Finishing Up in Costa Rica

Posted on August 18,2011 by latinomentalhealth

It is unbelievable that we have reached our fifth week in Costa Rica and our time is quickly coming to an end. Time has truly flown down here! The time spent at the group home for adolescent mothers, the community “charlas,” and the consultation visits with patients from the community have been an incredible learning experience.

Having been born in Argentina myself, I figured that the language aspect of the work was going to be a piece of cake. Boy was I wrong! I came to find out (usually during sessions with patients) that certain words in Argentina mean completely different things in Costa Rica. For example, many patients kept on bringing up buying things at “la pulpería.” I thought this was a place where they sold “pulpos” (octopus). I was very surprised to see that many people were going around buying octopus! While having lunch with my host mom, I finally asked her about this amazing octopus consumption by Ticos, and she started laughing. For some reason, Ticos call convenience stores “pulperías” and in fact there is no octopus being sold in these locations.

Besides what I have learned about the language differences, I have also learned a lot about the culture and lifestyle in Costa Rica. After working with this community, I have gained a true appreciation for our social service system in The United States (even with all their flaws). It has been a growing experience to work with limited resources. While this aspect proved to be very challenging, it also allowed me to appreciate the resiliency within each person. I am incredibly inspired by each one of the people I have met and worked with.

Overall, this experience has been life changing in so many ways. It is clear that the community of La Guacima is truly grateful for the work that MSPP has provided throughout the years. By coming to small towns like La Guacima, MSPP is truly living its motto of “meeting the need.” Receiving mental health care in these areas is incredibly difficult. Most people who need services wait an average of six months before receiving it. It is clear that the need for psychologists in this area is enormous. It has been humbling to have the opportunity to help out even in small ways.

My host family has allowed me to learn aspects of the culture that I would have never had the chance to learn had I lived elsewhere. During my time in Costa Rica, my host family has suffered the loss of two family members. I was able to watch the family come together during their grieving process. In times like these, one expects the family to want privacy and I did not want to intrude. However, throughout the entire process, my host family treated me like a member of their family and went out of their way to help me feel included. After experiencing these difficult times, I have become closer with my host family even more than I had ever expected. During this last week, both my host mother and I are clearly having a difficult time “letting go.” We have decided to stay in touch after I leave. We are also planning a possible visit with my husband sometime in the future.

Overall, this trip has helped me grow not only as a clinician, but also as a person.

Laura Morrison