March 13, 2011, 4:44pm
I'm sitting outside at Café Lebanese in Colón right now, trying to get some decent internet for a change (failing miserably, as usual). Today is turnaround day, and marks almost exactly one week since I first stepped aboard the Grandeur. There are two ships in port today, the Grandeur and the Jewel, a ship one class larger/newer than ours. Her general profile is very similar, but there is an extra deck of cabins and the Jewel is slightly longer. There are also some very cool exterior elevators amidships. My roommate Tyler has a friend on the Jewel, a tenor player who went to school in Michigan. I'm pretty sure he's a University of Michigan grad because he's young enough that if he'd gone to school at Michigan State I would have recognized his name. I'll put his name up on here later if I can remember it.
Café Lebanese is located in the little strip of shops that has sprung up around the port. There's a supermarket here as well -- earlier today I picked up some things I needed (shampoo (I've been washing my hair with soap), sunscreen, laundry detergent, etc.). The brick plaza is packed with noisy tourists, crew members, street vendors (they're pushy, some guy tried very hard to sell me a model sailboat as I sat here typing (no quiero, pal)), taxi drivers (again, pushy), and soldiers who apparently double as police officers here in Panama. This is a sight common here in the countries we have visited so far; there does not appear to be any distinct police force, and so the army fills that role. Tall men dressed in green fatigues, tall black boots, body armor, and the trademark flat-topped green hat are ubiquitous here. They are heavily armed, as well -- usually with a pistol stuffed in a front pocket and a larger firearm on their back (rifle or sometimes shotgun). Shells and belts of ammunition usually cover the front of their vests. Perhaps most worrying is that they appear to have no non-lethal method of crowd control. Mental note: don't get arrested in Panama.
I've found a decent meditation spot. Crew members are allowed to use the jogging track on deck 10 (the pool deck overlook) at night when the passengers are asleep. I've begun doing that, alternating cardio days with lifting days down in the crew gym (truly buried in the depths of the ship, it is on deck zero just aft of the forward thruster machine room). After jogging I head forward to a small deck above the bow café, where a compass and pair of mechanical starcharts are located. During the day passengers sunbathe here, but at night it is deserted.