take a picture….give your translation skills a shot 🙂

This structure is amazing and significant….even in its current condition…when you look at it and get a feel for it….you can hear it speaking….it is called “Compania de Jesus” it is a historical convent of the Society of Jesus….amazing…

Now I am loving me some historic preservation, but when I travel…for some reason…I generally take a picture of what I find a dog doing when I travel….as a side note…I have some interesting observations about the characteristics of dogs in different countries, maybe I’ll write about that one day 🙂

Never-the-less, when I walked up…this fella didn’t even move…he opened his eye-lid, and I don’t know if dogs can do this, but it looked like he rolled his eyes at me….as if to say “whatever dude….I am so already over you”, I chuckled…snapped my photo…and let him be 🙂  My Man!

Tucked into this community are also several interesting churches of highly historical significance.  Built during the mid-1600’s, it has an old world style and feeling to it:

Beautiful…makes a statement…

This is a closer view of the front….it is made out of old world Gold…serious, serious craftsmanship and work went into it by the Spanish….regardless to your religion…or lack thereof, you have got to respect the master artisan at work…

Another church not located to far away…this one is under reconstruction I believe…wonderful to see the value placed on history and exemplified importance placed upon its future value…

What a full day of absorbing culture…the inside:

This is the French Embassy.  The French played a role in the history of the development of the Panama Canal as they were the ones that started the process of building it.  Because of this history, the Embassy remains at this location near the Plaza de Francia (the French Plaza):

When the French came, they then imprisoned many of the Spanish that were here.  This is one of the locations where they held prisoners:

The statues represent various individuals who played a significant role in getting the work started of building the Panama Canal.  Watch out for that guy in the middle….. 🙂

Keep looking throughout Casco Viejo and you will come across many significant markers.  This is one that honors Simon Bolivar.  We don’t learn much about him in the United States unless you study Latin American history or listen to Hugo Chavez of Venezuela speak, but he his held in high regard in many places for his efforts…

Okay, wherever we go, we’ve got to look for China Town!  And, like in so many cities, they do have a China Town here.  It isn’t a big one…but, significant all the same 🙂

Being in this community, it could be easy to forget that when you are in Panama you are also in a rain forest.  The contrast between the buildings and the green and colors on this tree…well, sometimes you are forced to stop and smell the ‘roses’….even if they come in the form of tree’s…

Throughout Old Panama City, there are plenty of opportunities to purchase the items of your choice.  Of course, this is the home the Panama Hat 🙂  But, the native Kuna, who are indigenous to this area provide plenty of handmade items to acquire….

This community provides a wonderful day trip….plenty to absorb…the layout, the structures, the redevelopment in-process…the history, make for a memorable day.  Yet, bricks and buildings don’t make a community.  One of the things I really liked about this community, is that they have not completely separated the redevelopment from the people who live here.  Walking through these streets…the buildings have stories and have seen lots of things…but, looking at the people…those eyes have their stories as well…

And, in wondering what those eyes have seen, we could also wonder what these eyes are going to see…what they are wanting to see…the future indeed…

And so, walking behind the plaza….I see a lone fella…riding the waves…okay…give me my props 🙂  Had to use my expert photography skills to catch him…he was pretty far out there…interesting that the wave never really got that high…but it kept going for a long way…He’s got swagger…My Man! 🙂

Beautifully preserved space, and it is a work in progress…but where you find water…and a community…you should also find kids somewhere as well 🙂 couldn’t let this opportunity pass by!

Lots of walking, Panama is humid…so be prepared.  And although I was feeling it, this next scene was a fitting end to the day.  Sitting in the truck, I keep hearing this smacking sound combined with people fussing at each other…looking over I saw these tables with men sitting around smacking the tables and talking loud.  I rolled down the window to take a closer look and realized they were playing dominoes….I said to myself, man all over the world there are so many commonalities…it is amazing that some choose to focus on perceived differences!  Realizing I wanted a picture, Jaime said in a loud voice “MUCHACHO’s”, they all turned around and saw my camera and started waving and smiling like we were all family and cousins playing dominoes at the family reunion…

Man….! I am Loving me some Panama!  Like ‘Ice-Cube’ said…”today, was a good day”