Cartago y Caribe: Volunteering at CATIE, Cacao Farm, and more!
Volunteering at CATIE
There have been lots of opportunities for our group to help out at CATIE. Our first job was to help improve the circular garden. To do this, we had to weed out the area around the outer circle in order to make room for a new circle to plant plants. We got lots of help and knowledge from the people at CATIE and overall it was a great experience; it felt good to help in a very observable way. Another memorable volunteer experience was helping our friends at the botanical garden. Our first step was to walk down the long gravel road to the botanical garden. After we arrived, we were split into groups and put to work. My group helped out by filling bags with dirt to start growing plants, and on another day we worked hard in the greenhouse to provide enough water for all the plants. The most tiresome job was spreading gravel around the area of a massive tree and its roots. Even though these jobs might have been tiring, it always felt good after to provide service in a way that people in the community can directly appreciate, as a job well-done means that they don’t have to work as much themselves.
Hello from Costa Rica! Currently, we are staying at the gorgeous CATIE campus. The whole area is filled with trees, grass, and birds of all sorts! Mountains covered in vibrant green trees surround the area and often are slightly covered in clouds and mist, making the whole area look absolutely breathtaking. Today we got to visit Nortico, a cacao farm. We got to taste chocolate that tasted more flavorful than nearly all in the US. We got to see the cacao trees and taste the fruit inside. We also got to see where they ferment and dry out the cacao beans. After that, we got to make our own chocolate using different kinds of ingredients. The whole group is growing closer and is excited to see what Costa Rica has in store for us next!
On Monday we went on an excursion to a very small town, and got to visit two women-owned businesses! The first one was a restaurant; it was run by a mother and her two daughters out of their house where they grew everything that they cooked so it was all natural. They made us different types of tacos and it was ¡muy bueno! After we left there, we went to a cheese farm owned by a woman and her family. I had such a great opportunity to experience something so different from my reality- milking a cow! It was really cool to be able to start the process of cheese making by milking the cow. After the other steps of making cheese were completed, we had to give it time to process, so in the meantime, we got a tour of the rest of the farm. In the end, we tried some cheese they had prepared for us. I really enjoyed seeing the process of how cheese is made and gained a lot of insight into how small businesses run.
After we went to a dairy farm and made cheese, we came back and played some friendly games until dinner. After that was the night tour which was super interesting! A small group of us went into a bus and drove to the botanical gardens where we met our tour guide, Jose. He introduced us to Zyro, who was there to join us and take amazing photos of the wildlife on the night tour. Jose prepped us by telling us safety rules and warned us not to go ahead of him as it could be dangerous. After we put on our boots, we were ready to begin! We first traveled along a pond where we saw tons of frog eggs as well as some red-eyed tree frogs! Jose even put one on some of us for photos. We also saw some other frogs such as glass frogs and webbed-toed frogs. I was happy to notice a couple of lizards hanging with the frogs. The insects varied from daddy long legs to locusts that were the length of your middle finger! We then came upon some lichen, a glowing bioluminescent fungi/algae. We ended the night tour with some rain, but I thought it solidified the entire experience.
Indigenous Community Excursion
On Wednesday, we took a trip to a local indigenous community to learn about their lives.
Our day started pretty early. Leaving at 5:30 am, we drove to a restaurant that served us all a great breakfast to start the day off well. Then we drove to the trailhead, thanked the bus driver, and started our hike through the forest.
The hike was amazing. While walking, we chatted and looked at all the amazing things there were to see. From the astounding greenery to the insects with vibrant colors I didn’t know existed in nature. We crossed rivers and went up and down the mountains until we reached the place of the indigenous community. Set in a gorgeous open space, we got to see part of their home, and learned about their language, their culture, and how they participate in the modern economy. After lunch there, we hiked out, exhausted but full of stories from the day. We drove back to CATIE, showered, stumbled through our fun Spanish classes and a delicious dinner, then collapsed into bed. It was exhausting but so much fun, and we’re proud to have completed the day!