Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Santa Cruz

We've been in Costa Rica for two weeks now. Dr. Vargas still says we are in the honeymoon stage. I suppose it could be true. We are finally settling in to our official class schedule and have all of the orientation stuff done. So we are getting down to the real business now.

I'm getting used to the customs and lifestyle down here. A kiss on the cheek to greet someone. Close-toed shoes when eating out. Walking or riding a bike pretty much everywhere. Eating fresh fruits and vegetables (seriously, if I'm not skinnier by the time this is over, something is wrong). Washing clothes and waiting 2 days for them to dry. And slowing down my pace of life in general to live more on "Tico time." Even my Spanish is slowly improving! It is an incredible experience just to be able to morph my lifestyle into this new culture and pick up their traditions and everyday habits.

On Friday we took our first field trip to Santa Cruz to see the Turrialba Volcano and visit a sustainable family farm in the area. Every time we go out as a class, I learn more and more and continue to grow in my understanding of sustainability and its importance in our daily lives. The Volcan Turrialba has recently become active and has been steadily releasing ash for the last few weeks. So we couldn't get all the way to the top, but we got close enough to get a good view. It turned out to be the absolute perfect day for volcano spotting. Usually the clouds and fog roll in quickly and you can't see the volcano after 5:30 or 6 am. We got up there around 9 or 9:30 am,

**Side note for future travelers... Costa Rica has all sorts of weather climates. Though primarily hot and humid, up in the mountains it can get pretty chilly.

After visiting the volcano we stopped by a sustainable farm in Santa Cruz that produces the famous Turrialba Cheese. And, seriously, that stuff is amazing. Unfortunately, the cheese isn't pasteurized so we can't bring it back to the US. If you really want to try it, you will just have to come down here yourself.

The farm was absolutely beautiful. The winding road down through the farm was lined with native plants and beautiful flowers. I could definitely live in a place like that. Peaceful... That's a good way to explain it because pictures, as I have mentioned before, really cannot capture the moment and the experience of walking through such beauty.

The Gomez family is the perfect example of true Costa Rican hospitality. They welcomed our small group warmly and eagerly answered all our questions. On their family farm, we found milk cows, goats, roosters, geese, chickens, barking dogs and a precious little kitten. Check out some of my photos below>>

Part of the sustainability of the farm comes from having all animals on a proper diet with grains, proteins, vitamins, etc. The Gomez family grows trees and plants that serve as food for the cows and goats as well as natural fence posts. All of the cattle are free-range and fed a complete and natural diet. For energy, they have implemented a bio-fuel system that naturally processes manure into a form of fuel to power certain areas of the farm. I found this absolutely fascinating. This farm is completely self-sustaining. No electricity is needed to process the manure, it all happens naturally with the help of some worms and sun. Here's a photo of the system:

In our culture, we tend to think implementing such a process requires too much work, or is too expensive. But in reality, this is the most simple form of sustainability and something American farmers should strive for. The animals on that farm were comfortable and well cared for. They weren't stuffed into a small space and fed corn just to be fattened up. The meat around here is lean and good for you to eat. The fruit and vegetables aren't filled with GMO's and pesticides that are bad for you. I don't mean to bombard you with a soapbox speech on my thoughts about American farming, but it is something to think about..

Anyway, Santa Cruz was yet another wonderful and practical learning experience. I wasn't kidding when I said I was going to come back a hippie. There are so many things that I appreciate now and things that I now know I can live without. 

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