Mujeres de Isla Chira

While researching a project to experience in Costa Rica associated with sustainable business practices, I came across the amazing women of Isla Chira.
http://www.nacion.com/vivir/ambiente/Mujeres-reforestan-manglar-Chira-herederos_0_1426057406.html

Women’s Collective Revitalizes Costa Rican Island Community

Here’s a beautiful book – a storytelling – about their journeys.
http://issuu.com/gabyhernandez26/docs/mfa-document-may2011

I am so very impressed with the foresight and determination of these women to improve their circumstances while simultaneously combating environmental degradation. They’ve developed unique, innovative, sustainable businesses and improved their lives and the lives of their families as a result, but just as importantly, they also broadened the perception of women in their communities. They are now viewed as strong and capable in ways they weren’t previously. There is a wave of change happening on a small scale there that could conceivably spread to the mainland, and I am very interested in their perspectives.

As one of my key interests in terms of this ‘internship’ was to explore environmental and social responsibility of local businesses in Costa Rica, especially as they relate to indigenous populations, I was thrilled to find out about the women of Chira. Here in Manuel Antonio I see a whole lot of exploitation alongside ‘eco-tourism’ operations, and I also see the lack of access and opportunity for local Ticos, so I’m eager to learn from the women and to understand how they were able to initiate and sustain such an incredible series of efforts.

I have two amazing women friends back home who work on coastal resource management challenges in developing countries, and specifically with indigenous populations. They helped me develop a series of questions for the women of Chira and I hope to interview a few of the founders this weekend – thanks Elin and Ellie! My trip was planned through Viviana, the administrative assistant at D’Amore, and as she doesn’t speak to me in English, I’m hoping I’ve conveyed my wishes properly! She and my wonderful Spanish teacher Keilyn will be coming with me, and we are all very excited. Viviana translated my questions to Spanish and set up tours of the mangrove restoration project (and hopefully the other cooperative efforts as well), and set up an overnight stay at La Amistad Lodge – built and run by the women. As this will be my first foray into a situation where no one speaks English, it should be a great challenge! Wish me luck!

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Images from: http://www.nacion.com/vivir/ambiente/Mujeres-reforestan-manglar-Chira-herederos_0_1426057406.html

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In case you missed it. . .

Sunset from Hotel Mariposa in Manuel Antonio – note the infinity pools. And yes, I’m melting into a puddle even as the sun is setting.

006Moriah and I wanted to find the best location to watch sunset and we definitely succeeded with Mariposa.

I wanted to upload a few additional slideshows while I have internet working to share a bit more of the past few weeks.

First, here are a few great photos from the first big soccer match between Costa Rica and Italy two weeks ago.  School closed down for the two hours and we all watched from Salsipuede.  Thanks David!

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Here’s a few photos of an outing David took us on to Playa Matapalo south of Manuel Antonio during one of the bi-weekly planned day-long power outages in Manuel Antonio.  Awesome to have Spanish class on the beach with Keilyn, but this had to be the hottest place on the planet that day.  The water felt like it was poaching my feet and I was sweating even standing waist deep in the water.  Seriously insane, and this beach.. .goes on. . .forever. . .

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Five weeks and counting

Spanish classes are going well, and I’ve only cried in class once (seriously), so that’s an accomplishment. I feel like I’m going to cry often, but I’ve mostly been able to hold it together! It’s a very emotional experience for me, and it’s incredibly frustrating when I’m trying to express myself in Spanish, but just can’t put the sentences together or can’t come up with the vocabulary I need to communicate. I can’t imagine what Joaquin and Norberto went through moving to the US to go to grad school knowing very little English, or what my Cuban family members went through entering the US during the revolution and afterwards, or what millions of immigrants go through daily across the world as they enter foreign countries trying to improve their circumstances and those of their families.  I’m here studying Spanish by choice, under extremely fortunate circumstances and I’m struggling with five hours of intense instruction every day. Imagine trying to glean what you can on the fly as you simply try to survive? I’m deeply humbled and impressed.

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This past week we’ve had a few outrageous storms. The deluge of rain is one thing to behold, but the thunder feels like an earthquake.  The only way I can describe it is that it feels . . .personal!  You feel it throughout your body like . .. I don’t know. .  pressure waves or something.  One of the storms brought strong wind with it, which isn’t unusual for us on the East Coast of the US, but here apparently wind is unusual.  It caused water to pile up on the balcony above my front room and then WHOOSH!  The water found it’s way through the wood and into my apartment.  I had about a five foot wide waterfall that soaked everything.  Even my computer and ipad got wet, but thankfully the laptop was closed at the time.  I had to run around moving all of my things into the bedroom with the hope that the water wouldn’t find it’s way in there! No way to get help here either.  I had to go out in the storm to find the ‘security guard’ who came in with a broom to help me get the water out of the apartment, but by then the waterfall had stopped. The owner of the apartment is an A-hole who lives in Canada half the year (this half) and she couldn’t care less.  She won’t authorize the staff to bring anyone in to assess the issues and fix anything that might need fixing to ensure the apartment won’t flood again. As far as she’s concerned, it’s a non issue. Not even as much as an apology. She told the staff that I could move into the hotel for 2.5 times what I’m paying now or move out, but she said she was going to keep part of my reimbursement to cover fees she paid to Airbnb.  I paid those fees too Beeeotch.  Anyway, I love my apartment and would prefer to stay, but it means taking the risk of another flood. I found another apartment and am waiting to hear back from Airbnb about the reimbursement.  The other perpetual issue is that they simply cannot find a solution to provide consistent internet in my apartment.  I have to sit in the crappy apartment next door to do anything significant like post this blog.  Oh well.  We’ll see what goes on!

Pura Vida!!

Viva Costa Rica!!

It’s been amazing to be here during the soccer world cup.  The Tico pride is busting the country wiiide open!!  For those who know me well, you know I couldn’t care less about sports, but this experience is not just about sports.  It’s about unity and pride and love of country and culture in a way I’ve never experienced before.  They have a chant that goes something like this “Oleee, oleee, oleeeeeeee. .. Tico’s. .. Tico’s!!!”  And they sing it in reference to everything they love about their country and people, and it’s the anthem for the games.  You can hear it over everything else if you listen when Costa Rica is playing and it drowns out all other sounds during the games on this end!  Even the howler monkeys!  HA!  Love it.

Here are some awesome photos of the incredibly exciting game from yesterday.  My new friend Emma invited me to watch the game with her and her lovely Tico hubby Louis in a bar/restaurant I’ve spent a bit of time in called Salsipuedes.  Note the hilarious Red Sox and Bob Marley memorabilia on the walls.  There’s also a lot of Cuba stuff off to the right of the photos, if you can see it.

Enjoy.

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Anyway, you can see in sequence when CR scores and it appeared they would win the game, and then . .. . Greece scored a goal when the game was just about over!  The elation turned to horror and sorrow so quickly, I thought everyone was going to start crying.  Then. . .Woohooooo!!!!!  GOOOOAAAALLL!!!!  I tried to capture the insanity on the streets afterwards, but my camera sucks and the cars were going too fast.  So much fun.

Quote from The Costa Rican Times today.

“For the US citizens that do not understand the excitement of the World Cup every 4 years, do you feel that heartbeat? That is the pride of the nation of Costa Rica that has been unified by experiencing their first World Cup quarterfinals. It is amazing the positive energy of Costa Rica right now……..

No one is doubting the team from Central America anymore.”

Consistent internet connectivity – FINALLY

Hola!

I realize it’s been two weeks since my last update and I apologize.  Between the scheduled day-long power outages, losing power during heavy rains/thunder/lightening, and inconsistent (and often non-existent)  internet service in my apartment, it’s been impossible to post updates.  The few I was able to post the first couple of weeks I was here took about three hours each to complete!  That was not sustainable.  Thankfully the wonderful people who run this place added a new router in my apartment and although it still wasn’t working yesterday. . .it’s working today!  YAY!

Sooo much has happened in the last two weeks!  I’ll start with the most recent events of this past weekend.  I rented a car for the first time to explore south of Manuel Antonio.  I went to Dominical and Playa Ballenas.  I explored a waterfall on Saturday and climbed to the top of a crazy steep hill with my silly car (note to self. . . ALWAYS get a 4-wheel drive in CR!!) to find a very special hostel called Cascada Verde run by a German couple that is walking distance to the waterfall.  I found it alright, but it was closed for repairs!

Waterfall near Cascada Verde hostel in Ballenas

Waterfall near Cascada Verde hostel in Ballenas

I was intent on finding one specific restaurant on Playa Ballenas that I had heard so much about.  It’s called Villa Leonor and from what I was told, it was the gathering place for locals on Sundays when the owner of more than 20 years, Cliff serves barbeque.  Although it was Saturday, I wanted to find it, as my intention was to eat there on Sunday, but I was also told that it was located along Playa Ballenas and that I could park my car there (safely) and explore the beach.  I found it and it really was as fantastic as I was told – as was the food!  The restaurant is a sprawling, rustic open air space with a pool, a bar, and a few covered locations with tables and chairs.  There is a path that leads you through the jungle along a river that looks like perrrrfect crocodile habitat out to a southern stretch of Playa Ballenas.  Absolutely incredible.

Perrrfect croc habitat between Villa Leonor and Playa Ballenas

Perrrfect croc habitat between Villa Leonor and Playa Ballenas

I spent several hours there getting to know the owner and some of the very colorful local ex-pats – mostly retirees.  The owner’s gorgeous stepson Adolfo made me the most delicious traditional Tico breakfast of gallopinto (best I’ve had in CR so far) with eggs, sliced tomato, and some kind of yummy cheese.  Mmmmm. . . I explored the beach, but was afraid to swim there on my own as I was the ONLY person on this long stretch of beach on Saturday.  Thankfully one of the friends of the owner (Keith) swam with me and we had a great time.

Playa Ballenas toward the 'whale's tail'

Playa Ballenas toward the ‘whale’s tail’

I’ve been very careful swimming in CR overall as crocodiles and caimans have been unusually aggressive towards humans since I’ve been here.  Something like 5 attacks in the last month with at least three confirmed deaths.  No kidding.  See the photo of a big daddy swimming at the Manuel Antonio town beach last week.  Horrifying!  Joaquin sent me an article today about the growing ‘problem’ of crocs inhabiting coastal waters in greater numbers the past few years, probably due to habitat loss and tourism that includes feeding the crocs for show.  Crocs are now associating people with food. . .no bueno!

Croc swimming at Manuel Antonio town beach

Croc swimming at Manuel Antonio town beach

Since the hostel was closed, I asked Cliff for a recommendation and he hooked me up with friends of his who own an incredible mountain-top lodge called Pacific Edge in Dominicalito.  The owners, George and Suzie, are former sailors of large yatchts – Susie was the captain!! – and they bought this very special property more than 20 years ago and built it up to it’s current majestic glory.  As it was at the top of the mountain, I had a very sketchy ride up with my silly car and by the time I got there, it was nearly dark.  As they didn’t have a restaurant, I wasn’t sure how I would get dinner but the hosts graciously made me a ham and cheese sandwich and sold me a bottle of wine!  HA!  It was great.  I absolutely loved my night there and hope to return with Jim when he visits.

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On Sunday, my friends Moriah (teaching English in Quepos) and Ramona (social worker in the Peace Corps) took the bus from Quepos to Domincal where I picked them up for a day at Villa Leonor.  We had delicious barbeque, explored the beach in the rain, and drew a storyboard in the sand with our feet!  Then we told the story ‘in the round!’  Val would have been soooo proud!  It was a blast, and I love my new friends!

 

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Monkeys, monkeys everywhere!

White faced monkey posse going by while I work on my patio.

I know, I know, you may be sick of the monkeys by now, but I’m not!  My apartment is clearly on the monkey highway, as groups of white faced monkeys come by all the time – day and night.  Howlers are less common, and I usually only HEAR them, but a big group went through today while I was working!  They are the largest of the monkeys in Manuel Antonio and the most ‘shy’ so they are not as common a sight.  They are easily recognizable by their black fur and enormous white. . .well, you can figure it out from the photos!  Enjoy.

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Adventures of the past week

Last week was quite eventful.  On Wednesday, the entire town of Manuel Antonio had no electricity from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.  We learned about this in a very interesting way.  A car drove around the day before with the driver yelling it through a bullhorn – HA!  Everything closed down, and without fans, it was miserable indoors so David sent us on a few adventures.  First we went to the butterfly garden across the street from my apartment that is part of a private nature reserve.  Not only do they raise 15 species of butterflies, but they are also a preserve for reptiles and have several enormous crocodiles, a bunch of turtles, and about 20 caimans.  The conditions didn’t seem too humane to me, as the reptiles just live in some dirty little pools, but the guides I’ve met who work there are avid naturalists and appear dedicated to the protection of the animals and the environment.

After our visit with the butterflies and walk around to see the other critters, I was a Tica for the afternoon and went shopping with Keilyn and Vivian in Quepos.  My assignment was to do all my shopping in Spanish.  My brain boiled long before I even set foot on the bus, but regardless, shopping in Spanish was a success thanks to Keilyn.

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On Friday we celebrated my two week anniversary!  David took us all on a great adventure to a safari lodge in the mountains outside Quepos.  We went on an incredible hike that ended at a waterfall that we all climbed into.  We then had a grand lunch on the deck overlooking the beautiful grounds.  Muchas gracias David!

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I also spent some time in Manuel Antonio National Park (as much time as I can) and as you can see, I can’t get enough of the monkeys!  They are all around my patio right now, flying through the trees!  Incredible.

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And the mapaches (raccoons) are ridiculous.  Seriously.  I wrestled with one who tried to take my backpack right out from under my arm.  You can’t rest for a minute!  And they stop to scratch in the middle of their wrestling matches.  Hilarious.

Seriously dude?

Seriously dude?