I wasn’t sure what kind of living situation I would be getting into when I decided to intern for Kalu Yala, but I knew it would be some sort of social experiment. Kalu Yala rents out the top floor of Edificio Hispañia, a beautiful pink building on the edge of Parque Urraca near central Panama City. The floor is divided into two units, with one reserved for Kalu Yala interns and the other, Casa Yala, a residence for travelers, transients, and aspiring entrepreneurs moving to Panama City. The minimum requirement of one-month residency attracts people serious about living in Panama and keeps people’s things from disappearing as this can happen in a traditional hostel setting.
This type of living situation reminds me of my stint in the dorms of UNC-Wilmington almost a decade ago. With people constantly in and out, cooking food, working on projects, playing music, and making art, there is never a dull moment around here. The Kalu Yala interns are a creative bunch as are the people staying in Casa Yala, providing a rich environment for developing ideas and learning from one another. There are several different nationalities represented, including local Panamanians, Americans, Argentineans, and even some people from England to share a pint with. Having all of these people and perspectives in one place is turning into a very valuable part of the overall internship experience for me.
The living situation here is quite comfortable despite the constant beeping from the streets below, cold showers, crowded refrigerator, and having to share only a couple bathrooms. As long as people do their dishes and remember to take out the trash, things will be just fine. In addition to the great view, the “Kalu compound” comes complete with washer and dryer, internet, two kitchens, a gorgeous outdoor porch overlooking Parque Urraca, and even a couple surfboards laying around to borrow. There is also a bus stop across the park that connects us to the rest of the city, a nearby supermarket, and plenty of restaurants and bars within walking distance. The main seafood market is about a mile away and there are dozens of fresh ceviche stands, which are quickly becoming one of my favorite attractions in the city. The central neighborhood of Bella Vista is relatively safe compared to the rest of the city and the brand new skyscrapers are all around us.
All things considered, the living situation here at Kalu Yala’s business program is pretty swell. The convenience of the neighborhood mixed with the collection of creative, intelligent characters provides an exciting living abroad opportunity. However, my favorite part of living here might have to be the fantastic view at night from our private rooftop access….