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Panama Canal: An Engineering Miracle

By all accounts, the Panama Canal should have never been built. In the early 19th century, it made sense to build a canal through Nicaragua and that almost happened, until the French decided to do it in Panama. Fresh off the Suez Canal accomplishment, the French mobilized quickly. Workers migrated to help build the canal, nine-tenths of them of Afro-Caribbean descent from the West Indies, along with local indigenous people. Manpower totalled to 40,000 workers. Yet, the French were simply not prepared for the hostile environment. Hundreds of workers died of yellow fever and malaria. Any efforts to stem the epidemic weren’t enough to eradicate the death toll. […]

By |June 29th, 2015|Panama City, Travel Tips|7 Comments

Panama City: A Total Surprise

Panama City. It’s modern. Sprawling. Audacious. Breathtaking. A city tethered to its colonial past, but focused on the future. I’d return in a heartbeat. […]

By |June 24th, 2015|Culture, Panama City|6 Comments

The Weirdest Festival in Nicaragua: Blessing the Dogs

The last two months have been wickedly serious around here — remember my body issues and depression? Before you conclude that I’m Debbie Downer, it’s time for some shits and giggles. Let’s have a laugh! More than two months ago, I experienced one of the weirdest festivals — both surreal because of the details and it was the day my wallet was stolen. The stolen wallet is old news and I bought a pretty one from Soy Nica to replace it (check them out for artisan, hand-made products). About two weeks before Semana Santa (that’s Easter celebration in your part of the world), an itty bitty festival called “Blessing the Dogs’ happens in Masaya, Nicaragua. That’s the city between Granada and Managua. […]

By |May 25th, 2015|Masaya, Nicaragua|8 Comments

My Favorite Sunsets in Panama

Why do we only pay attention to sunsets while on vacation? I think this is sad. When was the last time you looked up and really saw a sunset? I don’t mean briefly glancing as you punch in a text on your smartphone, but actually putting it down to watch muted changes in the sky? On a regular ol’ Monday? We don’t pause enough to reflect, or even worse, we ignore what’s relevant — like living in the moment. We are always obsessed with the past or ticking off what’s next. An ugly realization: sometimes a moment is all we have. […]

By |March 2nd, 2015|Bocas del Toro, Panama|27 Comments

Washington, DC in the Cold

Before I ever stepped foot in Washington, D.C. numerous warnings used to hit my Facebook feed. “Oh, don’t go there — there’s so much crime!” “Washington has some scary neighborhoods.” When I taught in China, there was a popular exercise I did with students when I assigned groups an American city and they presented which monuments they wanted to see and how much they planned to spend on this once in a lifetime vacation to the United States. Nobody groaned about being assigned New York City or San Francisco — but when it came to Washington D.C., dissenting voices arose. “But teacher, Washington is dangerous, yes?” I lacked an answer because at that point I’d never been to D.C., nor did I want to express a misguided opinion. […]

By |January 26th, 2015|United States, Washington DC|18 Comments

Discover Costa Rica Through Photos

Costa Rica is an unusual animal in Central America, being one of the few countries in that part of the world to boast a relatively conflict free history. Certainly they were annexed by Spain and went through a civil war, but the government was declared a democracy in 1869 — at an earlier stage than many countries that still haven’t been declared as such. I found modern Costa Rica to be a milieu of intense nature and laid back locals. I woke up to howler monkeys, scarlet macaws, large insects scaling my walls and frogs chortling. When a Costa Rican utters ‘Pura Vida” it’s not a flippant term tossed at your feet. Pura Vida means “pure life” — and Costa Ricans really believe in this — encompassing the good life. One of family, love and a deep connection to their environment. There’s a high number of farmers selling Costa Rican products like coffee, bananas and cacao (chocolate). This philosophy explains the government’s unwavering stance on eco-preservation, which makes Costa Rica one of the big players in eco-tourism. […]

By |January 5th, 2015|Costa Rica|19 Comments