Monday, April 14, 2008


The whole grade school went camping this week, to a finca in the mountains, attending part of a workshop on traditional building. The local indigenous people here are the Bribris and their shaman came to begin the ceremony for the construction of the casa cosmico, a traditional scared space. The shaman and his apprentice are quiet men with an energy like trees standing beside a clearcut. All around them was western hustle and bustle: the people who live on the finca and those attending the workshop are foreigners: Italian, Argentinean, German, Spanish, Canadian. The finca workers are Bribri. The Bribri worked while we went fluttering from one activity to another. It feels awkward to me this life I lead when I see it from this perspective. We have workshops to preserve indigenous culture only because we have destroyed it with our presence. They are a beautiful people, small and compact, strong and serious. They work hard and steadily and with respect for what they do. I worked with them as much as I could, learning the thatching process and spending time with the women in the kitchen. I’m an outsider here no matter who I’m with, with the Bribri I’m so starkly different it isn’t even an issue and there was peace in our working together. They were surprised and amused by my wanting to work.
The shaman had 3 sanyasin women fluttering around him trying to attend to his every need. He had no needs and looked strange amidst these 3 taller thinner women in their flowing white clothes and sanyasin malas . The image disturbed me. Even on a spiritual level we westerners can’t leave it alone. Of course the missionaries did so much harm, but even now these hippy style spiritual seekers on their individual paths were laying their own beliefs on the shaman’s. Perhaps it’s not so important, we are all free in our own beliefs and faiths, and development and evolution will happen one way or another, perhaps this is my own issue, my love affair with a different, older, simpler way of life that causes me to squirm.
The ceremony was brief and simple: a fire, herbs cast into the fire, a quiet song welcoming the spirits of the fire, the place, the plants which would be used in the construction. He left after talking with the Bribri.