Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Last day of SIE!

No one knew what to expect. Even the professors did not know where we were going for our farewell dinner. All the girls wore dresses or nice tops and the boys wore their new famous Costa Rican shirts. We all got on the bus and did not know how long the ride will be. After over an hour in the bus, through bumpy roads and various traffic problems (one where we were stuck on the road because we were going against another big tourism bus trying to get through the same small road), we finally made it to the “surprise from Esteban”. Our farewell dinner was held at a restaurant in the mountains that oversees four different cities in Costa Rica. The view was absolutely amazing and everyone was going camera crazy.

Even though we’ve had the same type of Costa Rican food all week (a plate full of rice, chicken, beef, salad, and plantains), we still enjoyed the meal and loved our last Costa Rican meal. After our buffet dinner, we enjoyed a performance filled with various traditional dances.

Several of our fellow students even joined the dancers!

Here are some pictures of the performers and students dancing together:

After dancing, we all spent time taking pictures of the amazing view from the restaurant. Not long after that, it was time to say our formal good byes to Esteban, our beloved tour guide but most importantly, our great friend. Mike and Brian prepared a short speech for Esteban and Madan said, “they nailed it”. Their speech expressed our love for Esteban and afterwards, Esteban also said a few words and told us Costa Rica is our new home and we definitely need to go back to Costa Rica someday.

We got back to the hotel at around 11p.m. and everyone was busy packing and getting ready for bed. We had to be ready to leave the hotel at 5a.m. the next morning for an early flight from San Jose, CR to Miami, FL. Our flight was delayed unfortunately, but we all landed safely in Boston’s Logan Airport.

Even though most of us agree that Manuel Antonio was one of the best parts of the trip because of the beaches and zip lining, we still learned a lot during our visits in Panama City and San Jose, Costa Rica. We had great experiences and learned many valuable lessons through our visits from the Panama American Chamber of Commerce, the Panama Canal, the Doka Coffee Estate, the Free Trade Zone, the Dell Corporation and many others.

-Margaret Wong & Maria Tsekeris '14

Monday, January 16, 2012

Hola coffee lovers!
Today we went to Doka Estate Coffee Plantation. Our friend Juan Jose gave us a wonderful tour of the area. The plantation has been around since 1929 and is about 1400 acres. Doka estate is the biggest private coffee plantation in Costa Rica. They only produce high quality coffee, unfortunately though, it is not completely organic. Doka only exports their coffee beans, their main customers are the United States, Asia, Europe, and Costa Rica. 70% of their exports go to the USA and 60% of that is bought from Starbucks.
The first stage of growing the coffee beans is the nursery. Here they are planted and begin to germinate. Once they are four months old, they are put into plastic bags and planted. Since the region of Costa Rica is very small they will plant two together to save space.
Once the plant is grown, the "pickers" pick the red cherries (red coffee bean) from the plant which can contain up to three beans. The pickers use a kahweila, which is a basket to hold the beans along with back support. These workers make about $2 per basket and he picking season is from October to February.
We then went to the wet mill which is the oldest wet mill in Costa Rica at about 100 years old and only uses hydropower. Inside the mill there are five stages that the bean goes through. During the first stage the beans are dumped into a very large bucket of water. Here, they sink or float, the beans that sink are used to make their high quality coffee. The ones that float are used to sell for their local coffee. The second stage takes off the red skin of the bean and then depending on the size, go on to first, second, or third quality. During stage three they go through a fermentation process. The beans are put into the fermentation tank for around thirty to forty hours. Then the are put outside on the drying concrete to dry for about five days. At Stage four, the beans are put into a drying machine which is about 60 degrees celsius. Stage five, the beans are packed in bags and stored for 3-6 months before being exported. These coffee beans are like wine, they get better as they age.
The green bean, which is the only part exported, is protected by a yellowish skin called parchment. If only one green bean is found they do not export it because it is used to make their premium high quality coffee called Peaberry.
Each coffee bag is about 120 pounds and is sold at $2 per pound and to make one cup coffee it will take about 25-30 beans.
We then went to the roasting room which holds two roasting machines from Germany that are about 50 years old and are 120 degrees Celsius inside.
We learned that the best way to keep coffee fresh is to put it in the freezer!!
We had a great and interesting day and we are all soaking up the sun at the pool before we go off to our farewell dinner!!
We leave early in the morning to head to the airport and will try our best to bring back the sunshine!!
See you all soon!
Jessie Stone and George Spanos Class of 2014

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Buenas noches! Today was laid back and full of fun visits. The itinerary
included a visit to Poas Volcano, lunch, and shopping at an artisan market in San Jose. What started off as a warm sunny morning sadly turned into a cold rainy day as we approached the peak of the volcano. Although we did not get the clear view from the top that we were hoping for, we still learned some fun facts along the way! On the ride to the volcano the roads were surrounded by plantations including coffee (great from the rich soil from the nearby volcanic action), strawberries, and exotic flowers grown for the Netherlands. Originally, the volcano was named Puas for a tribe who used to own the land, until being renamed Poas: Spanish for torn. In order to get to the volcano we drove between two "mountain buildings." The tectonic fill of the volcano is the biggest in Costa Rica and has caused many earthquakes in the past. This particular volcano is unique in the fact that it behaves like an underwater volcano and erupts liquids that cause acid rain to burn its surroundings. For this reason, Poas was originally thought to be the largest geyser in the world. During the pre-Columbian times the indigenous used to sacrifice virgins to calm the fury of the volcano, once considered to be a god. After spending about an hour at Poas, 2,700 meters at its peak, we went for a traditional Costa Rican lunch at a nearby restaurant called Freddo Fresas. Our meal consisted of meat, rice, beans, salad, vegetables, and fried plantains. The food was delicious and came with strawberry daiquiris for the table (virgin of course)! As the weather cleared up, we took off our raincoats and ponchos to head out for some shopping. The artisan market offered a variety of souvenirs from t-shirts to traditional woven bowls. Some of the boys were especially excited when they discovered an entire shop full of one of a kind colorful Costa Rican t's. "Pura Vida bro!" As we left the market we were star struck by a performance from an American skate boarder-Ryan Sheckler. What a special way to end the day! We are excited to head back towards the volcano again tomorrow to visit Doka Coffee Estate and enjoy our last day of the trip!

Sarah Sallee and Jessica Sklar 2014

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Day 11


Today we had an early start, as we headed out for EARTH University at 6:45 am. We traveled on a scenic road through the mountains, passing volcanoes and rivers on both sides of the bus.
Esteban told us a few facts about the scenery and he mentioned that the roadway is the only way to get through the National Park to the Caribbean side of Costa Rica. As a side note, the helicopter scene in Jurassic Park was filmed in this mountainous region of Costa Rica. Although the views were breath-taking, there have been several disputes over the construction of roads in this area because many accidents occur due to natural disasters such as mudslides. However, the Costa Rican government does not want to get involved in the potential destruction of the National Park.

After roughly 3.5 hours of driving through the park, we finally arrived at EARTH University in San José. The university is unique in a sense that it is a private but non-profit institution, founded in 1986 by the Costa Rican government. Can you honestly believe that the university houses only 400 students from about 20 countries across the Caribbean, Africa, South and Central America? We met with two fellow sophomore tour guides and from the school who showed us around the campus and explained what their university is all about. EARTH University strives to educate its students about the importance of social, environmental and economic development to create a bright, sustainable future for generations to come. In order to achieve this goal, the university requires all third year students to complete an environmentally focused project in any country of their choice. This project must serve a mutually beneficial purpose to both the student and the society, which will then be considered as an internship experience. After learning the basic facts about the university, our guides led us on a tour of the medicinal botanical garden.

One of the interesting plants we saw was the "Miraculous Fruit." Our guides explained that if you boil the fruit of this plant for 1 hour, it can be used to relieve hangovers instantly.
The insides of this plant produce a red pigment that can be used as sunscreen!
There were lots of other medicinal plants that the guides introduced us to, including mint.

We had a lunch break around 12:30pm, and afterwards we walked over to the agricultural nurseries for the second part of our tour. Along the way we found several cacao trees, and got a chance to actually try some of the raw cacao! Even though the insides looked slimy and gross, the taste was surprisingly sweet and sour. We enjoyed these so much that the guides had to crack open another cacao plant just to feed us all!

After a delicious snack, we arrived at the nurseries where the students showed us various techniques they use to grow all kinds of plants. One of the interesting irrigation techniques was the bio-intensification process which sets the plants up in a circular format, and prevents bugs from eating them by using basil on the outskirts of the circle.

Another technique they use is a drip irrigation system that gives the plants only the amount of water they need which conserves water and eliminates the possibility of fungi killing the plants.

The students of EARTH University also created "Hanging Sausages," as seen below, contain substrates (dirt) and plant seeds along with 2 evenly spaced out bottles of 650 mL of water that give the plants their source of energy.

At the final stop of our tour, we saw where compost is gathered and learned about how it provides nutrients to the plants. Mother Nature must have known we were close to finishing the tour, so it started to rain accordingly! We all ran to the bus and drove back to one of the buildings where our tour guides gave us the biggest surprise of the day: an original song!! We took a video of their hit single "I Know" that you can watch below. We demanded an encore performance which they gladly agreed upon! Overall, it was a very informative and educational day here in Costa Rica!


Pura Vida! :)
Leanne Precopio '14 and Yevgenia Pogorelova '14

Friday, January 13, 2012

Day 10

Today we visited Obras del Espiritu Santo for a long day of service. Obras is an organization run by volunteers designed to help children at high risk and with family troubles achieve happiness everyday and also gain an education. We were first brought into the main building where we were warmly greeted by the founder of the organization (2003), Father Sergio Valverde Espinoza. He proceeded to bring in the first group of children, all of whom were very friendly and eager to play with their new friends. We took them on a bus ride to a park where we had fun running around playing soccer and tag along with other outdoor games. We even set up a giant game of Pato Pato Ganzo, (Duck Duck Goose.) I think we all forgot how much energy we use to have when we were their age, as most of us were sufficiently worn out after playing with the first group of restless youngsters. Afterwards we were given a tour of the facilities by Ana Siles Espinoza, the director of public relations and marketing at Obras. She showed us the newly built school which will educate children in grades 1-6 and also serve as a home to the children without families to go back to. Behind the school there was a swimming pool under construction due to be finished in March, that was donated to Obras by a charitable burger restaurant. They are planning to install more attractions for the school which would possibly include a live pond. Beside the school there is a garden area where single mothers would work to grow lettuce and other herbs for sale. This was a form of therapy for these women because it motivated them and gave them a sense of employment and importance, which of course is more uncommon for women in Latin America. After lunch we split up our group and helped out some more. Half of us went to the park again with another group of kids, and the other half was split into three subgroups. One visited the nursery where most of the toddlers were sleeping. Another went to help clean the walls and floors of the school. And the last helped out at the restaurant cleaning dishes, peeling vegetables, and making patacones, (a popular fried plantain snack.) We all ended up together in a warehouse for donated items where we formed multiple effective assembly lines, and helped clear out the warehouse and load a large moving truck. We looked like a rusty pack when it was time to leave, but despite the dirty hands and sunburned faces, we all left Obras with a feeling of nostalgia. A few hours was enough to bring us all closer to the community, and we felt the effects of our service immediately after leaving as we waved and received the blessings of Father Espinoza. We will all be in bed early tonight after this long and fulfilling day. We look forward to a beautiful scenic trip to Earth University early tomorrow.

Ryan Moore and Michael Moryto

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Day 9

Hola! Today we ventured from the Karahe Hotel in Manuel Antonio to the Orquideas Hotel 30 minutes outside of San Jose. We began our trip around 9 AM and stopped at 11:15 at a local market Don Elias on the side of the road. We were able to enjoy the local fresh fruit, candies, and nuts. After that quick stop, we headed to lunch at the La Fiesta Del Maiz (The Corn Party). Many of us enjoyed arroz con pollo (chicken with rice) and corn on the cob. Following lunch, we then drove to Dos Pinos Milk Cooperative.

We arrived at Dos Pinos at around 1:30. There we met Lauren Bonilla, the director of human relations, and her translator Jose because she did not speak English well. Dos Pinos is a cooperative company that buys products from small to medium sized farms that do not have the resources to properly sell on their own. Dos Pinos then resells what they had bought. Currently, they have 1,800 partners, 545 different products, and is involved with 1,500 dairy farms. They receive 1,300,000 kilos of milk everyday by trucks that hold 30,000 kilos of milk. This company is 65 years old and is today the number 1 seller of milk products in Latin America. To remain sure they are selling high quality milk, Dos Pinos has a strict set of guidelines that the producers and farmers must follow in order to provide the best quality of milk.

Dos Pinos makes up for their impact on the environment by taking the long life packaging used for milk and try to reuse it by making roofs and desks for schools and other organizations. In addition, they use recylced products for garbage cans and other items in the office. At the end of the visit, we received free ice cream and a stuffed cow named Lula!
We have arrived at the hotel a few hours ago. It is a very beautiful hotel and there are a lot of great activities coming up soon including Phelps Dodge and Doka Coffee tomorrow. Hasta Luego!

By, Bryan Menduke and Hayley Milner. Class of 2014!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Day 8

Today we all went ziplining through the jungle. Our bus departed and took us from the hotel to a location high atop a mountain in Quepos. Our main tour guides name was Luiz and he was extremely friendly and spoke english quite well. We all noted that almost all of the people we met in Costa Rica speak better English than those in Panama.

When we reached our first platform along the zipline at the very top of the mountain, some of us looked extremely excited and the rest seemed scared. It was unnerving to first swing off the platform and fly into the treetops but after the first few sections everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. After we had all gotten some experience the more daring members of our group tried different stunts such as ziplining upside-down in the harness. There was a photographer ziplining along with the group who was taking pictures throughout our adventure who got some great shots of everyone. Also RJ had his camera with him and was able to capture an amazing video as he ziplined through the trees; hopefully we will be able to upload this soon.

By the time we reached our final leg of the zipline everyone was a little sad that it was already over, but definitely ready for lunch at the restuarant at the bottom of the mountain. We were served a traditional Costa Rican dish of fish or chicken, and of course rice and beans. We then said goodbye to our friendly tourguides and returned to the hotel on our buses.

The rest of the day was free time for us, and as it was a beautiful sunny day in Manuel Antonio, we all immediately changed and walked down to the beach. Many of the boys took the opportunity to take surf lessons while the rest of the group swam and sun bathed. Most of us remained on the beach well past sunset enjoying every minute of such a perfect day.