Thursday, May 17, 2012

No artificial ingredients.

Today we again started our day bright and early which has not been easy for me due to the car alarm that goes off right outside my window at 12:15 and 3:15 every night! I can set my clock by it. But I persist nevertheless.

We began with a short walk through the downtown central market. We were broken up into groups and I ended up with a delightful group of 6 "chicas" and our wonderful guide, Karen. By the end of our tour, we were affectionately referred to as the shoe group because of our unified attraction to all of the shoe stores. We also got bright colorful mums from a local street vendor. These proved to come in very handy when gathering for departure from one spot to the next. I did abandon the short bus super heroes for this tour, and although I was initially voted out of the group, they eventually acquiesced and allowed me back in. Probably the fact that I will eventually decide their grades had something to do with this decision.

After this short tour, we headed to the botanical orchid garden. On the way, Sergio handed out a local newspaper and made the students...and me...read in Spanish. We ended up with our resident Venezuelan, Emir, translating our daily horoscopes. Just so you know, we laugh almost constantly on the short bus!!!

The orchid garden was amazing. It's always so interesting for me to see the diverse and unique foliage from country to country. Along with the varied orchids, we saw giant bamboo and ginger. After a delicious lunch here, the group separated and the short bus super heroes ventured to the butterfly farm. We did have to stop for directions several times since Costa Ricans do not have road signs or addresses. When asked what the address for the butterfly farm was, the guide replied, 500 meters past the entrance of the condominiums. The visit here was so interesting and fun. We got to actually see a caterpillar turn into a pupa. So cool!!

After a quick stop for ice cream and to ask directions again, we met the other group at INCAE, the number one business school in Costa Rica. We listened to lecture on sustainable development in Costa Rica. It was so interesting to learn how they have used economic means to achieve environmental sustainability.

After another very long day, a large group of us ended up at a local jazz club that is similar to the House of Blues. The food was great and the company was better!

We learned today that one of the more successful marketing campaigns for Costa Rica was simply, Costa Rica: No artificial ingredients. We've seen this in so many ways every where. In the business, the products, and especially the people. Tonight as a small group of us sat in the hotel bar, we talked about how happy we are to be the "short bus super heroes.". I didn't tell the story but we were separated out of the entire group on the first day and initially, we felt a little isolated from the other two schools. But now, we love it!! I've watched a group of 14 students bond and become a family of sorts in just a matter of 4 short days. We tease each other, protect each other, laugh at each other, and care for each other. They have come together in a way that honestly, I've seen few student groups do. I am not exaggerating when I say everyone wants to be us! We are the cool group, we are the fun group, and boy, are they learning..about Costa Rica, about themselves, and about each other. Ryan, aka Betty, profoundly nicknamed us the short bus super heroes on day two. Tonight as we discussed our group, he once again knowingly described us as a gumbo. Each person brings their own spice and together we blend together into something unique and amazing...and like, Costa Rica, we have no artificial ingredients. Viva UL-Lafayette!!

Wind and beans

Tuesday we had another full day. Started at 7:30 with a trip to Los Santos cooperative windmill project that provides free energy to 100,000 people across 6 counties. If you've never been right next to one of these windmills, let me tell you, they are huge! It was awesome! And the views across the valley were beautiful. Of course, I haven't seen anything in vista Rica yet that I didn't think was beautiful.

After the windmills, we headed to Coopedata, a cooperative of 800 coffee farmers. This company has the world's finest coffee and achieved carbon neutrality certification. Lonely Planet ranked Coopedata's coffee shop as one of the top ten places to drink coffee one the world. I had a mocha latte that was..."inexpresable"!

We had lunch at the coffee plantation and then finished our day with a drive back through the former capital city of Costa Rica, Cartago. We visited the Basilica de Los Angeles where every August 2nd more than 1 million people make a pilgrimage to give thanks and ask for favors.

Once back to the hotel, a quick dinner of very rare hamburgers and then most of us spent the rest of the night learning how to salsa. Cudos to our guys from UL who took the floor. Especially to Drew who danced the night away showing up everyone except the locals... All while wearing his crocs!!! Salute!!!