They Say If You Drink Water From Gatun, You will Always Return To Panama!

Panama is one of the those quiet gems. You know it’s there, but don’t really understand how much beauty is in one country. Ever been to Miami? Well, Panama City is Miami with a drop of pizazz, a splattering of culture and a whole lot of wonder! I’ve been to Panama about seven times in the past few years. I guess I have partaken in my fair share of water from the Gatun River! No matter how many times I return, I always manage to find something new and exciting. I’ll try to make you laugh- on one occasion, a few friends and I broke away from the weekday calling of work and ventured into a boat that took us to the middle of a  lake outside of the city. The tour leader had planned a few ‘fun’ activities for the group. Our options: You could sun bathe on the deck (I’m Nigerian- I don’t play that), you could relax with a few adult beverages while letting your taste buds run wild, you could hop on to a smaller boat and go fishing, or play around with Sam! Who is Sam, you ask? Sam is the massive greenish yellow snake that lived on the ship. If I said it probably weighed 15 pounds, you’d think I was exaggerating. I promise, I’m not! Apparently Sam liked to hang out around the necks of guests (*snaps finger over head in a circular motion* while exclaiming in my deepest Nigerian accent ‘lai lai). The tour leaders brought the snake out and tried to wrap it around our necks. Once I saw him approaching with the massive creature, you would have thought the results from ancestry.com showed I was related to Usain Bolt! My bolting skills (pun intended) were impressive.

During one of my visits to Panama, I explored the Panama Canal. It is absolutely mind blowing how much revenue is generated from the Panama Canal on a daily basis. Ships passing through can pay as much as $800,000 or more to cross the canal. What is exceptional about the canal is the engineering. The mechanics used to configure the operation of the canal was well before it’s time. You can read more about the canal by going to…ahhh, never mind. Google is your friend.

On my last trip to the canal, the Vice President of the country-who happens to be a woman- sent a car to pick me up and granted me access to the new canal in Cocoli! This was a big deal because VICE PTESIDENT and only a few people had been granted access to tour the new canal. No, I’m not a name dropper but sometimes you have to get in where you fit in, n’est ce pas? The new canal recycles over half of the water it uses and can accommodate larger ships than its older counterpart. The little million dollar European built tugboats (as seen in the pictures in front of the larger ship below) are incredibly powerful as they guide the ship on either side as it passes through the canal. While the new canal isn’t open to the public yet, when it eventually opens up, you’ll be able to explore the museum, watch a video of the history of the canal ( in English or Spanish) and, of course, watch the ships go by.

No trip to Panama City is complete without a trip to the Panama Canal (where you can done and watch the ships go by) and Casco Viejo!

Fun Fact: Though the canal is one of the main generators of income for Panama, the banking industry is its numerò uno money maker.

Cocoli Locks: The New CanalMiraflores: The Old CanalMy guide for the day! He’s part Trinidadian! The best rolled Ice Cream Ive ever had was here: Ay Mi Negra!

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Colombia: Here for everything except the butt implants

Ever tried explaining to someone that there’s a small, but major, difference between the brand name and the country. That one letter will throw you off so quickly. I may have made the same mistake in a past life myself, but as Oprah says, “when you know better, you do better”

Colombia is excitement, culture, history and awe all rolled up into one! Whether you are visiting Bogota, Cali, or Medellin, you’ll find that the streets are filled with fun loving joyful exciting beautiful people. Yes, many of the women make implants as normal as selecting a new wig for the upcoming holiday season, but who are you to judge? Let them be great! I don’t think I had ever seen that many butt implants in my entire 37 years of existence. Cue the song, ‘Booty rocking everywhere!’

For you non-halloween loving folks, feel free to skip this paragraph (Kanye shrug) If you ever have the opportunity to opportunity to witness Halloween in Medellin, heed Nike’s advice and just do it! The feeling is electric. I’d tell you about the guy who showed up as a used tampon on the streets of Medellins next to the three wise men but we have better things to talk about. Am I right?

Cali IS the salsa capital of the world. Bring your flowy dresses and your salsa dancing shoes. Gentlemen, if the aguadenos hats are your thing, grab one and hit the dance floor.

No trip to Bogota is complete without a visit to Bolivar Square. In the middle of the square, you’ll find the most striking Botero sculptures, street artists, and great street food. Try the Arepas with cheese. It’s an acquired taste…let me know what you think. My personal all time favourite dish in Colombia is the Ajiaco soup. Mostly found in Bogota, the dish contains potatoes, corn, avocados, and capers. Can someone say delicious!

Should do: Check out the Botero Museum

Main Destinations: Bogota, Cali, Cartenega, Medellin

Getting lost in the lost city: Petra Chronicles

Jordan was one of the most surreal experiences of my life. I remember the driver picking me up  from my hotel in Amman for the drive to Petra. He looked at me through the rear-view mirror and said, “You have water? It is going to be very hot” I smiled in anticipation and instantaneously decided to use the two hour drive to get to  know my driver and the Jordanian culture. I probed about relations with the surrounding countries, Jordanian food, best places to visit in Jordan, and dating. He said, “Here in Jordan your mother picks your wife. You really want to make sure your mother knows your taste in women otherwise you’d end up with an ugly woman” I laughed at the idea of my mother picking a husband for me. I’d be ruined! I adjusted my position at the back of the car- we were going to have a great conversation. He took his eyes off the road for a brief second, then said, “You have the eyes of a Jordanian woman”. “African. You mean an african woman” I corrected him. He smiled then nodded in agreement. 

There’s a pretty good chance you’ll absolutely love the Rose City. The Rose City also known as Petra or The Lost City is nothing short of gorgeous. The twists and turns will lead you to breathtakingly beautiful cravings in the mountains. The varying shades of sandstone colouring in the walls of the mountains rivalled nothing I have ever laid eyes on.

 I traveled through the royal temple and tomb. When I reached the monastery, I paused to take in the structure. It was quiet- peaceful, even.  I liked it. I liked the intimidating mountains that remind humanity of its place in the world but contradicted that reminder by letting us know how much could be achieved if we set our minds to it. I was snapped out of my reflection by the sudden sound of rap music blasting “…Ain’t no limit to this as long as we drop gansta shit” I was shocked. Was that Snoop playing? Why am I hearing this here? How is this possible? Before I had the chance to spell out globalization, a petite bedoiun turns around the corner on his donkey with music blasting as he sang along. I shook my head. Globalization! Bringing America rap to Petra one bedouin at a time. 

What to see: The Monastery. The Temple. 

What to know: ‘bedouins are hard as the desert, soft as the sand, move like the wind, and are free”