Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Saludos desde Ecuador y Costa Rica! So, here we are...MSPP's 2008 Summer Immersion program in Ecuador and Costa Rica has started off to a great start. In just its second year, the Lucero Latino Mental Health Program's summer immersion group has grown exponentially from 6 students who pioneered this venture last year to a total of 15 students--6 who are currently in their 2nd week in Guayaquil and a group of 9 students who have just arrived in Costa Rica. After leaving the Guayaquil gang who was off to celebrate Juan's birthday with a trip to the beach, I arrived at El Rancho Espanol (located in the rural town of La Guacima) after it had just been invaded by 9 venturous MSPP women: Aliza, Avi, Darleen, Jaimie, Laura, Sasha, Shelly, Vicky and Yanina. The group has also adopted Ariel, a psychiatry resident from Cambridge Hospital, who struggles to balance the gender disparity bringing a faint male energy into the group. In just 3 days the gang is already discussing complex Spanish verb tenses, eating delicious "Tico" meals, and seized the local bar to celebrate their arrival--in full Latin style dancing salsa and merengue!

Our three native speakers, Darleen, Vicky and Yanina are getting busy with the volunteer mental health program--the trio had a warm welcoming reception today at "Hogar Siembra" a teenage girls' shelter, where they savored delicious crepes prepared by the residents. It's great to see such a rich Latino inter-cultural exchange where our students bring not just their professional expertise, but also their cultural influences from Puerto Rico, Argentina, and Peru to the heart of Costa Rica. Yesterday we visited another shelter for teenage mothers, where the students will be running groups, giving psycho-educational talks, and assisting in the administration of psychological tests. Tomorrow we'll visit a center for terminally ill patients, as well as a local primary care clinic, and Friday we'll go on a tour of the largest national psychiatric hospital.

But, above all, our students in Costa Rica are benefiting from the highest quality Spanish instruction that El Rancho Espanol offers. One more year, Veronica, Clara and Manuel, as well as the rest of El Rancho's staff and instructors have welcomed us warmly as we continue to solidify this collaboration. And we're clearly "spreading the word" since several students from other institutions have now come to El Rancho following our recommendation, and other school's like Pepperdine University are looking into the possibility of starting their own summer immersion program in Costa Rica for psychology students.

Saludos a nuestros estudiantes que estan en Guayaquil, esperamos que ya se esten acostumbrando a sus mandiles de psicologos y como dicen los salseros...

Que siga La Fiesta!!!

Amaro Laria

MSPP's Latino Mental Health Program

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