- Expect Costa Rica to be completely different than what you are used to or what you are expecting it to be.
- Do not expect to see your favorite snacks or drinks from the U.S. If you do see them, expect them to taste different. Be very open-minded to the food you order. It most likely will not taste like anything you’re expecting and you may not even know what it is.
- Take probiotics or antibiotics prior to departing to avoid the possibility of becoming ill.
- Keep a close eye on all of your items. When having to keep track of a full week of supplies, it is easy to lose track of things. Pack light.
- If you can speak Spanish, do so! I feel like I have improved my Spanish skills during the past week. The locals will appreciate your attempt to speak to them in their own language. A few times, I came in contact with people who did not speak English at all, so it was essential to be able to speak and understand basic Spanish.
- Even if something is legal in Costa Rica, it doesn’t mean that it is okay to do on a school related trip. Find out what those things are beforehand.
- Stay with your group at all times. This is really important. Taxis or buses are the main transportation, so make sure the vehicle you get into is labeled correctly. Most of these drivers drove faster than I expected them to. Brace yourself.
- Keep a personal journal. It is nice to have a written account of the things you did.
As I reflect back on all of the different things I saw and did, I realized how grateful I am for being a part of the trip; I have also realized how many things we so easily take for granted on a daily basis. Overall, just have a good time and use the same or better judgment as you would normally do. Most importantly, be open-minded and realize that you will be a visitor in this beautiful country! Pura vida
We begin our day leaving San Jose at about 8:00 a.m. Filled with excitement knowing that we have another adventurous day ahead. Everyone was eager to get to the Butterfly Farm outside of San Jose, we rode for an hour and a half enjoying the beautiful countryside of Costa Rica. The mountainous terrain and the deep valleys were very refreshing. It was a stark contrast from the Caribbean half of the country with it’s beautiful rain forest and exotic wildlife. We did however encounter monkeys playing in the trees as we coasted down the highway.
Before arriving at the resort, we stopped at a souvenir shop to buy items and to surprise Dr. Funk, because it happened to be his birthday. He was very appreciative and happy to be with us. We all felt a bond develop among us as we experienced this beautiful and amazing country. We have become more than classmates and instructors; we have become family.
Later we came upon the resort known as Barcelo Playa Langosta. This place is a five star resort with a grand pool, lavish rooms, and a gift/souvenir shop with very elegant merchandise. We were all satisfied with our rooms. However, we missed the luxury of free internet and international calling that we were privy to at the hotel in San Jose. We soon let go of this disappointment to enjoy the all-inclusive amenities and the beach. Many of us sat on the beach to watch the sunset; it was a wonderful experience.
On Wednesday morning we left San Jose and began our travels toward the Pacific coast. But first we stopped at The Butterfly Farm, which is operated by Costa Rica Entomological Supply (CRES). Although the farm is no longer open to tours, we were welcomed by Paola, and given an informative explanation of how the butterfly export business works. The grounds are decorated with beautiful murals throughout.
CRES was founded in 1984, by Joris Brinckerhoff and his wife Maria Sabido. CRES has customers in many countries including the United States, Canada, Europe, and Chile. Local butterfly farmers supply CRES with butterfly pupa, that are received on Monday, sorted by type and shipped out to customers while still in the pupa stage on Tuesdays. The shipments are often received at their destination by Thursday of the same week. It is estimated that less than 2% of the pupa “hatch” while in transit, which ensures that the butterflies hatch while in the hands of the customer. This fact is important because the life span of a butterfly is very short. CRES is a leading supplier for butterfly exhibits around the world. In addition to the informative discussion, we were also able to view some different varieties of pupa, as well as how they are packaged for shipment.
While visiting, we were also allowed to wander in the garden area to view the many varieties of butterfly species onsite. Our visit to the CRES Butterfly Farm was fact filled and enjoyable. For more information, you can visit their website at http://www.butterflyfarm.co.cr/en/costa-rica-entomological-supply/index.html.
I was a little disappointed I wasn’t able to blog about the entire days proceedings as it was an escalating series of events, but it’s probably for the best. Today was a lecture day for us which is normally dreadful to say the least, but better in Costa Rica than in Arkansas. Preparing for the worst I loaded myself up with caffeine and sugar and plopped myself in a good seat. Not to close to the front where I would get picked on, yet not to far away where sleeping was inevitable. A business strategy I have mastered over my post secondary career.
The lectures at first seemed to come and go in a flash as they were filled with interesting information. The next 2 went by a little slower but also very interesting and informative. But of course my lecture was the last of 5 which started at 9am
and concluded at 7pm.
Needless to say I was on my game. Ready and prepared to hear about the sea-life off the coast of Costa Rica and all the projects currently in place to protect it.
My man walked in with a slightly different look than the previous presenters who were in suits or dresses. The Biologist who came in to speak about Pretoma could be evidently distinguished as a field biologist. To me, this made him even more appealing and intriguing to listen to. He was so passionate about his work that I was guessing he came straight from chasing poachers . Listening to him speak was not only informative but inspiring to see what he and his organization have done for the communities and sea-life. Me being a turtle fan, it hit home seeing some of the pictures from shrimp crawler boats who had a turtle tangled in their nets. The organization has 34,000 hectors of sea-ground protected from these shrimp boats but it doesn’t end there. It’s a never ending battle but it is inspiring to see people truly making a difference and showing the world it can be done.
In conclusion, I would like to emphasize a reason why turtles were being caught: for the eggs they carry with them. I understand. I get sushi with fish eggs all the time. The reason some men eat these eggs is because it is said they are an aphrodisiac. These men clearly compensating, need to smarten up and do things that work…like abs or a personality. A great day concluded in Costa Rica with some warm milk and an early bedtime. ;)
We enjoyed a very interesting 1 hour lecture on Florex, a sustainable Costa Rican company founded by Mrs. Silvia Chavez, is committed to producing biogradeable cleaning products. Their main objective is to make different products rather than compete with their competitors, Johnson&Johnson, Proctor&Gamble, Seventh Generation, and Unilever. Florex aims to manufacture products produced by the Universidad de Costa Rica and the Biodiversity Institute. This company operates by following a cycle that includes investigation, extraction, production, transportation, and disposal. Unlike most companies, Florex entered into the industry certified as an ISO 9001 and ISO 14001. Because of their success, others study Florex as a case model for creating a sustainable business. Their biggest challenges for entering the U.S. market are altering their brand and finding distributors.
Between lectures, we formed a small group and decided to take a walk in San Jose’s downtown cemetery. We were given a free tour of the park with access to the underground mausoleum. Our experience was not at all gloomy, but educational and aesthetically pleasing. We adored the beauty of the tombs; we payed homage to the departed.
Early Tuesday morning, we had a lovely breakfast with fresh Costa Rican fruits before walking 8 blocks to the Park Inn hotel for our lectures for the day. Vanessa Gibson, the general director of CINDE, a private, non-profit, non-political organization founded in 1982, gave a great lecture. CINDE is a Costa Rican investment promotion agency, continuing Costa Rican development for 30 years.
CINDE has an active promotion of foreign investment, local support, and post establishment services. Vanessa was very interesting and fun to listen to. She spoke fluent English and had a passion for her career. She explained a little about the company and their value proposition. CINDE has a proven track record, qualified workforce, strategic location, excellent business climate, quality infrastructure, and quality of life. CINDE has seen a consistent growth in foreign direct investment in the last 10 years.
Costa Rica has experienced a consistent growth in its exports of goods and services. They are increasing sophistication and more complex services brought from Costa Rica; the people make the difference. The labor pool will likely reach 2.5 million in 2017! Vanessa summed up with telling us that Cost Rica has a strong and world renowned tradition of peace, democracy, and stability, making it easy for foreigners to come and have a great potential for innovation as well as equal rights and obligations.