Free Day!

On Sunday, we had a free day! Our original plans were to go to San Blas, but we tried calling to schedule a tour the day before and everything was closed. So, if you are planning to have a free day on your study abroad trip, make sure you schedule at least 2 days in advanced! We ended up going to Ana’s grandparent’s apartment in Panama City, the Embassy Club, to swim. The pool was absolutely beautiful! The Embassy had a spa, cafe, and bar. It was definitely a great day for laying out by the pool, a massage, jacuzzi tub, and steam bath.

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After relaxing, we went to Causeway to ride bikes along the ocean! It was so enjoyable! Then, we ate at a Columbian restaurant and the food was DELICIOUS! Needless to say, it was a successful day.

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Yesterday, we went to Embera. It took about a 20-30 minute canoe ride upstream to get there. The view was amazing! The Embera people are indigenous people and live in the province of Darien.

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Ember basically just means “people.” It was definitely a culture shock being there. They have their own Embera language, with their second language being Spanish and third English. The way they dress is unlike anything I have ever seen-they try to wear as less clothing as they can because it is so hot outside. They enjoy fishing, hunting, and making crafts!

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Casco Viejo

Two days ago, we visited Casco Viejo which is basically old Panama. The reason a new Panama was built (Panama City) was because Casco Viejo had a lot of attacks from pirates. Now, it’s a historic district of Panama City and has buildings from the 1670’s!

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We got to visit the Presidential Palace which is kind of like the White House in the U.S. It was beautiful!

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After, we settled in a restaurant/bar called Tantalo for a reception with Uark Alumni including Mario Martinelli!

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Miraflores Locks


Today we went to the Miraflores Locks. There are 3 locks that form part of the Panama Canal- Gatun Locks (3 chambers), Miraflores (2 chambers), and Pedro Miguel (1 chamber). The Miraflores Locks are the closet to Panama City, so they are a major tourist area. In the Miraflores Locks, vessels are lifted or lowered 54 feet in two stages which allows them to transit to or from the Pacific Ocean port of Balboa in Panama City. The process of getting a vessel through the canal requires the use of locomotives that are hooked up to either side of the vessel to help guide it through the canal.

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There is a visitors center with restaurants, coffee shops, a museum, observation terrace, etc. The view was pretty spectacular! The vessels carry so much cargo and are bigger than I imagined. It blows my mind how the how transition works!

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Summit Botanical Gardens

This morning, we visited the Summit Botanical Gardens. The landscaping was absolutely beautiful! It’s a sanctuary for injured animals that have been rescued. Volunteers and workers try to restore the rescued animals health until they are ready to be released into the wild again. My favorite part was the monkeys!

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If you plan on going, bug spray is a MUST! You might be told to wear pants, but I wore shorts and a tank top and was just fine with bug spray. It gets extremely hot outside, so make sure to bring a bottle of water or cash to buy some there. I recommend eating before you go too! Wear tennis shoes because you will be walking A LOT. Whatever you do, just make sure you are dressed comfortably before you go because the weather gets to so hot and humid that you will feel miserable if not dressed appropriately.

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Super 99 (Read for great advice from the Vice President!)

We also visited Super 99 today which is a major grocery store in Panama. Mario Martinelli, the Vice President of the company, spoke to us about his company and even gave us a tour of his warehouse (which was huge!). Mr. Martinelli is the brother of the president of Super 99, Ricardo Martinelli. Ricardo was also Panama’s president during the last term. Both of them are Arkansas Alums! It was so fascinating to hear from so many people who are very important people in Panama that graduated from the University of Arkansas.

Super 99 was broke before Mario and Ricardo Martinelli restored it. In 1981, there were only 5 stores and grew to 7 stores by 1985. Now, there are 40 stores and more to come in 2014! They are projected to to sell 800 million this year which is an amazing accomplishment considering their setback from the invasion of Panama.


The company employees over 6,000 people. Mario Martinelli told us to “always go the extra mile for your employees. You must treat your employees fairly and they will treat you fairly.” The one thing he wanted us to learn from him above all things is this: “Do not make the people under you, your employees, fear you. There is a difference between fear and respect.” Someone who fears you will be afraid to tell you when something is wrong or when they don’t understand something. It’s better for everyone if you aim to well-respected instead of feared.

He also shared advice on a major question college kids (especially seniors) face: What can you do with your degree? He says “there is a whole world out there. The future comes in many different ways. You have a world in front of you- you need to learn and make connections. Even after you graduate, keep learning. You all need to take chances to make it in this world.”

Mr. Martinelli gave us some business advice that will be very useful. What can you do to stay ahead of competition? The top 3 are as follows: be able to have new ideas and concepts, have better prices, and be a leader that works in the company. You have to know how your company works to be able to manage it and make the best decisions.

Most businesses obviously struggle through hard times sometimes, so we asked how he pushed his business through hard times. He answered with a simple question, “do you want to be an employee or a business owner? That was our motivation.”

Mario Martinelli is a very humble and intelligent man. I enjoyed our visit with him and he was even kind enough to let us tour his warehouse! All of the produce is so fresh!

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Panamcham and a cooking class at USMA

Today we visited Panamcham and listened to a lecture from the executive director, Maurice Belanger. The company was founded in 1979 and it’s main purpose is to promote trade between the U.S. and Panama. It has over 460 members including businesses like Dell, Proctor and Gamble, Canon, and Citi Bank. It gives it’s members a platform for networking. For more information, you can check out their website here.

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After Panamcham, we went to USMA again, but this time for a cooking class! It was really cool. They made chicken cordon bleu, chicken strips, rice and chicken, and potato salad. I helped cut up tomatoes and celery for the chicken and rice. We got to try everything at the end! The professor even made chocolate mousse (my favorite!) and flan for dessert. Hopefully she will email her recipes to me so I can share them with you!

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Credicorp Bank

Yesterday we visited Credicorp bank and a man named Tito spoke to us. He is an Arkansas Alumni and very important banker in Panama. He said something to us that really spoke to me, “I am who I am because of the University of Arkansas.” “It taught me academic discipline- how to study and how to find answers. It was the academic training that taught me to be who I am now.” It was so inspiring to hear those words come from someone who lives in another country. The University of Arkansas has had such a huge impact on this man’s life. His words really made me think of the impact the UofA has had on my life. I have learned so many things about life and about myself that I never knew I would learn. It has shaped me into a more intelligent and professional lady and I couldn’t ask for anything more!
Woo Pig Sooie!