First Day in Panama City
Arrived - Who has the sunscreen - or was it the umbrella we needed?
The first day in Panama City is coming to a tired, but successful, end. Travels yesterday went well, and it was very nice to meet our Panamanian collaborator Marino in person for the first time. The day today started out by realizing that our hotel served excellent breakfast, Food often ends up being important during fieldwork. The newness, and strangeness, of the surroundings, the desire to latch onto something tangible of the new culture, the exhaustion from the work, and the need for some comfort to soothe any homesickness can all lead to..food.
We then ventured out into the heat and humidity and were even greeted with a brief thunderstorm. While this is expected given that we are at the cusp between dry and rainy season in a tropical climate, as a Californian I still get excited about any weather event, being so accustomed to a cloud being the most dramatic thing happening.
The first interview of our study was conducted this afternoon. Our participant was a media professional, who works on documenting the Panamanian culture and has been in Parita for the Corpus Christi festival for the last three years. He will be attending the festival again, so hopefully we will see him there. An important methodological caveat is that I do not speak Spanish, which is the main language spoken here. Often, an anthropologist is supposed to become proficient in the language of the culture being studied. This has two aspects: one, facilitating communication without a translator, and two, enabling understanding of the worldview of the study participants. We know how much a language influences how we experience and view the world, and that direct translations are often not possible. However, Kathy and Michelle speak Spanish, and it is the native language of Marino. Our study participant was very eager to share his views and thoughts on the cultural heritage of Panama, how it can be promoted, and what the Corpus Christi festival of Parita signifies. It is possible that had he been less interested in sharing his views, the translation between my English and his Spanish by Marino would not have worked well and one of the other would have had to lead the interview.
The interview really energized us: his enthusiasm was evident and I cannot wait to make it to Parita and Chitre tomorrow. To end a wonderful day, we strolled along the Ocean.
A very nice pedestrian and bike-friendly area has been created there fairly recently: Marino could recall that when he grew up in the area, the coast line was in the middle of the highway you can see on the picture to the left. Created on a landfill, the area now attracts dog-walkers, runners, and musicians in the weekend. You can also see a sculpture of the Panamanian golden