Farewell, Panama: My Departing Thoughts

Tomorrow morning we leave Panama to travel back home to the United States (specifically to Ft. Robinson, Nebraska for the PCP PIRE All-Hands Meeting). This summer has been a very interesting experience, living and working in Panama. There are many things that I will miss about it once the wheels lift off from the tarmac at Tocumen Airport early tomorrow morning and our summer 2014 Panama adventure comes to an end. Here’s my laundry list:

The Fossils: We experienced a great diversity of fossil collecting locations and situations, from the Panama Canal to the beaches and rivers of the Azuero Peninsula. Many of the fossils we’ve collected may end up becoming important for research purposes, so there is great research potential that has been generated via our collecting efforts in various regions and geologic formations in Panama.

The People: We met and befriended a staggering amount of wonderful people from multiple countries (most notably Panama and Colombia) throughout our internship, from the students and faculty of UniAndes who we joined in the Azuero Peninsula to the interns and research fellows at STRI. We hope to maintain contact with many of these people in the future.

The Culture: Learning and practicing Spanish (be it with a taxi driver, STRI security guard, UniAndes student, or average Panamanian passerby) in a Latin American country has been a great learning experience. There really is no better way to learn a new language and culture than to become fully immersed in it by living and working abroad.

The Environment: Aside from the sometimes debilitating heat and humidity, Panama is an incredibly beautiful place. From the rainforest-covered mountains shrouded in clouds to the coconut tree-studded beaches of the Caribbean, we’ve had the privilege to visit some truly amazing places this summer. Living and working in the tropics has made us stronger mentally and physically, and given us a better appreciation for how easy fieldwork in temperate climates really is compared to fieldwork in the hot, humid, and heavily forested tropics.

The Wildlife: Being the sole zoologist of this intern cohort, I was completely overwhelmed by the striking biodiversity of Panama, especially the birds. Weekend excursions to Pipeline Road and other prime wildlife-viewing sites were experiences that I won’t soon forget. I saw some fantastic birds, lizards, snakes, butterflies, and even had a run-in with a group of peccaries in the dark. These great experiences have made me decide that this will not be my last visit to Panama; when the next opportunity to return presents itself, I will definitely take it so that I can continue to explore the country and see more of its astonishing wildlife.

Ancon Hill: Our home in Panama, this iconic high point on the southern fringe of Panama City will always be special to us. There’s nothing like living in a place where you can hike 30 minutes up winding switchbacks to incredible views of both Panama City and the Panama Canal…

Downtown Panama City from Ancon Hill

Downtown Panama City from near the top of Ancon Hill. Photo courtesy of E. Whiting.

…and now it’s on to Ft. Robinson, Nebraska for the PCP PIRE All-Hands Meeting, from which us 4 interns will each go our separate ways (be it to graduate school, back to finish undergraduate degrees, or to travel abroad). To our followers, we thank you for reading the blog and hope that you enjoyed it. We enjoyed sharing our summer internship experiences with you. Farewell!

Farewell from the Summer 2014 PCP PIRE Intern Cohort!

Farewell from the Summer 2014 PCP PIRE Intern Cohort, from the Panama Canal! Photo courtesy of R. Henderek.

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