Thursday, December 27, 2012

Panama Adventure - Day 5

What would a trip to Panama be without some sort of canal adventure? And that's what Shira arranged for today. We did a partial crossing of the Panama Canal, which translates to this: we were taken on a bus about half an hour of town, boarded a ferry like boat, and floated down the canal. It was awesome. The scenery and the massive container ships floating by were a sight to behold. The locks were just like those of the Erie Canal I grew up next to, only on a massive scale. Even watching the dredgers and other working boats do their thing was cool.

As great as the whole experience was, I just can't wrap my head around the feat that the Canal is. Consider this summary:

In the end, the engineers and workers minimized the mosquito threat; moved, rebuilt, and expanded the Panama Railroad; excavated over 200,000,000 cu yd (150,000,000 m3) of earth; built the world's largest (then) dam and a lake; poured about 2,000,000 cu yd (1,500,000 m3) of concrete creating a spillway at Gatun Lake to control its height; and formed three sets of double 110 feet (34 m) by 1,000 ft (300 m) ship's locks, then the largest concrete pour in the world. This was supported by an extensive buildup of U.S.-built, then-modern, heavy-duty excavation and construction equipment, and one of the world's earliest and most extensive electrical systems, used to power and control the flow of water into the locks and spillway. The United States spent almost $375,000,000 (roughly equivalent to $8,600,000,000 now[27]), including $12,000,000 to build facilities used to guard the canal, to finish the project. This was by far the largest American engineering project of that or any previous era.

Yet, as you float through the canal, it just looks like it belongs. And sure, they had to dig through the Continental Divide, but how tricky could that be? It turns out, very. The whole thing is just too much for my brain to take in. Still, it's an excellent mental exercise to think through.

I'm proud to report that the bus driver who dropped us off had to stop and ask for clarification as to how we could get to our hotel. That's how wacky the road system is here, even he needed a nudge to get us to the right spot.

After spending most of the day on the canal, we wanted to take care of a bit of nagging task. Whenever Shira and I visit a location, we usually find the nearest grocery store and stock up on snacks, water and just do the usual comparisons between home and abroad. Since we'd arrived, we heard there was a super market across the street, but hadn't found it yet. Supposedly it was in the massive mall, but after gathering much intelligence, we learned, only accessible via the parking garage. Strange, to say the least.

After the canal, we made our way into the parking area and continued to ask for the supermercado, or the Deli K as we had been told it was called. After one wrong turn, we finally found the entrance. Sure, enough, the Deli K exists. And more than that, it's a Kosher Supermarket! That's right, we randomly picked a hotel across the street from a (the?) Kosher Supermarket. While not quite as surprising as randomly walking into a Kosher restaurant, this was close. And as supermarkets go, this one was quite large.

For dinner, we made our way back to the supposed location of a few guide-book recommended eateries. We found none of them. What we did find, however, was another restaurant with a big O-U and folks in kippot eating on the terrace. For the second night in a row, I had Kosher meat out. I had a "multi-max" sandwich (or named something similar) that consisted of schnitzel, a hot dog and pastrami all together on a baguette. It was total overkill. And totally delicious.

It's official, we accidentally vacationed at the most Kosher friendly location possible.

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