Welcome to our first installation of the CIEE Sustainability and the Environment Fall 2016 blog. Here we chronicle what it looks and feels like to study abroad in the little country with the big reputation for balancing the triple bottom line: the environment, economy, and society. If you follow along this semester, you'll notice the students get a little shaggier and maybe a little moldy, as they slosh across the country, through the rainy season. But you'll also notice that they are loving the mud and fun, and the classes are pretty cool too.
Here we start off with the unsuspecting students, clean and tidy, in Alajuela (Orientation site).
This good-looking group of 8 is (from left): Bex Klafter (Carlton College), Sydney Hall (Western Washington University), Alejandra Pedraza (University of Colorado Boulder), Otter Giltz (University of Colorado Boulder), Rose Briggs (University of Colorado Boulder), Scott Vondy (Ursinus College), Ella Hinkley (University of Minnesota), and Ariel Kahn (University of Colorado Boulder).
Notice how cute and clean everyone is. Well, we're about to visit some landfills, including illegal ones.
Maybe traveling to Costa Rica to see landfills is not on everyone's bucket list, but for students of sustainability, it's a good place to reckon with the reality of a tropical, developing nation, and that's what we do. We find out that reality has many sides, some of them smelly. But a visit to a landfill community can also reveal a lot of positive things that are going on, all around us. We visited friends Kattia, don Humberto, and doña Alba Luz who live next to the landfill, surrounded by techno-color murals.
We are (from left): Kattia, Humberto, Alba Luz, Karen, Alejandra, Ariel, Otter, Sydney, Rosie, Ella, and Scott.
We didn't feel the introduction to Costa Rica's urban jungle would be complete without a trip to the FIRST-EVER waste water treatment facility for the Central Valley (home to some 3 million people). Although the Tajos Wastewater Treament Plant IS a place where there are literally tons of black water flowing, it is ALSO a place where you get to wear hard hats (that's a plus; note how excited the students are). And, it's a place where you learn that - even in what seems like an impossibly polluted place - there are are people who care enough to turn the situation around. We leave hopeful (but without the hard hats).
Hector shows how to wear a hard hat.
We're aware that the students are still holding out for biodiversity, so we relent (we are weak). Soon after arrival in Monteverde, and after an awkward first-encounter with homestay famlies, students go for a long hike in the cloud forest, and we take them to see the stunning San Luis Valley as well!
Sydney and Leti give it their best shot.
The Great Eight.
The students still look pretty cute and clean, so we will have to change that very soon. That will happen, sooner rather than later, when Adam gets them for a day dedicated to plants and their pollinators and dispersers in the famous Reserva Biológica Bosque Nuboso de Monteverde. Home to epiphytes, lianas, vines, and other spectacular plants and animals, it is a magical day. Pura Vida.
In the classroom: the cloud forest interior
Purple-throated mountain gem
Stay tuned as we post from the field during Field Trip 1. Spoiler Alert: The students start looking like they've been in the tropics for awhile. For instance, see Ella and Ariel on Day One.