There is now a wealth of video from the very first Emerald Eagle Study Abroad Program available on Youtube!
Go visit the UNTThailand Youtube area and enjoy!
Our trip has come full circle. We are back where we started, but we are not the same people who started. Families here in Costa Rica have opened up their homes and minds to feed us with knowledge as well as food. I personally have experienced so many things that I know I would not have otherwise been able to. I have faced situations that were not at ALL what I would choose to do; however each situation taught me a new lesson and opened my eyes in all possible ways. Costa Rica has so much soul and such a beautiful story that two weeks was not NEARLY enough to experience a quarter of it. This was an opportunity of a life time and I’m so very grateful that the Emerald Eagle program provided it for me. Adiós for now, Costa Rica.
The first ten days in Costa Rica it rained every single day. And things here aren’t like in the states, where if it rains we cancel activities… oh no!! : ) We simply put our ponchos on and off we go to explore these beautiful and well preserved forests and farms!! Today, it has not rained. I am certain that in other parts of the county, today it is still pouring for others, but for us, today we have traded rain for sweat. We arrived a couple of days ago in Liberia which is more on the Pacific side where it is a little more “dry”. Needless to say, after hiking, walking, sweating through countless rainforests, coffee & cacao farms, my poor Nikes never stood a chance! Now that we are in Liberia, it’s hotter here and this is day two without rain so finally they are dry. All is not well though, the SMELL is still here. We joked that they smell like Doritos mixed with Mexican cheese! All we gotta say, is “No Bueno”!!
This Costa Rican adventure has finally made a complete circle. I spent my first night and am now spending my last night at Hotel El Sesteo in San Jose. It is 11:07 P.M. Only seven more hours until I depart. From mosquitoes to ravenous birds, from non-stop rain to beetles that kill you twenty years after biting you, from poisonous snakes to overpriced tourist items, from casado to gallo pinto, from hiking in the clouds to swimming in the ocean, I WILL MISS IT ALL!!! There are so many memories that I will cherish and many valuable lessons I can incorporate into my everyday life.
Well as you all know, all good things must come to an end and so must my Costa Rican adventure. As much fun as I’ve had here, there is no place like home.
Here is a cheesy insider quote for everyone who participated in this Costa Rican journey→“As you climb the latter of success to reach for the big apple, do not forget to occasionally step down to feed the horses.”
While we have evidence of the many species of birds, iguanas, 1 snake, monkeys and Eagles (in our honor!), we also do have some good photos of the students, in class and learning.
After our morning’s work, we took some time to explore the Pacific Ocean beach, so different than the Atlantic side that we visited back on Day 6.
Here’s Lauren, walking by the seashore
Here we are – Pacific Ocean scholars!
Unforgettable sunset: The perfect end to a great day
As you know, upuntil now we have been in the rainforest, and it has been…wet! Now we are in Santa Rosa National Park, to study dry forest ecology.
This iguana greeted us at the entrance to the park
Did you know that the US invaded Costa Rica at one time? From the LonelyPlanet site on Costa Rican history: In the 19th century, the US was in an expansive mood and Spanish America looked vulnerable. In 1856 the soldier of fortune William Walker (you can read more about him here) landed in Nicaragua intending to conquer Central America, establish slavery, and construct an interoceanic canal. Walker was soon marching on Costa Rica. A volunteer army of 9000 civilians was hastily mobilized. The Yankee mercenaries were stopped at Santa Rosa, and chased back into Nicaragua. During the fight, a drummer boy from Alajuela, Juan Santamaría, was killed while daringly setting fire to Walker’s defenses. The battle became a national legend and Santamaría a national hero (and inspiration for an airport). Walker’s messianic ambitions were soon quenched by a Honduran firing squad. You can see a memorial to this battle in Parque Nacional in San José.
Honoring the stand at the La Casona National Historical Site
EE Scholars learning more about the US invasion of Costa Rica
The Costa Rican flag waves victorious
Plan of the Batalla Por La Libertad, March 20, 1856
Next, we went hiking through the tropical dry forest. Note: emphasis on dry and HOT! Lilyan and Dr. Carranza are still smiling…
Yet another iguana, come to see what we are up to
An endangered species of tree (huge, amazing, beautiful)
Darryl holding part of a beehive!
Finca La Bella means “The Beautiful Farm” in English, and it is truly beautiful. The 49-hectare (122-acre) cooperative farm is located in San Luis de Monteverde, Puntarenas, Costa Rica, on the Pacific slope of the Cordillera de Tilarán. This is a steep, mountainous area, where dairy farming is the principal agricultural activity and coffee is a secondary cash crop. In the 1940s cattle ranchers purchased and deforested large areas of Costa Rica’s northwest, including most of the San Luis Valley. Small farmers and dairy owners were gradually forced to practice agriculture on steep, previously forested areas, as land ownership was put into fewer hands . In the San Luis Valley, this process continued unabated for over forty years, with the majority of arable land eventually falling under the control of one man, Ramón Brenes.
Great attention has been focused on conserving Costa Rica’s amazing forests and diverse wildlife, and, unfortunately, very little to agrarian land reform. This is why residents of the San Luis Valley, with support from the Monteverde Quaker community, began looking for viable land reform options in their region during the 1980s. Thus, in 1991, they considered buying a farm owned by Brenes, approximately six kilometers south of Monteverde for the Finca La Bella project. Brenes had begun selling some of his land, including a 70-hectare site to developers from the United States, who created what is now the University of Georgia Eco-Lodge (Mann 56). The visionaries asked the local co-op, CoopeSanta Elena R. L. (Co-op), to help finance the project in 1992. The Co-op’s membership has included dairy farmers, coffee growers, artisans and consumers. The Finca La Bella project involved several local institutions in addition to the Co-op, which is currently inactive. These include, the Monteverde Friends Meeting, the Monteverde Institute, a Friends organization, Quaker Earthcare Witness (QEW, formerly Friends Committee on Unity with Nature), and the Asociación de Desarrollo Integral San Luis (San Luis Integrated Development Association), which is currently inactive. Quaker Earthcare Witness created the Ann Kriebel Fund to raise monies for the project and was able to reimburse the Co-op for their costs by 1999.
(Source: Quaker Earthcare Witness).
Here are some photos of our time at this beautiful and inspiring place.
La Bella Tica Cafe (Family owned cafe in the cooperative community)
EE Scholars learning about the history of the community and the cooperative family farm as a way of life
Eric observing the fresh coffee bean
Darryl grinding the coffee beans to help remove the shells
David giving it the “college try” – on a birthday he will always remember!
On a walk in the coffee farm…limónes gigantes!!
Service learning: Ethan planting a tree
EE Scholars planting one tree at a time (these are Oluchi’s hands)
Lauren’s tree is successfully in the ground!
Here’s a local dairy farmer
Overlooking the cloud forest
Cloud forests are a type of evergreen mountain forest found in tropical areas, where local conditions cause cloud and mist to be frequently in contact with the forest vegetation. One of their most obvious features is an abundance of mosses, ferns, orchids and other epiphytic plants on every tree and rock surface. (Source: UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.)
View down into the San Luis Valley
Emerald Eagle Scholars on top of the world!
Roberto, standing strong in the wind
Lilyan, the Guatemalan Goddess
We spent day 10 (Sunday) at the Bosque National Cloud Forest in Monteverde. It is a 1000-hectare (3000-acre) privately-owned Biological Reserve that, as a natural biological corridor, connects the Poás Volcano National Park with the Juan Castro Blanco National Park. It is a spectacularly rich ecosystem because of its privileged location. It is located on the Continental Divide with altitudes ranging from 1450 to 2450 meters above sea level.
To start the day in a traditional way, Dr. Carranza serenaded Ethan with a wake-up rendition of “Feliz Cumpleaños” (“Happy Birthday”)
Another forest bridge among the clouds
Dr. Carranza, our guide Rodrigo, and Roberto (with Lilyan peeking from the background)
Incredible tree-within-a tree with thick roots that cover the ground
Ethan observing a forest creature
We are learning so much about volcanoes!
Volcan Arenal is the youngest Volcano in Costa Rica and the most active. (See other active volcanoes in Costa Rica.) It is a stratovolcano (also known as a composite volcano) like Mt. Fuji in Japan, Mt. Mayon in the Philippines, and Mt. Agua in Guatemala. The 1,657 meter high (5,437 ft) volcano towers above Lake Arenal’s Eastern shores. It was originally formed by successive eruptions of an older volcano, Chato, which still contains a 500-meter wide summit crater and lies just to the northwest (10.463°N (10°27’48″N), 84.703°W (84°42’12″W)). Arenal’s earliest known eruptions took place 7,000 years ago, and the two neighboring volcanoes remained concurrently active until Chato’s activity ended, about 3,500 years ago. (Source: Arenal Net).
Check out the steam from the volcano!
Eric, with the crater to his left!
Jonathan’s on top of the world
Fernando in reflection