Costa Rica: Week 4

There is a huge thunderstorm right overhead– lightening and thunder are simultaneous. Internet is going in and out because apparently “rain makes the internet worse” according to a local source… huh…

This week was highlighted by a homestay. Several students immediately bonded with their Tico families and went to church or to play fútbol with them today. The family I stayed with was incredibly nice and accommodating and I left with an invitation to visit anytime.

Outside of homestay

View from outside the home of the Tico family I stayed with for our homestay on Saturday. Each student spent the day with a different family. My friend Amy and I were neighbors– our host moms are sisters. We picked oranges off the trees and made juice, ate guava and banana and papaya and pineapple. The mothers worried about us and feed us constantly. We taught them crazy 8s (ochos locos) and they taught dominos.

Inside homestay

We were well taken care of, and invited back! The family had a parrot and two dogs. Lunch was rice and squash and chicken. There was a mid-afternoon coffee and little bread treat break. We were either eating or about to eat the entire day.

 One month flew by and we’re three research papers in and midterms this next week. Our first free weekend is October 4-5 and we are going to Jáco to scope out the terrible development, for education of course, and maybe enjoy the beach and a surf lesson.


Costa Rica: Week 3 and Vegan Banana Muffins

On the way back from Monteverde this week, we saw a sloth hanging from a power line strung over a steep cliff. Whatcha thinking, Mr. Sloth? It began to rain shortly after, and then pour, and then a crack of lightening zapped the pavement right next to the bus. We all relished in the memory of the sloth hanging peacefully, not caring to think about its fate in the thunderstorm. Our professor remarked that sloth’s don’t tend to think very far in the future…

Earlier this week, there were too many overripe bananas. The night before we left for Monteverde, I turned them something more delicious: vegan banana muffins were brought on board for the trip from Atenas to Santa Elena, where we stayed in El Bosque Lodge.

Banana muffins– first baking experience at the field station

Here’s Sarah showing off her Banana muffin– first baking experience at the field station.

We went on several hikes: one at the Monteverde Biologic Station and three in the Children’s Eternal Rain forest. It was in the latter that we conducted our Tropical Ecology research for our field exercise. After sifting through several ideas, Blair and I partnered up and decided to correlate heliconia density with the number of fruits they produce. We will crunch data this week and see if we found any correlation, but it was fun to putz around in the forest for 3 hours staring at some beautiful plants. White faced capuchin monkeys also paid us a visit, and an agouti. Lots of friends on trail!

Blair off trail at El Bajo Tigre in the Children's Eternal Rainforest at Monteverde

Blair off trail at El Bajo Tigre in the Children’s Eternal Rainforest 

Recipe for Vegan Banana Muffins:

  • 3-4 ripe bananas
  • 1/3 c. oil (canola or veg)
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 c. water or other liquid
  • 2 c. Flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • chocolate chips or nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 375. Beat bananas and oil and sugar together until smooth. Add vanilla and liquid. Add the dry ingredients to the bowl and stir until just combined. Fills 10-12(+) muffin tins. Bake 20-25 minutes until centers are fully baked (check with toothpick or lightly touch for spring-back). Serve to hungry jungle [human] friends.

Costa Rica: Week 2

Photos From the Field

Hammocks at the SFS House

Hammocks at the SFS House

Pool in Atenas

The 25m pool in Atenas, about a 5 mile walk from the SFS house. Worth it, although the swim was mainly avoiding the multitude of people playing and jumping in from the sides. A few collisions, but I think mostly people were wondering why the heck I was actually swimming laps.

Volcán Poás

Volcán Poás. The clouds lifted just enough so we could see the crater and its lake! Beautiful aquamarine with not-so-tender sulfur fumes. We used this park as a study for our econ class, where we surveyed park goers about their experience. The results will be analyzed in class on Monday, and we will report our findings to the park.


ANDISOL! Soil formed in volcanic ash, and rich for the area. On the way to the volcano, we passed strawberry vendors and coffee farms.

Playa Azul

Playa Azul– everything but a tourist destination at the Central Pacific Coast. We used this as a case study for our Natural Resource Management and Tropical Ecology classes. All of the trash from the Tarcoles watershed (containing 55% of Costa Ricans on only 4% of the land) is deposited here. San José and Atenas are in this watershed where urbanization and agriculture abound. This otherwise beautiful beach is marred with plastics and ironies. One of many items was a perfume bottle called “Sea Sparkle” or something similar. It was a tease to be at the Pacific and unable to enjoy it; the water was too toxic.

Playa Azul- Trash

Trash at Playa Azul. This picture is only a glimpse of the expanse of the trash on the beach. Costa Rica does a fantastic job in a lot of its environmental practices, but it lacks infrastructure for treating water. Water water everywhere…

Carrara National Park

Just around the corner from Playa Azul, this expanse of river with mangroves, macaws, and crocodiles.

 Needless to say, I’m learning so much! Costa Rican independence day is tomorrow, and another week of a full schedule approaches.

Costa Rica: Week 1

This week began with ample orientating. After arriving at the airport, we drove 45 minutes from San Jose to my semester-long university in Atenas at the School for Field Studies. The campus is beautiful! There is a house with all of the dorm rooms, a kitchen, and a classroom. We are supplied with laundry machines and hammocks. It seems like our needs are more than met! We have Wifi with the only stipulation that we can’t stream videos, download or upload photos. Hence, the lack of visuals with this post.

Every afternoon or evening the sky has opened up and it has stormed and rained in a downpour (called aquaceros or Temporales). Luckily, this cools everything off and the evenings have been cool enough to sleep well.

We had our first excursion this week: a trip to La Tirimbina to do a hike in the rainforest; to El Progreso farm, a sustainable, family farm where they have calculated that their carbon sequestration is greater than their emissions; and finally to a Dole Plantation which directly and immediately contrasted El Progreso. Additionally, I ate the most flavorful banana (or 3) at El Progreso. That was after walking through some primary rainforest on their property. No big deal. And seeing their cute baby piglets and calves and participating in making organic, fermented fertilizer.

Food has been 90% rice and beans and 10% delicious fruits and vegetables. Bananas and pineapple and avocado, heart of palm, pico de gallo and yucca. All complementary to the perfect carbohydrate/protein combo.

Tomorrow I have several classes: Tropical Ecology, Environmental Economics, and Spanish. Also this week: Resource management and Culture and Society of Costa Rica. Looking forward to a week fully oriented.