foreign travel



Boat passing thru the Panama Canal

Boat passing thru the Panama Canal

I went to Panama with sister Cyndy and her oldest son Bryan, she to visit Jim, an old high school friend,  and me to visit my first Central American country. Jim settled in Panama with his Panamanian wife after retiring from the military. He has an interesting occupation in Panama – he travels with portable medical instruments, sonograms and the like, to small clinics and villages in the countryside, places that cannot afford to have their own.

Cyndy with her old friend Jim outside his house in Diablo, Panama

Cyndy with her old friend Jim outside his house in Diablo, Panama

Jim took time off from his 2nd career, to show us Panama – the canal, the city, an Eco-lodge, the mountains, and a sea resort.

Jim's wife, Cyndy, Dalas, Jim, Jim's friend and Cyndy's son Bryan - at the zoo; we heard Monkeys howling - outside the zoo walls

Jim’s wife, Cyndy, Dalas, Jim, Jim’s friend and Cyndy’s son Bryan – at the zoo; we heard monkeys howling – outside the zoo walls!

Bryan and I took a boat ride at the Eco-lodge to monkey island.

Bryan and I took a boat ride at the Eco-lodge to monkey island, where we fed oranges to them.

We saw monkeys and huge crocodiles along the canal, as well as large ships passing. At the time the news was about a new lock system twice as wide as the current, to handle super tankers – I believe work is well underway.

Finally finished in 1913, the building of the canal was an incredible fiasco,

Big croc in the river

Big croc in the river

first by the French (20,000+ dead workers, most from disease), then by us (5,000+ dead workers). Once completed though, the canal has proved to be a benefit.

Monkey with a tail

Monkey with a tail

Around the canal and the city you can still see many of the old buildings that once supported tens of thousands of workers and US military, in use now for housing and storage.

Me enjoying the resort - plenty of big pools an private, kayaking off the beach, all the food you could eat...

Me enjoying the resort – plenty of big pools and private, kayaking off the beach, all the food you can eat…

Cyndy and Bryan in tall bambo

Cyndy and Bryan in tall bambo

Old Panama City street

Old Panama City street

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6 replies »

  1. From the Simon and Schuster (publisher of National Book Award winner, The Path Between the Seas) website — The building of the Panama Canal was one of the most grandiose, dramatic, and sweeping adventures of all time. Spanning nearly half a century, from its beginnings by a France in pursuit of glory to its completion by the United States on the eve of World War I, it enlisted men, nations, and money on a scale never before seen. Apart from the great wars, it was the largest, costliest single effort ever mounted anywhere on earth, and it affected the lives of tens of thousands of people throughout the world.

    • You bring up a very good point, Mike – there is often a “grand” view of a project or event versus the ground level view.

      The French failed miserably, their “project” was simply too big to bite off, given the medical and technological limitations at the time, and it was a conventional fiasco given the many thousands of lives lost (mostly low paid workers imported from other countries), and who knows how many millions of dollars wasted, and ended with the failure to complete the canal.

      The US came in and, with new medical knowledge (realizing those damn mosquitoes were the killers!), good leadership, military involvement and better equipment, they completed the canal (and maintained it for many years) – but still at the cost of 5,000 workers. (Is anything worth the lives of tens of thousands of people? – but that is perhaps a larger discussion.)

      In hind sight, if they/we had just waited forty or fifty years, they/we could probably have created the canal with almost no loss of life. In my opinion, greed (and/or arrogance and/or military plans) drove them to act too early.

      So I would still argue the canal projects overall were a fiasco largely because they were taken on too early and cost too many lives. Yes there is benefit today, great commercial benefit for not only the rich shipping-industry related merchants and the US military but people employed in many industries (especially those in Japan and China), but how can we ignore the cost in lives and declare the canal a grand success? Yes this is a conundrum – how can a project have been, finally, successfully completed, and still be called by me a fiasco? That’s just me.

      (Thanks for the comment! – I actually like debating difficult questions like these, though I’m not very good at it.)


      • Oh, was trying to be brief, so did not make clear that it was a sort of “Further Reading” suggestion than a concurrence in the accepted “lore” about the canal. i wasn’t sure that inserting a link would be completely kosher.

        Yes, I think that you and McCullough would make for a face off that I would pay to see. I’ve taken too many whippings from you to seek more than dialog.

        I did try to do a web search for your My Father’s LIes stories that I would be interested to read, but that darn Google – best that I can tell from it, the last thing you wrote was something called ‘Achy Breaky Heart’. Where can your fans see more – will be in the metroplex for Labor Day if you aren’t up in the Rockies before- ?

      • Mike, Darn I was hoping to argue with you! – growing up arguing with smart people like you and Mickey and my brother Steve helped me realize you can’t win an argument on vague notions. And made me smarter by seeing other view points.

        My Father’s Lies did the publishing house rounds 20 years ago (I had a literary agent back then, believe it or not), and despite good response from major US publishing houses, was not picked up. After so many years, I am giving Father’s Lies one last publication try at the Festival of Writing 2013 in York, England, the last stop on my “About the World Tour, 2013”, a wide-spanning trip that was a major impetus for starting this blog.

        My next blog entry will be an update detailing the final plans for my upcoming trip  – I leave the US on August 13 and do not return until Sep 16.


  2. Heidegger, Sartre, Camus and Perry that sounds like. Sending good karma your way on publication, and save me an advance copy. We will find a debate topic anon,, though I might have to ask you to play lefthanded.

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