“Oh wie schön ist Panama!” is a famous german children’s book that I grew up with. It is a about a bear and a tiger who decide to leave home for the land of their dreams after finding an empty box of bananas that still has a tropical smell. The wander off only to be misdirected and walk in circles until they arrive back where they started. But since it has been months since they left they don’t recognize it as their home anymore, call it Panama and live happily everafter.
And now, after 35 years I have beaten bear and tiger and actually found Panama after a short flight from El Salvador. The sun had almost set but it was still hot and humid and our driver took us through forest of green trees and glassy skyscrapers.
The conference next day took place in a hotel adjacent to the largest mall in the Americas! The Albrook Mall has over 500 shops, some of them twice at opposite ends. The conference featured three tracks, and some of us were scheduled to deliver three presentations in a row which sounded pretty daunting at first but ended up very well since it also allowed to interact better with the audience, cut one presentation a bit shorter for the benefit of another one that was more interesting to the attendees. After this fruitful event, Edgardo took us out to a place that did not only offer great panamaneian food but also showcased local dances and beautiful artisinal dresses.
He took us out to the Panama Canal and Casa Antigua the next day but the real highlight of Panama was a hike through a tropical rainforest with Heli on the day of our departure. The first thing that struck us was that in the shade of trees and foliage it was even hotter and more humid than outside the forest and it immediately hit us that we would have to take another shower before the flight. But the hike offered stunning views, weird smells, noise from countless cicades and a sloth. And no, I am not referring to Heli and it was also very anticlimactig since all we really saw was a bundle of fur that was not moving.