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Costa Rica - Environmental, Agriculture, and Community Development Tour - Kaitlyn Farkas

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Posted: November 3, 2011

The experiences that I have gone through, I will remember for the rest of my life. The learning experience and life experience was priceless.

This past spring break I had the lucky opportunity to travel abroad to Costa Rica with the College of Agriculture on the ERM and CED travel tour. The picture on the front was only one of the many exciting adventures that we endured on the trip. I personally have never been horseback riding before so I was a little apprehensive about going, but it turned out to be a very fun, enjoyable experience. We had many other group adventures such as hiking in the rainforest, zip lining through the jungle canopy, hiking up an active volcano, touring the waterfall gardens, and swimming in the ocean during a tsunami. The experiences that I have gone through, I will remember for the rest of my life. The learning experience and life experience was priceless. We learned so much about recycling, agricultural methods, and sustainable practices.

The first part of the trip, as well as the majority of the trip was spent at EARTH University. EARTH is located two hours east of the city of San Jose, on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica. It is an environmental and agricultural university for students all over south and Central America as well as some talented students from African countries. Most of the students there are very hard working as they are there on scholarship, and they really want to succeed with their own business when they graduate. Most of them are interested in sustainable agriculture projects. We went to two workshops, the first taught us how to be successful at peri-urban agriculture, and the second taught us how many things like soda cans, can be used to make wallets.
   
At EARTH we also were able to visit the banana plantation and processing center. That was really interesting to learn about especially since the bananas from EARTH are shipped here and sold in Whole Foods stores. I was really impressed how they transported the bananas from the plantation to the processing center. They put them on a sort of conveyer like system and they are transported by a man hanging from a motor that transports the bananas by just pulling them along on a string. We also learned that when they grow the bananas on the plantation that they make sure to keep the older plant around the “grandmother” for the “mother” the tree that bears the fruit for water and nutrients. Then the “daughter” grows right next to the “mother” and will turn into the fruit bearing plant in a year. Below is a photo of the bananas being transported through the jungle to the processing plant by the transporter.
 
While we were visiting EARTH they arranged for us to visit a nearby farm. This was a really cool experience because it was the Alexis family farm so they were very hospitable and vFarkasCR2ery excited to have us there. It was great to see all the different aspects that a small family farm could cover. He grew his own coffee, which we were able to purchase at the end of the day. He also grew his own fruits. There were some exotic fruits as well as three different types of bananas. On the farm were also many different types of animals who all had their specific purposes. They had cows for milk and for meat, and the extra cows that were not needed for that purpose could be sold for profit. The farm also had chickens for eggs, pigs for meat, goats for milk and meat, and some dogs for herding purposes. There was also a man made tilapia pond where the farmer took water from the creek to fill a hole he dug.  The farmer also chose to preserve some of his land in its natural habitat, and receives payment for preserving it. He basically has a jungle in his backyard complete with a waterfall, sloths, snakes, beautiful birds, and exotic plants species. Below is a photo of one of the baby goats they were raising on the farm. The goat was only three days old when we visited the farm and the umbilical cord was still attached.
 
The fourth day of the trip was the most exciting, and by far my favorite. We went to the Poas volcano which is an active volcano giving off a smoke of sulfur dioxide. The view from the top looking into the volcano was breath taking. There was a warning however not to stay up there too long because when sulfur dioxide is breathed in it turns to sulfuric acid in the lungs, burning a layer of tissue off. It was a really clear day when we visited the volcano so we got to see everything really clearly. Later that afternoon we went to the waterfall gardens which were beautiful. Not only were there waterfalls there though, there were also different jungle animals, birds, and insects there for us to get up close and personal with. A butterfly landed on one of the girls legs in the group, and another group member got to hold a toucan. It was a once in a lifetime experience for many of us.
 
That evening of the fourth day we were up in the canopy of the jungle on the zip line tour. It was so much fun going down the different eight zip lines that they had for us to explore. OnFarkasCR3 the last zip line there was a canyon below us with a beautiful river and small waterfall. It was a vision of beauty that can’t be seen anywhere else. I don’t know where I will ever be able to have that same experience again. Many people in the group were nervous and apprehensive at first, but everyone did it. I don’t think there is one person in the group who regrets the experience. It was a great experience for all of us, and I know I wish I could go back already and do it again.
 
Overall the trip to Costa Rica was amazing and it was an experience I will never forget. I got better at speaking Spanish when I was there and enjoyed the “Tico” culture. The food was delicious, but also very repetitive. There was rice and beans for every meal; breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. Of course they varied this mixture by adding eggs in the rice for breakfast, and chicken or beef for lunch or dinner. After my trip I was a tad sick of eating rice and beans, but it is part of the culture as well as their life style. It was great just to experience it, and to live through it. One of my favorite dishes was a tortilla with chicken and fresh cheese from the local farm located on EARTH’s property. I would definitely like to go back to Costa Rica again sometime, I cannot wait to share it with my friends and family.