Welcome to the Collin Lab! For any new lab members, there are a few things you should know before you get here.
First, what to pack!
- Lab attire consists of long pants and close toed shoes at all times, so be aware. Also, the air conditioning at Naos is FREEZING so bring a sweatshirt or two.
- If you plan on going to the field, bring a long sleeved shirt (because the sun is very strong this close to the equator), athletic type shorts (with pockets is best) and a hat is a must! Sunglasses are also not a bad idea because the water can create quite a glare. If you have water shoes, they would be helpful for the intertidal zone, but the lab has many in all different sizes, so don't worry if you don't have a pair laying around.
- It rains almost every day during the rainy season (April through December) so bring an umbrella or a raincoat if you don't want to get wet. The temperature is always around 90º F or 32º C. For everything else, bring normal clothes, nothing too fancy is really needed, although it is fun to dress up a little to go out to Casco Viejo, or downtown every once in a while.
- Another point: if you are living at La Jaula, the STRI Ancon apartments, the laundry machines take only quarters. .75 to wash and 1.00 to dry, so it's probably a good idea to bring some quarters with you! I always have to scramble to scrounge up quarters at the last minute, and often go longer that I should without doing laundry.
Once you are here, the most important thing is FOOD. There are many grocery stores around.
- The easiest to get to from Ancon (La Jaula) is probably the Super 99 at Albrook Mall/the Terminal. To get there you can take a bus, which someone will have to help you use the first time, because you need to buy an orange bus pass at the Terminal to use the bus. The pass costs 2.50 and each ride is 25 cents. If you don't have a bus card, you can catch a taxi, which is more expensive (between 1 and 2 dollars to get from Ancon to Albrook). To catch a bus back to Ancon, you should ask the driver if they go through Cinco de Mayo. Most busses pass that way. Ones with destinations like 'Via Espana,' and 'Transistmica' are usually a safe bet.
- There is a fresh fruit and veg market a few blocks away from La Jaula, at the same place as the bus stop. Nothing can beat fresh produce at good prices!
- Other grocery stores: one within walking distance along Avenida Central, and one each at Multicentro and Multiplaza, both malls a bus ride away.
- LUNCH at Naos is either pack your own, or buy from a taxi that brings rice and beans with some meat right outside for $2. Also there are a few cheap restaurants close by, and also a few really expensive touristy restaurants. There is also a minimart type store on the next island down if things are desperate. And a vending machine at Naos.
Getting to Naos! Also important.
- A busito (small bus/van) runs from Tupper, the main STRI building in Ancon, to Naos every weekday. It leaves Tupper at 7am (although it used to leave at 6:45, and before that, 7:15, and people can be found waiting for the bus 15-30 minutes before it leaves), and gets to Naos about half an hour later after navigating the crazy Panama traffic. In the afternoons, the busito leaves Naos at 4pm (but again, people being lining up at 3:30, and the bus gets ridiculously full - it's a 15 person van, but most days holds at least 19, and up to 22). I have also heard that if goes to Naos from Tupper on Saturdays at 9am, though I can't verify this.
- There are one dollar taxis from Cinco de Mayo to Amador (the causeway that connects Naos and the other islands to the mainland). You find them underneath the highway just past the square at Cinco de Mayo, and the drivers will be calling out 'Amador.' They fill up the taxi, then drop everyone off at Amador. Let them know you want to get off at Naos though, otherwise they will go right past it.
- You can also take a taxi from anywhere in the city, though these will be much more expensive. Tell the driver either Amador or the causeway, and then tell them to stop once you reach Naos, the first island.
- It's also relatively easy to bike or walk from Ancon to Naos. Walking takes about an hour and a half, and biking takes maybe 30 minutes. Be careful of cars, especially if biking, because they drive like maniacs. A map of the best route is below.
Everything else will be easy enough to figure out after a few days! Everyone at the lab is always willing to help out, and answer any questions you have.
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