Alex Soengkono, AVC 2019, traveled to Nain and Sheshatshiu in 2018 as one of the student participants on the Chinook Project. As part of the experience, the students craft various pieces of reflective writing.
The photo I chose to reflect on is of the fire pit at the sweat lodge in Sheshatshiu. This photo is personally meaningful because it reminds me of a time I overcame my fears. The sweat lodge was an experience I eagerly anticipated as I love learning and experiencing new cultures and I felt honoured to have the opportunity to partake in such a culturally significant event. As we traveled to the sweat, after two long weeks of intense veterinary training, I relished in the opportunity to step out of the clinic, relax and learn something new. Instead, however, I found the first round of the sweat to be incredibly difficult for me to endure. My long-anticipated excitement turned to sheer panic as the heat was indescribable. I found myself doing anything I could to find my breath, slow my racing heart and combat my immense sense of claustrophobia. After the first round, it seemed inconceivable that I could survive another yet I didn’t want to leave the lodge forever remembering the fear I had experienced. To my surprise, each session got easier and by the final round I found myself sitting peacefully in a state of mindfulness and clarity. I took the time to reflect on my loved ones and the feeling of immense gratitude towards the elders for sharing such an important part of their culture with us. One of the greatest lessons I learned on the Chinook Project is the ability to overcome seemingly impossible tasks and to trust that everything will be okay. The sweat lodge was yet another extension of this and these lessons I will carry with me throughout my fourth year and beyond.