Day 2: Monkeys! - March 19, 2016

Today started off really early. I was up by 5:00am and gearing up for work by 6:30 am. I had a very fast breakfast. The first thing I noticed was the rice and beans for breakfast. This is not a usual dish served for breakfast in the United States. It was delicious none the less, so there were no complaints from me. At Earth University, Saturdays are considered “work experience” days. Students and faculty all perform tasks that sustain the university and keep the environment clean. Students learn valuable skills that they can ultimately implement in their home countries. I was assigned to waste management. Waste management involves recycling, reusing and sorting. At Earth University, it also encompasses the creation of compost for use on crops grown right here on campus. When I visited the Recycling Center, I witnessed how waste like paper, glass bottles, plastic, electronics and batteries are recycled. Students actually generate profits by selling this sorted waste to recycling companies. The Recycling Center at Earth University was one of the most interesting places.

I also visited the campus landfill. I learned that about 90% of waste at landfills is organic matter that could actually be used as compost. The other 10% encompasses materials that can be recycled and things that actually belong at the landfill. The landfill was so gorgeous. because once the landfill is covered, trees are planted on top. This eliminates bad smells as well as provides a home for animals. The smelliest part of this work experience was actually separating the organic materials at the compost site. So much of the old food waste had begun to decompose. On a positive note, there were monkeys in the trees at the landfill!

This was one of the coolest things I have ever seen, because I have never actually witnessed monkeys outside of the zoo. The wildlife and biodiversity is second to none on the campus of Earth University.

The image above is a group of first and second year students being introduced to waste management at Earth University. They are required to perform a five week rotation here where they work on making compost and recycling the campus waste.

 

Dia Uno - 3.18.16 - Eboney Stallworth - Experiential Learning Costa Rica

Soon after arriving at the airport, I was boarding the plane to Costa Rica. As the plane left the ground and I realized I was on my way to Central America, I became extremely excited and nervous. You hear so many good things about other countries, but you also hear the horrendous tales as well. Thoughts like, “Will I get Zika Virus” or thoughts like “What if I get food poisoning,” begin to swirl around in my mind, but I was determined to be optimistic. I slept for most the flight, but I was awakened when the pilot talked over the loudspeaker to announce that we would be landing soon. As soon as the plane landed and I stepped off onto the jetway, the warm air and humidity smacked me in the face. I immediately began to sweat. However, everyone that my eyes landed on was so friendly and welcoming that it almost did not matter that it was so hot. It took two hours to drive from the San Jose Airport to Earth University. There was so much traffic! The lanes on the highway were so tiny and the highway did not have the capacity to handle all of the cars, trucks, motorcycles and mopeds. The drive was beautiful though. We traveled through the mountains of Costa Rica, which was breathtaking. The air grew cooler as we made our incline up the mountain, which was refreshing. As soon as we came down on the other side of the mountain, it warmed up again. I toured some of the campus with Karen Pitti and rested for the evening to prepare for tomorrow’s work experience in waste management.

Eboney Stallworth - Independent Study Trip - Global Incite and EARTH University

Introduction

My name is Eboney Stallworth and I thought I would take to time to introduce myself. I am twenty-five years old and I am the youngest child of eight siblings. I am currently a master’s student at Alabama A&M University studying Food Science with a concentration in Food Chemistry. When I was a child, we grew all of our vegetables and raised our own animals. However, the earth is becoming more vulnerable to climate change. This is affecting small farmers and large scale agricultural production. This hits close to home, because my father still grows his own food. Education is important to me, because my father grew up during a time where it was normal for kids to leave school to help out with the family farm. He only finished the sixth grade with minimal reading, writing and math skills. He always encouraged me to pursue a higher education. Of all of my siblings, I am the only one to attempt an advanced degree and the second to receive a bachelor’s. These things are among many that motivate me to do better not only for myself, but for my legacy and for the global community as a whole. With that said, I will get on with this blog about my Costa Rican Study Abroad with Global Incite and Earth University.

Global Incite CR 2014 - Day 3

Day 3 - Friday May 23, 2014

The students go on three different hiking tours through La Fortuna that include suspension bridges, a waterfall, and the Arenal Volcano.

 

1st Student Entry of the Day

Today was action-packed. We started the day off by taking a tour of a local rain forest. Our guide, Jésus took us through the forest showing us all of the different plant species. I think we walked on about 6 suspension bridges as we continued to hike up in higher levels which I must even admit was a little scary at first, but after a while I became used to it. I wasn’t able to hear much of what Jésus said since I was the last person in the group in the back and the hike had narrow passages which only allowed one person to stand alone and did not allow for huddling or crowding. But I was able to take pictures of all the beautiful wildlife and even get some pictures of the frogs.

Next we went to La Fortuna Waterfalls, which was very calming, relaxing, and for all the hiking it was quite refreshing. The waterfall also is surrounded by much plant life that allowed us to watch a family of howler monkeys consisting of two adults and an infant. Additionally, we were able to spot a toucan in the distance.

Lastly we went to hike up La Fortuna’s volcano. Jésus explained that the area before 1848 was inhabited by some natives who unknowingly chose a dangerous land to call home. The people thrived on the land for many years until they noticed strange signs in the environment including the fact that the river water began to bubble and some of the animals began to die, and then the volcano erupted and an entire village was destroyed, many lives were lost. It is an unfortunate story but it was an educational experience in the least. It is truly interesting to see and hear the many stories that all the places and people have in Costa Rica, and it has truly been an enriching experience.

2nd Student Entry of the Day

Today we visited the Arenal Volcano National Park in La Fortuna, Costa Rica. We participated in a total of three hikes where we were able to observe the beautiful flora and fauna of Costa Rica’s rainforests and learn a little about the volcano. Overall, it was an enlightening experience and quite a workout!

On the first hike, we were on the western side of the volcano. Our hike began with the view of Lake Arenal. We then proceeded on a 1.9-mile hike through the canopy of the rainforest, which included stationary and suspension bridges that were 20-29 meters above ground. This was very exciting. Being on the suspension bridges and being able to see miles of beautiful scenery sort of reminded me of being on a roller coaster, minus the feeling of free falling. As the hike progressed, we learned about the different adaptations plants develop to compensate for the lack of sunlight in some areas.

Some plants exist as epiphytes and are incapable of supporting themselves structurally. They exist as vines and wrap themselves around host plants. They continue to climb upward towards the sunlight while the roots are simultaneously climbing downward toward the soil to take in nutrients. This relationship with the host plant is symbiotic. The host plant is not harmed nor does it benefit.

We learned of other plants that exist as vines but are parasitic to the host plant. These plants wrap themselves around the host plant in a similar manner as the epiphytes; however, they drain nutrients from the host plant and eventually kill and replace it.

Many trees and shrubs near the ground of the dense rainforest have to wait patiently for their opportunity to receive direct sunlight. In the meantime, they are still able to survive because of the abundance of nutrients found on the forest floor. However, without direct sunlight, growth is relatively slower. Once they are able to receive direct sunlight, the plant can reach its full growing potential.

Sometimes, plants may become impatient. Instead of growing upward, they will grow horizontally until they can sense warmth. The plant then grows upward toward the sun. A plant’s sense of time is much slower than ours so one would not be able to watch this occur in one sitting. However, evidence of this is usually seen as a bent trunk that leans in one direction or another before it grows upright.

The tropical climate here in Costa Rica only consists of two seasons, a wet and a dry season. However, the growing season is year round. The wet season begins in May, so there has been an abundance of moisture. The rainforest is comprised of very diverse, dense vegetation that is constantly growing at different life stages and recycling nutrients from the canopy of the trees down to the vegetation in the ground. As plant material reaches the ground, microbes aid in its decomposition. The nutrients made available from this process are then recycled through the roots of surrounding vegetation.

After learning about the different plant adaptations, we were able to spot a few poisonous dart frogs. These frogs are about one inch in size. Our guide informed us that they were named dart frogs because the toxin secreted on their backs were used to coat the tips of arrows and hunt for game. Costa Rica’s rainforests contain a lot of other birds, mammals and reptiles but it rained a lot during our hike thus most of the animals were hidden.

After our first hike, we stopped at a local restaurant for lunch. We were able to taste a typical Costa Rican lunch dish - casada. The dish is comprised of rice, beans, fresh vegetable salad, a side of fried plantain and a choice of meat. The meat choices were fish (Sea bass), chicken breast or beef tenderloin. The beverage was fresh mango juice. I have enjoyed the Costa Rican food thus far, and the fresh juices are something that I will miss very much when I return to the U.S.

After lunch, we began our second hike. It was a relatively short one. We hiked the waterfall trail. It consisted of about 500 steps downward to a beautiful waterfall. We had the opportunity to swim under the waterfall but the current kept some of us from getting too close. On the way back to the bus, a family of howler monkeys and a toucan entertained us shortly.

On our final hike, we visited the trail of lava flow from the 1948 eruption of the Arenal Volcano. The villagers living near the volcano at the time had no idea that it was a volcano. They were not aware of the warning signs of a soon-to-erupt volcano. Several days leading up to the historic eruption, the lakes began to heat up and the fish were killed off. An earthquake occurred the night before the eruption, but all of these warnings were ignored. What was formerly known as Arenal Hill was about to show its true nature. The composition of its “lava” is 40-60 percent silica, which results in very viscous lava and not the hot, molting liquid lava one might imagine. It spewed large boulders and ash from its side. In the aftermath of its awakening, Arenal Volcano took 87 lives. In the path of lava flow that still remain today, the soil has a reddish hue and is very rich in iron.

I really enjoyed the opportunity to hike one of the rainforests in Costa Rica and observe its flora and fauna. It was a very enlightening and enriching experience that I will always remember. This experience further enforced my desire to become a Wildlife Biologist. I enjoyed being immersed in nature and learning about the flora, fauna and the environment.

Adios!

Global Incite CR 2014 - Day 2

Day - 2 Thursday May 22, 2014

The students travel to EARTH University where they meet students from the U.S. and other countries. They participate in a lecture at the university and are given a tour.


Student Entry of the Day

Experiencing various cultural practices, including trying a variety of foods is going to be a major part of the trip, so this morning I decided to get up and workout. The hotel does not have a fitness room, but I thought why not workout outside in the fresh air. I must say it was quite refreshing. Morning dew everywhere, it was cloudy, so there wasn’t too much sun. Very humid, but it helped keep me cool. I saw a beautiful brown horse at the farm next to our hotel. The workout was great until I attracted every mosquito that was within a mile and I didn’t spray any repellent on lol. Anyways after showering and eating breakfast, we set out to go to EARTH University.

EARTH University has a BEAUTIFUL campus. Imagine going to college in a vivid, lush, green forest inhabited by monkeys. We met some other Americans that were studying at EARTH University over the summer. They explained to us that their program consisted of two lectures that start off in theory that covers topics including deforestation, pollution management, etc. The other part of the class consisted of doing fieldwork which included going out to the rainforest.

Now for someone who may be considering visiting Costa Rica in the future it is very important that you understand that it is in the tropics and that insects are NOT in the minority. One of the students we met had clearly been bitten pretty harshly as both of her legs were covered in mosquito bites. It looked like she had chicken pox, but only on her leg. She explained that she thought that she had covered herself well in repellent and that she was wearing skin-tight yoga pants. She thought that would be enough to keep the insects from biting, but unfortunately she was wrong lol.

We ate lunch with the students and sat in on one of their lectures. The lecture focused on how pollution affects global warming and how by changing an activity such as grounding planes for three days in the U.S. can lead to warmer temperatures. Our group was very involved and interested in the call. 

One of the students gave us a tour of the campus. We saw and heard the howler monkeys. The howler monkeys, as their name suggests, are known for the howling noises they make. When there are a group of them, it sounds like a pack of dogs barking. 

She showed us the classrooms and explained that all of them had large patios. This is done so that the professors can bring plants to the patio and teach the class on the patio so that soil does not have to be tracked into the classrooms. We even went to the river that is on their campus only to accidently stand over the part where a student was skinny-dipping. Yes he was quite embarrassed lol. 

She explained that the students that go to the university for their bachelors for a great part come from low-income backgrounds and are there on scholarship. Everything is paid for including their flight to come to the university. Students who do not know Spanish come the summer before their first trimester starts and stay with a Costa Rican family to learn Spanish in addition to taking classes Monday – Friday from 6AM – 6PM learning Spanish. During their senior year, students run a festival to raise money to fly their family to see them graduate. Each class has about 100 students. The campus is a dry campus so that students can solely focus on the importance of their education. Most students get around by walking and biking. The campus is isolated which is brought out in a positive sense because it leads to a more close knit campus. Visiting EARTH University was an enlightening and inspiring experience, and I just can’t wait to see what the next day holds.

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Global Incite CR 2014 - Day 1

Wednesday May 21, 2014

This was the first day that the students arrived to Costa Rica. The entry goes into details about the student’s first perceptions of Costa Rica as soon as he exited the plane.

 

Student Entry of the Day

For me this entire trip is a big deal since it is my first time leaving the U.S. My first perception of things provides me with memories I will never forget.

Smell: The first thing I smelled when getting outside the airport was a smell much like the Aqua Velva aftershave. All the Costa Rican men were wearing cologne that had distinct and STRONG smells. Not that it is a bad thing that they were wearing cologne, it is just that there was a lot of it…

Taste: Well we were kind of in a rush to get our stuff and head in because everyone was tired (except me). I had a lot of energy built up because I slept all day and took an hour nap on the plane. I didn’t get to eat anything on the plane so the first thing I did was pull out a fruit snack I had packed. Sorry not exactly a Costa Rican flavor but that comes a little later.

Sight: I spent the first 10 minutes getting off the plane trying to find a sign that said welcome to Costa Rica so that I could take a selfie (yes a selfie). But all the signs I saw looked like movie posters advertising upcoming films. I was really disappointed because I didn’t get to take a picture on the plane like a bird’s eye view of Costa Rica because the person on my aisle that was sitting by the window literally put her face on the window the entire last 25 minutes of the flight so I wasn’t even able to look out lol. Oh well, being on the ground and witnessing it was much better anyways. Also come to find out that some of the posters that I thought were movie film advertisements were actually signs saying welcome to Costa Rica just in Spanish….

Sound: The beautiful use of Spanish even though I didn’t understand a word that people were saying. It was still easy on the ear.

Touch: Nothing too special. My first touch was just my checked luggage.

To help make this post easier to follow I’ll pose a few common questions that people might ask about the first day.

How do you like your group? Everyone seems nice. It’s the first day so everyone is pretty quiet and reserved. Also it might have just been that everyone was tired because in our time zones most of us would have been sleep around the time that we arrived.

What moment stuck with you the most? Seeing Page 15 of my passport stamped and walking through customs.

Were there any exciting moments after arriving? The driving here is quite “adventurous”. The roads are curvy, there were speed bumps about every 10 miles, there were also a lot of bridges that were used for traffic but only allowed traffic to flow in one direction at a time because of the width of the bridge. Also the driving is chaotic but somehow the people of Costa Rica get through with no problem and no assistance.

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Student enjoying his first dinner in Costa Rica!

Global Incite CR 2014 Blog Introduction

Costa Rica is a country filled with culture and opportunity. Regardless of whether you were able to travel with us or not, we want to make sure that you are able to have a taste of what we students experienced during the trip. This blog includes journal entries from all students so that you will be able to gain various perspectives of our experience and enjoy a more vivid description of everything that took place. On most days one student contributed one entry per day, however, on some days there are multiple entries from various student because some students were so excited about the day's activities that they volunteered to cover the same day. We hope that these journal entries are informative, entertaining and pleasant for you! Disfrutar!

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