Thank you so much for taking time to look at our blog! We are a group of edical students who are passionate about training and in underserved areas. This January and February, we are in Peru, the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica internationally as well as locally in Flint and Lansing completing volunteer service, rotating in hospitals and clinics, and learning about international medicine and local underserved health care. We appreciate any time you take to read our reflections and any donations you might offer.

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Wednesday, February 10

A Visit to Quitirissi

The Huetar People

Last Wednesday, we had the AMAZING opportunity to visit an area of Costa Rica called Quitirissi, where descendents of the tribe of the Huetar people live and maintain certain aspects of their historical and influential culture. Although their language is largely lost due to the influence of European colonization and influence, many customs, crafts, and some of their medical beliefs live on.  This area is one of the few indigenous reserves in the country and it is protected and recognized by Costa Rican government. 

This is Juan Sanchez, whose name is Poto in the indigenous Huetar language. He served as our leader/guide for the day and is a shaman in his community. He spent about an hour and a half telling us wonderful stories of the history of his people. While he told many stories of the Spanish conquests to Costa Rica and the difficulties his people endured in keeping their people and customs alive a few things stood out to me that I would like to share with you all. 

Death: The Huetar people view death differently than many of us do. As we are accustomed to mourning the death of loved ones, the Huetar people view this as the happiest moment for that person. Death is celebrated with the favorite food of the deceased, dancing, and music. The person is buried with many of their possessions that they loved or items deemed necessary for their journey to the afterlife. Crying is not at all a part of the celebration. The deceased is initially buried in one location and after 5 years have passed, the body is removed from the ground and the remains, which are bones at this point, are cleaned with herbs and mixtures and reburied in a different location. During our visit, we learned that Poto's brother had recently died and his body was taking up the spot of one of the burial sites. It had not been 5 years yet, so his remains had not yet been cleansed and reburied.

Life: While we are used to the birth of a child being a momentous and happy occasion, the Huetar people view it a little bit differently. Knowing that a new life is a new responsibility and that this new person will face hardships in life is something they pray and meditate over. Deep contemplation about the life that this new person will face is the way that births are "celebrated". 

We were given a tour of the grounds, here are a few pictures:

This tee-pee is their version of a doctor's office for the shaman. People come here for spiritual cleansing and healing. 

Inside the Tee-Pee

The Huetar people believe in balance of the spirit and body and all efforts made in a persons life are to maintain that balance. 

Doctora Karen using berries as a beautiful lip color. The Huetar people are known for their crafts especially baskets-making and using clay from the earth to make pots and other items. These berries are used to dye and paint their crafts. 

Bamboo trees grow all over Costa Rica! It's different for us to see but they are beautiful and make a cool sound when the wind blows past them. 

A spectacular view as we left the tribal grounds and were hiking up a hill on our way out of Quitirrisi. 

Thanks and we will update you soon again on the rest of this week's adventures--

Pura Vida!

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