After my first full stint in Kalu Yala Valley in Panama my brain is full of ideas of what I might be able to complete with my time here this summer. The valley is epic I miss it as soon as I leave. But it’s a great learning experience for all of us valley interns to bond when we hike out to San Miguel or bus to Panama City. Just yesterday I went over to Casco Viejo (the old part of Panama city) for a while with one of the other interns, Jill. We took in some more authentic parts of the city and ate some delicious food, like patacones, a typical Panamanian dish of flat fried green plantains (although my favorite patacones are the ones Largo cooks us in the Valley).
There’s a main street in the middle of Casco Viejo that has lots of cheap stores with souvenir-type items and food stalls. Almost everyone we saw there looked Panamanian as opposed to the frequent tourists you see elsewhere in Panama City. Some of the kids from the street were break-dancing and a little boy and girl came up to Jill and I asking us where we were from. They got a kick out of it when we told them “los Estados Unidos”.
Last weekend Jill, Toma and I took a walk around the trails on the property. It was a beautiful “Sunday funday”. That was the first day in which I felt a real connection to the place of Kalu Yala. I remember thinking “I feel so comfortable and at home here I’m not sure I’ll ever want to leave.” Learning in the Valley is so easy because you’re experiencing rather than being told things.
I took some pictures of the trails hoping to remind myself of what places Outdoor Recreation needs to help fix up with Brigitte. The top of the “Ant Highway” trail could use some real work, Jill and I were slipping and sliding everywhere on our way down the trail.
In the valley I continually think about one of the project ideas Brigitte told us she wanted to work on. She proposed putting a small park in along one of the trails so that people could look out at the view over the valley. It’s a nice spot and I’d really like to help make some unique furniture to populate it.
The main reason I came out to the valley though was to try and hack it (mostly) off the grid. I think I’ve been doing a pretty good job so far living sustainably. So keeping in mind how I’d like to do the least amount of damage to our natural resources as possible, I want to try and build the park furniture from materials I find in the Valley and keep from using consumer products or overusing materials. If possible I’d love to try and incorporate some sculpture into my furniture. Sculpture has always been my favorite type of art (that I can do well) and I’ve been looking up some information about how viable cob or clay building would be. I’m thinking about perhaps doing some cob benches, or if I want to get really fancy, incorporating some of those nice round stones down by the river. I’m not sure how possible these options are though. And I’m currently sifting through the web to see what information I can uncover.
When I get back to the Valley I’d like to take along some of the information I find and experiment with the cob by building a new clay oven. The spring interns made a nice one shaped like a frog last year, but it dried out in the sun. Brig says it dried out because the previous interns didn’t continually re-water it and let it dry out after its creation. Largo (our camp chef) tells me he’d be really into a pizza oven with four doors and I’m sure the interns would be into eating some pizza. I’ll draw up some sketches and get to experimenting.
‘til next blog