This summer I was a part of a field course that took place in various areas with in Costa Rica. The objectives of the course were to learn about local sustainability, livelihood, tropical ecology, and indigenous rights. It was definitely the most incredible experience I have ever had!
We visited many local farms, and their counter part large corporations (such as Dole), as well as tribes, their wind farm Coopesantos etc. Their landscape, forest composition and species composition differed vastly from what we have here at home in Canada We got to hike through various forests, learn about very cool plants that are endemic to Costa Rica, and visit do our own planting at the new york eco campus that was built in Las Nubes.
It was fascinating to see how differently people live out their lives there compared to here, often having a job that involved hard manual labour typically ranging from agriculture, manufacturing of things such as leather, or crafts and jewelry sold at local markets. Never once did I meet someone who has a typical “desk job”, which is common here. I lived with a homestay family for a week, in which I learned for the first time how hard it is to have a true barrier to language and in general, communication as I spoke no spanish, and they spoke no english.
Moreover, I stayed with the Boruca Tribe, in which I learned how many stereotypes that exist here at home about indigenous people and tribes are in fact quite wrong. These people that I stayed with for a couple days where not much different than myself. They had a great sense of community, and come together through their making of wooden masks that are both carved and painted by people in the community. This practice was well integrated in the community, and there were these what I may refer to as “unwritten” rules that existed in regard to is; for example, a carver will carve two wooden pieces so that when brought to a painter to have both of them painted, both artists (carver and painter) can have a piece of their own to sell.
The Boruca community shared with us many practices that were passed on for generations. We were give presentations on things such as medicinal plants from their community doctor, as well as one on how to make natural dyes from plants in which they used to dye their cotton to create things such as hand bags and purses to sell.
There is more I learned in this experience that I can truly put into words, as many people described to me, it would be, and was, a “life-changing experience”. What better way to truly learn about a country, their people, their history than to immerse yourself fully in it. I will forever be grateful for the experience.