Panama is in the UK news today, and all for the wrong reasons! Not that either of the two stories is a slur on Panama itself. I visited Panama in Spring 2004, travelling from Costa Rica to Panama City, stopping off at a few places along the way. But I spent most time in the City itself. I have quite a few vivid memories – it was unbelievably hot, and not a nice hot. The sticky, sweaty barely breathable type of hot. The buses had the most incredible murals painted on them. The famous Panama Canal was, in truth a little underwhelming. Not to take anything away from the scale of the project, but you kind of expect something more than just a canal. I don’t know what else you would expect to find, but there you are! My fondest memory is of Isla Tabogas. It’s a 45 minute boat ride, passing under the Bridge of the Americas (photo below) to a tiny and almost deserted island full of flowers. Particularly Jasmine, the scent of which fills the air every evening. I bought a Jasmine plant for my garden here in Mexico, but it has so far failed to produce the goods. I think it might actually be dead.

So why is Panama in the news? Well, there is the ‘dead’ canoeist found alive in Panama story, which most people in the UK will have heard all about. But a lesser broadcast story is regarding Panamanian schooling. They are apparently going to make learning Madarin compulsory for kids. For sooth! It’s happening! The English language is losing it’s grip on its international supremacy, and the Chinese are really going to take over everything!!! Well, maybe not. China is the biggest user of the canal, so the new policy makes sense. Undoubtedly, Mandarin will become more important. As they say in Taipei…


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