Quick Hits: Panama

-Regarded by some as the Dubai of Central America, it is and it isn’t. I have seen a lot of run down buildings with iron bars on almost every window and razor wire on the top of every fence. That said, the downtown area rivals the skyline of any modern city. It is a mix of places, part of the town feels like LA, part feels like colonial Spain and part feels like, well, Central America.

-Not many locals speak English, yet I have heard multiple Jay-Z songs.

-Panama is easy to travel in for several reasons. First they use US dollars. You don’t have to worry about exchanging money or doing conversions in your head. No confusion on which bill or coin is worth what. However, this also makes it expensive. At McDonalds, a large value meal was $8, basically what you’d pay in the US. Still deals can be found, a local plate lunch runs about $4. Second, the plugs are the same and the voltage is identical to the US so you can plug in your electronics straight away without any adaptors. Third, you can drink the water. Save the money on bottled water. Feel free to have ice in your drink and rest easy when you eat a salad.

-Mariano Rivera, possibly the greatest closer in MLB history, is from Panama. I expected him to be a semi god here, but it turns out that people hate him. Apparently, he never wanted to play for the national team which has turned him from superstar to an enemy of the state. Sandy Alomar Jr. (Game 4 1997 ALDS) might have a few free beers waiting for him here.

-As compared to other “developing” countries (Middle East, I’m looking at you), I really appreciated the soft sell. Some places the people are so aggressive. “My friend, my friend I have a special deal for you,” is a common refrain. Then they follow you. The hard sell is on. Here, I walk all day through the market and no one says jack.

-There seems to be an inferiority complex in regards to the US and the Panama Canal. It struck me as odd that it was mentioned five or six times that “we can run the canal without the help of the US.” No one was questioning that they can run it on their own. Almost like they were trying to talk themselves into it.

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