Sunday, November 9, 2008

Panama Canal & Ninjas in Training

The Panama Canal by Katharine

The Panama Canal connects the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. They dug the canal in the thinnest strip of land in Panama. The canal is 50 miles long. It was built because people did not want to go all the way around South America on a boat. It would take weeks. First the French started building the canal. They thought they could dig down deep but when it rained the mud washed back in. Then the US tried. They built concrete walls and gates called locks. When a boat went into a lock the gates would shut and water was poured into the lock to even the sides out. The US also tried using trains. They would put the things the ship carried on the train but that was very hard so they decided they would stick with the locks.

A lock and a tug on a lock

Ship in a lock

Children who should be locked up.

Ninjas in Training

Our B&B is located on Ancon Hill, surrounded by jungle and within a nature reserve. Late one afternoon we decided to hike to the top of the reserve because we had heard that the views of Panama City—which lay spread out below—were fantastico.

Due to our total and complete understanding of Spanish, we were locked into the reserve that evening.

It was growing dark. The air was thick and humid. Rain was near. And as we learned from the previous day, when it rains here, it pours.

Our choices for exit from the reserve were simple:
1. Climb around the razor-wire-topped chain-link fence that lined the road to our B&B and push our way through the thick jungle in the hope that there would be an opening in the fence somewhere before Costa Rica.

2. Scale a 50-foot palm tree, jump onto an old rusty bus shelter roof, take a running jump and leap over the razor wire gate (this was Graham's favorite).

3. Hoist ourselves up onto the thick chain holding the gates closed and try to squeeze between the gates. It was the only way I could imagine successfully making it back to the B&B without a stop in the hospital, that is assuming that we were able to duck under the razor wire wound around the top of the gates. Seeing how this was my brilliant idea, I sent the family on ahead to, ah, loosen the hinges.

In one motion, Andrew raised his left leg and placed his foot onto the chain lock. With two slight shimmies, he was through. I suddenly realized how nimble and thin my husband is. Next, it was Katharine's turn. With great difficulty I lifted her up so she could get her feet on the lock. When did she get so heavy? Like a mouse, she slipped through the gate and fell into Andrew's arms on the other side. Graham was next. Strong as an ox, the kid barely needed my assistance to raise himself to the level of the lock. Again, with the agility and strength of a gymnast he was through.

That left me. The woman who cannot touch her toes. Plus, after several weeks of no exercise, my jeans were a little snug. I took another look at the palm three and bus shelter and actually considered attempting the climb but was distracted by my family insisting I could take the fence. "Climb the fence! Climb the fence!" They repeated. Under peer pressure now, I launched myself at the fence but only managed to get a few inches off the ground. I didn't think I could do it. I told them to press on home, I'd wait it out until morning in the bus shelter. Then Andrew looked at his watch. "Polls are closing on the East Coast. Let's get a move on." That's all it took: I shouted, "Yes I Can!" and flung myself at the fence. This time I did it. I got my foot up onto the lock and just needed to push through that gap: If Virginia could vote blue, I could push through!

Safely on the other side, Katharine declared this to be the best night so far: We were Ninjas in training. "Let's do it again tomorrow!" ¿QuĂ©?

1 comment:

Richmond Rose said...

Louise : I laughed so hard at this entry that my office mate thought I was having a nervous breakdown; which I am....sending you an email ...