Costa Rican Valleys–the First Few Days

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Poas Vol­cano

 

Our 3-week trip started in the San Jose Val­ley, where more than half of the coun­tries pop­u­la­tion lives. This is also where you can find one of the most vis­ited places–Poas Volcano–that sits up on the edge of the val­ley. This is a very active vol­cano with a nearly con­stant cloud of steam ris­ing from the crater, though it is often enshrouded in fog and can’t be seen. Believe it or not this pic­ture was snapped in a few sec­onds when the fog drifted away, and then imme­di­ately returned. In this park we also got our first taste of “bird­ing” since one of our pro­gram direc­tors, Pro­fes­sor John Mar­zluff, stud­ies birds.

 

 

Souvenir Museum

Sou­venir Museum

 

In Sane Jose there was also this place called the Sou­venir Museum. This store was unique in that it pro­motes sus­tain­able tourism, which is a grow­ing indus­try in Costa Rica. This three peo­ple started the project as col­lege stu­dents look­ing for a way to pre­serve Costa Rican cul­ture. They travel and work with peo­ple all over the coun­try includ­ing indige­nous peo­ple and pur­chase their projects to sell in the shop. The idea is to find ways to make the pro­duc­tion of these items sus­tain­able, cre­at­ing less waste while show­cas­ing tra­di­tional arts and crafts. Each item is hand made in Costa Rica by a Costa Rican, so there is no doubt that the gifts you buy here really do sup­port the econ­omy  and the people.

 

 

Coffee Tasting

Cof­fee Tasting

 

Ter­razu was a unique region we vis­ited. It is a val­ley with hills shoot­ing up on every side, each of them cloaked in cof­fee fields. Cof­fee was once the main crop of Costa Rica, launch­ing their econ­omy for­ward with exports to Europe and North Amer­ica. As it stands today, it is still one of the largest pro­duc­ers of cof­fee in the world. We vis­ited a cof­fee Co-Op in Santa Maria where we learned the process of grow­ing, pick­ing, pro­cess­ing and roast­ing cof­fee. There was also a “qual­ity con­trol” test, where we went through sev­eral steps of see­ing, smelling, and tast­ing some of the cof­fees to com­pare them with each other. This Co-Op also has two very eco-friendly cof­fees, one that is Rain­for­est Alliance Cer­ti­fied and another that has zero car­bon emis­sions from start to finish!

 

 

After spend­ing a few days in the val­leys, we were sur­prised by the chill in the air. With the excep­tion of San Jose in the heat of the day, the val­leys were much cooler than we expected. We also saw our first rain­storm the day we vis­ited Poas, where the streets become rivers and you are soaked to the bone in less than a minute. In Ter­razu we did our first night hike as well. There wasn’t very much wildlife, but we did see many insects includ­ing our first taran­tula! We hiked up one of the ridges sur­round­ing Santa Maria, and the lights below were as stun­ning as the stars above us. Now it is time to head into the mountains…

 

 

 

The longest week of my life…

Peo­ple travel from all over the world to Save­gre, Costa Rica to see this bird–the beau­ti­ful Resplen­dent Quetzal

So next week I will FINALLY be leav­ing to study abroad. I have my itin­er­ary but since I’m unfa­mil­iar with where I will be I’ve been going over it closely and research­ing some of the places I will be study­ing. Since this is a trav­el­ing pro­gram, I won’t stay in the same place more than a few days. This allows us to ven­ture all over the coun­try and expe­ri­ence the extreme bio­di­ver­sity Costa Rica is known for.

I’m almost done read­ing my sec­ond book about the envi­ron­ment, and have been con­vers­ing with the other 13 par­tic­i­pants. It’s impor­tant to get to know your col­leagues BEFORE you leave, since these are the peo­ple you will be liv­ing and learn­ing with for the length of the pro­gram. Also, don’t be afraid to con­tact your pro­gram direc­tors (if you have any)–they are just as excited to be going as you are! I got an email the other day that the t-shirts for study abroad ambas­sadors are in, but since I live so far from Both­ell I won’t get to have it to take to COsta Rica with me. Bum­mer. But I will wear it with pride when I get back!

Here’s an idea of some things I will be doing:

  • Poas Vol­cano study
  • Dota Cof­fee tour
  • Hum­ming­bird Study
  • Los Rob­les rain­for­est hike
  • Water­fall hike in Savegre
  • Restora­tion ecol­ogy study
  • Bird sanc­tu­ary study
  • Cor­co­v­ado Mon­key study
  • Coast Hike and peo­ple study
  • Man­grove tour
  • Zip line/tree climb study
  • Learn­ing and hav­ing fun!

Wish me luck.

–Mag­gie

Homework

Tropical Plants of Costa Rica, The Ticos: Culture and Social Change in Costa Rica, and A Neotropical Companion: An introduction to the animals, plants, and ecosystems of the new world tropics.

Trop­i­cal Plants of Costa Rica, The Ticos: Cul­ture and Social Change in Costa Rica, and A Neotrop­i­cal Com­pan­ion: An Intro­duc­tion to the Ani­mals, Plants, and Ecosys­tems of the New World Tropics.

Well, I’ve only got 48 days before I fly out to beau­ti­ful Costa Rica but I still have plenty of prep work that needs to be done! Study­ing abroad is a lot about the expe­ri­ence, but there is plenty of school that still goes with it. These are the three books for my explo­ration sem­i­nar to help me under­stand the envi­ron­ment and cul­ture in Costa Rica. The book on the left is the only one I will be bring­ing with me to Costa Rica since it’s a plant iden­ti­fi­ca­tion guide, the other two I will fin­ish before I depart.

Some fun things I have learned in my read­ings so far:

  • Acre for acre, the low­land rain forests in Costa Rica have the most diverse flora and fauna in the world
  • Costa Rica boasts a 93% lit­er­acy rate, and proudly have more teach­ers than soldiers
  • Ticos (the name given to natives of Costa Rica) prac­tice flow­ery lan­guage laden with com­pli­ments so as not to sound rude
  • Despite extreme nat­ural diver­sity, there are only 4 types of monkeys
  • Above all else Ticos cher­ish peace, free­dom, fam­ily, and education
  • Costa Rica is only twice the size of Ver­mont but has 350,000 species of insects

I’ve got lots of read­ing to do still, but my other prepa­ra­tions are going rather smoothly. I am stock­ing up on some essen­tials like sun­screen, insect repel­lant, and lots of quick dry­ing clothes for hik­ing. I now have a lovely back­pack and pair of binoc­u­lars to bring with me, which are essen­tial since we move around so much and do sev­eral ani­mals stud­ies. Plane tick­ets have been pur­chased (shout out to the UWB Study Abroad Schol­ar­ship for fund­ing my travel expenses!), and excite­ment is build­ing. I love see­ing “For­eign Study 303″ in my fall quar­ter schedule–it reminds me that this is all real!

As it gets closer I will give you a sneak peek at some of the activ­i­ties we will be doing.

–Mag­gie

An Adventure in the Making: Costa Rica 2013

Blog by Mag­gie Yaddof, CUSP, Study Abroad–Costa Rica

Going into col­lege, I knew I wanted to study abroad in rela­tion to my pur­suit of biol­ogy. As a fresh­man, I didn’t real­ize that I could study abroad so soon. When a friend told me she was look­ing at attend­ing a spring quar­ter pro­gram as a fresh­man, I quickly started look­ing for some­thing I could do. I decided on an early fall pro­gram at the begin­ning of my sopho­more year, since I didn’t want to mess with my sched­ule too much. I soon came across the three week trip to Costa Rica to study it’s nat­ural his­tory, and was ecsta­tic.
I applied to sev­eral early fall pro­grams, but had my heart set on Costa Rica—good thing I was accepted! The pro­gram is fac­ulty led, and for the most part a trav­el­ling pro­gram. We will be in four dif­fer­ent environments—the moun­tain, the val­ley, the rain­for­est, and the coast—to see how they all work together and sup­port the rich diver­sity there. There are also Span­ish lessons we will be hav­ing every­day, which surely will be help­ful!
My one hes­i­ta­tion with study­ing abroad is finances. As a low-income stu­dent who lives pri­mar­ily off schol­ar­ship and finan­cial aid, I wasn’t sure how I would be able to afford an expe­ri­ence like this. I attended an infor­ma­tion ses­sion about study abroad schol­ar­ships, and met with the Study Abroad sec­tion of the UWB career cen­ter to talk to them more about financ­ing study abroad. I learned about sev­eral schol­ar­ships avail­able, and found two that fit me really well. The GO! Schol­ar­ship is designed specif­i­cally for stu­dents with finan­cial need and funded by the state, and UWB also has a schol­ar­ship for study abroad. I am blessed to have received both of them, as they will help me greatly in off­set­ting the cost of the trip.
Right now we are very much in the prepa­ra­tion stages, and the past two weeks I have had meet­ings for Costa Rica. We dis­cuss logis­tics such as plane tick­ets, pack­ing lists, required read­ings, how to keep a nature jour­nal, and even learned some basics of wildlife obser­va­tion and sketch­ing.
This is going to be an expe­ri­ence of a life­time and I can’t wait to get started. I fly out in about 3 months, and it really can’t come any faster.