Central American Conservation and Leadership Field Trip
5/19/15 - We picked up on Mayan culture today
with a visit to a chocolate farm. This farm grows the
chocolate and processes it into cocoa powder, cocoa wine and
chocolate. They start with the cocoa plants, picking the
pods and pulling out the seeds The tissue surrounding the
seeds is used to make the cocoa wine. The seeds are dried
using the sun over a period of a week or so, then the beans are
fermented and roasted. We started with the fermented beans
and cracked them to remove the solid chocolate nibs. These
were then loaded onto a grinding stone that had been in our host
Juan's family for hundreds of years (and passed into his hands
as a wedding gift0. The nibs were ground with the stones
until the cocoa liquified and turned into a dark brown
pastes. Sugar was added and we had chocolate. The
demonstration was followed by a fantastic lunch featuring
chocolate chicken and a variety of other local dishes.
Later we hiked to a swimming hole near a cave.
The cacao seeds.
A cacao seed with the seed coat picked off. The
remainder can be crushed to cacao nibs, which are then ground
Grinding the nibs.
Adding the cane sugar (also produced on the farm).
Tasting the final project.
And a swim to finish off the day.
5/18/15 - A very busy day. We hooked up
with a local NGO - TIDE (Toledo Institute for Development and
Environment). They protect a lot of the marine and
freshwater resources locally and they took us up a river to see
some of their land-based initiatives before taking us out to
their ranger station on a small island and then to another small
island to snorkel. The water was very rough, but everyone
had a good time snorkeling.
TIDE ranger station on the Rio Grande River.
Tide ranger station on Abalone Key.
Ready to snorkel.
This small Boa Constrictor was on the island where we had
lunch. It is not venomous.
5/17/15 - We got up about 3:30 to fly from Costa
Rica to Belize via San Salvador. The flights went well and
we arrived in Belize mid-morning and promptly drove to the
southern part of the country at Punta Gorda.
5/16/15 - We are in San Jose ready to fly to
Belize in the morning. We have internet at the hotel, but
it is VERY slow and I can't upload photos. Not sure when
we will have internet in Belize.
5/15/15 - We haven't been able to update the pages as we've been
at El Zota, a field station in the Caribbean lowlands of Costa
Rica - no internet connection there. A brief recap of what has
happened since the last update: We drove down from
Monteverde to La Fortuna at the base of the Arenal volcano.
There we studied some of the thermal springs in the area; Costa
Rica is trying to reach energy independence in part through
geothermal energy. In Monteverde and in La Fortuna the
students had locals complete surveys about their attitudes towards
the environment; this is part of a multi-year study. We then
drove on to El Zota, where the owner, Heiner Ramirez, welcomed us
with a BBQ of beef from his own farm. We also had a bit of
overlap with a group from Iowa State led by Tom LaDuke and Jill
Pruetz. We went on a hike the following morning, then
started on the service project, which was to help fix up the local
school (also called El Zota).
The school at El Zota. A one-room schoolhouse, it has 5
students and one teacher, who lives in part of the building to the
right. The lunchroom, also on the right, is no longer in
The original school was built by the locals with material provided
by US AID.
Heidi taking some of the students to her house for buckets and
brooms. The school was originally built when Heidi's family
moved to Costa Rica from Germany in the 1980's; her son attended
there but they had to move to the city so he could attend high
Bringing in the supplies. Douglass from El Zota Field
Station is carrying the paint.
Detail work on the lettering - we didn't have any black paint so
they had to be careful to leave the original lettering there.
Inside the classroom.
Inside after some sprucing up.
This wall needed a lot of work; fungus had grown on the siding.
The painting crew.
The finished wall.
The painting crew. They painted most of the exterior in just
a few hours. Note that they got very little paint on
5/10/15 - A busy day. We spent the morning at Bosque
Eternal de los Ninos (BEN - Childrens' Eternal Rainforest).
This forest preserve was purchased with funds collected by
students in Sweden and the rest of the world. We met first
with Leslie to get an overview of the program, then went on a nice
hike on the reserve trails. Later, we met with Bob Law, a
Monteverdean from Ohio originally who has been here almost 50
years and is on the board of BEN. We ate lunch at the
reserve, and went on to CASEM, a women's cooperative where a
diverse array of artisan's sell their work. Then to the
hummingbird gallery to see hummingbirds - many more species than
in Ohio. Dinner back at the hotel, then a trip to a
restaurant for deserts to celebrate the birthday of one of the
5/9/15 A long drive from Santa Rosa in the northwest to
Monteverde which is in the central mountains. We stopped for lunch
when we were almost to Santa Elena, the town near Monteverde where
we are actually staying. After arrival we settled into the
town and had an evening discussion.
On a hillside outside Monteverde.
5/815 - The main activity of the day was a trip to Rincon de la
Vieja, This is an active volcano, and in fact it was too
active for us to try the summit. We did hike around an area
of volcanic features, then had lunch and went swimming in a
special swimming hole. The trail to the swimming hole is
dangerous, but the ranger gave us permission to go there and it
was great. We then went to Liberia for dinner and ice cream
and returned to Santa Rosa to study.
Hiking at Rincon
On the way to the swimming hole.
Swimming Hole Jacuzzi
Studying at Santa Rosa
5/7/15 - After breakfast, the day started with a quiz and
discussion, followed by an exploration of the Casona, a national
monument in Costa Rica. In the afternoon, we met with Roger
Blanco, one of the Ticans instrumental in the formation of the
Guanacaste Conservation Area and the recovery of the tropical dry
forest, a critically endangered ecosystem.
Discussion at Santa Rosa
5/6/16 - We spent the morning in San Jose at the national museum
and changing money, then we got off to Guanacaste in the
Breakfast in San Jose
Learning about San Jose
Stopping at a Fruit Stand.
5/5/15 - We met the CNU group just fine in Miami
and the travel to San Jose in Costa Rica went off without a
hitch. We got in on time, but by the time we got through
customs and to our hotel it was too late for lunch and too early
for dinner - but we were all hungry. It will take a day or
two to get everyone's clock back on a regular schedule.
May get some pictures up tonight. We visit the national
museum tomorrow morning then off to Guanacaste and Santa Rosa