The Kalu Yala Blog

The people: That is Kalu Yala

January 25, 2013

by Esteban Gast
Posted In: Our Global Community, The Creation of a Culture

I found them.

When I was growing up, they were the super cool adventure kids. You remember those kids? The one who were unique in everyway. The ones who knew about TOMS shoes before everyone else but didn’t make a big deal out of it. The ones who shop at thrift stores. The ones who casually mentioned they studied abroad in Vietnam in high school. The ones who threw up a tent in their backyard at an insanely young age and slept in it for fun. The ones who were really good at sports and you didn’t realize it and then one day you see them in gym class and think “dang…they are really good at sports.”


I found where they went: Kalu Yala in Panama.

It’s been just over a week, and my time here has been filled with adventures and experiences. It’s been filled with delicious food and videos going viral (please, no autographs). It’s been filled with city buildings scraping at the sky, small towns bustling with activity and a valley brought to life by a motley crew. But the absolute best thing about my experience and what ties it all together has been the people.
It’s not every job where you think that your boss is probably one of the coolest people you’ve met which makes it weird cause I haven’t said that to her and she needs to proofread this. It’s not every early morning meeting that is had with the same people that you shared a beer with and had amazing conversations with only a few hours before. This is Kalu Yala.

It’s not every office that has a large table where everyone works together: CEO Jimmy Stice, President Kate Stewart and myself Education/Business intern. It’s not every office where the office water cooler banter is replaced by trips to the grocery store and their outrageously delicious ice cream. This is Kalu Yala.

Outrageously delicious icecream? Not Kalu Yala. But it’s next door. Close enough.

So far my experience has been great, and I’ll write more details in later blog posts, but for now the one defining thing has been the people.

The people here are examples of living life to the fullest, of living life for others, and of being really great while doing all that. There’s Alix who had a bright future in the Hollywood management business but wanted something more fulfilling. Max, who with his long Prince Charming locks lives in the valley and handles him as such a Panamian that the people don’t even call him a Gringo anymore. There’s also Largo the 5 star chef working only with a grill on the beach and making porkchops so good that pigs on the farm were like “yep, that smells delicious.” There’s Courtney (the aforementioned boss) who quietly murmured that she did research at the most prestigious east coast school, and played college soccer and has probably done other incredible things like find Waldo in those pesky books but is too humble to admit it. I share my room with Austin, who 9 days after returning from his internship heads off to Uganda as part of Peace Corps. This was Cory’s, my other roommate and member of the critically acclaimed “Empanada Boys” R&B group, first time on a plane yet I’ve never seen someone so comfortable in a foreign country . There’s Annie who started an arts festival in Mexico and Shane who was a music agent in the States before coming here. The stories and people and personalities go on and on and on.

As for me, I’m just glad I found them.

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