And here we go again! I’m back in Panama for another 4 months for my final field season. Leaving Montreal (and everyone in it) is tough, but I have to admit that after those -40C days, I couldn’t say no to the tropics. I live in a calm neighbourhood near Panama City, in an apartment building appropriately referred to as La Jaula (The Cage). Trapped inside our lovely cage with me, behind 169 metal bars to be exact, are other students, interns, post-docs, all here from different parts of the world (although this year there is sort of an American invasion). Now I know an apartment full of biologists doesn’t sound like the most exciting thing, but it’s strangely entertaining. Especially with a dysfunctional family-like group like ours. And with the high turnover of people it’s almost like living in a hostel. New faces settling in, frequent potlucks and parties, and sad goodbyes.
2014 is already the 100th anniversary of the Panama Canal, can you believe that? I feel like it was built yesterday. You could spend hours watching the colossal cargo ships making their way through the canal. For the full experience, go at sunset, with cold beers and ceviche. But we don't need to go far for entertainment. Back in our apartments, we overcome boredom with little games, like this race / scavenger hunt I organized. To ensure a healthy competitive spirit, winners received chocolate. Chocolate is the best incentive.
You meet all sorts of interesting people here. Take Tim and Manu from France, for example. They arrived in Mexico with their tandem bicycle and biked for 3 months all the way down to Panama, where I had the chance to meet them. By now they've sailed with their bike past the Darién forest into Colombia, their final pit stop before heading back. How crazy is that?
Then there are the hilarious Spaniards Carlos and Silvia. Carlos' long hair was becoming unwieldy, especially for a warm climate. So he did what anyone would do. He asked Silvia, who, after watching 2 Youtube tutorial videos, had all the qualifications of an expert hairdresser. She set up her salon in the jungle, and a few snips and buzzes later, Carlos transformed into a short-haired disappointed version of his former self. Unhappy with the result, he did what he thought was fair and demanded the right to apply revenge make-up on Silvia's face.
I have to admit that Panama has its few quirks, from offering you almost exclusively fried food, to granting near-death experiences every time you go on the road. But the people you meet and places you see are the reasons why I love being here.