Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Monteverde: The Reserve; Caroline Smith and Meaghan Collins

Interesting Facts:

Female Tarantula molts and eats her own skin. She does not eat her mate.
More tree species in the Cloud Forest than in the US and Canada combined
69 types of avocados can be found in the Cloud Forest
Male Quetzals are more beautiful than female Quetzals. They use their beautiful colors to attract the females.
There is a plant called HOT LIPS now nicknamed Angelina Jolie :-D

On Saturday we woke up early to go to the reserve in hopes of sighting the beautiful Quetzal bird during our nature walk. The group split up in two: half went with JC, and the other half went with Adrino.

The main objective was to explore the biodiversity and learn more about the nature that surrounds us. We ended up learning much more than we bargained for and gained a greater appreciation for the Tican culture as well. Costa Ricans have many superstitions. Both guides carried a handful of seeds in their pockets to ward away snakes. Also, at the beginning of each year to give good luck to their friends they present their friends with a purple flower.

One group had the unpleasant experience of tasting Heart of Palm. The vegetable causes extreme hunger after consumption. Those who ate it felt a hollowness in their stomach for the duration of the hike.

As we entered the Primary forest section of the reserve we approached a Hollow Fig Tree. The fig tree had grown on top of another tree and strangled the other tree species. The dead tree began to decompose and left the Fig tree hollow.

Artifacts and Updates: written by Dr. L-L

On the Thursday before spring break, I asked the students in my class to bring an artifact (or picture or description of one) to class, something concrete or abstract that has come to mean something special for them. The ”collection” was pretty amazing, so I wanted to share them with you.

All of them were symbols of “how do I live” artifacts—how people and themselves are living in Costa Rica. Most students discussed objects: a chorreador (a simple drip coffee maker, used by everyone here), a collection of rocks and crystals in a Tico home and a newspaper clip of the student’s Tico dad in younger days as a track champion, ceramic shapes collected by a student’s Tica mom and similar to a collection she and her mom collect in the States, a picture of a student’s Tico family, stone spheres of mysterious origins found all over the country and in a story the class read , the wall of a Tica sister’s bedroom which is covered by phrases and drawings by friends, and the gallo (rooster), which decorates another Tico home and is a prominent sight (and sound) in C.R.

One student brought a bracelet that she wears to remind her her of a particularly memorable time while traveling, while others opted to bring food: a prickly green guanabana fruit that makes particularly tasty milkshake-like drinks ; salsa picante, a spicy sauce that no Tico kitchen would be without; and a coffee bean, symbolic of the heritage of Costa Rica, one of the main export crops, and the drink of choice here.

Lastly, two students chose to look at linguistic artifacts, both of which have significant meaning to visitors and natives alike: pura vida (literally pure life), used in response to “How’re you doing?” or How’s everything going,” to indicate “thank you ,” “ I’m doing well,” or simply as a tag line to be polite. The other word we hear often is gringo/a, and in Costa Rica simply refers to anyone from the US, Canada, or Northern Europe and not in a negative way as in some other Hispanic countries. The origin of the word is not clear, but there are some colorful stories.

I especially enjoyed the responses to this assignment at the mid-term point of the semester because it shows how well the class is noticing and reflecting on important features of this new culture. As we enter the second half of the semester, we are studying many areas of sustainability, looking forward to our mandatory visa trip to Nicaragua, and presentations of their semester-long projects. They look very promising, too, so we’ll talk about these later on the blog. And I’m sure there will be some interesting stories of Spring Break adventures, so stay tuned!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Zip-Lines: Monteverde

The highlight for most of us on our trip to Monteverde was the highly anticipated zip-line course! Some of us knew what to expect and others truly thought they would chicken-out. Before we even got all geared up in the harnesses and helmets, we all crowded around the map of the course and gasped at the altitude and speeds we were about to reach. Jessica was not feeling too confident, but told herself that she would be fine for the 8 seconds in the air...that was before she read that the shortest line would take 40 seconds...and at 42 mph, 330 feet in the air!
Despite many hesitations, we all made it up the Sky Tram to the highest peak. The thrill of the height, speed, lack of control and of course the breathtaking views kept each of us moving through all 9 lines. By the third platform, we were all running up the stairs to our next perch to jump off. Most of us would say that the 2nd to last line was our favorite. It was the longest, one of the fastest, and it was also one of the opportunities to ride tandem with another person.
It was SUCH a fun experience, and we would all agree that we are happy that we got to have such a cool experience, and of course another perspective of the beautiful cloud forests of Monteverde!

Monday, March 16, 2009

El Mercado Central: Charley Costa

Today we took a class field trip to El Mercado Central in downtown San Jose. It was an absolutely incredible experience that redefined shopping in my mind. In order to get to El Mercado one has to walk through the shopping part of San Jose. This shopping part is nothing but a wide street that goes for probably close to ten blocks where cars are not allowed to drive. There are stores of all different kinds on each side of the street with people out front begging for you to enter their shop. El Mercado Central is located on the right hand side of the street about five blocks from the beginning of the pedestrian shopping area. It was laid out similar to an indoor flea market, with stores selling a wide variety of products from shirts to hammocks to shot glasses and even raw meat. I have never seen so much raw meat in such a small place before in my life. There were also just some simple little stands selling fruits and vegetables as well as a couple of food stands. The best part about the mall in my opinion is that no price is set in stone. It is possible to haggle and negotiate the price of anything, normally with a good amount of success as well. I know on my two purchases I negotiated for close to a dollar off each one. It may not seem like much but a dollar off a ten dollar purchase is a ten-percent discount. It is so different from the stores in the United States where as shoppers we are price takers. There is nothing we can do to change the price of our purchase. Here the consumer is the price makers. It is an interesting for the consumer to actually dictate the sale instead of the vendor.
While El Mercado is not something to plan a trip a trip to Costa Rica around, it is something worth visiting in the San Jose area. It is a fun way to kill and afternoon and you never know what kind of discounts you may find.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Parque de Diversiones: Posted by Jay and Jessie

This past weekend we went to Costa Rica's very own theme park. It was a day full of fun rides and Costa Rican culture. The park was filled with Tica families and young children. We spent the weekend eating a lot of ice cream and acting like kids. The weather was perfect and we enjoyed ourselves.

As disappointed as we were to be missing out on the hiking, rain and bugs, we had a GREAT time nonetheless.~ Jessie y Jay :)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

InBio Biodiverstiy Park

The students enjoyed an outing to a local biodiversity park a few days ago, and I wanted to post some pictures of our experience. The park is just outside of San Jose and is designed to educate visitors about the four main climate areas in Costa Rica and the fauna and flora in each. All of the national parks and reserves are showcased, and many animals (sloths, birds, caimans, iguanas, turtles, and deer) roam the grounds, while others are behind glass--snakes and tarantulas. A petting zoo was popular with some of our group as was the maze. One of the most interesting exhibits is the Sustainable House, which uses solar and wind power to run nearly everything in the house. All in all, this was a good introduction to the many ways Costa Rica is working hard to maintain and protect its biodiversity.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Journal Post from GST class

This journal excerpt is posted with permission of the the author, Charley Costa.

"I think it is safe to say that every student here recognizes that being in Costa Rica is an experience in itself. At the same time it is very easy to not take full advantage of the experience we have been given. We are in a country where so much is different from our country. There is so much to learn, see and do that it could keep us busy for the entire four month span. We all know this, yet how many of us are truly acting like this is a once in a lifetime experience? Many of us, myself included, spend an unbelievable amount of time on our computers. Skype, Email, Facebook and for that matter the internet in general make it so easy to stay in touch with our world at home that we don't cut the strings that are holding us back from discovering a whole new world (and yes, I realize that this is a cheesy song from Aladdin, but I feel it applies here). Life is truly what you make it, and we have been given a chance to make our lives much more interesting while broadening our horizons. We have been given this great opportunity and there is no question that in order to make it the best experience possible we need to go out and make this experience all it can be. There will always be things in life that will happen to us. Some of these things we can control while others are out of our control. What we do in these situations allows us to gain experience and become wiser and different people for the future."

Monday, March 2, 2009

El Museo De Los Ninos

The Children's Museum was a great trip! All the exhibits were extremely interactive. Our favorite exhibit was probably the earthquake simulation. We got to stand on a platform and experience what it would feel like to be in the middle of a level 3/4 earthquake. Also in the exhibit room with the earthquake simulation were different areas where we were all able to be archeologists and dig for treasures.
All the plaques describing the exhibits were in Spanish. Reading the plaques helped all of us increase our vocabulary greatly! There was an exhibit on the history of Costa Rica where we learned a lot about the indigenous people, the games they played, and the development of Costa Rican culture.
The Children's Museum is definitely a must see while you are in San Jose!