My Travel Journal

By: Eunice T.

To South (and Central) America!

I'm traveling to South America, but want to make it to Central America too! Join me on my adventure through Mexico, around the Isthmus of Panama, to the Galapagos, and to Brazil!

Mexico

Mexico's Government (To Mexico City!)

I want to look at Mexico's government, and all of it's components, so I arranged a meeting with the president of Mexico, Enrique Pena Nieto.

Taking a bus to the capital, I rest on a seat, ready for a day with the president. Looking out of the window, I spot the capital building in the distance.

As I arrive, I see details of the building, and it seems similar to the United States', although I do notice a few differences. Golden Leaf Paper covers a dome on top of the building. Columns guard the entrance of the vast place. I spot a security guard, and he takes me to the president's office. A map on the wall shows me Mexico's 31 states, and behind a desk, is Mr. Pena Nieto, president of Mexico.

We sit down in his office, and I ask him some questions. I know that Mexico is a federal republic, so I asked if he will be president in another term. He smiles and says, "Someone can only be president for one six-year term." Someone new is elected every six years."

After a while of chatting, he shows me around the building. According to the president, there are three branches of the government, just like the United States. There are Executive, Legislative, and the Judicial branches. The President is the head of the Executive branch, and also the "Wing of Power," since he has the most power of all the branches. When I ask about the Legislative Branch, he says "There are two parts of the Legislative Branch. There is the Upper House, which is the Senate, and the lower house, which is the Chamber of Deputies.

He leads me to where the Senate meets. "The Constitution was adopted in 1917, which gives each citizen personal freedoms and civil liberties," he says.

During lunch, I ask him about Mexico's political parties. "Mexico is a multï-party democracy." He says. "For over 70 years, the Party of Industrial Revolution, or PRI, lead Mexico. It wasn't until the 1990's when it's power started to decline. In 1997, the PRI lost power to the Chamber of Deputies. Later, it also lost power to it's president." I looked at the president with curiosity. "What happens next?" I asked. "Well," he started, in 2000, the PRI lost power to the National Action Party, the PAN."

We talked until it was getting late. Little did I know that my flight home would be canceled...


Panama

Panama's Culture (Panama City's Food)

I'm in Panama City, and I am at my friend Cassie's house to eat dinner before departing on my next plane. To welcome me, Cassie makes a traditional meal, and asks me to help her. Since Mexico is a blend of traditions, I am excited of what she has to offer.

While cooking, Cassie tells me what she is making. "I am making a carimanola, which is basically a type of roll." I helped her ground and boil some yucca, a type of vegetable root. She puts it in with minced meat, and stuffs it in the roll, which I caught her frying like pancakes.

Cassie already made the empanadas. They are pastries that are filled with cheese, chicken, and meat. Cassie tells me that flour is the secret to making them, but I don't believe her.

While I cooked the tortillas, Cassie made patacones. She fried green plantains, or something like a banana, then cut them crosswayed. After frying them, she served them.

Our tamales have boiled and ground corn with spices, chicken, and pork. I wrapped them up in a banana leaf.

Cassie and I took ripe plantain (more bananas!) and cut them into slices. I fried them, and Cassie explained that these were tajadas.

We had a beautiful meal, and I savored every bite, even saving some for tomorrow's flight. (Hey, that rhymes!)

Galapagos Islands

Geography of the Galapagos (Ecuador)

I'm heading to one of the legendary tourist sites in the world, the Galapagos Islands. Even though the Galapagos has 125 landmasses, only 19 are big enough to be considered islands.

As I land on the island of San Christobal from my airplane flight and look around, I see wildlife everywhere. Male Frigates puff their read chests to attract females. I spot a few surrounded by females. Although there are many animals that live in the islands, I will be spending most of my trip in the water.

From there, I will take a boat ride to the South Plaza Island. My tour guide, Corji, points out the Blue-Footed Boobie Birds on the Beach as we walk along the shore. We pass some marine iguanas, and Corji tells me that they squirt salt water out of their nostrils! I didn't believe it until I saw it. She also tells me that Ecuador owned the Galapagos since 1832. Rich in plant and animal life, tourist visit every year.

The next day, we took the boat to the Gordon Rocks. While I look around from the boat, Corji tells me about them. "The Gordon Rocks are the remains of an extinct volcano. We are just north of the Plaza Islands. Where the caldera drops into the abyss, hammerheads, eagle rays, whitetip sharks, schools of fish, and marine turtles thrive." I spot a few dolphins also, swimming along with us,

I traveled to Bartolome Island to snorkel along the coast. Corji, who lived there, agreed to join me. Millions of silvery salena swam by us, attracting penguins, who joined us about a minute later. After snorkeling, Corji tells me about the last turtle on Pinta Island, nicknamed Lonesome George. "Scientists are still trying to find a mate for him. If he dies, then the turtles in Pinta Island will go extinct!"

My last destination is Darwin Island, where I will be scuba diving. Corji tells me that the island is off limits to humans, but many divers go there every year. She points out the Darwin Arch, a landform in the shape of an arch made by weathering and erosion. We meet hammerheads and fish, and the coral foundation looks pretty!

I wished that I have gone to all 19 islands, but I have to go to my next destination.


Brazil

Rio's Economy (Rio's Poverty)

Today, I went to Rio, Brazil to discuss the issue of Favelas. I should be on vacation, but this is important, so I came to talk about it with Brazil's president, Mrs. Dilma Rouseff.

"Rio is a very lovely place, and is hosting the 2016 Olympics, but your homemade shacks, the favelas, may ruin the image of the city. Are you going to do anything to stop the rates?"

"Yes," she nodded. "Efforts have been made in the past, but the number of them keeps growing." The president looked grim, but kept talking. "The first one appeared about 100 years ago, and since then, well now there are more than 600 favelas, housing 1/5 of Rio's population."

I was surprised. "Where do they thrive?" I asked.

"They are usually in a third-party location, and they are illegal."

I wanted to keep quiet, but I told her what I knew. "I heard that a recent campaign has been threatening the existence of favelas. What do you know about this?"

"Officials cite a variety of reasons to remove the favelas, including environmental protection, land ownership distributes, and concerns over safety of those living in hilltop favelas. But the truth is, they just don't want the poor living so close to them. Thank you for joining me today."

(recorded and edited)