Jack in Panama is back. Jack’s back. I was worried that my regular reader would miss me while I was on an extended European tour, but I heard she went back to the States to be closer to her grandchildren in Utah. For the rest of you, I’m a columnist for The Visitor and I welcome your comments, suggestions, questions and Trump jokes at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I realize I haven’t been absent as long as the previous president of this nation, who apparently has no intention of coming home or writing a column.
Actually, I came back to witness the grand opening of the newly expanded locks system of the great engineering marvel known as the Panama Canal. For your information, most of the rest of the world thinks that the entire canal has been widened—a grandiose undertaking that could have explained the delay of completion. I’ve patiently explained to our friends and skeptics abroad, that in fact, a new set of wider and longer additional locks were built that will not only allow bigger tankers and larger container ships through, but will also accommodate a greater total number of ships to enter a stretch of water through dense jungle rain forest, that is not a perfectly pencil-straight line etched across the isthmus. We’ve now entered the post-panamax era—a time when ships exceed the maximum.
I’m probably as excited as the rest of the greater Panama community who are having a hard time believing that it is actually going to happen. Ol’Jack remembers when the plan was that the opening of the locks was going to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the birth of the path between the seas. That was two years ago. Much water has flowed under the bridge since then—strikes; cost overruns; leaks and, what they call in golf, slow play.
I sometimes wonder if delayed construction projects are an integral characteristic of the culture. Is coming in only two years behind schedule an anomaly or a way of life here in Panama? If you ask most expats and many citizens, who are attempting to build their dream houses, they will tell you that their little plot of hell on earth is way past their due date and nowhere near completion. When a would-be homeowner tells you that his contractor says that the villa/cottage/apartment will be ready in August; the standard response is “What year?” Rimshot! HoHa! Sometimes the general hilarity doesn’t include the hopeful builder.
The somewhat overly optimistic lesson to be learned is that projects do eventually come to fruition even in “mañanaland.” By the way, Ol’Jack wishes Nicaragua good luck with their ditch-digging project.