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Costa Rica Study Tour Travelogue - Chelsea Fitzpatrick

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Posted: November 3, 2011

I cannot believe ... all of the amazing things I had an opportunity to see.

3/5/2011- Today we arrived at EARTH University after a VERY long day of traveling. I managed to catch some sleep on the plane and woke up to the most beautiful views outside of the window. After landing we took a bus from the airport to EARTH and were so lucky to have a great tour guide. Driving through the cities I am impressed by all of the green space and parks there are; I am also surprised by the number of people! Our guide said that it is the goal of the local government here is to improve the parks in the city and bring more art to them. They believe that by adding more culture (and extra policeman) to the parks they will become more and more a place for people to congregate and kids to play. Unlike the gratified pavilion we witnessed today.

EARTH University is a beautiful campus with only 400 students (which is the size of my physics lecture). We had the chance to eat dinner in the cafeteria and take a casual driving tour of the large campus.  Can’t wait to see what is next!!
 
3/6/2011- Today we had the pleasure of touring one of the student run businesses here at EARTH University. During our tour we studied peri-urban agriculture practices developed by the small student-run company, Karibu.  The site they had consisted of small-scale demonstrations of different methods of gardening. These methods are designed for people in the urban areas of Costa Rica to be able to grow their own food. First, we looked at some raised hydroponic growing beds. The structure for the bed was constructed out of wood and lined with black plastic. Underneath the plastic liner they placed any type of absorbent fabric to wick up the water that has traveled through the plant bed. This not only stores the water until the plants need it, but also prevents excess water from spilling on to your ground/porch/floor. The lined beds were then filled in with organic, non-soil materials such as charcoal, rice husks, coconut husks and space-fillers such as soda cans and water bottles. Each bed had a small network of drip irrigation spickets that supplied the plants with a nutrient-rich water solution. This seems like such a neat idea for the area, but might be improbable for a place with a climate like Pennsylvania’s unless the gardener is willing to dedicate time to set up and break down every summer season.

FitzpatrickCR2.png3/7/2011- Wow. Today was an interesting (and HOT!) day!! We visited a man named Don Alexis and his farm. Don Alexis’s farm was multipurpose:  cattle for beef, tilapia, chickens, lamb, grew cacao, coffee and other crops. I couldn’t believe that him and his son took care of all of this land! The best part, in my mind, was the BEAUTIFUL rainforest preserve that he had on his property. It was really refreshing to listen to him talk about how important it is to protect this incredible ecosystem.

3/8/2011- VOLCANO! Today we visited a volcano!! Despite the horrible smell, it was one of the most impressive things I have seen in my entire life. I’m not sure if the view I remember… overlooking an enormous crater type space, with thousands of layers of different color sediment and rocks covered in a sulfur haze spewing from a green pool in the middle of it all…. will ever leave my mind.

The Volcano Poas is an active volcano! According to Wikipedia it had erupted 39 times since 1828. The layers you can see in the rock formation are because this volcano is what is called a composite volcano where the volcano is built on layers and layers of hardened lava, pumice and volcanic ash. The lake in the middle of the volcano is one of the most acidic lakes in the world and can come close to a pH of 0!!

3/9/2011- Today we finally had the chance to go horseback riding. I used to ride when I was a kid, so this was a great experience for me. We started off at the barn and took a riding tour of some of the agriculture and livestock fields here at EARTH. I must admit I was a bit intimidated with the buffalo walking right up to our group.

FitzpatrickCR3.pngI had a great time. The students who took us on the riding tour pointed out hundreds of plant species they had on campus. I wish I could remember even half of them. My favorite was the eucalyptus tree with multicolored bark.

We also had the chance to make trash to treasure today. One of my favorite things to do even at home. A group of students taught us how to make wallets out of a soda can and juice or milk carton. The process was really easy and definitley something I will take home with me and teach my friends. I need to be honest, I am not an arts and crafts person, so I need to give credit to my friend Katie for the beautiful wallet shown below. 

3/10/2011- Today we visited CATIE Botanical Gardens. CATIE is the keeper of over 4,000 genetic samples of over 250 plant species across the globe. The gardens are a whopping 45 hectares and are open to visitors. What a great opportunity to stand next to species I have never seen before or even heard of. This tour definitely opened my eyes to our growing issue of extinction. All of the species at CATIE are kept to preserve genetic material for research and to make people more aware of the importance of protecting natural resources.

We were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to taste some of the fruit produced at the botanical gardens. The picture below are of Brazillian Cherries, or Eugenia uniflora. This was probably one of my favorite of the new fruits I sampled. They are sour, but yummy!

3/11/2011- Travel Day

3/12/2011- Beach day! The sand on the coast of Puntarenas is black from volcanic ash. This makes for a neat picture, but VERY hot on your feet! Today I have been practicing my salsa dance moves. I definitely could use more practice, but I have come a long way from where I started.

3/13/2011- Back in the cold United States. It is bittersweet to be home. I cannot believe how fast this past week has gone by and all of the amazing things I had an opportunity to see. I am so grateful that we had such great chaperones and tour guides to facilitate our experiences. I would really like to thank the people who made this happen for me: Tarrah Geszvain, Rob Shannon, Megan Wilhelm and the Davis Family.