Friday, July 30, 2010

Farewell Dinner...

Pura Vida!! Our stay at Catie has been wonderful. We are at our farewell dinner and will be showing off our Salsa moves with the Graduate Students tonight. On Monday we had a hot and heavy dance session with Dr. Vargas's wife. Everyone is dressed up in nice attire and ready to impress.

This week we visited organic food businesses. On Monday we visited APOT, an organic coffee business and we got to make and package our own coffee. On Tuesday we had Lunch with a family farm business. They called themselves La Florasite. And we leaned how they managed their business. An important factor of their success is due to the fact there is no middle man. The family saves a lot of money this way.

We were told to think about what we learned from our trip so far. Collectively all of us understand the importance of having sustainable lifestyles and will make the effort to use more organic products and wear more sustainable clothing. We will also make the effort to be more aware of the food we eat!

So, it is almost time to start our dance off!!

Until next time,
Pura Vida :)


Zip-lining!! We had so much fun when we went zip-lining. There were 10 cables that we had to go through and each one seemed to get longer as we went along. The adrenaline that we were feeling only increased when you looked down and realized that you were seeing the top of all the trees. The staff that was helping us out made the zip-lining more fun that it already was. They were extremely friendly, great customer service. It was an amazing experience!

We also went to visit and climb up the Arenal Volcano! The guides gave us a back ground of the volcano and then they showed us a trail that we could follow that would lead us to the base of it. Some of us made it a competition to see who could get there first. It was so much fun, I mean, how many people can say they have climbed a volcano! We are very much enjoying ourselves here in Costa Rica and can only wait to see what else the trip holds for us...

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Learn Something New...

As a fun little excercise, I asked the students to provide you all with one thing they have learned that is of serious, academic nature, and also something they have learned that is more on the funny side. I hope you find their compilation both informative and entertaining. - hope

1) I have learned that there are 83 communities that have been awared the Blue Flag Certification. The Blue Flag Certification seeks to conserve beaches, communities, central education, natural parks, and actions to face climate change. Panama adopted the Blue Flag program and Cube is in the process of getting it customized.
2) The average annual salary is $6,000 dollars for Costa Ricans. Today, much of that income is attained from the tourism industry.
3) I learned that focusing on eco-tourism can be very profitable both for the bottom line and for one's knowledge base.
4) I have learned that the elevation and region controls whether a forest is as wet forest, dry forest, or cloud forest.
5) Ever since I found out about the cocao butter not being real chocolate in bars such as Snickers, I want to find real chocolate and use the organic coffee beans I purchased to make chocolate covered coffee beans and Snicker-replica delicacies.
6) I learned that it takes a lot of manual labor to produce one cup of organic coffee.
7) I learned that CATIE is trying to implement another action in order to conserve the environment which is to develop ways to face climate change, which is all part of the Bandera Azul.
8) It can be a profitable move for small businesses to practice eco-tourism.
9) Costa Rica is much more developed for a third-world country than I had anticipated.
10) I learned that people in Costa Rica are really concerned with recognizing individuality.
11) Seriously, I found it very interesting how sustainability has played a big roll in the lives of Costa Ricans from the way they run their businesses to the way they just do everyday things.
12) There is so much serious information on this trip, but what stood out to me most was how often the professors are warning us about this coming Friday. I feel like we're going to be on Man V. Nature. I'm doing some serious mental preparation.
13) I have learned to be more sustainable! I am going to work on being less high maintenance and more aware of the products I use and clothes I wear. I will definitely think about the food I eat by considering where it comes from and how organic it is.
14) Sustainable tourism is mainly focused in Costa Rica and South America.

1) Velcro watches can come undone and get lost when river rafting or cliff jumping.
2) I have learned to read the meter very carefully when traveling in taxis so that I will pay $1.00 instead of $10.00!
3) What was funny about this trip so far is when we went to the cheese factory. I thought since the cheese we were eating was called "The Baby" it would be new and fresh. So I ate it, and it turns out it was 45-60 days old!
4) I never thought I'd see the day when I'd wake up in the jungle and have no hot water!
5) To avoid making new micro-organism friends, I learned not to bury my damp, dirty clothes at the bottom of my bag. (ewww)
6) Just because Costa Rica is close to the equator doesn’t mean it’s always hot. Bring a jacket.
7) My facial expressions are very “readable”.
8) Don’t ever pay the taxi 15,000 Colones. Lesson learned.
9) I learned how clumsy I am once my toe hurt every time I tripped.
10) One must learn to maneuver your head and body in such a way, so as not to get stuck inside a very tight crevice of a Strangler Fig tree.
11) You should never look up when Howler Monkeys are above.
12) I’ve learned not to question what the milking area of an organic dairy farm looks like.
13) I have learned that zip-lining harnesses give you wedgies.
14) Different people really like different types of cheese, even the old, rotten looking cheese; the uglier the cheese, the pricier.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Social-Cultural Group Blog 4: The Children of Costa Rica

Yesterday we attended an assembly at a local private school! The assembly was held to celebrate the anniversary of the anex of a small part of Nicaragua to Costa Rica. The kids were so cute! The danced, sang, read poetry, and performed a little play. This school consisted of grades from Kindergarden to eleventh grade. Kindergarden through sixth grade were in one building, while seventh through eleventh grade were in another. Because this system is so different from that of the U.S, we were curious as to how the parents felt about their 12 year olds going to school with kids so much older. Dr. Vargas explained that in Costa Rica, kids are allowed to be children much longer than in America. There is less pressure for them to mature quickly, so they don't really have an "angry teen stage." Because they aren't as rebellious, the older children aren't thought of as bad a influence. This difference definitely caught our attention, being that we look mainly at culture and the customs that the Costa Ricans have. Plus, the children, their performance, and the breakfast we were given was wonderful!

Happy 186th!

This week we celebrated the one hundred and eighty–sixth anniversary of the Annexation of Nicoya along with the school children of Turrialba. We watched as the kids performed their traditional cultural dances. It was amazing to be a part of the cultural celebration in Costa Rica. The ninas wore white shirts with fancy colorful skirts while the ninos wore white shirts and hats. We have never been so close to such a special celebration this important. Luckily, we were able to learn some of the Latin dances to really feel like a part of the culture.

Shortly thereafter, we traveled to a local organic coffee farm called Café Historia 1492. This organic coffee company has established an alliance with local coffee growers. They participate in fair trade activities to ensure that the best quality coffee reaches the consumer. By being a part of fair trade, the consumer is guaranteed the quality of the coffee by tracing the origins back to the farm where it was grown on. We were taught that in organic coffee growing the producers do not waste any part of the bean. During the first stage, the outer layer of the bean is used for fertilization, in the second stage the sweet inner most part of the bean is used to feed the livestock, the third stage involves roasting the bean to the desired taste. Café Historia 1492 is being sustainable due to the fact that they are not wasting any of their resources.

Later that afternoon we visited a certified CST organic hotel and restaurant called Casa Turire. The entire hotel is based off of sustainable practices such as recycling and growing their own organic food for the restaurant. They also have a waste processing method specifically for fertilization. This process takes up to four months to process the grease from food to a sustainable fertilizer. Based upon our experiences and observations we have noticed that the environmental aspect of the triple bottom line is becoming more and more important to the consumer.

Welcome to CATIE

When we first saw CATIE we noticed some differences from Monteverde: it was hot, humid, and sunny (no rain). During our tour of CATIE we saw how beautiful the campus was. We noticed a lot of birds, flowers, and even a volcano. We had a delicious welcome dinner with the dean of the grad school.On Sunday (our free day) we went to Tico's River and learned (except for Krista who had already done it) how to white water raft. It was a very strenuous and exciting activity that left us sore the next day!

Our Tico friend Dr. Vargas invited us for dinner at his house. Little did Tyler know it was his birthday party! We had carne asada with vegetables and very spicy chilera that only the brave tried! When we brought out the cake, Tyler's face turned red and he couldn't stop smiling :) The surprises continued as Dr. Vargas brought out a piñata and Tyler failed (miserably) to break it. Thanks to Dr. Spears strong muscles the piñata was destroyed.

On Monday morning we visited a coffee plantation and learned about the advantages of organic coffee. We were also given the opportunity to grind and package our own organic coffee. Later that day we went to a nearby hotel, Casa Turire, a highly sustainable business. It had 7 different types of recycling and used fruit and eggs from its own farm. The most exciting part of the day was learning several Latin dances. It was quite a workout and very entertaining.


Kristel Montano
Tyler Eaton
Krista Vanden
HallBekah Nicks

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A message from Hope...

I apologize for this only being my second blog post, but the internet has not been the most consistent depending on our daily destinations. On a daily basis back home, the thought of being without internet would be both horrific and unimaginable, but here, it’s the way of life, for the most part. Perhaps I’m showing my ignorance here, but I wasn’t aware that Costa Rica was a 3rd world country. Of course, I’ve seen world maps that color code what countries are considered, but 1) they are never really consistent, and 2) with all the touristy advertisements I recall floating around about CR wouldn’t directly lead me to believe it was luring me to a 3rd world country. So as of yesterday morning, I realized I was visiting one.

That being said, here are the things that I have found surprising: No one has become sick from drinking the water, items for purchase are not dirt cheap (cheaper than in the states, but not by much), there is incredible food everywhere we go, and from my small sliver of the country I’ve seen, people seem to have nice items and accommodations (of course we have not yet seen the most poverty-stricken sections of the country either), and I believe places to be on the cleaner side of what one might imagine. Pleasant surprises around every bend. And obviously, it’s a remarkably gorgeous country with so much to appreciate. I have traveled a good amount and am not certain I have seen anything near such natural beauty for such a vast amount of open space.

For the last few days we have been in Monteverde, which includes the Cloud Forest. The nearest I’ve seen to this phenomenon is the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee. The morning could be clear skies, only to yield to a quick takeover of mist, shortly followed by a downpour. Afternoon/evening rains have shown themselves every day, but the amount of rain has differed each day. The most important issue for our group is that hopefully our students listened to us when we warned about daily rain and handed out the recommended packing list. Let’s just say that for the most part, all has been well, and if there have been areas they missed on their check-off lists, their new friends have been kind enough to accommodate the missing parts.

Jennifer informed the group early on that there would be no whining or grumbling allowed on the trip. When they nodded in unison we were certain they would soon change their tune as it grew too hot, too cold, too wet, too remote, or too bug-ridden. However, wonders never cease, because either her motherly brow convinced them this rule was definitely real, or they are wonderful people whose adaptability is incredible and worth nothing! In either case, they are very good with rolling with the punches and making the best of any situation. This is most impressive, as I do not remember myself or any group in my hang-out groups being this jovial at their age. Bravo group!

Not only have we noted their nature, but thus far, every tour guide or host we have encountered has given our students praises for their sincere interest in what they have to say and also for asking well-informed and thoughtful questions. Of course many of them are not on this trip for their direct majors and had minimal interests in tourism or sustainability prior to this trip, but their minds are expanding like sponges with each new crumb of information. I have a sneaky suspicion they are Discovering the Power of Ideas and am excited to see how they will use what they have learned in their social and academic lives in the future.

In some of the pictures, you may see colored index cards tied to the student’s backpacks or purses bearing their names and Top 5 Strengths. During the first week of class, they were each asked to take the Clifton Strengths Finder assessment to find their Top 5 Strengths. At first they were nothing more than 5 random words on a piece of paper, essentially meaningless. And they would remain so, if we had not taken the time to explore them more and find out how they were playing out uniquely in each of their lives and characteristics. Since they have been assigned teams to work in, understanding not only their own strengths, but also the strengths of others has been very interesting for the students to explore more and has also helped them understand more about those they will be working with for the coming weeks. Beyond applying it to their obvious academic goal for this course, they have also had fun with their strengths, finding humor in their differences and more importantly embracing those differences with kindness and acceptance- A beautiful thing indeed!
- hope

Economic Group: Monteverde

The last couple of days have been great. We had a guided tour through the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. We saw many animals and insects in the forest. There was a Red-knee tarantula, a Howler monkey and her baby, parrots, toucans, leeches, and other indigenous wildlife. After this tour, we went to hummingbird garden. They had many feeders in place allowing us to see a variety of hummingbirds in close range. We then went to a cheese factory where we were able to see the cheese making process as well as hear some of the Monteverde history. It was interesting walking around Monteverde and visiting the local art shops. They have a co-op program in which they teach locals how to paint. While shopping we were able to visit many shops that sold souvenirs. We were surprised that these were a lot cheaper than the local art. We then noticed that most of the souvenirs were actually made in foreign countries. We liked having the chance to purchase unique Costa Rican goods that were created by local artists.

The next day we went zip-lining above the Monteverde forest. The view was incredible and everyone had a great time. For those who were more interested in seeing the local flora and fauna there was a suspended bridge so people could walk above the forest as well. We were also able to visit a butterfly farm where we were given a tour as well as a chance to learn about raising butterflies. We enjoyed an amazing dinner later that night at a local restaurant called Johnny’s. At Johnny’s they raised their own cows and grew their own vegetables for the food they sold. We left Monteverde early the next morning and travelled to see Mount Arenal. This is the most active volcano in Costa Rica and we enjoyed hearing it breath. The hot springs were a perfect way to wind down from a busy day. Overall we are having a great time learning about Costa Rican culture and look forward to the rest of the trip.

Socio Cultural Group: Discovering a new way of life

As we embarked on our journey through the Monteverde region, the grasslands, and then here to Catie, a general trend that we noticed is that the people are quite humble and less refined. The natural beauty of its diverse landscape dazzled our senses. With such a small population, Costa Rican people, also referred to as “ticos” or “ticas,” are quite caring in their eagerness to share their resources with those in their community. Their way of life is simple, peaceful, family-oriented and fun loving. The people are extremely friendly and abundant with hospitality. It feels as if we left one world and stepped into another filled with diversity. Every day gives us something new and exciting; we’re constantly learning new things while having the time of our lives!!

Volcan Arenal!

It’s been about a week since we left Texas, and so far we’re having an amazing time. Time has flown by since arriving in Costa Rica because of the natural entertainment that Costa Rica has to offer. The food we have been eating has such a great taste because it is locally grown and is organic. No matter where we go, no food gets left behind because Jaime (Agustin) devours all the left-over food. When questioned why he eats so much, he simply says one word, “Sustainability”. The food isn’t the only thing that’s great, the drinks are very different from the typical soda. Freshly made cas en agua and piña en agua have become a favorite drink among our group.

So much gets done when the television and internet access is limited; we’ve gone days without access to either because we are busy enjoying both natural entertainment from things such as visiting the cloud forest in Monte Verde, as well as one of the most active volcanoes in the world, “Volcan Arenal”. While visiting Volcano Arenal, we took adventurous walks through the forest to reach our destination which was a huge pile of volcanic lava flow, or volcanic rocks, from its last eruption from 1992. The same day we visited the volcano, we were able to enjoy a great buffet dinner and a night of enjoyment at Termales Baldi Hot Springs.

We all began the trip as strangers and after spending hours a day, we are quickly building friendships that will continue after we return to our daily lives. So at the end of the day, it almost feels like we are on a reality television show.

Friday, July 23, 2010

¡Pura vida! : Social-Cultural Group -- End of First Week

We are loving Costa Rica! Pura vida translates to “pure life”, which is what we are seeing here. Costa Rica is not only full of environmental life, but social life as well. The people are active, friendly, a little different, yet fun.

The Centro in downtown San Jose, is where we really saw the people come to life. As we walked through the market and bought a few of many more souvenirs to come, we experienced the customer service and cooperation of the vendors. Many of them were eager to make bargains with us and reduce prices. There was many “2 for 1” deals and “buy 1 get 1 free” deals. It was wonderful! They were very cooperative with us as well as with their fellow vendors. For instance, if they didn’t have the product we were looking for, they would gladly direct us to another stand nearby that had it. With their recommendations, they brought their neighboring vendors business while keeping us happy too. We all felt extremely satisfied after leaving the Centro. Not only did we leave satisfied, but we left with a great experience of the Costa Rican’s social life!

Environmental Group: End of First Week

So far on our journey in Costa Rica we have ventured the city of San Jose and Monteverde. Entering San Jose we immediately witnessed the change in the atmosphere and the vegetation was not as impactful in San Jose compared to other parts of the country. We stayed at the hotel El Sesteo and we saw sustainable practices such as the low flow water in the shower and toilets. According to the CST, El Sesteo is at a level two in being a sustainable business. At first we did not understand the significance of such ratings until we reached Monteverde.

We are currently in Monteverde where natural resources are a way of life for the locals. The history of Monteverde goes back to when the Quakers arrived to Costa Rica because Costa Rica had their similar philosophy, NO DRAFT! The trip to Monteverde was rough, bumpy, and risky because of the increasing elevation and riding on a narrow road. Monteverde locals do not wish to change their culture by bringing in mass tourists, but rather to focus on niches, such as a scientific touristic perspective. They realize that mass tourism would influct more pollution, more funds will be needed and eventually their culture will be lost or forgotten.

Our group discussed how sustainability should be spread out, communicated and even taught in the classroom for young children. It may not be about maximizing profits but more about educating people so that businesses could maximize profits in the long run and stay in business for a long time. We wanted to share this quote with you and the University: “You protect what you love, you love what you know, you know what you understand, you understand what you are taught.”-InBIO Parque
Economic Group : End of the First Week

We arrived at San Jose safe and sound on Sunday afternoon. The first thing we noticed in Costa Rica is the weather, which is amazing! It is always in the 70’s and usually rains during the day. It rains all the time here compared to Texas. San Jose is a busy city and the traffic is crazy. The drivers don’t really stop at stop signs, they generally just kind of roll right on through them. We also learned that pedestrians do not have the right of way and they will honk loudly at those who do cross unexpectedly! However, our bus driver, Marcello has been great at navigating around San Jose for us. The food has been great and the majority of our meals have contained some type of rice and beans. We have all enjoyed trying out different kinds of beverages and foods that we are unaccustomed to in America.

Dr. Vargas from CATIE showed us around San Jose and told us about some of the history of San Jose and Costa Rica. We got a chance to visit the Inbio Parque and got to see some of the natural plants and animals of Costa Rica. The park leaders told us about how most people only care to save what they love and love what they know. This gave us a chance to think about what we are doing to save our own environment and what we can do to help. On our visit to Monteverde we got to see a lot of different tourist shops. We were surprised to see that many of the souvenirs were marked with US dollar price tags rather than colones, the Costa Rican currency. However, this gave us a chance to see how much U.S. tourism affects the Costa Rican economy. We have had the chance to visit several different types of hospitality industries and to see what they are doing to cut costs as well as be more environmentally friendly. We have seen everything from water barrels to catch excess rain, skylights and food being served on leaves rather than plates.

Overall we are having a great time seeing the natural beauty of Costa Rica and getting to know our fellow Emerald Eagle Scholars.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Trip Expectations from the Environmental Group...

Fashion Design Major, Poulette Romero...
My group will be focusing in on the environmental aspect of the Triple Bottom line. Environmental issues affect both society and enterprises equally. Society is now becoming more knowledgeable about sustainability and in what ways ‘society’ can save the earth. Enterprises deal with similar issues and are beginning to implement better daily practices by being cautious of where to allocate limited resources as well as investing in environmentally-focused innovation.
What I expect from this trip is to have a coherent understanding of sustainable tourism, the differences between ecotourism vs. sustainable tourism, also more about how to reach better practices and relate it to my major. I would like to get a different perspective of how others live outside of the U.S. as well as experience a different lifestyle."

Week 1

Business Entrepreneurship Major, Christina Bell...
"My group and I will be covering the environmental viewpoint of the triple bottom line. With that said, we will be analyzing Costa Rica’s society and atmosphere and relating it to an environmental aspect and how sustainable tourism will impact it. Several countries are getting on board to the idea of sustainably. The basic definition of sustainability is "…development that meets the needs of present without comprising the ability of future generations to meet their own need” (Dr. Spears). In other word, we will discover how eco-friendly Costa Rica really is.

From this trip I expect to experience life as the Costa Ricans live. I want to become more educated and have a deep understanding on the cultural background and their outlook on the world, while simultaneously using what I have learned thus far from business and fashion courses at UNT."

Kinesiology Major, Chase Hood...
"Hello everyone, my name is Chase Hood. I will be a sophomore this upcoming year pursuing my goal of obtaining a bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology. The focus that my group and I will be concentrating on is the environmental aspect of tourism and how sustainable tourism impacts the environment. My expectations for the trip are to learn more about other peoples’ daily living activities, expand on my view of cultural knowledge, and to overall have a tremendous time in Costa Rica that will assuredly be a valuable life experience for me. I do not have a camera as of right now but will be getting one asap so I am afraid I don’t have any pictures as of right now."

Day 1 Pics!

Class in the rain...

What are they doing?

The bus was a little crowded...

UNT faculty in Costa Rica!

Day 1 blog - Meet Hope :)

Having woken up at 2:30am this morning has made Day 1 quite a long one, but no major negatives to speak of. When we arrived the weather was amazing - just the right temperature, amount of clouds and slight breeze, perhaps around 70 degrees. We were immediately met by Dr. Eliecer Vargas of CATIE, who has taken complete and wonderful care of us since our arrival. Though there wasn't a single sign of rain earlier in the day, the mists quickly rolled in and began misting and raining lightly throughout the class's first lesson with Eliecer about Costa Rican historical background. So without fail, the rain came out to say hello to us on our first day abroad, but didn't damper anything by any means. Good thing we warned them about this to every extent beforehand! Everyone seemed to be well prepared and in good spirits.
Their excitement before and after arriving have been really nice to be around. This group of students is grateful for this amazing opportunity and seem to be getting to know each other quickly. They also each completed their StrengthsQuest assessment before coming, and will be able to explore, develop and apply their own strengths while taking the time the understand those around them as well. I'm anxious to see how each of their strengths begin to play out as the trip progresses, and how they will come to use them to accomplish their group projects throughout the course.

Our hotel is very cute and quaint, and of course equipped with the most lush plants and flowers. It is a small hotel with only a few units that all face one central atrium with a pool. For the most part, it seems that we outnumber the other guests here. For dinner tonight we ate at a streetside diner, or Soda Patia. This adventure could have also been called, "The night we almost died" due to the crazy amounts of traffic, traffic which does NOT slow down for pedestrians and I'm not even certain follow any kind of speed limit other than the pre-ordained governors installed by the car manufacturers! Either way, I had to throw that in there, but not as the title of this posting :).

- hope



Our names are (from left to right) Amanda (aka Violet), Nadya, Elia, Elisa, Cynthia! Together we form the group that will be studying the social / cultural cornerstone of sustainable development in Costa Rica. While we are all very different girls, we are all equally interested in people and culture. We will be on the lookout for how sustainable practices affect people in Costa Rica both positively and negatively. We are truly excited about observing Costa Rica's rich culture and learning life lessons that will be applicable to us in the future.

Ready for Takeoff

This is Group 1's official blog prior to our arrival to Costa Rica. We are so excited and ready for our Costa Rica Adventure! I am Angele Hall and I am a Human Resource Major. The other members are Tyler Eaton (Geography Major), Krista Vandenheuvel (Elementary Education Major), Bekah Nicks (Finance Major), and Kristel Montano-Rodriguez (Accounting Major). We are responsible for the Economic Demension of evalution of the Triple Bottom Line and Sustainiblity Project for Costa Rica. After our first week of discussion/lectures on Sustainiblity and Tourism, we understand how much a positive or negative economic result can shape the Service/Travel/Tourism Industry. In so, we expect to learn about the different ways Costa Rican businesses make good economical decisions while focusing on sustainiblity.

Nontheless, Group 1 also expects to see how poor economical decisions can interfere with sustainiblity and vice versa. We plan to soak in the vital information,observe our surroundings, and take many picutres to share this once in a lifetime opportunity! Everyone is ready to grow intellectually and discover new things about ourselves. Costa Ricans are working hard to incorporate Sustainiblity into their lifestlyes. Studying abroad in Costa Rica will give us the best insight into Business Practice and Geology. This will be Bekah and Tyler's first time traveling outside of the Country, and we all plan to document every beautiful moment so that we can share it will you. :] And now, we are ready for takeoff.

Until next time,

Angele, Tyler, Kristel, Bekah, and Krista :]]]]]