El Fin

¡Buenas! I arrived in the US about two weeks ago and have been catching up with family, getting use to the heat here, and working as a swim instructor. I was super sad to leave my host family, coworkers, internship, and friends all in Costa Rica. But I will never forget the great adventures I’ve had during my time there.

Working in a clinic in another country was full of surprises. I have learnt so much about how medicine works in Costa Rica and how to do different things. What I value most of all is the interactions I was able to witness between the doctor and her patients. It was amazing to see the time and dedication she put in each consult. No matter the degree of the problem, Dra. Gabi would always be there for her patients and make sure that they felt comfortable and cared for.

I think that Dra.’s attitude toward her patients is a quality that goes beyond the medical world though. Through the cultural awareness modules we have been completing with the CSLC, I have come to recognize the importance of patience and care in all interactions.

The program opened my eyes to the fact that immersing oneself in a new environment and culture is no easy feat. When entering this unfamiliar setting, we are immediately displacing ourselves from the known– a fact that is often not credited enough. We are thrown into the cultural deep end and have to teach ourselves to “swim.” This swimming can occur by beginning to understand and appreciate practices and customs, trying our best with the native language, challenging our own beliefs based on what we experience.

Dra. Gabi’s care and dedication are the exact tools we need to stay afloat in this new and exciting deep end. By beginning to invest in opening our worldview, we can challenge our comfort and grow as we experience the new.

I am so grateful for this once in a lifetime opportunity and am so thankful for the CSLC, the PRAXIS Center, the Centro Médico Integral Andalucía, and everyone who supported me on this journey.

Pura Vida

OK Vayamos

Hola! Antes de empezar, recomiendo que escuchen al nuevo álbum de Taylor Swift. Me encanta. I am starting my final week here in Costa Rica. I have very mixed emotions about leaving this beautiful country. I’m excited to see my family and friends, but I will definitely miss the people I have met along my journey here.

My week has been pretty quiet so far. I have learnt so much in the clinic. Dra. Gabi is so wise and such a good teacher. Today she left for a family vacation at Disney, so I had to say my goodbyes to her and her family today– it was very bittersweet. Before she left, we went to a store that sells helado de la sorbetera. I have had a lot of ice cream in my life, but I think this ice cream is undoubtedly the best I have every had. I am forcing myself to get one more cup before I leave.

For this blog, I have been asked to talk about cultural dimensions. We learned about various dimensions that vary from different places. For this post I will be focusing on two.

The first is the attitude toward time. The scale for this dimension ranges from past focused to future focused. I would say that Costa Rica appreciates a more past focused attitude. In my experience, almost every conversation I have witnessed starts with questions or engagement in the past. The value for tradition is very deep. People will spend a majority of their time checking in on past things. How is your grandmother who got sick the other month? How is your sister who just had the baby? And when introducing oneself, the conversation revolves around ones past as well, explaining where your family came from; listing out your family tree; talking about your own past. Individuals here use the shared past to form bonds in the present.

From my experience in the US, people tend to be more future oriented. Questions like “What are you doing this summer for work?” or “what are you going to do after college?” reflect the desire to look toward the future that is very common in the US.

I am not exactly sure the last dimension that this difference falls under so I am going to say it is under the umbrella of Indulgence and restraint and collectivism vs. individualism. This difference relates to the directness of conversation. In Costa Rica, if someone is trying to criticize or make a comment on anything, they will speak around the point of directly addressing the problem or concern. People will say everything except a direct call out. In the US, I am more accustomed to a very direct sense of speech, especially in bigger cities. But I think that the US is starting to develop an appreciation for a mix between these tones. People value not being called out in a non- harsh way and positive reinforcement.

Hasta la proxima!

D.I.V.E – ing In

Buenas Noches! I’m writing this post after a busy weekend in La Fortuna. I traveled with four other ND students who are here with the ND Bridge program. On Friday we traveled from San Jose to La Fortuna– about a four hour drive. We got there pretty late so we went right to bed for an early start on Saturday. Our first item on the agenda for the weekend was to visit the Arenal Volcano. This volcano is recently dormant with its last eruption in 2010. We hiked around the volcano for a bit and then went to a waterfall and the hanging bridges near by. After the volcano, we went to a river that is heated by the volcanic chambers under the earth. It was so beautiful to see and to chat with tourists and locals at this ecumenical place.

Today we started by hiking to the La Fortuna Waterfall we journeyed into a valley basin to see this and it was breathtaking. We swam around in the streams before heading back to the bus station for a long bus ride back to the city.

For this week’s post. We are supposed to apply the D.I.V.E model to a critical incident. My incident involved our taking a taxi while in La Fortuna. While in the taxi, the driver started asking us questions. As a rather new taxi rider– I come from Nashville, a city where transport like this is not popularized– I was already nervous about the interaction. When he asked us where we were from, where we are staying, how we had enjoyed our time so far, I was very reluctant to give away all that information. In my mind, I was protecting us from being stalked or harmed by giving such information to a stranger.

Now applying the D.I.V.E model to this situation–

Description– In one of the famous red cabs of Costa Rica, a taxi driver asked us questions about us and our journey so far.

Interpretation– In the moment, I was creeped out by these questions. I saw this as pestering us for personal info that is important for our safety. I was in a new setting that was already uncomfortable for me, adding that the conversation was in Spanish with a man I had never met, I am sure that my nerves were running high.

Verification– There is not much I can verify here. And this will probably bleed into my evaluation, but I think that my cultural perception was challenged/ not verified.

Evaluation– Looking back I think my initial response was a reflection of my uncomfortableness with the situation. I now think that being over-friendly (or at least what I would consider over-friendly) is just part of Costa Rican culture and interactions. People show care and interest by asking these types of questions. I now realize that my reaction– although good to protect oneself and their group– was too protective. It would not have harmed me to just make light conversation with this driver or to share a bit about our journey so far.

I am entering the last week here in Costa Rica and have mixed emotions. I’ll be sure to keep y’all updated. Adios!

Life in Slow Motion

Hola! Halfway through my internship and I am so excited to share with y’all about my journey so far. I finished 2nd week in the clinic. I have learned so much. I have been able to interact a lot with patients by shadowing the doctor and she has taught me so much as well. I am not only picking up on medical vocabulary in Spanish but also experiencing the integral doctor-patient relationships that build and define a practice.

This past weekend we went to the Limón Province on the Caribbean side of the country. We first went to Cahuita National Park and did a wildlife tour. I saw a sloth for the first time ever and some pretty scary spiders and snakes. We also were able to hang out on the beach and swim in the sea. Saturday night we went to an organic farm near the town of Bribri. The farm is run by a matriarchal indigenous tribe of the same name as the town. We toured the different agricultural products and talked about the Bribri tradition with the current matriarch. It was amazing to hear the many stories she had to tell and of her special connection to nature. To end our trip in Limón, we traveled to the city of Limón. There we attended mass in the cathedral and walked down the town center and talked about the African diaspora that occurred in the industrial age of Costa Rica in order to bring workers for different projects.

For this post, I’ve been tasked to talk about stereotypes and generalizations. To start, an auto-stereotype is one imposed on myself about groups I belong to. A hetero-stereotype is one that other people impose on me. We were asked to talk to someone in our host country about the stereotypes there are for United States Americans. I talked to my co-worker, Jennifer, for this project.

We started our lunch like we normally do, talking about how busy it is today, the class Jennifer is taking at night, or our dogs. But then we brought up the perception of United States Americans in Costa Rica. Jennifer had never been to the US, so a lot of her perceptions were based on interactions she has had with another US student and the media. She mentioned that there seems to be a large sense of patriotism for US Americans. She also brought up a certain degree of arrogance and and ignorance with other groups of people.

I think that solely relying on media to make assumptions about a whole group of people is not the best modus operandi. I also think that media tends to highlight the worst of things– in this case the bad actions of US Americans. But I think she is not entirely wrong. There is a large degree of patriotism that we see in the US– one could argue it is growing day by day too. Also most of the times US Americans do seem to be arrogant, but I think that anyone from any group can be arrogant; it just shows in different ways.

I was really interested to learn about her perception of US Americans and I can’t wait to update y’all soon. Hasta Luego.

Pura Vida-ing

¡Buenos Dias! I just completed about a week and a half here in Costa Rica! It is such a lovely country and I am so glad with my journey so far. The first week was a little hectic. I had to orient myself in the town and my internship, but had fun getting to know everything. I am living with a host family here in the town of Santo Domingo just outside of San Jose. They are super nice and it is a daily challenge to use my Spanish as much as I can with them.

We started last week by having an orientation at the Praxis Center. Our director– Heidi– gave us a brief overview of the history of Costa Rica. We then did a brief walk around Santo Domingo. The next day we went to downtown San Jose to go to the National Museum of Costa Rica (pictured above). There I was able to see artifacts that dated as far back as before the colonization and the arrival of Columbus. The building itself also is a testament to the story of Costa Rica. It served as a military base for the city of San Jose. But in 1949, President Jose Figueres Ferrer disbanded the military of Costa Rica and in a historic act sledgehammered a hole in the wall of this base. So much history in such a cool place!

I also started my internship. I am working at a clinic with a general physician. It has been so cool to see how medicine and healthcare is different in another country. For example, public health here is really good and there is widespread access to it. So the private healthcare sector is usually seen as an option for second opinions. Nevertheless, there is a lot of overlap and many doctors work on both sides to offer the best care they can.

While working in this clinic, have been able to shadow the doctors. I have learned a lot about medicine and how to interact with patients through them. They have been such great teachers and make sure that I am able to engage and learn from each visit as much as possible. While I was sitting in on one visit I had a “cultural incident.” This term refers to a sort of culture shock where my past experience or my own culture came in conflict with the culture I am experiencing now.

To summarize, I was sitting in on a visit of an elderly lady. Coming from a southern, conservative family, I was raised to treat those older than I am with the utmost respect and to go out of my way to help in any way possible. When it came time for the doctor to examine the patient on the examination table, I imagined that my offering my hand to help her up would be a thoughtful gesture. To my surprise, the patient slapped my hand away. I had never experienced such an outright rejection like that.

I was embarrassed and thought that I had done something wrong. I believed that what I had done could have been insulting to her. Looking back though, there is an underlying cultural difference in behavior that I continue to explore. I am not sure if it involves the treatment of elders by younger people or if it is a gender construct that came into play. Nevertheless, I learned that my help is not always needed or received as a sign of respect. The patient might have seen my hand as an assumption of an inability and that could have offended her.

I continue to learn many things while I am here. Not only Spanish and Costa Rican history but also new things about myself and my intercultural connection to others. I cannot wait to share more of my journey soon. Nos Vemos!

Pre-Departure Post

¡Buenas! My name is Reid, and I am a rising Sophomore at ND! I am a Spanish and Pre-Health student with intentions on going to Med School. This summer I have the wonderful opportunity to travel to Costa Rica with the generosity and guidance of the CSLC. There I will be participating in a Foreign Language Internship. Working with the Praxis Center in Costa Rica, my internship will be located in a primary clinic where I will be able to experience the day-to-day interactions among patients, doctors, and administrators.

These past few weeks the various cohorts for the different Foreign Language Internships have been completing various reflection exercises. I have found them very valuable in their ability to challenge me to look deeper inside myself to see why I truly want to participate in this experience and how I hope to grow my intercultural mind as a participant. We did various activities to reflect like the IDI analysis. But the most recent reflection was an intercultural goals sheet. I discovered that my two goals for this summer are adaptability and collaboration. The first goal revolves around my desire to challenge myself in a new environment. For most of my life, I have lived in a state of comfort as a member of a dominant group. Either at home in Tennessee or at Notre Dame, I have never felt like an outsider. In Costa Rica, I will be relatively new and different from the cultural practices. I want to learn to appreciate the customs I encounter but also to appreciate the ones I have already developed. I feel adaptability comes to encompass the ability to change to appreciate and understand the various things we encounter. For collaboration, I want to focus on my introverted self. I have grown up relatively shy. Although I have taken immersive Spanish classes for the past six+ years, I sometimes lack confidence in my communication. I want to go out of my way to connect with others and to work with them in understanding each other on various levels.

I’d be lying if I said I am not nervous. I have never been away from the States for so long. But I am so excited to see where this journey takes me and the people I will meet along the way!