As I entered the world of Kalu Yala I knew it would be a great experience, what I didn’t yet realize was the strength of the bond between the people of Kalu Yala. From the first night I arrived and was warmly welcomed and ushered through the “hole in the wall” to the roof party, it was clear the 19 of us along with the amazing directors were going to be a great group. Gathering from all corners of the world our intern group has already formed a tight knit family bringing elements of home to share with one another, connecting people and ideas.
During the first week of orientation we were sent on scavenger hunts, each day working together to conquer everything from negotiating with the cab drivers, finding the best slot machines at the casino to visiting Panama Viejo ruins. As our groups dispersed everyday we unknowingly started bonding through these experiences, each day coming back to Hispania with stories to share and memories to laugh about. Building these relationships has translated into good communication, open-mindedness and support for one another as we embark on our different projects. I believe a theme of Kalu Yala is reconnecting with the idea of community and we are living that this semester. We want to see each other succeed and therefore are willing to be confidants and cheerleaders all working towards the collaboration that is Kalu Yala. We are all bringing something different to the table with a unifying mission and determination to make this Kalu Yala semester the best yet. The passion and determination is electric!
This energy is not contained to the walls of our adorable pink Hispania house or San Miguel or even The Valley, yet extends to all the past interns and those who have been touched by the pulse of Kalu Yala. One night a group of us were out enjoying wings, cold beer and American football and Jimmy Stice, the Kalu Yala CEO told me one something that has stuck with my about Kalu Yala. In true southern fashion he used a fraternity as an analogy to the Kalu Yala clan. Saying that this experience will stay with us forever and we will most certainly walk away with a network of connections and life long friends bonded forever.
I have already reached out to past interns, Evan Conaway, Kelsey Montgomery and Mary Ann Turrentine, each graciously answering any questions I have helping me lay the foundation for my projects this semester. They may be thousands of miles away from our Panama City epicenter but their passion and experiences are still alive and acknowledged in the growing culture of Kalu Yala. The ghost of interns past lives on, their imprint is felt as ours one day will too.
Today marks two weeks in Panama for me and I already know that the success of Kalu Yala is rooted in the people behind the name. There is a continual flow of energy that is palpable each and everyday and I am grateful to be working with such a great community of people.