Sebastian at the helm
Yesterday the teams arrived safely in Cauhita, and our bus was at the hotel by 6:15 this morning. Timoteo came on the bus, and was there to meet us. We all crammed into a mini-bus and went to Timoteo’s house where we dropped off our bags. We then went down to a community center where we ate breakfast. Timoteo took some time to officially welcome the team and then after breakfast we headed off to Timoteo’s church.
The church service was a meaningful way to begin the trip. The church collectively prayed for our team in Spanish and then our team went to the front of the church with Timoteo, and he prayed for us in Bribri. After this Kaylee, a member of the IWU team, prayed for the church in English and Yon translated. Later, Jay, another IWU student, had the opportunity to close the service in prayer. I was pleased that we had this opportunity to meet with the church, and I think it was a good start to the week.
After church we went back to Timoteo’s house, and conducted the last group meeting before the official Bribri mission begins. We split the teams into teams, and these two teams will remain together for the remainder of their time on the reservation. Team one is with Yonathon as the translator, and they will spend tomorrow identifying potential summer projects near the town of Bribri, and Tuesday morning they head up to Alto Coen. Team two is with Sarah as translator, and they left this afternoon to go to Coroma. They will be planning all the logistics for next week’s team who will be working there. Both teams have until Thursday afternoon to complete their missions. The projects will conclude when we all come back together in Saretka.
I was able to accompany the Coroma team on their initial journey. We all hopped in the back of a pickup truck at Timoteo’s and started the trip to the port of Saretka. Our first stop was at a local grocery store, and the team purchased food to bring with us to Coroma. From there we arrived at the port of Saretka. Our truck drove onto the rocky beach, and we piled in Sebastian’s long narrow wooden boat and headed off into the jungle. As we left the mountains were before us and to all appearances we were going into the middle of nowhere. It was an exhilarating feeling.
The boat ride turned out to be a slow one. There is a motor on the boat but it is small and it was weighed down by ten people with packs and food. We were headed up current, and there were times that we were barely moving but nonetheless we made steady progress. On one occasion, we actually bottomed out because the river was so shallow, and we had to get out and walk a while before Sebastian once again took us on board. After perhaps forty-five minutes in the boat landed for good, and the first leg of the journey was complete.
When we landed, we met two Bribri men and a young boy standing next to a bunch of plantains, which they would eventually take down the river to sell. They helped us unload the boat, and we began the hike to Coroma. We hiked along and through the river for a while before we settled onto a nice path. As we were walking, I talked to one of the men who’s name was Anselmo. He told me that the boy was his grandson and that he had had five children but two of them had died. Interestingly, he told me that the Bribri in Coroma speak differently than the Bribri in Saretka. Soon, however, the conversation died because of the language barrier, and before long we arrived in Coroma.
We walked through the main area of the village, and then went to the school where we will potentially be working. It became clear that this is where the teams will stay, and we found that the community leaders were expecting us. We all gathered around some tables where a few men were waiting for us, and we were informed that the main spokesman was the President. At this point, I sat back and let the team conduct the meeting. Kyle their elected spokesperson began to introduce the group and their objectives and Sarah translated. As I sat back and filmed, I was struck by the extreme clash of cultures. In front of me was a young college student from Indiana speaking to the weathered leader of the village who has survived the Jungle his entire life. I think that this will be a rich experience for all involved, and my hope is that the team will be able to develop good relationships with the locals during their stay in Coroma.
Because I need to go into town tomorrow and change the last of the money and find an internet connection, I decided to return on the boat so I had to leave during the meeting. The ride back was beautiful. We were going down stream, so it was much faster and more treacherous, but Sebastian clearly is very skilled, and he navigated perfectly. The sun began to set as we floated down and the view of the mountains was incredible. By the end of our trip it was raining, but all was well, and we made it safely back to port.
Now, I had the challenge of catching the right bus when no one around spoke any English except one man who seemed a little bit crazy. However, I was able to get on the right bus and was lucky enough to have a driver named Owen who spoke English and had lived in the States for a while. It was well after dark when I returned to Timoteo’s house to find the Alto Coen team in good spirits and wrapping up dinner.
The Alto Coen team did well while I was gone. They were not able to look at projects today, but the successfully negotiated with Timoteo to stay at his house, and they had purchased food and dinner was waiting for me. The team is good spirits. It’s now about 10:15; I’m at Timoteo’s with the team, and they are all sleeping. Overall, I think that day one for the teams went very well.
**To learn more about what Experience Mission is doing, visit our website at www.experiencemission.org.