A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to join a tour alongside the western coast of Trinidad and Tobago. We climbed aboard a bus and chugged into the heart of Chaguanas, stopping at two famous Hindu sites: An ashram dedicated to Lord Hanuman and The Temple in the Sea. The walls, floors, ceilings, and each doorway trailed colors, intricate patterns rising into the sky. Hindu gods of every shape, size, and color from the Ramayana sat peacefully in the center of the temple, greeting visitors. Yet, even having been in Trinidad and Tobago for several months, I feel I have not even begun to understand the depth of the people here. Hinduism runs deeply within a large portion of Trinidad and Tobago’s population, but it is a religion about which I know very little.
I have also been exposed to the practices of the Spiritual Baptists. In particular, I watched a ritual of purification as a group of Spiritual Baptists bathed in milk and the waters of Maracas Waterfall. I have watched a group of men in traditional Rastafarian gear gather to enjoy each other’s thoughts on a sunny afternoon at the botanical gardens. I have seen trinkets celebrating the voodoo rituals (less common, but certainly established) in Tobago.
Despite my fascination will all these practices, I have not had enough time to fully learn about each of the groups that bring their own flavor to Trinidad and Tobago’s rich cultural stew. Still, I know that seeing these new rituals has opened my eyes to the fact that the world holds so much that I do not yet know. Knowledge is my greatest academic, professional, and personal goal now. I have a passion to learn about all these practices, and perhaps be able to value and utilize them in better understanding the patients with whom I will work in the field of medicine.
I feel that I will not grasp the full impact of my study abroad experience on my understanding of the world until I return to the United States and absorb the changes. Embracing the different cognitions and practices around the world is undoubtedly a great help in any career, and will help to build stronger relations between myself and others I meet. I am now, more than ever, eager to learn!