Friday, December 14, 2012

Transiting the Panama Canal

Yesterday was a lovely day in Colon, Panama.  Some of you might think I completely wasted the day when you hear what I did, but I am pretty clear that it was a great use of my time.  The day before in Cartegena, Colombia, while fascinating and full, was completely exhausting, and I ended up with a horrible headache, a growing plantar fasciitis in my left foot, chills and fever alternating along with incipient nausea and some diarrhea.  So I decided it would be wise to get some sleep – I went to bed at 9 PM and didn’t awaken until 8 AM when the loud speaker came out loud and clear to let me know the field excursions were ready to take off.  Ugh!  I could have slept longer.  Thank goodness my headache, fever, chills, nausea, and diarrhea were all gone, and my plantar fasciitis didn’t get worse, and, in fact, got better for lack of use.  So… besides deciding to sleep late and have a relaxing breakfast, I also decided not to try to explore Colon which had been described as the second most dangerous port on our voyage.  I decided instead to explore the small shopping area not 200 yards from the ship as well as the Radisson Hotel to its left which I’d heard had excellent internet.  That’s what Gerlinde and I both did.  We took our laptops and power chords and water bottles and went over to the hotel where we paid $5 for a day of internet! 
As luck had it, I was able to Skype first with Laura in Germany where I caught up with her having dinner, and with Dylan in China, just back from his trip to Tibet and elsewhere, at 2 AM trying to finish writing a paper for school which, I think, was due the next day.  It was fantastic talking to each of them and made me very happy.  I felt centered and grounded after that.  I was also able to reach Chris via email and we exchanged several emails throughout the time I was there.  Andrew wasn’t available, unfortunately – he was fixing my mom’s computer and didn’t get my message in time, but it was great talking to the others.  I again felt tied to what matters to me most – my loved ones.  I also caught up with some of you on FB or via email.  I am so grateful for my friendships and family members.
It was also good to write a long blog about Cartegena, Colombia.  It was a fascinating place and there was much to write about.
Today we were awakened very early – at 6 – by the loudspeaker announcing that we were entering the Gatun Locks at the Panama Canal!  We hopped up, jumped into our clothes, grabbed our cameras, water bottles, sunglasses, and pen and paper and galloped up the stairs onto the deck to watch the day arrive and the ship be transported 35 feet higher so we could make our way through the rest of the canal.  There are three locks on the Atlantic side of the canal, then a gigantic lake which was made by flooding out several villages and much jungle, then two more sets of locks then the Atlantic.  It took us from 4:30 AM until about 3:30 PM to travel about 50 miles.  It cost $140,000.  That’s about $200/person just for the canal portion of the trip.  Freighter ships cost about twice as much generally speaking.  Horrific!  But I guess it’s cheaper and it’s certainly faster than travelling around the Cape which is supposedly also incredibly dangerous and tricky.  And it’s quite interesting traveling through the canal.  I took hundreds of pictures – literally – which are probably only interesting to me.  They are certainly not artistically worthwhile.  But I’ll post a few just so you can see what it’s like in case you haven’t seen pictures of it before.  A guide climbed aboard before six and took us through the day, giving us a running commentary of what we were seeing.  Unfortunately I couldn’t hear a lot of what he said, but fortunately I had read a fascinating, well-written book by David McCauley (sp?) all about the canal, so I had a lot of information in my head to accompany me on the journey.  They are in the process of expanding the canal greatly.  I enjoyed seeing the excavations and machinery and such.  It helped me imagine a tiny little bit what it might have been like as they built the original one, though this looked  a LOT safer and more easily done – no landslides or workers dying daily, as far as I could tell.  The history of the construction is fascinating but unfortunately full of death and destruction and the impressive power of Mother Nature, who, apparently, did NOT want mankind to make its way easily through the thick swampy jungles of Panama in the early 20th century.
I learned that millions of gallons of fresh water are used for each ship that goes through the canal – and 40 ships, on average, go through per day.  I can’t imagine a lake that can hold so many gallons and can afford to lose so many each and every day.  The new canal is being designed to re-use about 60% of the water.  I’m glad about that.  It seems like a horrible waste as it is.  At least there is a LOT of rain in Panama to re-fresh the lake.  It rained for a while while we were on Gatun Lake – heavy rains – then again after we got through the canal, this time lightly but persistently.  You’ll see in the pictures that it was a fairly grey day all day, with thick heavy clouds the whole time.
When we got to the end of the canal, Panama City awaited us.  Apparently that’s the new “in” city to live in.  US Citizens are headed there in droves to retire.  There’s new architecture springing up everywhere including a Donald Trump Tower and a Frank Gehry museum.  The Gehry museum is not finished yet – it is next to the water, far from town, near a causeway, and looked like a bunch of colorful containers from a freighter ship which have been crashed down on top of each other and left helter-skelter as they landed.  It’s a fun building and elicited a lot of reaction from the folks on the ship who’d never seen one of his buildings before and who didn’t particularly like it.    Assertions about the absurdity of abstraction abounded. 
This evening I was fortunate enough to hear and watch a comedic magician perform on board.  He showed us how to do some magic tricks, so watch out the next time you see me!  I just might try them on you – if I can remember them!
Tomorrow we’ll be at sea, the day after as well.  That means I’ll have the pleasure of teaching again, my third and fourth classes.  I’ll be teaching Blind Contour Drawing and Modified Blind Contour Drawing. I’m going to start by doing a mindful exercise Martin Keogh did with us in Contact Improv where we take about 10 minutes to fully examine a raisin before even getting to put it into our mouths and taste the exquisite rich sweetness of it bursting alive after experiencing it with our other senses.  My intention in doing that first is to help the students become alive to sensation and to “what is”, not what they assume “is”.  I want them to realize how much there is to see which they aren’t fully acclimatized to in their daily lives.  With this realization, I hope they’ll be able to pay wonderfully acute attention to their hands and every detail of them as they draw them without looking at the paper.  I’m looking forward to seeing how it goes.  I have 29 people signed up and 16 places at the table, but enough supplies for 40, so it’ll work out one way or another as long as they can find something to lean on as they draw. 
I’ve had a good time on board showing people more Zendoodles.  Several kids have come up to me to ask me to show them new patterns, and the adults always listen in when I do.  It’s fun seeing how  much they love them!  I could probably do an entire 10 lessons on it and may do more than the two I had planned since they seem to be so beloved and fun to do.
Tomorrow I have a busy schedule planned – there are so many interesting people on board who’ll be giving classes.  Here’s the list:
8:15 – 9:15 meditation Workshop with a Buddhist monk, Bhante Sujatha
9-10 my workshop (obviously I’ll leave the previous one early to get to mine on time!)
9:45 – 10:45 Tropical Ecology with Charles Leavell, a biologist who is very well informed about the countries to which we’re traveling (obviously I can’t go there til mine is over!)
11-12 Secrets of a Successful & Productive Writer by Ying Compestine, a woman who’s published 20 books so far and has two more coming out this year – I guess she does know the secret!
2-3 Seas of change, Eyes of Hope: by Fran Cannon Slayton, a children’s book author from Charlottesville who used to be a child sex abuse prosecutor.  She’ll talk about why bad things happen in books and life.  Suffering is a universal experience that touches us all – but what is its purpose?
3:15 – 4:15 so you want to be a travel writer with Doug Mack, one of the folks I traveled with in Jamaica, a wonderful guy with a nice sense of style – I look forward to hearing his talk
4:30 – 5:30 William Webster – yes, that William Webster – the guy who used to be the head of the CIA and FBI.  He’ll talk about how the US continues to balance national security and personal freedoms.  I sense I might not be able to listen to that whole talk, but  it’ll be interesting to get a sense of it, if it doesn’t infuriate me – I say that because I don’t find that the US does balance the two.
Also at 4:30 – 5:30 is a writing workshop with Bob Atkinson with whom I’ve been writing the last week so far.  He’s excellent, so I don’t want to miss it, but I think I might b/c I won’t have another chance to hear Wm Webster.  Fortunately Bob will be giving the same class sometime next week, so I can catch it then.  He has given me some excellent ideas as well as some personal help about how to structure my own memoir.  I’m excited about getting back to it when I get home and again have some of that lovely thing called TIME!

Good night!

No comments:

Post a Comment