“When Life Gives You Bananas, You Make Plaintains… and Everything Else.”

Before entering Panama, I was firm in my affinities and aversions in terms of food preferences and choices. Like many Americans, I would consider myself a picky eater — someone who has limited choices in what they consume based on their small range of preferences. At times, I was unwilling to concede to accommodate to dining situations in the United States, and I often went hungry. In Panama, that option isn’t as available, and often what you see in terms of resources, is what you get. Within the United States, a wide range of options allows for Americans to be picky in their options. When you get bananas in Panama, expect to find them cooked, sautéed, grilled, and fried in almost every way. Considering Panama’s tropicalesque climate, Bananas (as well as other types of fruit) are consumed every day in many forms. With the resources they have, Panama exploits their resources well — that is, they are able to use the materials they have in many ways to get the most out of their product.

Exploitation of resources in the United States usually refers to labor industries, such as coal mining and farming, and though it takes on a similar meaning in Panama, it also refers to Panama’s ability to make the most of what they have. I never thought I would enjoy consuming bananas, especially in the many ways that I have. It seems that with bananas, patacones, platanos, or whatever form of banana you are eating in Panama, you will find them in almost every dish, in every cafeteria, and in every restaurant. Similar to Hank’s experience in the book Panama, when trapped in a situation limited by his materials, he had to make the most of what he did have – a snake pit – to escape captors. Even thought this analogy is a bit of stretch, it explains well how even in a situation with limited resources, you can make the most of what resources you do have.

Never did I think I would be returning to the United States with a new palette for bananas and fruits of all kinds. It is the frequency with which I found these foods in my diet that I have not only acquired a new taste for these foods, but a new sense of understanding how cultures utilize and exploit their resources to feed and maintain the raw materials their climate and country gives them. It is through intercultural communication that I was able to understand through my experiences at restaurants, asking my Panamanian classmates about this phenomenon and grow as learner comprehending how resources are used throughout the world. It is through understanding a larger aspect of consumption and exploitation of resources that I am able to return to the States with a more open mind and larger palette.

 

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