The last month of my life has been one big, amazing, chaotic, beautiful blur. I’ve spent it soaking up every last moment of the end of my time at UW-Madison, studying for and taking finals, saying goodbye to all my best friends and family and graduating, and all the while preparing for Panama.
Last Monday night, after this long period of fast-paced life of every moment filled to overflowing, I found myself finally here. Waking up every day to the roosters and chickens, in a room of bunks filled with girls who are already my family, discussing the meaning and ideas behind Kalu Yala and all of our plans for our time here, I already feel at home.
The ease with which I’ve adjusted seems impossible to me- I’m the girl who likes routine and gets anxious about everything. But the thing about San Miguel is that it is a different way of living and a different way of being. It is a way of life that to me encompasses so much of the purpose of Kalu Yala and what we are all here to do. Things take more time, people move more slowly, but they live to be happy and enjoy themselves. Our work here is much the same. We want progress, but we aren’t trying to do it quickly- we are trying to do it right. Creating this sustainable community is not something that can be done the same way development has always been done. Our purpose is not to be quick and make an instant profit at the cost of the land or locals. It is quality over quantity, balance of the old and new, Panama culture and our culture, and a slow mingling of ideas from different interns to create something that will be good for the next generation. There is no instant gratification; we may never even see the results of the work we do or the changes we implement. This to me is beautiful. Not only does this way of work and creation force us to take the time to enjoy the process and do the best work we can, but I believe it allows us to really find what our passions are here and explore them to their cores. The deeper we dive into group discussions about ideas for projects or what we believe we can do in the next 3 months, the further I have seen into my own passions. The longer we explore the idea of Kalu Yala, the more I can see the differences and individualities of those around me bubbling to the surface.
Strength in diversity is what this is all about. As we all find our purposes here we contribute more thoughtfully to Kalu Yala. As we become more confident in ourselves, we also become more united as a group. In the U.S., I feel as though too often I find myself conforming, looking to others to follow their lead or pushing down the better parts of myself in an effort to do what society tells me I should do. I leave the best pieces of myself behind to run and catch up to those setting the standard for the norm. Kalu Yala is absolutely not this. Kalu Yala wants every piece of us, every difference, every quirk. This community and internship brings out the best parts of each and every one of us and fits it all together, to create something beautiful and new.
The spoken word poet Korim phrased it best:
“I see you trying to be the same as all those people God made you different from, hear you trying to run. When someone sees you, be you, and do it beautiful- that’s brave, that’s strength, that’s what they meant when they said your were great.” That is Kalu Yala, and I can’t wait to see it play out.