A Genuine Experience

Travel is what I live for. I have been lucky enough to visit more than a few countries on various continents, and my appetite for seeing the world is only getting stronger and stronger. Even though I always try to really explore the destinations I visit and be respectful of their customs and culture, my experience with the Centennial team on the 2018 GCELE in Costa Rica taught me that there are definitely ways in which I can improve as a traveler.

 

Our group was introduced to a few Indigenous groups in two parts of Costa Rica. We had a great privilege of getting to know some of the members of those communities. They welcomed us with their arms and hearts open. It was an experience that most likely none of us would have had the chance to get without the hard work and the networking between the staff from Centennial College and our Costa Rican partners.

 

Admittedly, these were the most genuine and life-changing interactions that I have ever had with Indigenous people abroad. Traveling from a country like Canada, it is easy to get wrapped up in your own expectations of what your planned cultural experiences should look like. You may want to witness ceremonies, dances, and see people walk around in their traditional clothing. There may not necessarily be anything wrong with that. However, you should also ask yourself: Am I really finding out who these people are? How did they get to where they are now? What are their current struggles? Is there anything I can give back to the communities that I visit before I leave, or do I just want them to perform on my own schedule before I get on my way?

 

In Costa Rica we had a chance to see what the lives of Indigenous communities really look like. We met with university students from remote parts of the country who moved to Cartago to pursue higher education and better their lives. It was really heartwarming to find out that some of their main goals focus around using their knowledge to give back to the communities that they came from, as well as to aid underprivileged people from all of Costa Rica. We also learnt how community members and their allies formed an organization that gives Indigenous people the power to coordinate and dictate how tourism happens in the areas that they inhabit. In addition, we met with female entrepreneurs who were able to build successful businesses in spite of numerous adversities, as well as members of an organization that focuses on helping women who are escaping domestic violence. The list goes on…

Throughout the trip what stuck out to me was the great strength of the people we met, their genuine concern for one another, resilience, humility, hospitality, and willingness to share with us.

Would I have learnt all this from an afternoon spent at a village built for visitors, snapping away pictures, and being a tourist myself? Certainly not!

 

I am forever grateful for this life-changing opportunity. I am also hopeful that I can now more respectfully participate (even if for a short while) in the lives of people from countries that I visit. I would like to instill the same gratitude in everyone whom I may help plan their own adventures in the future.

I am determined to always be a traveler, not a tourist!

 

 

Greg K.

GCELE – Leadership and Sustainable Practices – Cartago, Costa Rica

 

Costa Rican Humblings – Part 1

Hola,

My name is Nour Daoud, and I am a fourth semester Social Service Worker (SSW) student, at Centennial College. I am currently in Costa Rica, completing my final placement. Since I am very interested in a future career doing international work, I have opted to complete an international internship, as I thought it was suitable for me. I have been humbled and challenged more than I can describe to you in words. So I thought I’d spare you my boring personal reflection, and just show you why. Please bear with me as this is my first blogging experience ever, and I hope you enjoy it!

Never be afraid to take a risk, or be pushed out of your comfort zone. You never know what you’ll discover about yourself!

Till my next post….PURA VIDA (if you ever visit CR, you must learn this expression)!!!

Ciao mis amigos 🙂

Nour

Im Just on a volcano.

I went to visit the Irazu volcano. It was cold, windy and cloudy and i forgot to bring a sweater or a jacket. Even though I was freezing, I had an incredible experience, and I didn’t want to leave here. I can touch the clouds and breathing the fresh air. I was so high up in the clouds that you cannot see the city below us, but instead you see the point of view, as if you were still on the seat of a plane. Blue skies and perfect white clouds that is all I see. I had accomplished a dream to visit a volcano. (Hernando Tirado, social service worker).

TEC University and baby alligator

I got the opportunity to hold a baby alligator.  It was small, cute and I was excited to hold him. While I was holding him I started to reflect. That this will be my first and last time in holding such a creature, that the next time I get to see it, he will be 30 times bigger and it will take 8 grown adults to hold him. (Hernando Tirado, Social Service Worker).

Learning about butterflies.

I spent two nights in San Carlos, Costa Rica. Where the University of TEC professor  was teaching us  about butterflies. In this photo he was teaching us how to hold a butterfly without hurting it, but also how they are able to camouflage or scare of predators.

An Overview of My 3 Months in Costa Rica

Reflecting On My 3 Month Experience 

Looking back on my time here in Costa Rica and all the things I did and experienced, dealing with the barriers I faced, and the great people I  met and friendships I made.

I am feeling bittersweet of my soon departure from Costa Rica. I am happy to go home and see my family and friends, but sad to leave my friends here and this wonderfully beautiful country; with all the sun, nature/rain forest, animals, mountains and adventures. Goodness who would ever want to leave.

When I got here on the 8th of January I spend 24 in Orosi Valley it is a great little town. I went horseback riding, sightseeing, and my first time trying Costa Rica food (Gallo Pinto and Fresca). It was great!! It was sunny, hot, and beautiful. Speaking Spanish for me was a little hard because my pronunciation was really bad, but I got through it. And Costa Ricans (ticos) are great people with tourist, they will try to help you as much as they can.

Another thing I was shocked with is that the cars had the right of way, and that you had to wait for a clearing before crossing the street. As well as their sewer lines are open and run between the road and sidewalk, so you have to hop over them to cross the street. I also had the experience that sometimes the bus driver will not stop the bus to pick you up, they will see you and just drive passed you (haha that was fun).

I have been zip lining with Tranopy zip lining by Rain Forest Adventures, and Playa Jaco Beach. The zip lining was crazy we were 100,500 above sea level and had to do 10 zip lines back to back all the way down the rainforest mountain above the trees, it was amazing! And Jaco Beach was was wonderful. Although I did lose my eyeglasses in the ocean. When your friend tells you to jumps over the waves so she can get a picture of you, just remember to keep your glasses in your hand and not tucked in the front of your t-shirt… hahah!

These are some other things I did on my free time:                                                                    Nauyaca Waterfall and Playa Dominical Beach, Isle Tortuga and Playa Puntarenas Beach.

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Meeting, bonding, and working with the Indigenous students for Tec. They are truly amazing people. I will always cherish them dearly. We did a lot of things together, but my favourite things we did was visiting some of their Indigenous communities/territories (We went to Quitirrisi to the Huetar Tribe, Talamanca to the BriBri Tribe, and also San Carlos to  the Maleku tribe, Rey Curre the Boruca Tribe, and Boca Cohen a Cabecar tribe Territory).  Some of the other things we did was having a culture night-food fair/ feria de comida, we did a photo project, Spanish/English classes twice a week, social meetings/get together with the students it was great!!! These individuals are the just wonderful people with a rich history and community.

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Our Supervisor Diana and her assistant Joana are great!! They are the epitome of what a social worker should be like. I hope I can be that amazing we I start to work as a social service worker.

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We also volunteered once a week at Pueblito. This unique organization was established for at risk children. Pueblito Costa Rica offers children and adolescent survivors of situations of social risk, protective factors in the form of family, strengthening their rights and promoting their duties within a comprehensive approach. It was originally founded and started by Canadians. There are 15 homes with the “donas” (mothers/caretakers, multiple staff and volunteers, there is a daycare on the property that is for the surrounding community (own by a different organization). Founded in 1974 as a project of the Canadian International Development Agency. In 1975 town starts operation as welfare and Social Care Association. In 1984 signing of acknowledgment with PANI. It is a non-governmental organization.

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These are just some of the things I did here, but not everything. Yes, we did travel all over Costa Rica with Diana, Joana and the students, and thank you for the wonderful picnic at Jardin Botanico Lankester Gardens.

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And now it is time to say goodbye and hopefully see you all soon. I will miss you all very much, thank goodness for social media! Pura Vida mi amigos y amigas!!! 

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By: Abir Hassanien                                                                                                                                    

Social Service Worker                                                                                                                              

 Centennial College (Ashtonbee)                                                                                                          

International student placement internship Costa Rica (Instituto Tecnologico de Costa)

DownTime in Costa Rica :)

As you can imagine, we are not working 24/7 and we do get the weekends off, so I thought I’d share what I’ve been up to on my free time here in Costa Rica.

There are a lot of waterfalls in Costa Rica so I got the chance to visit a few of them. We found a tour organization and they took us to see the Nauyaca Waterfall and visit the Domincal Beach in January as well as Isla Tortuga in late February. Both trips were awesome.

We had about an hour and half hike up a mountain to get to the waterfall but it was well worth it and I love hikes (and yes it really looked like that). after swimming around in the waterfall for a bit we head back down and over to Dominical Beach for dinner and for me to see my first ever Costa Rica sunset. pretty damn nice looking if you ask me. For the trip to Isla Tortuga (turtle island) it was pretty good as well. A bit hectic cause it took an hour and a half on a boat to get there but it was also worth it I think. The water was so beautiful (the pic to the right) and I went snorkeling for the first time ever there!!! soo cool. after I stopped freaking out every time I put my face in the water and breathed it got a lot better when I got the hang of it. But it was so cool, for those of you who haven’t tired it, I highly recommend it. The fish pass right under you and its just so amazing, like being in a whole other world. I won’t post any pics of snorkeling cause I don’t have any and I probably also looked ridiculous in the goggles, you’ll just have to imagine it ;). After playing a couple games of volleyball on the beach it was time to call it a day and we headed back.

The University I am working at (ITCR/TEC) hosted an international day for all the international students going there (there were 30 of us) to get to know each other. There were students there from France, Czech Republic, Germany, Mexico, Spain, etc. they were from everywhere. There were even a few from the USA (they weren’t Trump supporters don’t worry). So the school took us on an all expenses paid trip to Jaco Beach and Rain forest Zip lining :). needless to say it was great day. made a lot of new friends, had my first time in a rain forest and zip lining was also preeeettyy dope.

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Following the Jaco trip. and with the friends I made on that trip, we planned another trip together. We spent the weekend at Manual Antonio. For those of you not familiar with Manual Antonio, it is a BEAUTIFUL beach (my favourite in Costa Rica). It has beautiful white sand, and it is right besides a national park with lots of wildlife … MONKEYS for example. haha seeing a monkey was on my list of things to do in Costa Rica so I proudly checked that off the list after this weekend. We stayed in a cheap hostel near the beach spent the day at the beach and the night at the pool. it was a hell of a weekend. These European kids sure can drink 😉 haha so it was a great night full of great drinks great music and great friends. anyways I had a blast. We checked out the national park the next day and met some monkeys 🙂

Other than these, I’ve just been wandering around from adventure to adventure, just yesterday I was at Volcano Irazu National Park with my friends. Instead of just explaining them all, i’ll just post pics 🙂

So yeah, I think that’s about it. I think I’ve covered everything aha

So I hope your having a awesome day and keep smiling guys.

By: Jason Bridgemohan

Saying Goodbye to Paradise and Returning to Reality

So, as you can probably tell by the title, I am soon to be leaving this beautiful island nation of Costa Rica and returning to the bitter cold of reality (and Canada ). Being here, on the ground, out in the open and right in the middle of social work has taught me so much and I will be returning to the snow, a changed person. But before I get into that, lemme show you some highlights of my time working here in Costa Rica.

Pueblito :

Pueblito is a orphanage we got the privilege of volunteering at every Wednesday we were in Costa Rica. It is really an amazing place, and very unlike it’s Canadian counter-part. They follow a different model than the North American model and in my opinion the kids have a better experience growing up there than a orphanage in Toronto. Instead of putting all the kids to live in a foster house Pueblito is set up more like a community. The kids live in something of a “gated community”. There are 18 houses in this community each with about 5-8 kids in each with a surrogate mother who looks after them. Along with the houses, there is also a computer lab, outdoor gym, playgrounds, daycare (free for the surrounding community) and a nurses office, as well as onsite psychologist, social worker and tutors for homework. This kind of model allows the kids to grow up in more of a community environment. They even have a bus that they use to take the kids on field trips. This model and place is not without ts flaws, don’t get me wrong but it was interesting to see a different model in place and one that I would be glad to see implemented in Toronto. I wasn’t allowed to take pictures of the kids for obvious reasons but here are some murals that are on the property, one of which the kids helped make.

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English Classes: We got the awesome opportunity to teach English. Not with like a full classroom or anything (I’m not trying to hype myself up lol) but with a group of indigenous students. It was a group of about 7-15 kids and since English is their THIRD language they were having some trouble with it so we offered to teach them. So every Monday from 1-3pm we would have English Classes. It was a lot of fun working with the students and fun teaching something that we sometimes take for granted.

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Visiting Earth University and the TEC University fair :

Earth University, as many of you may not know, is one of the best universities in Costa Rica and after visiting it, I can see why WHOA IS IT IMPRESSIVE. The grounds of the school are so large that if you didn’t have a car or a bike with you, you would probably be walking for about 20 minutes before you saw any sign of human life, yeah it’s that big. But it’s not just it’s size that’s great. Everything from its curriculum, the way they teach the classes, the layout of the school, the mandatory activities and even the application and selection process set this school apart from the others in Costa Rica. I can’t go into depth on each of these points but i’ll say a little about each of them. They specialize in Agriculture, Business and Leadership programs. Every classroom is separate and has a retracting wall so they can bring in animals and plants to help the students learn and most of their classes have a hands-on approach. The layout of the offices of the teachers and services are extremely accessible to the students and you don’t need a appointment to see them you just pop in when you need to, Every Wednesday and Saturday from 6am to 11am the students are required to work on one of the on campus farms for them to really GET into their work and learn firsthand about agriculture and the process up close and personal. And the entire staff is involved with the application/selection process, they mostly bring students from around the world, and many from small villages as they recognize that sometimes you may not have access to the best education but you are still able to make a difference. They actually travel to the country to interview the student and they have to demonstrate how they have helped your community to get in. It is a very extensive but interesting approach. I could say more but I feel like i’m getting a bit too long on this post. if you wanna know more, google “Earth University”.

Food Fair : I know I know, your thinking omg theres more, this is the last one, il try to not make it as long as the last. We held a Pot Luck with the indigenous students and it was a great time. They were stoked for it and they each made a traditional dish from their communities so it was a great opportunity for us to try food from each of the different indigenous tribes. of course they wanted us to make some traditional Canadian food for them so we made some homemade mac n cheese and of course the EXTREMELY traditional and precious Canadian food that is Poutine ;)haha. Needless to say, it was a delicious night and we ended it off with some karaoke XD I may or may not have brought the house down 😉

There’s a week left til i’m headed back to the land of ice and snow and I will be very sad to be leaving this awesome place and the awesome people i’ve met here. Being here in Costa Rica has taught me  many things about its people and about myself but something really important it has taught me is something I might have been ignoring for sometime in the busy North American lifestyle, and that is, to slow down and smell the roses. In Toronto, everything is very task oriented, no one really leaves their house unless they have something to do or somewhere to go, no one really smells the roses we all just assume they will be there later for us to smell, but before you notice the moments past and you’ve missed it. Being here, its reminded to me to smell those roses and to live in the moment, and the importance of living in the moment, life’s too short to be living anywhere else.

Costa Rica has also taught me the true meaning of Pura Vida. Some of you may know what this means, some of you may not, it is basically the slogan for Costa Rican life and it mean “pure life”. Its all about living life to the fullest and making the most out of life. not just that, its also about finding happiness and being happy in life and recognizing that there are always people out there who have it worse than you, so you should never take what you have for granted. It encompasses all that is Costa Rican life and every Tico lives their live to Pura Vida. This is something I truly love and will be taking this home and everywhere else I travel to for the rest of my life (and yes there will be many more places 🙂 ).

Before I say goodbye for this post I would like to give a special shout out to Blair Fewster and Diana Segura Sojo, my supervisors in both Canada and here in Costa Rica. this awesome opportunity wouldn’t have been possible without you guys and you have both gone above and beyond to help us and make sure this opportunity was a great one. You are both fantastic and keep up everything you are doing. Never change. Also another shout out to the Global Experience Office at Centennial College for setting this up as well, thanks you guys. you have all given me a experience that has changed my life.

OK enough of the mushy stuff, that’s it for this episode guys. I hope you are all having a fantastic day and keep smiling. Pura Vida Mae.

By: Jason Bridgemohan

Quitirrisi – Huetar Tribe

We all went on a educational trip to Danny’s Quitirrisi Huetar Indigenous community.

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Here is a little information about Costa Rican’s indigenous people:                                                         The Indigenous peoples make up about 1.7% of the Costa Rican population. Like Canadian indigenous groups, these people also have territories/reserves lands. There are roughly 24 indigenous territories located throughout the country of Costa Rica. The Indigenous people of Costa Rica have a similar story to the Indigenous people who live within Canada, the rest of North America, and Australia . They are the people who first lived on the land, prior to European and African contact. Christopher Columbus arrived in Costa Rica in 1502, around ten thousand years after the indigenous peoples of Costa Rica made the land their own. The contact with European settlers caused many of the indigenous peoples to die of diseases brought to their country by the foreigners.

The Huetar tribe’s territories are in two locations in the Province of San José. The Quitirrisi Huetar tribe is in San José, Canton de Mora (Quitirrisi de Mora), and the Zapatón Huetar tribe is in San José, Canton de Puriscal (Zapatón de Puriscal). Their cultural identity has been somewhat lost, although certain traditions, such as the Fiesta del Maíz, and the use of medicinal plants, have been preserved. The ancient Huetar were very wise people who had an infinity to nature, medicine (to the point that they could do minor surgery). As well as math, science, language, and sports, they were innovators, inventors, and visionary of their time

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I was able to visit the Huetar Tribe in Quitirrisi, Thanks to one of the indigenous students named Danny that I was working with this semester in Costa Rica. Danny took all of us (our group comprised of the TEC indigenous students, and the 3 Centennial College students) on a field trip to see and learn about his tribe and community. Quitirrisi is located just 40 minutes to the west of Santa Ana, the Quitirrisí indigenous territory/reserve is the home to about 2000 Huetar Indigenous people. Quitirrisi Collage 3

The natives’ land is relatively unfertile and a varied of agriculture did not develop. Corn is one of the only products that is grown by Huetares. The Huetar’s crafts are products based on palm leaf, fodder and vegetable fibers. The Huetares are specialists in natural colors for dyeing clothes, ceramic artifacts, basket weaving, pottery, etc. they are sold at roadsides and at “ferias” which are the markets to sell their goods.

Today Huetares speak Spanish (due to the loss of their native language). However, one of their leaders, Juan Sanchez (or “Choto,” his name in Huetar, and also Danny’s uncle),IMG_20160213_132037

who shared his people’s history, culture, and challenges with our group. He has been making efforts for the last twenty years to bring back the language, customs and traditions of his people.  Juan told us that the Huetares are descendants of the Mayan’s tribe. He took us on a tour telling us the significant of all the native structures as well as their meaning, and purpose, for example the building with a thatch roof. We learned that each palm-wood pillar of the sturdy structure represents a different ancestral spirit, which makes the shelter a sacred and wondrous place.

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Juan also showed us how they make sugar cane juice.  Quitirrisi Collage 1

 

We also met with Danny’s father who makes basket weaving items, and wooden statutes/figurines, etc.,

Quitirrisi Collage 2 20160301_182604then we met with Danny’s uncle who does pottery work. He gave use a demonstration on how he makes his pottery on his spinning wheel, and also by hand.

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Danny’s cousin also had a display of his craft work too. I don’t have to tell you that I bought some stuff, because I did (you would too if you saw it… so cool!).

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All I can say is that I had a great day learning about Danny’s amazing tribal history and culture, they are very humble, care and genuine people, who are very welcome and happy to tell you of their culture and customs. I am very PROUD to call Danny my GOOD friend,IMG_20160213_154532 I will be sad to leave when the time comes to return home. Pura vida!!

By: Abir Hassanien                                                                                                                                     Social Service Worker                                                                                                                               Centennial College (Ashtonbee)                                                                                                           International student placement internship Costa Rica (Instituto Tecnologico de Costa

Talamanca !

So this weekend we went to Talamanca, more specifically to the Bri Bri indigenous community located in Talamanca. Lemme tell you, what an adventure. Lemme tell you first, its like a 5 hour drive to Bri Bri from where we started so this adventure started off pretty lame, waking up at 5am and being crammed in the back of a hot jeep with 7 other students for 5 hours…but not to worry, it defiantly got better.

After we finally arrived at our destination, we met with some elders from the community, who just to happened to be the grandparents of some friends of mine, and they taught us about their culture. We learnt so much from the elders my brain was exploding with information by the time we left. we learnt about their customs and beliefs, how they came to be here, their views on marriage and sooo much more. Did you know that long ago, the Bri Bri people believed that people were born from corn seeds? thats why corn was and still is considered a sacred food by the Bri Bri people. super interesting. I also learnt that many of the elders have been working with an organization to help make a Bri Bri to spanish dictionary and have even converted parts of the bible to Bri Bri, all in an effort to keep their language alive and prevent it from dying out like many of the other indigenous languages in Costa Rica. Their efforts to preserve their way of life are incredible and I really hope their language and amazing ways of life are still around for generations to come. After the learning session they told us some legends and stories of the Bri Bri people (my favorite being “the water tiger”) , I won’t recite any as they are far too long but I implore you to google a few, they are extremely cool.

The next day (sunday) was just as interesting at the first. We met this man (who’s name I dont remember) who I found extremely curious. He grew cocoa beans and produced his own 100 % organic chocolate. Despite being an curious fellow, I also found him to be very wise. He told us (and this is word for word) “Human beings today are confused, we used to be all about togetherness and unity and respected the circle of life and the world but now we are all confused, we are all square. we cannot agree on anything and we live a square life, square houses, square doors, square mind. we no longer respect the circle and that is why we are failing”. A wise man indeed.

After having lunch and discussing the world with the wise chocolate man we went off to have some fun. Cause after all, what’s work without a little fun. So we hiked off to the local waterfall, as all the locals do, and spent some time cooling off in the beautiful mist of the waterfall, while mentally preparing outselves for the 5 hour trip back to Cartago.

A great end to a great weekend, in the beautiful place that is Talamanca !

p.s. we also saw a sloth 🙂

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  • By Jason Bridgemohan