Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Out from the Comfort Zone: Into Nature

We had only been at La Selva for a few weeks when the announcement came that we would be adventuring to an indigenous community for three-days and there would be no electricity, a three-hour hike, and a high possibility of chiggers. Let me begin by saying, I was feeling more than a little bit nervous and outside of my comfort zone. Nevertheless, the day we departed, I boarded the bus with an open-mind; as a result, I returned to La Selva a few days later with a new appreciation of different cultures and ways of life, and changed perspectives on what being interconnected with nature and the forest can truly mean.

The journey began as we piled out of the OET bus, and then sprayed and armed ourselves with bug spray and DEET for our hike up the mountain with our guide Sebastion. It was extremely hot, muddy, and tiring, but the hike was an excellent opportunity to learn new plants, insects and animals, and was the beginning of my realization of all that the forest can hold.

At the top, we arrived at a beautiful wooden house that was truly located in the center of the rainforest. The house had been built by Sebastian, his brother and only one other person, and was for students and researchers. I enjoyed our time there and especially the first night. We listened to Sebastian tell the history of the Bribri people as the sun set around us, it was fascinating and enlightening as I learned more about their people, the struggles they had faced and were overcoming, and their resourcefulness.

My constant amazement at how resourceful the indigenous people were was definitely a theme for me throughout the trip. The next day in the Bribri community, one of the leaders made a comment that truly stuck with me; he said the forest gives them everything they need, that it can be, “a supermarket, hardwood store, pharmacy, and source of water.” As I listened to the community healer, the Awa, speak in their native language, I also realized religion and their God, Sibu, are also linked to nature and the environment. To further our first-hand experience we then immersed ourselves in some aspects of their lifestyle: throwing arrows, visiting a sacred spiritual location in the forest, mashing corn with a stone, and completed the day by eating lunch on a leaf folded into a bowl! I found the communities interconnectedness and reliance on nature and the wild truly remarkable, and such a refreshing contrast to my way of life at home. 

On the bus back to La Selva, I felt privileged to have had such a unique opportunity, and was already looking forward to my next experience in Costa Rica that pushes me outside of my comfort zone.

Symone Stephens

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