Inspired…My Indigenous Experience

My internship in Costa Rica has taken me on a journey of re-discovery, cultural understanding, spiritual enlightenment, and pushed the boundaries of physical exertion.  My work with indigenous students has inspired me and surpassed any expectation I could have ever imagined.  Visiting the different indigenous territories/communities, engaging in lectures, and shared information from the elders of these communities, I have come to realize that even though we are a continent away we are not that different.  These natives have endured the same pain, suffering, forced assimilation, loss of land, oppression, and torture due to colonization as did our natives in Canada.  So in retrospect is it true to say we are in a foreign country.  Foreign is only what we do not know, understand, or want to see.  Yes there are differences such as language, cultural traditions, customs, morals, values, and ways of life but is that a real difference? Is it any different from you and me?  They just want what all human beings want health, happiness, equality, equity, sustainability, family, and friends.  So is that foreign? Think about it.  We must not stay in a foreign state of mind and ignorance because last time I checked we are all one race, the human race, and part of one world.  Open your mind and heart you just might be amazed at what you will find.

My Experience

The highlight of my experience in Costa Rica was the honour of spending individual time with the Huetar tribe in Quitirrisi.  This community welcomed me with open arms into their homes, a glimpse into their everyday lives, and made me part of their family as well as community.  They were very pleased to share their stories, experiences, history of their community, and heritage.  The family unity, love, and support they have for one another is beautiful to witness and be part of.  After everything they have endured, lost, and struggled to rebuild, they are happy and have adapted well to their ever-changing environment.

traditional structuresDanny took me on a tour to a place where traditional structures were recreated.  Top right corner is a sweat lodge where individuals would come for clarity and spiritual cleansing.  Next is a gathering place where stories, educational information, and history is passed on.  Bottom right is another gathering place where community would come together for celebration.  Next is a traditional medicine hut where individuals would come for healing from the medicine man.

craftsmanThis is Danny’s Uncle.  He is a very skilled pottery maker.  He uses the clay from the earth, and other materials from Costa Rica land to produce these beautiful pieces.  He loves to create different ceremonial pieces and gets lost in his imagination when he is creating.  He also studies computer technology in San Jose.

ceremonialHere are special and traditional ceremonial pieces he created especially for me.  They sculpt various animals as they are sacred, honored, and cherished.  They hold special meaning and one with Mother Earth and eco-system.  It is a spiritual relationship.  The mask is a legendary leader and protector of the Huetar tribe.  This is Cote and he protected and led his tribe during the Spanish invasion.

basketThis is Danny’s father.  He is a skilled basket weaver.  The materials used to make these baskets comes from the bamboo trees in Costa Rica.  I had the pleasure of this master teaching me how to weave a small basket of my own.  He is a very patient man, loves his craft, and enjoys teaching.  He loves his family, country, and community.

2friendsFinally here is Danny.  Danny is a remarkable human being.  We share the love of music and while spending time with him I came to know that he has taught himself to play piano.  This amazing person does not just play piano he plays classical music.  Beethoven, Mozart, and Bach well you get the picture.  We also share the love of the sky, planets, nature, animals, and protecting Mother Earth.  Danny studies at TEC technologo de Costa Rica.  His course of study is Computers/Engineering/Robotics.  Danny is much more to me than just a student I have worked with he is my FRIEND who I care for very deeply.

familyThis was an amazing day.  I went on a hike through very steep mountain terrain on the hunt for particular plants for our dinner later on that evening.  This was very physical but fun to say the least.  The view from the top of the mountains incredible, and returning when it was dark added a whole new perspective to the land and sky.  Pure beauty.  The reward far surpassed the efforts because dinner was delicious and well deserved.

Spending time in this community has inspired me to want to understand the diversity that surrounds us, become more culturally competent, and be more empathetic to new comers.  I had the pleasure of being emerged within a community of loving, caring, and supportive individuals who welcomed me and made a part of their family.  I will be very sad when the time comes to return to Canada as I will miss all of the beautiful people who I have met here in Costa Rica.  However I will be leaving knowing that I have forever made an impact within this community, but the impact that they have made on me is never to give up, stand strong, walk proud, and most of all love and care for our fellow-man/women/child/mother earth, nature, and our planet.  I will cherish this experience forever, I have made a lot of new FRIENDS and FAMILA.

by Denise Hatfield, Centennial College Ashtonbee Campus, Social Service Worker, International Internship Costa Rica

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