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June 25, 2013by Edward Tian
Posted In: The Creation of a Culture, Voices of Kalu Yala
This week I had planned to head out to the valley to work on one of my projects. On the way there, I stopped by San Miguel to help out one of the interns there. One of her projects is teaching a Mandarin Chinese class, and she would appreciate having someone who is actually Chinese to be present in order to bring some more authenticity, and a little help. Although it was only for one hour, and it was me tutoring one person, I don’t think anything is more mentally taxing than teaching Chinese while thinking in English and talking in Spanish. The languages kept jumbling themselves around in my head, but it was a good experience, and I think I would definitely improve next time around. In addition, I got to talk with another intern about working together to collect data on the general spending habits of people in San Miguel for my project. So far, everything was going as planned.
Next, we were going to hike in to the valley, but it started pouring heavy rain. It got to the point that the directors (and us) decided that the river would be too high and too strong to hike in safely, so we just headed back to the city. While this seemed like a fairly uneventful day, in my opinion, it reflects on a larger concept here in Kalu Yala; adaptability. A week never goes by without one thing or another not happening exactly as planned. For example, when we were all in the valley for orientation it rained so hard that the tents flooded. We now had an overflow of people without any living space. Instead of aborting the mission and evacuating people en masse with a car and having people hike out, the directors worked their hardest to figure out a way to fit everyone into the ranchos. An even larger example: with the world facing climate change and its dependency on fossil fuels and other non-renewable resources, the entire concept of Kalu Yala is about adapting to our world’s current situation and taking the first difficult step towards the idea of a better future through building sustainable communities.
Entrepreneurship is all about making good educated guesses and decisions based off of incomplete information, and if these educated guesses and decisions end up being sub-optimal, making the next best decision in order to adapt to the new situation. Learning to run is important, sure, but it’s just as if not more important to learn how to pick up yourself after you fall. I see it in action here all the time here, whether it’s with a ex-pat who knew that failure was just a dress rehearsal for success and kept at it, to the founder of a language teaching business here who learned as he went and benefited off of his improvisation skills to adapt to any problems that popped up, to a woman who understands the wood business and saw an opportunity to make an eco-friendly wood-harvesting business using trees submerged in lakes and the Panama Canal.
Of the many things I pick up from various guest speakers, working on my project, helping other interns with theirs, various books from Casa Yala and whatever else I glean from everyday life here during my Kalu Yala internship, I think having a readily-adaptive mindset is the lesson I will value most highly.