My experience in Costa Rica was definitely something that I would never ever forget because of several reasons. We went to 3 different Indigenous territories in Costa Rica. Where we did language and culture exchange. So, as we learn about their cultures and traditions, they too learn about ours. There was also a language exchange where we learn a few words from their native language and they learn English. There are so many things that I would like to write about, but for this blog post, I will focus on the things that impressed me the most and that I felt really connected with.
Before going on this trip, education to me is something that dictates someone’s status or achievement in life. Growing up, I was told that I should get good grades so I could get into the most prestigious university to get my degree and hopefully get a high paying job right away. But during my stay in Costa Rica, my views on education shifted. It is not about the grades, it is not about the salary, and it is not about which university one graduated from. To them, education is about giving back to their community. Using their knowledge and their strengths to better their lives as a community. It was a very collectivistic approach to solving social issues to create social change.
During our second day in Cartago, we attended a presentation held by Dionisio and Jose at TEC University. One of their projects is called EULER: Editor for Universal STEM Resources struck my attention. This is one of the few projects that focus on the use of technology to promote inclusivity and accessibility for people with disabilities. EULER is a mathematical-scientific editor that can be used by people with visual disabilities. It provides assistance in reading and translating different equations and formulas so the learning process of mathematics in situations where one has a visual disability can be much more fruitful. As a Child and Youth Care Practitioner, I will work with a population of children and youth who have learning disabilities and I find this super fascinating. It does not stop a person who cannot learn, to do something that they love to do and to reach their goals in life. Another reason why I found this project super fascinating is that both Dionisio and Jose applied what they have learned in class and used their strengths to find a way to give back to their community. To fight the stigma that is being placed on people with disabilities.
During our fifth day, we travelled from Cartago to Talamanca where we visited the Bri Bri tribe and learned about their culture and traditions. In Bri Bri culture, most of their traditions are passed down from one generation to the next through story-telling and there aren’t a lot of written documents about their origin and culture. So, education in this perspective helps preserve the culture and identity of the Bri Bri community. Their culture is within their language. Throughout our stay in Talamanca, Roger, Jerry, and Geider showed us around their community. They taught us a few words in Bri Bri, they taught us how to swim through the currents in the river and showed us how to drink water using banana leaves. They have taught us a lot of things about their culture. Roger, Geider and Jerry are really passionate about what they do as tour guides because this is their way of learning more about their culture.
As mentioned, we did Language activities throughout our stay in Talamanca. We taught English to people of different age groups. The willingness to learn is super evident as some people walked and hiked 6-8 hours just so they can attend the language classes. It was a very humbling experience for me. I was impressed at how passionate they are in learning just so they can give back to their community. Jerry, for example, is training to be a tour guide in his community. He told me that one of his goals is to speak English fluently so he can communicate better with the people who are visiting his community. In this way, he can educate them about his culture with more passion and allow the exchange of culture to be more effective. As a CYCP I started to think of strategies and ways on how to support Jerry to reach his goal. I started to write down the words that he needs extra help with pronunciation and I spelled it phonetically for him to successfully pronounce the words. I colour coded it so it will be easier for him to navigate through the table of words. In the end, we ended up with 56 words and he was very thankful and happy. I told him that I wished we stayed longer so that we could come up with more words. And he said that I don’t need to worry about the time because even though I was only there for a couple of days I helped him out a lot. And I felt very happy for him too because he is taking one step at a time to reach his goal. Also, he is not only doing this for himself but also for his community.
Going to Costa Rica, I did not really know what to expect because I have not been. But this trip has opened my mind to so many things. It has helped me to think more collectivistic rather than individualistic. It has taught me the value of education and teamwork. It is about working with and not working for. And we can see the difference when everyone in the community is involved as everyone plays a different role in the success of a project. Also, I learned that you can feel accomplished in life without having to gain any materialistic things. The prize does not always have to be tangible.