It took me a while to find my voice in Nicaragua. In a group of 23 leaders, it was difficult to feel like I had a say or could sway an opinion. We had a few group members who were obviously born to be leaders; They had strong, confident and inclusive personalities that made everyone feel heard. I have always found that when no one is willing to step up and take a lead, I will happily take on the role. However, with so many people eager to fill that position, I was finding it hard to speak up. Throughout the week I began to remember that I was chosen to take part in this GCELE for a reason. I grew more confident as the week went on, and began to feel more comfortable speaking up and working as a leader. I remembered that I am a good public speaker, and fortunately, I had plenty of opportunities to use that skill on this trip. It was very rewarding to collaborate with all of the unique and inspiring personalities involved with this GCELE, and we all had a chance to merge as leaders throughout the week. Despite all of our different leadership styles, we worked together and taught our health initiatives successfully. Not only were we able to help a community, we were also able to grow as a group and as individuals.
As part of our GCELE experience we have to blog about our experiences in Costa Rica. The posts have be short which makes sense, so I picked 3 very specific topics. If you have any questions about things I didn’t cover, feel free to reach out @AmeliaR_N. These blogs will also be reposted on my personal blog.
Before Cano Palma people who knew me would crinkle their faces and respond with “Why are you going?” or worse, they’d smirk and say “You’re going to die.” I’m not very big on the great outdoors.
When I got back most people would say “You survived!?! Was it as bad as you thought?”
Here’s the thing. It was amazing and I’m extremely proud of the work I did there. That being said it wasn’t like I showed up and was greeted by a 5 star or even 2 star resort. Conservation work is extremely hard and when you Google ‘how many Sea Turtles are left?” or some other question, the amount of work that went in to that answer you searched in 0.40 seconds is staggering.
^As soon as I got WiFi I wanted to tell the world what was happening.^
Here is a list of some of the tougher things we experienced on our trip ( a small look at all the work conservationist do):
There was no hot water –ever. To conserve water you flushed by pouring half a bottle of rain water into the toilet. The water on base tasted heavily like metal. I used very little water to shower or brush my teeth (which I did in the company of giant bugs).
It was always hot in the rainforest and never dry. We had a fan we could use if Necessary. Since people worked all hours of the day and night, the rooms were almost always dark (so people could sleep whenever) and very quiet. We slept in bunk-beds which we had to cover with Mosquito nets. Those nets made it extra hot but it was either that or get eaten alive –your call.
The shifts were varied and 24/7. Patrolling the beach to protect Sea Turtles, Hiking in the jungle to track animals and record data, working in the community, tagging trees, maintenance around the station. The chores were endless, usually very physical, and never ending. We were told that Centennial’s presence was a big help because it allowed overworked-scientists to catch up on rest and recover from illnesses.
^Wearing dark clothes with long sleeves for the hot Night patrol (can’t scare the turtles away!)^
The Nature Thing
It was always hot and always wet. Clothes never dried. Shoes and feet were always damp. This meant you were always, damp, itchy and sore. Bugs might not be a problem for everyone but the bugs were huge. A bird flew in the room once which was cool until I realized it was actually just a big bug.^My regular walk from the dorms to the kitchen^
The Isolation Thing
WiFi was scarce and you were working nonstop but in the few off times you’d sometimes notice how out of touch you were with your ‘home-life’ and while it’s not always a bad thing, it can be lonely.^IT HELPED THAT THESE GREAT PEOPLE WERE HERE.^
Stay tuned to read about my favourite part of the trip!
Just the other day I was in my homestay family kitchen. I was shown and taught how to make a snack that consisted of unripe plantains, salt, and oil. The plantains were freshly picked by my homestay family. As the vegetation here provide many bananas, berries, cherry tomatoes, avocado, lime, lemon, rosemary, mint, chamomile, oranges, mangoes, and other fruits as well. Along with flowering hibiscus, roses, coffee bushes, poinsettias, and amaryllis. The “backyards” of the homes in Llano Bonita is literally a field of banana trees, coffee plants, avocado, mangoes, lime, and lemon trees, etc. Along the road you will find the odd tomato plant and black berries bushes. Sometimes, I would help my host family pick them and bring them home for them to make fresh fruit juices or milkshake out of it. What I notice is that Llano Bonito is a biodiversity within. As mentioned in one of my earlier post, Proal believes that nature and humans are in the same circle of life. Would you like to imagine a world where everyone and animals do not have to go hungry? Imagine having a feast of plentiful fruits and vegetables growing naturally and freely for all to enjoy at a shared “backyard”. Well, I believe Llano Bonito is the living proof of this. And if you plant and take care of one living plant to share your harvest, what would it be?
I was thrilled to hear my professor Marg announce that she would be going back to Guatemala to continue her work. I submitted my application on the very first day, and was already planning my trip before the acceptance letter. A few months later, I landed at Flores airport. That was unreal.
The purpose of our trip was to teach the local midwives how to use a birthing simulator MamaNatalie, teach the local women how to make reusable menstrual pads, and provide First Aid training to the local health promoters. We visited six different communities throughout our stay, and each community was unique in its own way. Most of the communities we visited are Q’eqchi’, the Maya people, hence it requires double translation from English to Español, then to Kekchi. It was challenging, but in a positive way.
I didn’t really experience “culture shock,” definitely some “culture surprises” during our stay in Guatemala. Photos speak a thousand words, hence I will walk you through our wonderful journey through photos. Have some tortilla chips ready, sit back and relax.
Day 1:Our flight is TO -> Miami -> Guatemala city -> Flores, then finally a two-hour bus ride to Sayaxche, It was tiring, but we were warmly greeted by the heat wave in Guatemala.
Day 2: Flores -2 hours smooth bus ride to Sayaxche
Meeting with Apidec (Programa Integral de desarrollo Christiano) & World Renew staffs. Had a crazy ride in a “cage” to our first village. I was chosen to be the first to do MamaNatalie (meaning I have to fake birthing). I knew I did an awesome job because everyone outside heard my screams from the classroom. Some said my hysterical screams scared some babies and kids oops. There is no bridge to cross the river in Sayaxche, so we had to take the ferry. Unfortunately on our way back to the hotel, a truck was stuck on the ferry and we waited for an hour before crossing a small river. Apparently the government made big profits from the ferry, so bridges are unnecessary. We had to hide in the jungle for toilet break! We were still full of awesomeness but began to feel the heat wave eating away our energy.
Day 3: Meeting with the Ministry of Health of Guatemala (Gobiernode Guatemala Ministerio de Salud Publica y Assistencia Social) in the morning. Visited our second village “San Juan Acul” in the afternoon. This village has a huge shelter outside. Sweat was pouring down, but the hot & humid breeze meant so much to us! I’ve said “mi nombre Beidi” so many times. Awesome but the heat was unbearable. We definitely had an awesome time at this community all thanks to the shelter that they have.
Day 4:Third village “Herencia Maya” meaning Heritage Maya. Most residents only know Kekchi, a Mayan language, so we have to translate from English to Spanish then to Kekchi (most communities we visited are Q’eqchi’ so triple translations hence triple the fun, and most of the communities were receiving visitors for the very first time, not to mention first foreign visitors). I used leftover fabrics to make♥and stars to the kids and they love it so much. This heat was overwhelming… people were starting to get sick😦
Day 5: Visit to Tikal, the Mayan ruins! Everyone was excited though we were not feeling well. The heat was not bad, bearable. Awesome day!
Day 6:Boating to the zoo in the morning, and had a fabulous view of Flores from far. Was a little upset that we had to cancel our afternoon trip to another ruin😦but at least we went to a good restaurant and I got a super yummy chicken sandwich and a Jamaican Rose drink. Got a super-itchy spider bite, and the rash was crystal-like. Finally started raining on the way back to Sayaxche, it cooled down the heat.
Day 7 & 8:Can’t remember what exactly happened during these two days. I was drained, and totally shutting down. I remembered the tables were so small and low, I have to bend down all the time while surrounded by groups of women and children. The noise, the heat, and the environment was sweeping over me like waves after waves. Due to the heat and long bus ride, more people felt unwell. I forced myself to drink lots and lots of water, and I survived the hardest period during this trip.
Day 9:Visited the last community! The kids there were overwhelming. They dragged you everywhere, touched your hair, put their little hands in your pocket digging for stuffs. I went to the bathroom with ten kids surrounding the door. Last time using MamaNatalie, my energy level left only 10% while doing it. A long day ended with kids holding my hands, grabbing my leg, and singing my name.
Day 10:Meeting with Ministry of Health again with reporters, and many cameras. Seemed like we’ll all be in Peten news! Our efforts had been paid off. Our MamaNatalie, menstrual pads, and First Aid sessions benefited the locals so much that the MOH will continue teaching the midwives and women with MamaNatalie and menstrual pad making. I felt so grateful. Drove back to Flores and finally SHOPPING TIME!!! (didn’t buy a lot because I was… exhausted). Day ended with a two-dollar ice cream.
Day 11: Guatemala City was raining and flight was delayed. Almost missed our Miami flight back to Toronto because of that. One American said “look at those crazy Canadian girls running in airport.” First thing back home is feeling extremely cold in 20ish temperature, but home sweet home :”)
I have to thank Centennial College for this amazing opportunity.Thank all the staffs from World Renew. Thank you Marg, Roya & Jo! Although we faced many ups and downs in this trip, extreme deprivation of veggies, tears and laughter, it was an experience that could only be experienced. It made me question my values, tested my limits, and forced me to grow. Thank you Guatemala! Someone told me this quote during this trip “You have to do other won’t, so you can have other can’t.” and of course my own quote “IT’S ONCE IN A LIFETIME!!!“
My first video blog and moving images that I had captured while I am here in Llano Bonito. I invite you to listen and see what I am experiencing and be apart of it as well.
Waking Up with the Natural Universe
Every morning I arise to the sound of the Rooster in LLano Bonito. My first morning here, I was woken up by the sound of the Rooster, house cats, the school children, and cars zooming by the house. I live in front of an elementary school, and the students usually starts class at 7am in the morning. I can hear them recite and repeat speeches in unison. This school is also where I will be assisting the students. I had attended a bullying intervention at this school. The activity was an hour long and was facilitated by the University students of Costa Rica. I had visited two other schools as well. One of the school, I will be helping the students with an upcoming English festival, that includes a spelling bee, an impromptu, and a theatrical speech.
Early in the morning around 5 am here, birds are singing and chirping happily. There are many hummingbirds, tiny creatures that flutters their wings in lightning speed while drinking the nectars of the purple butterfly bush. I also wake up to freshly new insect and mosquito bites. What is helpful is wearing light clothing, long pants, shirts and pants helps to deter them from doing this. Living higher in the mountains, it gets cold here at night and early mornings. But the late mornings and afternoons temperature increases. The sounds, sight, taste, and smell while living here is new to me but is very natural. What senses that trigger special moments in your life?
I had a day in at Proal the day after my arrival. I had the chance to observe the ladies at Proal provide a bio-energy assessment. Bio-energy assessment that the ladies at Proal utilized originated in Japan. They use a copper rod to assess the body starting from the head and moving inferiorly. Herbal medicine is used during this assessment as well. I am learning more and more about this throughout my time at Proal.
At the end of my first day at Proal in Llano Bonito, Costa Rica, I had the chance to do an active, passive, and resisted range of motion on a forearm. I was able to eliminate the possible cause produce the pain and what muscle is affected. ¡Exactamente! exclaimed the person, as I pinpoint the area that is affected. The extensor digitorum muscles that extend digits 1-4. During the assessment, digit 1-3 reenacted the pain in the forearm area. What I learned from my Clinical Anatomy and Orthopaedic & Biomechanic program classes was very helpful to help me figure this out. The days are going by quickly, and I am learning more and more about how I can utilize my learning in the Massage Therapy Program at Centennial in Proal in Llano Bonito, Costa Rica. Having to trust myself with independent research, getting feedback from my classmate and another student in the health-related program at Centennial, figuring it out and building confidence in myself is a challenge. Have you been in a situation where it’s up to you to figure things out? How did you feel? What steps did you take?
Proal is a health-based association that marriage the idea that nature and people are in the same circle of life. I and a fellow Centennial student are doing our internship here. On the day of arrival in San José, the Capital of Costa Rica, we landed in the Juan Santamaría International Airport. Our pick up ride was waiting for us with a sign written with Centennial College and our names.
We quickly exchanged our American dollars into Costa Rican Colones at a bank between the ride from San José to Llano Bonito. I soon figured that it is easier to exchange the majority of my American dollars into Colones because I will eliminate the need to calculate the exchange rate when I purchase something here. From there we headed to our homestay family and it was quite the sight through the twist and turns of the mountains among the rain. At one point the hills were so steep that we had to backtrack and give more gas to drive up the hills that also lead to a sharp turn.
When the rain stops, a misty cloud covers the mountains, but soon clears out and several mountains peak appears again. Would you consider living in a mountain? Why and why not? Comment below and I look forward to hearing what you have to say. 🙂