First and foremost, apologies for the longer-than-usual radio silence that y’all have experienced between my last post and this one. It has been a crazy past couple weeks, per usual. I mean, I am living in the jungle, after all; if it was anything but crazy, I would be concerned.
At the beginning of last week, Ryan Westberg, co-founder of Serengetee, came to talk to us business interns. Obviously, because of my personal career goals and my project goals for my time as an intern for Kalu Yala, this was a really big deal. Ryan was super nice, extremely knowledgeable, and was able to give some awesome insight on what Josh and I are trying to do for our project, regarding bridging the gap between local artists and Kalu Yala through fashion. He was in Panama because he wanted to buy some fabric from the indigenous peoples who inhabit the San Blas islands, so I can’t wait for the fabric to go online so that I can buy a dope shirt featuring it. Serengetee is seriously cool brand, and everyone should check it out for both socially conscious and extremely cool clothing purposes.
Meanwhile, Josh and I have been killing it, quite frankly. We have been working closely with Kristy Strait, the art director for Kalu Yala, who has been pushing for our project personally with other higher-ups at Kalu Yala. We have been running around like crazy, networking with powerful people in the Panama art scene, talking to shirt distributors and printers, and meeting with consulting specialists for the industry that we are trying to break into. We’re getting really important industry knowledge and gaining very important skills in networking, organizing information, creating business plans, proposals, and market strategics planning. Other things are also being discussed regarding our project, regarding launch parties with local restaurants and bars, partnering with other local artists for new designs and commissions for the valley, and shirts to be sold at this year’s Kalu Yala New Year’s Eve party, which I have heard are legendary. Josh and I are so grateful that we have gotten this far and are doing so much for the institute; we don’t think even Kalu Yala expected us to get this far, so that in itself is something to be really proud of. Going into this, one of our most important things we kept in mind was longevity of the product and not having it die as soon as we left the institute, and we think that might be achieved as of right now, which we are beside ourselves over. We are thisclose to finally printing these bad boys (the design that we got from our artist is badass!), so we are actually spending the entirety of next week in the city to continue working.
On a less professional note, last weekend was dope! One the personal projects of another business intern was a venture in adventure tourism, so he put together a hiking/rafting/staying in an indigenous community trip that I ended up going on. The trip started at 4:30am when the company came by and picked us up from the San Miguel house. We switched cars in Venti Quatro de Deciembre, a huge transportation hub between the city and the smaller towns that the roads branch out to. The vehicle we got into was an off-roading jeep-van type of thing, and the drive was just awesome. It was a bit bumpy at times, but it was so cool to be up on a mountain and see the city looking so small. After a while, we got out of the vehicle, ate breakfast, and began our several-hour hike through some more mountains. Oh my goodness, was it beautiful. There was gorgeous exposed rock, streams, waterfalls, and even a few monkeys staring us down from the trees. It would have been even more enjoyable if my shoes weren’t literally cutting into my feet the entire time, but I guess you can’t have it all, can you? Anywho. After a while, we finally reached the place where we could begin rafting, and after a quick cool-down swim, we jumped in our rafts, grabbed our guides, and hit the water. I hadn’t been white water rafting in a while, so it was awesome to get back out there, especially after feeling constantly inspired by all the Outdoor Recreation interns who live their lives through nature and outdoor sports and activities. It was an incredible afternoon filled with rapids, waterfalls, cascalitas, and pouring rain, and we got sandwiches for lunch! I know, it’s just a sandwich, but when you haven’t gotten a sandwich since early September, it becomes kind of a big deal. We were all very hype. Around 5pm, we pulled onto the beach and were picked up by our hosts for the evening, members of an indigenous community living by the shore of the Chagres River. When we got there, we were able to move into our beautiful raised rancho and sling up our hammocks for the evening. They served us freshly caught halibut and patacones with rice and lemon. It was one of the most delicious dinners we have eaten since we got here, and we even saw the women descaling the fish as we docked coming in, which was very cool. The tribe leader came by and talked a bit about the community and their practices and customs (through a translator, of course), which was very cool. It was just a really amazing day. The next morning, we got up early, drank a ton of coffee, and set off on a waterfall hike before we had to go back to valley later that day. The hike was short and the waterfall was literally one of the most beautiful things that I had ever seen. It was honestly just magical, if that word can even describe it, or maybe I’m just biased since I have never seen a waterfall like that.
The hike back into the valley, and the hike out in the early morning on Tuesday from the valley, actually went so much better than I had expected. Because of my sprained ankle, I haven’t been able to hike in or out of the valley since early October, but last week, I finally deemed myself good to hike. I am determined at this point to get better and improve my personal endurance, and I kind of killed the hike both times. Definitely made PRs for both times in and out, and even people that I was hiking with noticed that I was murdering my previous times and abilities. I feel so good about how far I’ve come physically since arriving in Panama and have actually discovered kin of a newfound love of hiking. I think I might actually be picking this one up as a hobby when I return to the States.
With just two weeks left in the program, we’re all stressing to make the most of the time that we have left together. I never imagined the bonds that I would make with people here at Kalu Yala, and I don’t think that I’m prepared for all of the feelings that I’m going to have when we leave our valley. Exactly one month from right now, I will be settling into my bed at home in Michigan for the first time since September, and I have yet to decide how I feel about that. I guess I do miss home in a way, but I have this infectious desire to travel and see everything, and I don’t know if I’m quite ready to go home yet. I mean, either way I have to come home, but there definitely will be some conflicting feelings about everything.
Man, so many feelings. More feelings than I’m used to. We’ll see how this week goes.