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last few moments

approaching the end

Not sure where I last left off, but basically the last month we all were assigned different directed research topics. There were three groups of nine that looked at different aspects ie economic, ecological, and biological/natural resource managment. I choose the latter, which included working in three coffee farms two organic and one conventional. My topic was to assess the difference in biological diversity using habitat quality as a criteria. We had took one hectare plots in each farm and within that made four 20 x 25 meters. Another classmate and I)and also help of the teacher) took the canopý cover, identified the trees within the ha plots, identified those that are native and non native, took measurement of their height, and counted the total number of those trees. I wrote a research paper on this. This project was very helpful and applicable to my major and I was very pleas

Posted by touché 15:00 Comments (0)

three countries in less than a week

nicaragua,panama, costa rica


I headed to Nicaragua with the school program on October 22. Before we went we learned alot of Nicaragua's history, I'll give a brief overview:
Settled in 1524, independent in 1821. Since the independence they had a group of liberals from Leon and Conservatives in Granada that feuded this led to civil war in 1840s and 50s. Where William Walker(from southern US) was invited to help the liberals in 1855 and then made himself president in 1856, which US President Pierce recognized as a legitimate governmate of Nicaragua. However, Walker ws very disliked and this led to a national campaign that drove him out in 1857. US occupied Nicaragua from 1912-1933 and supported the conservates in the continuing feud. The support was mainly because US didnt like the liberal president, Zelaya cause he restriced Nicaragua's natural resources and US wanted control of a proposed canal in Nicaragua. Thus in 1914 there was Bryan-Chamorro treaty signed that would allow the US control of the proposed canal. Then there was a guerilla war (1927-1933) against the conservatives and US marines led by Sandino.nicaragua-sandino.jpg Sandino was killed in 1934 by Somoza and thus began Somoza era(1933-1979). There was a Sandista Revolution in 1979 and they took control. The US under Reagan suspended there aid to Nicaragua in 1981 and supported the Contra(group against Sandistas). This led to the Contra-Iran scandal where the US profits from selling weapons to Iran were being diverted to the Contras in 1986 which was after the ban on military aid in 1985.The support from the US continued until 1990 when the Costa Rica president Sanches dissolved the situation by a Peace Plane.
Thus they have a pretty rocky history that still divides the country and you can see the influence the US has had, ie baseball being the most popular/played sport there...
So when we arrived we headed to Ometepe Island situated in Lake Nicaragua and stayed at Hacienda Merida, which was right on the lake. volcan_maderas.jpgThe next day we visited an organic coffee farm and say how labor intesive it is and how the process works. Further down the property lies Petrogliphs that were from indigenous tribes that lived from 300bc to 800ad. Which were pretty amazing to be in the presence of that and try to decipher the language of the people. petrogliphs.jpgWe left to go to a natural spring, Ojo de Agua, which was incredible. ojo_de_agua.jpgThe next day, sautrday, is when we did our Tropical Ecology Fex at our hostel in Herida Magdalena. We originally were trying to assess the native(mostly chiclids) verse non native (tilapia) species of fish however there is a certain type of net that is needed to catch the non-native species and we were unaware of that. So we had to fishermen the night before catch fish one close to shore(littoral zone) and the other far from shore(pelagic zone). The fishermen then brought us the fish and we identified and weighed them. These fish was something the fishermen were going to use to sell later but I still had a hard time stomaching the process. The fish were failing around still alive and looked like they were suffering, a stayed and did my part then cried for an hour(haha im a sissy). Just not down with the hurting of animals for science sake even if they still were going to die anyway. Anyway later that day we went to a San Ramon Biological Station and hiked the Montane Forest of Volcan Maderas.
We then packed up to leave the island and left for Granada stopping in Rivas on the way. Granada was very similar to Sevilla, Spain. granada_church.jpgGranada had originally been destroyed and they have been rebuilding it to resemble what it once was in colonial times. It has very bright colors and has a street where they have restaurants where the seats are right on the road. This is where I encountered the poverty of Nicaragua. Half of Nicaragua's population live on less the a dollar a day. They are highly illiterate. Most of the kids I saw beg for your food or money and some result to other tactics. (An Argentenian artisan was beat up and had all his jewlery stolen right infront of our hotel and midnight). We volunteered at a place called Carita Felices where they meet three times a week and provide the kids with a meal. They also perform a talent show which we were able to participate(my friends and I sung In the Jungle from Lion King). It was really sad to see that there were nearly 400 kids there. And that is the fastest I have ever seen kids eat. Later we recognized some of them from the street that will come up to you at restaurants and not leave you alone till you give them food or money. I become attached to the girls there, they all wanted to try taking a picture with my camera. carita_felices.jpgnicaragua-..felices.jpgIt was actually funny one of the times I was out at a restaurant and brought my own food(humus that I had packed from costa rica) and a kid was begging for food so I just gave it to him and he tried it right there and gave it right back. I guess he couldnt be that hungry.
We visited Managua which was where we saw the Historical Center(Palacio Nacional, Presedential House, and Old Catedral) It was weird cause they were all very spread out and it didnt feel much like a city cause alot of it was destroyed by the wars.nicaragua-managua.jpg
Tuesday the 27th we went to Volcan Mombacho which we could see four craters and little islets in Lake Nicaragua and supposedly you can see Costa Rica from up there too. It is 1345 meters(4,412 feet) above sea level. They hired and trained young people who live in the surrounding areas of the Mombacho volcano, thus, giving them the chance for learning how to protect their natural neighborhood.Nicaragua-..ombacho.jpg This hike lasted three hours and was pretty intense, everyone passed out when we got back to the station. Wednesday we went to Leon to do surveys to assess people knowledge/opinions on climate change. I wish we had more time there, Leon was somewhat of a univerity town and seemed like it had a lot to see and do and was cheaper than Granada. Thursday we headed to Masaya, first to the artisan market there, and then to the Volcan Masaya National Park. Where we saw the main Santiago crater and toured lava tube caves that were used by indegenous people for ceremonies. masaya_volcano.jpgThen we returned home Friday the 30th. Nicaragua was a really good experience and it was the first time I felt like a travelled to a country that was unsafe. Which makes me intrigued for my further travels cause I feel like it will open up my eyes to things I have never seen or experience in a good way and inspire me to give back and appreciate the things we have.

Posted by touché 10:43 Archived in Nicaragua Tagged ecotourism Comments (0)

more field trips

monteverde, la fortuna, nicaragua

We had homestays for a weekend, where I was placed with a local from the Barrio Brasil not far from where the schools at. One of the girls is Yuliana, she has actually been one of the girls we play soccer with so I have known her from that. She is 25 and lives with her father Claudio and her uncle. Her dad is from a family of 11 brothers and sisters and she only has 2, her and her sister.elenapicsm..rde_027.jpg Pretty much everyone in that neighborhood is a relative of hers. They didnt have much and you come to see how amazing the Costa Rica family structure and support is. We played soccer which pretty much everyone plays here in Costa. We played on an artificial field with another group of girls, which was pretty intimidating since I um el sucko but I managed to score a goal even though we still lost 4-10, it was fun. The next day they took me to a local waterfall in Rio La Union. It was amazing. My new favorite pastime is jumping rocks in to waterfalls and that is exactly what we did. elenapicsm..rde_021.jpgThere was also a sliding rock, not that long, that we were able to go down. And when we hiked up a bit there was an abandoned mine that was use for stones for jewlery. (I forget what kind) We attempted to go in for a little bit but then got scarred cause it was pretty dark and went on for atelast a mile. She took care of her nephew alot who was with us that afternoon. We will be having a dinner and talent show for the families we stayed with in two days.

Me and five other girls have worked on this outreach project in San Isidro with kids from kindergardners to age 11. We went there and taught them some English words in relation to water conservation and then painted a mural dipicting water conservation as well. This morning we helped plant in the garden they have. elenapicsm..rde_010.jpgThe kids who were around 9-11years enjoyed working and helping in the garden. I was so impressed that they knew how to fix fences, plant plants, and what pests were bad for the crops. It was sad to see that that was the last day working with them they have been so fun and cute. elenapicsm..rde_011.jpg
Last weekend we went to Monteverde and la fortuna, which I have been to both already. MOnteverde is different cause it is cooler than the rest of Costa Rica. We stayed at a biological station and did orientation hikes in the Cloud Forest there. Which is located over the coninental divide. Near the station in the morning we worked on a field lab in the area behind us, basically trying to form any kind of ecological question in relation to plants or animals. My partner and I looked at the frequency of mushrooms on decomposing logs/trees. Assuming there would be more on trees of a higher composition. Its really cool to actually do live field experinces from scratch. We then went to La Fortuna stopping at a windmill energy plantation infront of Lake Arenal. The windmills there have been there since 1998 and are a bit outdated and if they brought newer bigger windmills in they could produce twice as much energy but they dont have the roads equipped well enough to bring it to that location. It is one of the windiest place in the world. elenapicsm..rde_038.jpgWe were able to go inside and see and here about how they work. Most Costa Rica's energy comes from hydro( about 80%-with around 35 dams) but a small percentage comes from windmills(roughly 10%) and geothermal (roughly 10%). We then made it to La Fortuna, which we unfortuanetly were unable to see the Volcano. We were supposed to head to a waterfall the next morning but the heavy rains forced us to cancel and we went to a hot spring instead. Which to my dissapointment was just a resort with no natural hot springs. But it was still fun cause they had water slides. slide.jpg

Tomorrow Costa Rica vs USA in soccer, kindof rooting for my new home Costa!!

Posted by touché 21:04 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (0)

Here goes...

It has been three weeks since I have been in Costa Rica with the SFS program and have enjoyed every minute of it. The Costa Ricans have been very friendly and tranquil and the program intense and educational. I have been learning the Pura Vida lifestyle although our schedule has been busy with a full days worth of classes. Here is a sample schedule
7am-8am breakfast
8am-830am rap(preview and reflections of the day)
830am-930am econ
930am-1130 work on econ field lab excercise
12-1 lunch
130-230 tropical ecology
3-500 spanish class
530-600 briefing on field trip for next day
600-700 dinner
730-830 salsa class
curfew 1030 and fri and sat 1200am
Its very weird to have a curfew since im 25 and a really structured schedule where you are not allowed to miss class, not really even if you are sick. I have been trying to adapt the relaxed, open attitude of the people here. Its funny though cause being the oldest one here people tease me and call me grandma, which is kindof the first time to hit me about my age and growing old. This group of students is a very active, enthusiastic group. I have been very impressed and excited that we all have the same agenda and interests. The second day some of us woke up at 6 am before breakfast to go running and do yoga. The field trips have been great and have exposed me to a lot of Costa Rica that I have yet to explore(being that it’s my 7th time here) and make me appreciate the country that much more. We have done so much that is feels like much more than three weeks. Every week we there is a field trip or two. So far our field trip and what we have seen/done include:
1. Tirimbina-did a lab excersize on carbon storage in a pasture and went to a dole plantationbananas.jpg
2. Manuel Antonio National Park- the smalles park in Costa Rica but the second most visited with 150000 visitors annually 5manuel_antonio.jpg...took surveys on what visitors thought of the park, in order to find ways to better manage and control the capacity of the park
3. Carrara-another park very close to the highway. a transitional forest between wet and dry tropical forest.
4. Poas Volcano- the most visited park with 300,000 visitors annually earning about 1 million annully of that the government only gives them about 7% back for upkeep and wages.

On Sept. 14 and 15th on Monday and Tuesday I was able to participate in the celebrations of Costa Rica’s Independence Day; which was in 1821, and was Central America’s separation from Spain. They soon adopted their first constitution. independence_day2.jpgMonday night there were a group of kids in Atenas that were dressed up in traditional clothing and gave speeches and then danced and sang the national anthem. After that they parade with lanterns which signify back in 1821 when people were walking with lanterns to from the capital of Central America in Guatemala to Costa Rica and beyond to spread the news of their independence. independence_day.jpgThey next day is a national holiday and everyone gathers around to watch a parade of kids and some elders that go around in a square and do traditional dances and play drums. My friend Allie and I got to partake in trampoline festivities, trampoline.jpgIt was nice partaking in the country’s independence day especially knowing how peacefully they separated and gained their independence from Spain.

Posted by touché 10:00 Archived in Costa Rica Tagged educational Comments (1)

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