Home at the Homestay

Hello and Welcome,

This post will be about my amazing time at Merilu’s house. So part of this course in sustainable agriculture is living with host family and learn by doing because when in Costa Rica…you know the rest!

So i’m not going to lie on this post (not that I lie on them any other time) but I was super nervous about coming to the homestay because they did not have wifi and yes I know it sounds sad but hey i’m young and stupid but get this the homestay was soooo fun that I actually forgot the whole ‘wifi situation’ and fully realized that it is good to be apart for the technological world(sometimes). Anyway that is besides the point, the Rojas family consist of Merilu, her husband Issiah, and their two kids Merilyn and Issac also accompanied by their cousin, Oscar!

The first day of work, we went to the farm and we got to milk some goats and cows, which is my area of interest! As an animal science major it was great to take what I learned at Mizzou and apply it to real life so that was really cool for me to do. Everyone got to learn how to milk and i’m glad because it’s something that changed my perspective on livestock and it actually is fun to do. Also I have never milked a goat so it was something new for me to experience as well!

After that we went to the pineapple plantation and helped Issiah weed because weeds are harmful to the development of the pineapples. The task seems easy that is until you are doing it and it looks like it will never end! It takes a whole lot of work to do that because my back and knees were aching which once again makes me appreciate where my food is coming from because once you are on the other end of the spectrum the view of a simple pineapple changes. Unfortunately, I do not have many pictures of my experience because I did not bring my phone to work but it was fun and exhausting all at the same time! Also, after weeding we helped harvest the pineapples and that was really cool too because we all worked together so smoothly that we were done quicker than I thought we were going to be!

After doing work all morning, we had some of Merilu’s wonderful cooking and chilled out before preparing a little family excursion to el rio (the river). The trip to the river was so really fun because I rode in the trailer and well you had to be there but it was so bumpy and had me cracking up the whole time (shout out to Savannah!).

Anyway, the river was so nice and refreshing  and honestly what I needed after a long day of work but the real nice part about the river that I appreciate was the fact that it felt like I was actually part of this family and it was quite heartwarming because prior to leaving for Costa Rica, I only had a day in between leaving Mizzou and boarding the plane that I did not have a lot of family time before departing so it felt good to have that home away from home since I couldn’t be with my real family!

The day ended with another exquisite meal by Merilu and bailando(dancing)! Everyone in the Rojas family can dance super good! Overall, I had a great day!

Thank you for reading!

On the Road to Monteverde pt.2

Hello and Welcome,

This post is “On the Road to Monteverde part dos” and by far the most thrilling and exciting post I will write about( at least for this course anyway). So because of some rescheduling with some of the events occurring we did the fun part first which was zip-lining with a surprise at the end! So at the facility we geared up in our helmets, gloves, and harness and did a practice line to get acclimated with how to properly zip-line. At first I thought it was going to be scary but it was so relaxing and soothing to be on that all my fear melted away.

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We took at tram all the way to the top of the hill and  prepared for our first line. But first we took a picture! The steps to get up to the start point was about 5 flights and by that time I was getting a little nervous because this was not the practice line anymore. I started freaking myself out with un-necessary thoughts but needless to say once I got on the line and started rolling, I had a freaking blast it was so amazing! Once again it was not scary but just zipping down and seeing all the treetops and mountains in the distance was quite breathtaking!

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Photo taken by Sophie

We did 5 more lines after the first one, each one was higher and longer than the one previous to it which was once again so amazing because I have never done anything like this in my life and so I can proudly go home and say I have truly done something hardcore. So coming from the last line the instructors said they had a surprise waiting for us and that once again made me nervous because well sometimes the unknown can be scary but if you can guess what the surprise was then you guessed better than me because the surprise was to bungee jump off the bridge..it was kind of the only way down unless you wanted to rappel down but that’s not hardcore so you already know what I did…yes, I jumped!

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It was super scary because we had to jump backwards and if you read my earlier sentence then you know that sometimes the unknown can be scary! The jump even though it wasn’t that far, it felt like eternity free falling before the rope caught but I had a blast and I’m so glad I did it because I have been wanting to do both these activities for a long time!

After the adrenaline rush from the two previous activities, we took off our gear and had ourselves a canopy tour of the forest. We saw so many cool things in that forest because folks, rainforests are never boring. Our guide was really good and pointed out like four different quetzal birds which are very precious to Costa Rica as a whole! The only part of the tour that I did not like whatsoever were the suspension bridges and we had to cross FOUR of them, each one was longer, higher, and wobblier than the one before it. It was really getting to me but I cleared all four stages and beat my high score of  doing things that are completely insane. But enough about me, the forest was awesome and after completing the tour we settled for lunch at the facility and it was so good, I had a paninni with caramelized onions, plantains, and bacon.

Leaving the facilty, we went back to the lodge and had an official cloud forest tour and it lasted for a good 2 hours and 30 minutes to be exact. Now that I am writing about it I realized I should have stretched before doing this because it was real hike as it was through mountain but it was so worth it once we got to the top cause the view was so cool. It was so cool because we couldn’t see anything because it was covered in a huge cloud. The tour was exciting, we saw another, yes another Quetzal and some spider/howler monkeys up closer than usual! The only thing I could not deal with were the horse flies, like they were ruthless  because they bite and well you bleed. I was not a fan because for some reason they were really attracted to my legs and were such a nuisance that I really could not enjoy the tour as much as I wanted too but all in all it was all still pretty cool!

The night ended back at Tra’Monti’s for dinner which was pasta. And once again the food was delightful but it was also kinda sad as we made a toast to not only the end of the course but to Dr. Skole and Stephanie our TA as they were leaving now that the course is over!

Thanks for Reading!

New Beginnings

So as of today, my classmates and I start a new course on sustainable agriculture. Our day started at 7am as we ate breakfast and prepared to meet our new professor who is none other than one of Earth’s many graduates Freddy Quiros from the class of 1995, as well as our new teacher’s assistant, Ricardo!20170529_143341_HDR

In the time we had our lecture, we picked groups for our future presentations on a crop of Freddy’s choosing which consisted of bananas, conventional pineapples, organic pineapples, and black pepper. My group made of Kori, Elizabeth and I chose black pepper, which should be interesting to learn about because I know absolutely nothing about black pepper so I’m very excited to go to this farm and check it out. We also chose an activity that we complete while at Earth which would consist of us really getting some hands on experience in the field. I chose to work at the dairy farm, I chose this because as an animal science major at Mizzou and being in dairy club/challenge, I work closely with cows and I would like to further my education and experience with this opportunity!

After class, we got on the bus and headed to a pineapple plantation and tons and tons of pineapples growing, it was almost insane thinking about the amount of work that goes into this because as we drove by we saw a covering over all the pineapples to protect them from the sun but somebody had to do it, right? Our professor, Freddy cut open a few pineapples to show us how one should look and he even gave us a few tastings which were soooo good. As we were there we saw the workers harvesting the pineapples! Fun fact: did you know it takes about 9 months to grow the flower and about 5 months for the flower to bear fruit, I surely didn’t!

After leaving the field, we headed to the pineapple packing plant and saw the craziness that goes on there! First we had to put on hair nets and that is always a struggle for me cause my hair is just so darn big, but happy ending, we got it on! Anyway, we saw how they clean the pineapples and test them to make sure……(we also got to eat more pineapples)… The packing plant was just so busy but it was cool to see the synergy that was created by the workers as they were all working together in what I thought looked confusing.

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On the Road to Monteverde

So only after a day of coming back from La Selva, I was already packing my bags again to head to out next excursion of this course which was Monteverde. Monteverde was a good 7 hour bus ride, partly due to the construction going on that caused us to sit there for like an hour but hey, I dont mind long road trips. Just getting up the mountain was a little over an hour and thirty minutes but the scenery was exquisite.

On a different tone, I was really sad going to Monteverde because one of the best friends I made here, went home as she was only staying for two weeks and not four. But she was so awesome and I as well as my other friends still miss her. Have fun Beth and hope you can come to Mizzou sometime!!!

When we arrived there, we stopped to eat at a restaurant named Amy’s and the food was really good, I had pizza with bacon(just as a side note)! The town is not huge but I was surprised to see how busy and touristy the town was. Also, because the town was up in the mountains, in the cloud it was a lot colder as compared to the rest of the places I have been in  Costa Rica. After eating at Amy’s, we headed to our lodging, which was at the….. I really liked it there because they had bunked beds and minimal bugs which was alright for me! Dr. Skole then allowed us to explore the forest on our own and we hiked our way all the way to a waterfall, a very beautiful one at that!

And then after our hike to the waterfall, we then loaded up into the bus and went into the town and got time to explore. The town like I mentioned before is not huge but it was still pretty exciting. They had a cool little gift shop that we all went to and I personally walked out with cocoa because why not! In our search for tacos, my friends ended up at the TreeHouse Cafe and ordered some drinks, I had a mango smoothie and it was the bomb-diggity, so for a while we chilled out and talked with one another and plus it was raining.

For dinner, we headed to a restaurant called Tramonti’s  and it was an Italian themed place with some awesome water pouring waiters. We had pizza, salad and bread and it was super good. Everyone had a good day but honestly all of were super exhausted and most of us fell asleep as soon as we got back to our rooms.

The Visit to La Selva

A couple of days ago, my day started at 7am (such a wonderful start to a blog). After breakfast, We headed to Fundecor. Upon arrival, we listen to Gabriel, our Fundecor representative and he explained to us the history and mission of Fundecor in Costa Rica, which goes something like this “FUNDECOR is a pioneer of sustainable development and responsible management of natural resources in Costa Rica and, with its innovative and committed quest vocation, it seeks to maintain Costa Rica´s leading role in environmental issues at an international level”( taken directly from their website). After that we left to go to the forest where we trekked through a forest to see how a managed forest operates. It was really cool cause I got to see how a skidder trail works, which are used for selective logging operations. As cool as this forest was to see it was a little tough for me to get through cause I just kept tripping, slipping, and sliding.

When the exploration of this forest was done, we all took a trip to a restaurant for lunch and let me just tell you ever since coming to Costa Rica I have not had a bad meal yet! The food was excellent but when it was over, we headed to a vanilla plantation that I thought was pretty sweet! The couple that lived there lived a hill in which you could see the best view of all the mountains and it was quite breath-taking if I do say so myself.  Rosalie, the wife, pollinates all the vanilla by hand, which is super impressive since it’s such a delicate and time-consuming practice, as well as a commodity. My time there got even better as the husband, Mike was selling fresh vanilla and vanilla extract that I was able to buy for like $6, which is like a steal in my book by the way.

After leaving the vanilla plantation and parting ways with Gabriel, we headed to La Selva, a biological research center. While there, we had lunch, dinner and participated in a night tour of the rain forest. The tour lasted for like 2 hours but it was quite cool as this was my first time walking in a rain forest…at night. I honestly thought it was going to be creepy but I saw so many cool things like bats, a sloth, frogs, lizards and toads that the creepiness faded. Our tour guide was really good because he was able to spot the smallest things in the trees and leaves that had me asking myself “How in the world did he see that’, I was quite impressed because if I was alone I would have missed half the things that was right in front of my own eyes.

In the morning after breakfast, a few of my friends and went on a guided tour that was about two hours to see more of the forest during the daytime. The forest was just as cool as it was in the nighttime and our guide was hilarious but he showed us cool things like a wild turkey, wild hogs, white bats, and iguanas. We had a lot of fun and learned lot however the one thing I hated was the fact that we had to cross a suspended bridge and fun fact about me is that I really do not like suspended bridges, they freak me out with the way they sway and shake when you walk on them. But other than my mini- freak out session over the bridge, I really enjoyed my time at La Selva.

Thank you for reading!

Trip to Tortuguero

On Friday, My friends and I traveled to Tortuguero if that wasn’t obvious enough by the title! We woke up very early and left by 7:00am on one of the EARTH buses from there we traveled a little bit into a nearby town called Guapiles, where we stopped for breakfast at La Selva Tropical. When we got there the staff was still setting things up so all of us got the opportunity to walk through their butterfly garden. It was so awesome to see ’cause I’ve never seen that many butterflies, especially not in a concentrated area like this. They even had the butterflies that were still in their cocoon on display as well. In case you were wondering, there were these pretty blue butterflies and those were my favorite! The food was once again outstanding here in Costa Rica, at La Selva Tropical, we had……

The ride to Tortuguero took about an hour and a half give or take and one of the cool things about this ride is that it went from urban to rural on a dramatic scale. In the more urban areas there were pineapple,cassava, and banana plantations, where in the rural side I saw a lot of cattle operations, which spiked my interest because as an animal science major have learned a lot about since coming to Mizzou.

So fun fact, the only way to Tortuguero, unless you freefall into it, is to get there by boat so arriving at the port, we were able to visit the gift shop and chill until we were all set to go. The boat we took was set to go to the Laguna Lodge and it took about an hour or so to get there and not going to lie I thought the ride was going to be a bit boring but it was anything but boring. First of all, the captain at some parts was going fast, which was great because the breeze felt amazing  but we saw an alligator, iguana, a spider monkey and many different birds.

 

After arriving and settling at the Laguna Lodge, we took a boat into the town of Tortuguero to tour and explore. The town is not that big but all the people were really nice and all the shops were unique. A lot of the shops that were there were items the shop owners produced themselves, like necklaces, bracelets, candles, and little knick -knacks. I personally bought a smoothie from this store and it was absolutely one of the best smoothies I have ever tasted. The town also has a big recycling facility where the town makes most of their money which they used to innovate the town like adding paved roads and building the elementary school.

Ending the night, there was a huge thunderstorm that lasted for hours, and personally I thought it was cool and it put me to sleep but it was kind of freaky seeing the lightning so close from my window and hearing the crash from the thunder so clearly.

Saturday morning started at 5:45am, with a boat tour through the park. While on this tour which lasted about 2 hours, we saw even more animals like iguanas, Howler monkeys, Spider monkeys, a Capuchin monkey, tiger herons, and turtles. The boat ride was so soothing to be on honestly it was just about putting me to sleep (I didn’t sleep though, just saying). After the tour was over, we came back to a big breakfast that was so good I really wanted to take a nap after that (I did not sleep though, just saying). For the rest of the day, my friends and I  spent our time doing school work assigned by our awesome and hilarious professor, Dr. Skole.

Rain Forest Adventure

Hello and Welcome,

Just a little note before you start reading this, this post will be kind of short because it was based on a one day event that I just had to share. With that being said please enjoy my recap on my awesome rain forest adventure!

Yesterday, I, for the first time, entered and explored a rain forest! I must say it is as beautiful and complex as everyone says. The day started like any other with a delicious and nutritious breakfast. Which on a side note would like to just say the cafeteria staff here is freaking awesome!!

Any who, we took an Earth bus up the rain forest reserve that Earth has on their campus. the drive is about 10 minutes or so and you have to go through the banana plantation to get there. The banana plantation was really cool to look at because 1) I have never seen one before and 2) these banana’s are shipped to Whole Foods, which is a store I visit so it was really cool learning about where my food comes from.

The purpose for the first day at the reserve was to explore and get introduced to a proper primary/secondary rain forest. One of the first things I noticed when getting there was the big ol’ spiders that called this place home. I really do not like spiders but that is besides the point, the real point is that I have not seen spiders that big or diverse before and that was actually a cool but creepy thing to see.

20170517_084015We started our trek through the rain forest on a cement path that led us up into a whole entire different world unbeknownst to me that made me work hard! Even though it was 9 am it was still a bit humid and very hot, so walking up through a forest had us all sweating bad but along the way we saw so many different things that at the end of it was kinda worth breaking a sweat.20170517_093201 (1)

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Photo taken by Jenny of well, Jenny and I!!

The other participants have a really good eye because they were able to spot a snake, a blue jean frog, weird looking mushrooms and leaf cutter ants, and that is just awesome because it’s so cool seeing it by the naked eye  as pictures sometimes don’t do it justice. Also, along this journey we saw so many plants and trees and I know that doesn’t sound like the  most exciting thing but honestly seeing how old, complex and just plain tall some of these trees are it gets rather interesting, trust me.

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Photo taken by Meryn

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Photo taken by Meryn
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Photo taken by Meryn

The second part of class we spent an hour or so at the banana plantation! Like I mentioned above, I have never seen one before, so seeing it even more up close had like ‘woah dude, that’s gnarly’, well not exactly but you get my drift…anyway, the banana’s are kept in these blue plastic bags which is for the purpose of adding an extra barrier of protection and to keep them looking pretty for consumers.49687258567708181-account_id=1.jpg20170517_135015.jpg

After observing just how much work is put into this it not only made me appreciate my food more but it takes a lot to do this so mad respect for those that break their backs daily for this, not sure I could do it. Fun fact: Did you know that banana’s are actually herbs, woah !

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They even grow a little bit of cocoa on the banana plantation

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Photo taken by Jenny
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Photo taken by Jenny

The conclusion of the second portion of our class actually ended with a little rain storm that lasted several and I mean several hours!

Thank you for reading!