Desde Monteverde Costa Rica, ¡Pura Vida!

So I know it has been a while peeps, but here it is. The last month has been full of excitement, frustration, joy, emotions and a lot of work. We started our internships once we got back from our first field trip. I began working on my various solar cooker models that will be displayed the day of EcoFest. They turned out great. Amongst the chaos of getting work done for our internships, classes were still taking place, along with midterms. They were much more challenging than some of the ones I had taken at Whittier. 4 hour long midterms, I can’t imagine finals!

Costa Rica

Costa Rica

As the weeks went by, much progress was seen in everyone’s internships. Projects varied from the building of a rain water collecting system, recycled glass walkway, solar cookers and sand bag retaining wall. I built four different solar cooker models, three that made from recycled cardboard boxes and one from thin aluminum metal. The metal model is parabola shaped. Many different solar cooker models exist and work in different ways. The box models are more of an oven type that uses the greenhouse heating effect to heat up food. The parabola shaped solar cooker concentrates the sun’s rays to a certain location, as the sunlight reflects from the metal panels. I really enjoyed working on my internship as I gained further knowledge on alternative energies. Solar energy is a great alternative because it is limitless and free; the sun doesn’t cost us anything. However, there is one downfall. Areas that tend to be cloudy or rainy will experience difficulty relying on the sun for heating.

For the last month, we have been working in the study center. Stepping into the study center was like stepping into a factory of sustainability! Each and every one of us have worked hard every day and now as we prepare to depart on our second field excursion, we are finished.



We leave tomorrow for Nicaragua where we will start our second field excursion focusing on crop and forest management. I cannot wait for what memories this next trip will bring. With that said, I will be gone for two weeks, so no blog entry until I get back. As of now this is all, too many details exist that cannot be expressed to describe this phenomenal experience.

Desde Monteverde Costa Rica, ¡Pura Vida!


Con el corazón destrozado…

Con el corazón destrozado, y las esperanzas derramadas, varios pueblos de la parte sur de Costa Rica están. El proyecto “Diquis” será la construcción de la planta más grande hidroeléctrica de centro América generando alrededor de 650mw de energía. La razón por cual este proyecto es tan costoso ambientalmente como socialmente es porque los afectados en realidad no tienen una voz. El proyecto está actualmente en su primera etapa cual analiza el impacto que tendrá la represa a ser construida en el medio ambiente. La siguiente etapa será tomar en cuenta quienes serán los afectados de este proyecto, los pueblos a su alrededor. La represa del Diquis estará localizada en el río general cual llevara todo lo que quede ataras de el bajo el agua. Más de 8 comunidades serán afectadas sin mencionar que varias tierras indígenas serán sometidas bajo el agua. ICE nos comento que según ellos están realizando varios desarrollos para ayudar a las comunidades que serán directamente afectadas. Prometen empleos, un nueva re-ubicación con el mismo contenido de valor. Todo párese estar bien pero la realidad es que ICE a hecho poco de esas promesas. Unos de los residentes de la  comunidad que quedara inundada, EL Ceibo, no platico que ICE hizo varias promesas y hasta este momento nada se ha realizado.

Ellos no quieren que este embalse de agua inunde su comunidad pero como dijo una de las señoras, “la opción que tenemos es nos vamos o nos vamos.”

Al escuchar esto me da rabia, coraje el saber que esta comunidad al igual que las demás no tengan voz por ser tan pobres siendo que son ellos cuales sus vidas cambiaran. Ellos podrán ser reubicados a lugares totalmente nuevos donde a lo mejor el tipo de trabajo que acostumbren no pueda ser realizado como la ganadería y agricultura. Hay una razón por cual las tierras donde ICE piense reubicar no han sido desarrolladas, la tierra a la mejor no da. La gente que vive en estas comunidades solo conocen eso, ahí están su raíces, costumbres, su pasado, parte de su identidad. Tratamos de darles a conocer que tienen el poder de hacer una huelga o algo por el estilo pero parece ser que ya estén dados por vencidos. Y puede que tengan razón, este proyecto ha estado en preparación desde hace 30 anos. Es decir que aunque parezca que ICE tenga que medir cada requisito, al final de cuentas es un proyecto que ya ha sido firmado y confirmado bajo puertas cerradas del gobierno. Solo podemos levantar la voz, y aprender de lo que está sucediendo y seguir luchando. No se pueden dejar vencer tan fácilmente, y si lo logran hacer que les tome trabajo. ¡Costa Rica, Pura Vida!

The people in Southern Costa Rica are with a broken heart and destroyed hopes. The “Diquis” project will be the construction of the biggest hydroelectric plant in Central America, generating around 650mw of energy. The reason that this project is environmentally and socially so expensive is because those affected do not really have a voice. The project is actually in its first stage, which is to analyze the environmental impact of the dam to be built. The next stage is to find out who will be affected by this project, the people living in the surrounding areas. The Diquis dam will be located in the river that usually carries along what is left at the river bottom. More than eight communities will be affected, not to mention the various indigenous lands that will be flooded. ICE told us that they undertaking development projects to help the communities that are going to be directly affected. They promise jobs and relocation with equivalent value. All appears to be good but the reality is that ICE has done very little about these promises. We talked to some of the residents from the El Ceibo community, which is one of the communities that will be flooded, and they said that ICE made many promises and have done nothing as of now.  They don’t want the dam to flood their community but one of the woman that we talked to said “the option we have is to leave or to leave.”

Hearing this enrages me, anger at knowing that this community, as well as others that will be affected, have no voice because they are poor, yet it is their lives which will change. They can be relocated to totally new places where most of the work does not involve agriculture or raising livestock, the types of jobs they are accustomed to. There is probably a reason the lands that they are being relocated to are not developed, they may not be good for agriculture. The people that live in these communities know only this, here are their roots, their customs, their history, their identity.

We try to tell them they can go on strike or try to fight it but it seems they have already given up. And they might be right, this project has been in preparation for 30 years. While ICE has to meet every requirement, in the end the project has been solidified and approved by the government behind closed doors. We can only raise our voices and learn from what is taking place and keep fighting. We cannot give up so easily. Costa Rica, Pura Vida!

Costa Rica

Costa Rica

Power Plants, Dams, and Clamming

Hello peeps. Sorry I hadn’t updated ya’ll on my life but I was living it up. We just got back from our 2 week excursion yesterday. We visited various towns on the pacific coast. Yesterday was the perfect ending as we stopped at Manuel Antonio national park and saw its beautiful beach. Prior to that however, we started in Lake Arenal. Arenal or Nuevo Arenal I should say is a town that was relocated at the edge of a man made reservoir due to the construction of a hydroelectric power plant. The building of the dam relocated 2 towns about 40 years ago. We spend two days here learning about the impacts this dam has had on the community and the environment. From here we headed to the small town of Canas where we visited Rincon de la Vieja national park and saw mud springs. We then power-hiked for about an hour to get to a beautiful waterfall nearby.

The next day we visited a geothermal power plant. During this stop, the class talked about how the plant works and what are the pros (and cons) of it.

This geothermal day was followed by a Birding day. In Palo Verde’s National park we bird watch for about two hours. We saw many different bird types and identified them. I really enjoyed it.

Back at Canas during our last night in the area we went out to the plaza and met this old guy. He really made me think about life. He gave a group of five of us a Costa Rica t-shirt, it became the friendship of the traveling shirt.

This is just the start to the blog but in reality there is so much more to my experience then what words can explain. I mean how can I really tell you how it feels to sit in a classroom, in a school, in a town that will soon be flooded due to “el monstro” project that ICE, El Instituto Costariccense de Electricidad, is planning to build. This dam will be the largest dam in Central America and will gulp with it various towns including land that is populated by indigenous people in the area. Words cannot describe how I felt when we talked to the community member of El Ceibo who will lose their land.  I will try again later… when I have processed some of this.

Clamming at Isla de Chira

Clamming at Isla de Chira

I leave you with this photo we took at Isla de Chira when we went clamming on the mangroves. It was fun but I kept in mind that ladies from this island go clamming for 4 hours, with children only to find their clams gone due to injustices of the region.


I felt more comfortable this last week now that I had a routine and know what I was doing. Not only that, but we learned about various internship opportunities raging from farms, artificial wetlands, and retaining walls made from soil. We choose our top three and wrote a pre-proposal; on Thursday and Friday they let us know what internships we got. I got my first choice — the Eco-fest! I will be designing a stand with information on renewable energy sources and creating a model of either a sustainable farming method or electricity use. I’m so ecstatic about this opportunity.
Angel in the Clouds

Not only am I in the clouds mentally but literally speaking I’m in the clouds.

On Saturday, we had our first Costa Rica Natural history class and it was amazing. When thinking of having class you begin to imagine desks, chairs, and a boring professor in front of you right? Well you are wrong. How does a 2-hour hike through the tropical rainforest to get to the top in the cloud forest sound for class? We hiked through the forest as the canopy sheltered us. It’s so surreal for me to believe I’m here. I never imagined college would offer me this opportunity—studying abroad is not luck but a blessing.

I felt so alive in the forest. Life is everywhere from the ground up, in the air, everywhere. It is just so indescribable. We broke up into different groups for class and observed various different plants in the forest. The rainforest is made of numerous life forms from the understory to the canopy. The understory is green from wherever you look at it. Our group was in charge of looking at vines and lianas (climbing plants). Vines are more herbaceous, made out of softer tissue while lianas are woody and harder. Their main goal is to reach the sunlight at the top of the forest, so they evolved special climbing techniques like tendrils, twining, spines, opposite leafs, and aerial roots. Besides vines, the understory shelters various epiphytes—plants that live on trees.

In the rainforest there are also many birds that one could hear chirping as we walked through delicious muddy soil formed of organic material. Dead things could never look so alive as microhabitats occur within, on, and all over them. As we get further up the chill winds from the Atlantic slope blow through our path. After a whole day of hiking and being engulfed by the tropical nature I felt like my lungs could actually breathe. Going back to Cali will have a toll on my lungs.

After seeing the rainforest from the inside, today I got to see it from above. We went on a canopy tour were we zipped lined and did Tarzan swings and free falls. It was an extremely unforgettable experience. Here you could see the big daddies of the forest – were the canopies made it to the top and hogged all the sunlight from the understory. Leaves up here are much thicker and waxier yet smaller than those in the underside. From the top you could see gaps of light and observe which vines or lianas made it to the top. Now I can see the different wildlife — from the chirping birds that I could only hear on Saturday, to the epiphytes that had taken over a whole branch of a tree. Sunlight is the driving factor for the rain forest.

Zip lining across the rainforest offers an amazing view. Flying in the air I got a glimpse of the gulf of Nicoya, it was a breathtaking experience. We did a total of 8 different ropes and each one got better and better. I cannot wait to do that again. Not only am I in the clouds mentally but literally speaking I’m in the clouds.

First week: Monteverde Let’s Start

First Week in Costa Rica - "I couldn't believe how mush green..."

First Week in Costa Rica - "I couldn't believe how mush green..."

I couldn’t believe how much green I could see though the small gap in the curtains in my room. A ray of sunlight woke me up at 6:50am Tico time, 4:50am Dub-C time. As I walked out my room after getting ready I was greeted by Mayela, my Tica mom, who made my breakfast and gave me a warm smile and comforting look. This was how my first morning here in Costa Rica was like.

So far we have hiked, yes and a lot. I must say that Turner hill has nothing on the 30 min walk I take every morning to get to school. In our program, we have learned about the various internships opportunities available to us during our stay and went to la feria del agricultor – agricultural fair. We’ve been busy.

Yesterday we toured a local hydroponics farm and today we visited Don Hernan’s farm. Both farms are focused on sustainable farming methods. Hydroponics is a method that consists of growing various crops using only water. Here, Orlando, the local farmer has added his own method by growing crops above ground. Why you ask? Current methods require the degradation of soil to an un-replenish state. Soil also offers susceptibility to various pathogens. Orlando explained to us how the system works and how his soil is a volcanic soil that I believe is scoria to grow his crops. This process seems to work well and his product proves it.

Don Hernan is another local farmer who focuses on utilizing the shape of the land and the area to its advantages. His farm is on a hill slope and he has done nothing to change that. His crops grow perfectly without the use of commercial pesticides but rather he uses “homemade” pesticides made out of mustard oil, garlic, and chili peppers. He talked about how he has his own compost area to produce fertilizer, organic fertilizer for his crops. It is surprising to me how we the United States call ourselves so developed yet fail to recognize simple problems of agriculture. These farmers of the Monteverde region have adapted to work with the land in more sustainable, accessible, and economical ways.

Buckets - Orlando's farm

Here is Orlando's farm growing tomatoes utilizing reused buckets from the local cheese factories. He said "I don't want to hear about recycling, no because that means something had to be heated up and I don't know what gases were released. I reuse."

The hydroponics farm has used the same soils it started with and the elevated cultivation tables allow for better working quality. Of course these methods require more manual labor but the product and reward of helping our “mother” is worth it in my eyes.

Having told you about these fieldtrips, I should let you in on what my other days have consisted of. As you may have guessed — I have to do homework. Yes this is not a vacation guys. It is a different atmosphere though, I mean me reading about the tropical forest and conservation biology under the amazing “pelo de gato” (light rain) blown from the rain forest is horrid.

And we have had some fun. We celebrated eing here for the first week and Mata e Cana was the perfect place. Another place we ate dinner at was La Carambola. This relaxed place offers delicious falafels.
All in all this first week has only sparked further interests in my program and has encourage me to really take every morning to look around and spot that green parrot or look at the sloth sleeping in the branches.

Costa Rica 2/8/11


Costa Rica
Costa Rica

Con los rayos del sol haciendo campo entre las cortinas, mi día comenzó a las 7am. En el hotel 1915 de Ajuela, Costa Rica nos levantamos y desayunamos. Risa, carcajadas y conversaciones de todos tipos se escuchaban entre las mesas, estos son mis nuevos amigos aquí. 20 personas en cual pasare los siguientes 3 meses. Todos somos diferente cual es algo fascinante porque si fuéramos iguales seria un experiencia aburrido, creo yo. Abordamos un autobús que nos llevó hacia La Carpio. Este lugar es uno de los barrios a las horillas de San José. Aquí hay una tremenda población Nicaragüense quienes huyeron su país debido a la guerra de 1977. Aquí fueron construyendo sus casas de cartón cuales aún existen. Una sociedad llamada la Sociedad Humanitaria se enfoca en hacer escuelas y recursos para esas mujeres que huyeron de la guerra con sus hijos. Además ayudado implementar varios programas para ayudar mejorar este barrio como recogimiento de la basura y pequeñas clínicas. Aun así hay varios problemas con esta área en cual hay un basurero cual toda la basura de las ciudades van a caer. Esto pone en riesgo los residentes de aquí porque causa problemas a su salud. Al igual forma un riesgo hacia el medio ambiente. Continuamos viajando por las calles de La Carpio y llegamos a la horilla del río en cuales las casas son echas de cartón, lamina y materiales básicos. Aquí miramos como las casitas que había no tenían sistema higiénico y las aguas negras iban derecho al río. Sobre el río había algo muy interesante. Había un puente viejo cual párese no estar muy estable. Este puente es cruzado por varios para ir trabajar porque corta por las lomas y uno llega más rápido y no hace un gasto en el boleto de un camión. Si mucho está ocurriendo y es una lástima, cuando me sentía derrotado, al cruzar el puente en el otro lado me encontraron 3 angelitos. Estos niñitos jugaban y nos saludaban. Las fotos demuestran las casas a la aurilla del río y los niños con los cuales hablamos al cruzar el puente.