Saturday, November 29, 2014

A Week in La Casona.

Joke of the Day: 
Q: How many biologists does it take to change a light bulb? 
A: Four. One to change it and three to write the environmental-impact statement. 

A Week in La Casona 

As our time in Costa Rica comes to an end, we are becoming more and more immersed in our final independent research projects. Set in the San Vito District of Costa Rica, our final projects are designed to be a culmination of all the skills that we have gained throughout this semester. It is where we are given a chance to apply our knowledge of research methods, consensual and beneficial data collection, and statistical analysis. Because I have always been fascinated by nutritional aspects of health, I decided that I wanted to study something to do with the dietary habits of the indigenous Ngobe people of Costa Rica and Panama. My interest was first sparked in this subject about a month ago,when we had the opportunity to talk with a doctor working at an EBAIS (a public community healthcare center) in La Casona (the indigenous community in Coto Brus Canton). She mentioned that she had recently seen a rise in obesity, diabetes, and heart disease within the community, especially in women, and she attributed it to an urbanization of dietary habits. This is a very interesting phenomenon that is happening all around the world, where poorer, often indigenous people are being affected by non communicable diet-related illnesses. In fact, over 60% of the wolds obese are found in developing countries (Dwyer-Lindgren, K. T 2012). Some possible factors that we decided to investigate included gender, birth control use, diet, number of children, and exercise habits. In order to carry out this research we were privileged to be allowed to go to the Ngobe community of La Casona, in order to make observations and interview the locals. We were given a cultural advisor to show us around and help us with any confusions, and we got to work with an awesome medical student named Tanya who would help us with our Spanish speaking and research. 
While gathering data for this project, we were able to go places, to hike up mountains that not even most Costa Ricans have seen. We were able to observe, first hand, one of the few remaining preserved indigenous communities. From language to dress to culinary arts, the Ngobe people have remained remarkably united despite years of contact with other, non indigenous cultures. We were able to spend a week collecting data from this community. The days were hot, dry, long, and physically and mentally exhausting. We narrowly avoided the wrath of a Voodoo practitioner. Working through two language barriers and a major cultural barrier, we had to track down accurate and informative data. We ran from protective dogs and fell down muddy mountains, yelling and holding on to each others' backpacks while scrambling not to drop our equipment. All in all, it was one of the most amazing, eye-opening weeks of my life.

Aidan Telfer-Radzat

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