Prior to visiting Panama, I only knew two things about the country, and these I had learned in school. First, Panama has the Panama Canal and second, Panama was the stronghold of Manuel Noriega. And in one visit to Panama, I would see both. The infamous drug lord, dictator and former CIA operative was now an old man serving time in a Panamanian prison for crimes committed during his reign. You can peek through the gates at the ruins of the Noriega Estate. Surprises Downtown Panama City has so many high-rises, that I initially wondered if my pilot had made a mistake, and I had landed in either Dubai or Miami Beach, since the skyscrapers are reminiscent of both cities. Unlike most of the world, Panama City has continued to thrive as the global economy tanked, largely due to the millions generated annually by ships passing through the Panama Canal. And to paraphrase Sally Field, Panamanians appear to “really, really like” Americans because we kept our word about returning the Canal to the Panamanians on December 31, 1999.