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 🙂

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”!



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”


Mercado de Marisco

September 22, 2012

Obviously, Panama is known throughout the world for the Canal.  However, an absolutely delightful characteristic of the city is the outrageous abundance of fresh ocean fare.  Thus, a frequent stop for many Panamanians and visitors is the Mercado de Marisco: the City Fish Market.  Open nearly every day, local fishermen gather to process their catch and many others line up to participating in the unloading.  On any given day, you will see many colorful boats lined up as people from all walks of life fish to ‘make their own way’.  The market sits adjacent to the world renowned Casco Viejo – the Historic District (Old City Panama).  You can see parts of it in the background…more on that later!

Inside the market, you can see the vast array of seafood available: squid, octopus, corvina, tuna, snapper, langostino’s and countless other varieties.  Now, I’ve been in my share of fish markets around the world…this one ranks high!  I mean clean, fresh…

Makes you want to not just eat…but, makes the idea of cooking quite enjoyable…this is food that you want to put love into making…

Right outside the main market building are lines of vendors selling multiple varieties of seafood.  Here you find all walks of life…this is where all classes of people come together….it is amazing!  On any given day, you have to be mindful of when you come to the market for you may not even be able to get into the parking lot!  But, if you can make it…trust…it is well worth it!  Many of the vendors are selling Ceviche!  My mouth waters just saying the name.

Now, I only learned recently about Ceviche….and just recently learned that by exposing seafood to citrus juice (e.g. lemon juice) over a certain period of time it renders it ready to eat 🙂 … add in some of your favorite seasons such as onion, peppers, cilantro…it varies and you’ve got one serious dish.  Considering the abundance of fresh fish here in Panama, well, your intuition can fill in the rest 🙂  This is one of the many vendors, as you can see the Ceviche is in jars in the cart…take your pic:

For a very affordable price, you get quite a delight.  This is the langostino ceviche….can your hear me say ‘RIDICULOUS’…. I mean, ‘DELICIOUS’ 🙂  I also tried the Corvina ceviche…very good as well…

Friday is also Fish Day…fresh off of the Boat!

Don’t make the mistake of getting in between a man and his fish…they have treated me very well since I’ve been here, but don’t let the smoothness fool you…’Jaime’ doesn’t play 🙂

Definitely, one of my favorite places…delicious, the environment is alive, and it is culturally eclectic…

On our way over to the Old City now…that is Casco Viejo….A Must See!

Follow On! 🙂