Today was our departure day so I spent most of the time on the plane… well scratch that I spent most of the time in the Atlanta airport. My parents dropped me off at the airport and waited to make sure I got through security which was sweet. We waited at XNA for around an hour which wasn’t too bad. There was a small group of us there so we had the opportunity to sit and talk. The flight was fairly smooth but, we hit a rough patch going down into Atlanta. Going through Atlanta was very easy we were just one terminal away from where we landed. A group of us got lunch at T.G.I. Fridays and it was very good and filling. Then we headed to the gate to wait for a few hours. I worked some on our company introductions and talked with those around me. I walked the terminal end to end and it only took 20 minutes. Then I settled back down and talked until it was time for departure. I didn’t enjoy the plane ride to Panama very much. Coming in to the city an announcement came over that we were going to prepare for landing because we were coming into some bad weather, at which point I still thought we were over water so I was none too pleased. But obviously, it worked out just fine. While we were flying, I could see Cuba and other parts of the Caribbean I wish we had an earlier flight so I could’ve seen it in the daylight but I guess that’s what the flight back is for! I did get to see a beautiful sunset though. Customs through the airport was very easy to go through it only took us about 30 minutes to go through. Nothing like an American customs line. We all shoved into this van with all of our luggage, we were like little sardines. It was so humid when we first stepped out you could immediately tell we were in a foreign country. We went straight to the supermarket from the airport to pick up the essentials. It was a fun experience, it reminded me a lot of being in Mexico. It was interesting to see how the prices were different. One thing I noticed was that Silk Almond milk was almost $7 when at home it only costs $3. After the supermarket we made it back to the dorm and got all checked in. I headed straight to bed but some people stayed up a little later hanging out.
We had a later morning today which was very nice. We had to be downstairs for breakfast by 10. We had some amazing coffee and pastries while we talked about our day ahead which was mostly tourism based. Then we walked down to the plaza inside the city of knowledge to become acquainted with the base. I was dripping sweat within the first 2 minutes of being outside. I didn’t get anything to eat at the plaza because it was too hot but I made sure to buy a snack. It was really interesting to see all the different school children in the compound. It was comforting that when I went to the bathroom there were a few high school aged girls gossiping just like in America, but what an amazing thing to see translated across borders. There was a neat bookstore there with mostly Spanish books. I saw a cookbook in Spanish that I might run back and get. Then we hopped on our bus but it was a lot better without all of our luggage. We went on a bus tour of Panama City and it was very beautiful. Our tour guide Alex was very informative and kind. We got out at a few places. Once at a Chinese monument place that had a great view of the main bridge. Part of the day we were on the Pan-American highway that ran from Panama to somewhere up in Alaska. It is approximately 19,000 miles long and cuts through Dallas so not quite Arkansas but close. We were able to visit Casco Viejo which is the old Panama City. It looked like a mix between Europe and Mexico. The architecture was beautiful and there were many neat shops. We only got a few hours to spend down there but we’ll be going back next Friday so we’ll have plenty of time to see everything and of course buy plenty of souvenirs. On the way to dinner we stopped by one of the large Panama signs and took a photo opportunity break. We got a great group photo of all of us. For dinner, we ate at a place called Mi Ranchito. Dr. Esper bought all of us a sample platter of traditional Panamanian (fried) food; plantains, sausage, fish, empanadas, yucas, and some cheese thing. I had jumbo shrimp with the eyes still looking at me… It wasn’t deveined either. I don’t like food that can still look at me. The thing that throws me off the most about Panama is that the sun sets around 6:45 and in Arkansas it is currently setting at 8:30 so that’s what time my body things it is. Its messing up my sleep cycle. So my roommate and I met up with one of her friends from the Panama trip the year before who was here for an internship to walk around the City of Knowledge. Almost everything was closed and it was only 8:00pm. We just walked back to the dorms once we figured out everything was closed. I headed straight to bed. Even though we had a long day it was filled with lots of activities and we have a hike tomorrow that we have to leave at 6:30 for.
This morning was early but it wasn’t too hard to get up since the sun rose at 6:00am. I was trying to make coffee this morning and I couldn’t figure out the coffee maker, there’s no way that I can be doing it wrong there’s only one button. It has bothered me all day. It took us until 7:00am to actually leave the compound. The hike wasn’t nearly as bad as Alex our guide made it out to be. He made me think it would be 2.5 miles straight uphill through the jungle and then the same way back down. It was actually just a paved road up a mildly steep hill that people were biking up. I was absolutely drenched in sweat. The view at the top was beautiful, you could really see the contrast between the old town and the new city, you could even see the areas that were developing. We could also see the canal and all the containers being passed through there. My trainer would be proud of me I stayed at the front of the pack! We thought we were going to beat the bus back down so Alex said we could go to McDonalds until the bus caught up, but we actually saw the bus on the way down so we were able to catch a ride to down. I was starving and dying for some coffee so I ordered the special of the day which I thought was going to be a biscuit type thing and a normal black coffee. The biscuit thing was two hamburger butt buns, a slice of ham, and cheese. My coffee wasn’t black like I thought it was going to be, I think they watered it down to make it an Americano like me. I stayed at the front to try to help everyone else order which was good practice since ordering food isn’t my strong suit. On our way back to the dorms we saw a sloth! It was incredible I’ve never seen one in person not even at a zoo! When we arrived back at the dorms we had plenty of time to shower and get turned around, although my hair didn’t dry because it is pretty humid here. We had our first lecture day at USMA today it was about the Panamanian economy. Economics isn’t my favorite subject so I didn’t love this lecture. We talked about a lot of things related to the GDP and unemployment rates. To me econ is interpreting a lot of graphs. We discussed all the different areas of industry in Panama and how they related to the GDP and how that changed throughout the years. I thought it was interesting that Panamanians invest more than they save because they trust the government. I’m not sure if I would make that decision in the United States. On the way to the bathroom I made a new friend, she knew I was American and lost so she asked in English if I was looking for the bathroom and then apologized because she didn’t speak a lot of English, to which I responded in Spanish that it was okay and she seemed relieved that I could speak some Spanish. She wanted to practice her English with me so that was a neat experience. After that we headed to Albrook mall to have lunch and look around to gather information for our respective “companies” that we were assigned and of course shop. Albrook Mall is the 3rd largest in Latin America so I was a little overwhelmed when I first got there. Just because it was so huge with so many stores. I think we saw three food courts. For lunch I had the hardest time ordering. I have been trying to eat healthier which can be hard when the workers don’t understand what I’m trying to say and when I don’t understand what I want and/or how to get it. I started off wanting a bowl but it turns out that’s only available with lettuce and I’m not sure about the lettuce here yet so I had to do a plate thing. I thought there was a steak type option but it looked very saucy and I wasn’t sure about that on white rice so I got grilled chicken. I didn’t want any extra spicy things or vegetables so at least that was easy “no, gracias” almost everyone can do that. The sauce was another issue I wanted the chipotle sounding one but it turned out to be a black looking sauce so I just pointed to an orange one. It worked out great though, my rice plate was great a little spicy though! Walking around the mall reminded me of the Angelopolis in Puebla, so I wasn’t feeling a lot of culture shock in the today. I wasn’t able to find a lot of stores that centered around travel except for a luggage store so I think our project will take a bit of creative thinking. When we got back to the dorms I went on a swim in the pool here it was only ½ a mile, the pool felt good to splash in but not good for swimming to work out. I stopped for dinner at Sabor Chicken and got a chicken breast with fries for only $5. It could’ve used some southern barbeque sauce though. Im excited for our lecture about the Panamanian consumer, I like learning about how buying patterns differ between countries, so I’m especially excited to see how that relates to supply chain. I hope this points me in the right direction for what I want to do with a supply chain degree.
Since the coffee maker still wasn’t working this morning I walked down to the coffee shop in the Plaza. I paid $5.30 for an iced mocha, just like being at home, reminded me of Starbucks. We headed straight to USMA for our lecture on the Panamanian consumer. I enjoyed this lecture! The professor was easy to understand and really funny! We learned about the culture of Panama which was helpful to understand the consumer. Panama is a very young country with a median age of only 29 years. Panama is also a hard place to define the culture, it’s not part of Central America culturally, but geographically it is. Panama became very Americanized while the United States was still operating the canal, the American dollar is used here and there are tons fast food companies moving down to Panama. We also talked a lot about how the Panamanians are different than us, they have a less strict sense of time, put less of an emphasis on manners and lifestyle, and they will take time out of their day to be polite. Personally, I think America could stand to take time out of their day to be polite. All of this ties into how to market to the average Panamanian consumer. I wish we could’ve talked more about how to use that information to appeal to the consumers. We were supposed to do a cooking class today but it didn’t work out so we had lunch in the cafeteria. I had chicken and rice again. So much rice, it’s probably from Arkansas since we’re a major exporter of rice. After we ate we went to the Biodiversity museum it was nice, but I’m not much of a museum person, I got my audio guide in Spanish to practice. My absolute favorite part was the video that we watched, it was called Panamarama, it was in a panorama and we got to see all the different types of animals in Panama. It was probably one of my favorite museum experiences so far. Once we got back to the dorms I went on a “run” it was harder in the humidity but it was a nice way to use my break before our group dinner. Dinner was fun, we all ordered as a group so the passing out of plates was very entertaining and our poor waiter didn’t speak enough English for that so I got up and helped him. I had shrimp wrapped in prosciutto in a passionfruit sauce, it was really good.