So, very interesting that I wrote about environmental stuff recently. Turns out, as we learned on our canal tour, big ships use $100,000 worth of fuel every day.
The average fee for the canal is something like $120,000 but the alternative is a 21 day trip south around the horn of South America which would cost $2,100,000 just in fuel. That number is staggering to me and makes me think that the $2 or whatever that I save in fuel by walking to the market is chump change.
I realized that my personal impacts would be minimal when I started working around construction. At first I would get so frustrated when the dump truck drivers would leave the trucks idling for an hour while they got loaded up. You can imagine standing next to 3 dump trucks, 2 excavators, loaders, rollers, etc all running for 10 hours a day, the sense of overall fuel usage that goes on is so out of proportion with my 20 minute commute. That said, of course if 100 of us start carpooling, or 500 of us walk to the market down the street, it does make a difference. And now I’m realizing that the transportation of goods around the world is perhaps even more of a giant fuel suck. I’ve known this was an important issue but just didn’t realize the scale before. $100,000 of fuel per boat per day??
Anyway, lets bring it back to Panama. It really was a lovely trip. I’m so surprised that I could sit on a beach for 3 days in a row, but a good 700 page book and good company got me through. And honestly it was probably good for me to be isolated and not have to think about my upcoming Europe trip for awhile. It’s really a lovely country (what little I saw of it anyway), lots of new infrastructure, and one-third is reserved forest. One night my cousin Ellen and I got out of the hotel area and took a cab to a little fish restaurant down the street. It was really sweet, right on the beach, the owner waited on us personally and recommended fresh prawns with garlic, calamari in some delicious creamy sauce, and house special flan. And he waited for us to take a bite to make sure we liked it. So sweet and delicious!
The cruise through the canal was great also. At the beginning I was totally overstimulated by all of the people, and the loudspeaker telling us about everything in Spanish, English, and German. No quiet space to be found. But once we got halfway through (the whole trip takes 8 to 10 hours by boat) things calmed down and I enjoyed the view and fresh air. We even spotted some crocodiles on the bank! And the canal itself is obviously enormously impressive. I talked about hydraulics and concrete a lot. The whole process is run by gravity! Lifting ships bigger than the Titanic 84 feet above sea level and then back down the other side. Really cool.
Now I’m back home after a very short meeting with my brother and his fiancé (who is so so sweet and sophisticated and intelligent), and have stayed in bed all day. France in less than a week. I’m feeling ready for it.