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Sustainable Development in Costa Rica

17 days in Costa Rica

overcast 85 °F
View Costa Rica on MJMatson's travel map.

Over winter break I took a course on ecotourism and sustainable development in Costa Rica. We did a lot of awesome things, went to gorgeous people and met some amazing people. Over the next few days, I'll basically re-write what I wrote in my journal that I took over the course of the trip since I had no means of posting on my blog while I was actually in country.

December 30, 2009
Today I headed down to San Jose, Costa Rica. When I first arrived, me and a few other people from class hopped in a cab and met up with the rest of the students at our hostel. We simply said to them, enfrente de pollo kentuky en san pedro, which means opposite the Kentucky Fried Chicken in San Pedro. We had some dinner and a quick meeting to go over what our expectations were and what to expect in the next few days. It was a pretty short day, but I was extremely exhausted from traveling.
Costa Rica, as I was flying in looked like a really beautifully green country. However, when I landed, I was definitely in a city. San Jose is the capital of Costa Rica so I was expecting it to be like any other capital city, however with all the hype around the ecotourism and conservation movement you hear that Costa Rica is all about you would be surprised to see just how much like a city it is. The roads were well paved and there were A LOT of cars and people walking around looking like they were coming from work. However, as we walked to dinner you noticed the side walks were not very well kept with tons of cracks and huge dropoffs as well as the mounds of garbage sitting in vacant lots. I can tell you that I am extremely interested in seeing how different the different regions of this country are in comparison. And I am definitely excited about learning about the development of these areas.

December 31, 2009
Today we met our driver for the next 2 weeks, Herardo, and got into our van and headed to Fundacion Neotropica which is a Non-Profit or NGO that focuses on conservation and environmental and development projects. We met with the director who told us about the organization and some projects they do. We will be staying with them for a few days later on in the trip but we are also visiting an institute in which they work very closely with.
After spending some time there, we hit the road and headed to La Fortuna which is the gateway community of the Arenal Volcano. La Fortuna became what it is today when the Arenal Volcano erupted in the 70's for the first time and eventually became a tourist destination. As we walked around, we noticed restaurants like Luigi's Pizza, Burger King and Asian Infusion foods, as well as your typical volcano themed restaurants, stores and souvenir shops catering towards the tourist who visit the area.
Most of the day was actually spent in the van on our way to La Fortuna, but we did get to see some of the countryside of Costa Rica. As we drove you could really see the difference in lifestyles in people from San Jose and those who do not live in the capital. It was really interesting to try and guess what their lives were like as we only got a glimpse as to what their jobs or means of income might be as we quickly drove past cattle ranches, farms of all sorts ranging from what I would guess were decorative plants, to coffee, to good old fashion agriculture. When we finally got to our hotel, we settled in before we headed to Ecothermales, which is a hot spring and restaurant. It was really cool to meet with the owner of the place. He told us his story how his family bought land for cattle farming when they discovered the hot springs, at this point the Volcano had not erupted and people did not even know it was a volcano, and how it evolved from a family spot to a now successful and quite green business operation.
What really touched me the most was Gerald's willingness to help those in the area. He has a very good waste management system in which he is sharing with all the other resorts, spas and hot springs, for FREE. That is not something you see everyday, especially in the US.
After our dinner and swim, we all headed back to Las Cabinas, where we quick got ready and attempted to go to the discotech for New Years. However, when we got there we discovered it was $12 just to get in so we went to the liquor store and got some drinks and headed back to our hotel where we rang in the New Year, twice actually. Once at 11 pm because thats when the ball dropped on TV (we were an hour behind eastern standard) and again at Midnight. It was really awesome to just hang out on the porch of our rooms and ring in the New Year in a new way.

January 1, 2010
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! I woke up this morning and sort of forgot where I was, but when I rolled over and looked out the window of our room, I just smilied because I was so excited to spend my new year in a new country. We got up this morning and had to do something not as exciting and probably something no one really wants to do at 9 in the morning on new years day. We had to take our one and only test in the class. However, it wasn't too bad and we all felt pretty prepared for it.
Then we headed to the Arenal Observatory Lodge, where we had lunch and got a tour of the place. The lodge has an interesting background. It was first the site of the Smithsonian Researchers who came to the area in the 70's after Arenal first erupted. They set up a single room with a seismograph and eventually found themselves entertaining some off the beaten path type travelers. Eventually the platform turned into a few rooms and now it is a beautiful resort.
After some delicious lunch and a quick tour of the place, we headed to the the Arenal National Park where we had a tour of the base and an old lava flow from 1992, it was really awesome because we got to walk on it. The view was amazing, even though we could never see the top due to the clouds. But if you were quiet, you could hear the rocks tumbling down the side of the volcano.
We had dinner at a pretty nice restaurant, I am beginning to think that everywhere we go we will have some good food, because I have no come across a bad meal yet. We tried to see if the skies had cleared up to hopefully catch a glimpse of the molten lava coming out the top of the volcano, but we weren't so lucky and it was just too overcast.
Pura Vida!

Posted by MJMatson 20:04 Archived in Costa Rica

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