This will be my last blog as an intern for Kalu Yala. It is weird to think that only three months ago I was about to get on a plane to a country I had never before been to, hell the most exotic place I had visited prior was Texas. This semester turned into a radical paradigm shift for me, it forced me to confront what it means to be sustainable and how we as a society can begin to get started on the long and hard journey to being truly environmentally responsible. It forced me to find my place in a group of strangers and thrive on all of their energy and ideas, we became a think-tank of sorts out in the valley, even if some of our thoughts weren’t the most productive. When you are out in the Jungle you are forced on the daily to confront problems using only your bare hands and a whole lot of will power and that can be simultaneously frustrating and enlightening. In short I wouldn’t trade a single minute out in the valley for any of the comforts of life back home here in my apartment in the frozen North. This internship represents one of the single greatest opportunities I have been presented in my life, and I know i will find my way back in some role or another.
Ships that pass in the night, and speak each other in passing,
Only a signal shown and a distant voice in the darkness;
So on the ocean of life we pass and speak one another,
Only a look and a voice, then darkness again and a silence.
Now those are all nice words but I would really like to get down to the meat of what I accomplished this semester, both in my personal project and where I was able to assist others around basecamp and with their projects. Lets begin with base camp. We completely rebuilt the ruins of the summer 2011 basecamp and expanded it into a home for ourselves, something we created from our sweat, tears, and at least once some of our blood. This included putting in many posts, making bamboo walls, and finally roofing with a combination of palm fronds and some beautiful canvas tarps. In this, we interns also constructed some wonderful jungle furniture. I personally made two sturdy benches with reclaimed tropical hardwoods after the Kalu Yala staff purchased a wonderful Stihl Chainsaw. There will be pictures of this in the gallery below. I was also able to help Outdoor Rec intern Joe McKittrick build what is quite possibly the most luxurious jungle outhouse ever constructed. Finally, over Carnival I helped several of the Directors and our CEO Jimmy Stice to put in the cement footings for the first permanent structure in the Kalu Yala valley, A raised hammock loft built from FSC certified Tropical Hardwood obtained at a local lumber mill.
As for my personal project, the Agroforestry Demontration plot, I was able to plant 15 saplings representing about twelve different species of tree in my 1/2 acre plot. The species represented include Mahogany, Papaya, Mango, Avacado, A variety of citrus, Ruble, and I transplanted a native Spiny Cedar from a hiking trail on the property. Additionally I sowed over 100 Guando Beans in an exposed part of the plot hoping to build up soil organic nitrogen, provide shade for future saplings, while also serving as an excellent food crop for future interns. I also built a simple composting unit that in the month since I built it has nearly halved the mass of organic materiel that I initially placed in it. A larger scale version of this unit could provide the Agriculture program with all the compost it could possibly need, with the added bonus of being able to save the kitchen scraps for the magic circle. The Agriculture team also constructed Kalu Yala’s first raised bed, which is framed out with bamboo and many large rocks collected down by the river.