Sunday, August 3, 2014

Monkeys and a Magical Sunset

It was an early morning after our experience with the turtle last night!

After a ride in a trailer pulled by tractor, we took a hike along the river in the dry forest and saw a number of native trees, plants, and vines with help from our guide Freddy.  Plants included acacia trees and leaves that smelled like licorice. Most notable was our sighting of White Faced Monkeys.

Following our hike we had time for a little siesta before leaving for our second visit to the beach.  This time in daylight!  We enjoyed time in the water and a delicious meal prepared for us on sight.

As the sun settled in for the night we headed back to Horizonte for our final sleep in Costa Rica. Tomorrow morning we put on our matching traveling shirts and make our way back to Minnesota.

With thanks to Sra. Cutter Sullivan, we share the following quote by Oliver Wendall Holmes. " A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions."

Charlotte and Ann

Sweaty Bettys and Tracking Sea Turtles

Good morning to those running on average amounts of sleep! 

Yesterday was yet another well-packed day. We started out the day with our final (but as usual, delicious) meal at Finca la Anita. We then hopped on the bus to head to Horizontes with visions of remote beaches and warm sun in mind. Along our journey we stopped in Liberia for a little souvenir shopping...perhaps some of you lucky readers will be receiving some of our purchases. We then continued in the bus for two more hours before arriving at Horizontes. 

We were greeted by a major heat wave as we explored our new destination. Under the guidance of John Doleman, we set out to observe the mutualistic relationship between pseudomyrmex ants and acacia trees. We then broke for dinner in which we enjoyed pasta and vegetables. 

At eight we set out for in hopes of finding a sea turtle preparing to lay her eggs. We traveled to a remote beach that has been barely developed by human beings and set up "base camp". Groups were sent out to the north and the south in search of turtle tracks. About an hour after our first patrol Pablo spotted a turtle track not far from where we were located. Our excitement due to this rarity overflowed although we had to stay silent in order to not spook the nesting turtle. 

After about forty minutes we began to watch the 250 pound creature form her nest. During this process we watched her move about 2,000 pounds of sand before laying 115-120 eggs. It was a highlight for everyone to be just ten feet away from her as she laid her eggs. After about twenty exhausting minutes, she began to cover her eggs with sand. An hour later she began the grueling journey from the nest back to the ocean. Due to the drought, she struggled to climb out of the nest and return to the ocean. During this time we all helped guide her towards her destination. As she finally entered the ocean we all felt relief and pride that she has finally completed her quest. 

When we finally arrived back at Horizontes around twelve thirty, there was nothing we wanted more than a good night's rest. We all woke up this morning in awe of our experience at the beach. 

Signing off, 
Julia Sullivan and Lauren Debertin

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Hello Horizonte!

There will be no time for the students to blog tonight.

Today we boarded the bus and drove from La Anita Rainforest Ranch to the Horizonte research station. A quick stop at the mall in Liberia was a welcome treat for all.

We have just finished dinner and will soon board a bus for an evening excursion to the beach. While there we hope to encounter an East Pacific Green Turtle laying eggs.

Teams of students will take turns patrolling the beach while others sleep. Although July is not a typical time to see such activity, recent Seeds of Change student groups have had great luck on this beach. We are crossing all our fingers and toes that we are fortunate as well!

Cabuyal Sea Turtle Project

SOC Turtle Research

The girls received much praise again today for the wonderful job they did with their presentations last night. We are so very proud of these fine young women. They bring great credit upon themselves, their families, and their school.


Friday, August 1, 2014

A Day of SciANTS ExperimANTS

Hola, buenas noches from Finca La Anita!

Today marked our last full day at the Finca La Anita Rainforest Ranch, and what a day it was. After a wonderful breakfast of omelets, rice and beans, tortillas, fresh fruit, and a papaya-watermelon fruit juice, we all prepared ourselves for a full day of science. We gathered our research notebooks, slipped on our trusty rain boots, and hit the lab. Our morning consisted of wrapping up data collections and preparing immaculate presentations to share with the group later in the evening. With sweat on our brows and blisters on our feet, we worked tirelessly to perfect the projects we have diligently researched for the past week. In order to feed both our brains and our stomachs, we broke away from the lab to enjoy a delicious lunch of hamburgers, taro root chips, and fresh squeezed lemonade. We then headed back to the lab to polish up our beautifully crafted presentations. 

**side note: we just finished holding a rare Walking Stick insect** :)

By the time five o'clock rolled around, the most anticipated moment of our trip arrived--it was time to share our scientific discoveries with the group. Team Ants Before Pants, Team $marty Ants, Team KFC^2 w/ Antz, and Team Antz that JJIG gathered with mentors and visitors alike, eagerly awaiting our turn to reveal our intriguing results. Each groups' question of study is as follows:

Ants Before Pants - How will Atta cephalotes forager ants react to dump solution while collecting leaves?
$marty Ants - Can ants claim food sources using pheromones?
KFC^2 w/ Antz - Does an Escovopsis solution on vegetation cause leaf cutter ants to reject that vegetation?
Antz that JJIG - Will secondary metabolites (citronella and taro) defer ants from eating a favored food source? 

Each of these research projects focused on eco-friendly ways of preventing the leaf cutter ants from devastating crops from farms around the country.

**side note: we just finished playing "Uno, Dos, Tres, Queso," a Costa Rican version of "Red Light, Green Light" with Pablo, our awesome host** :)

Our mentors, guests, and fellow students were all impressed with each presentation; our Vis education has served us well even across international borders. We then headed off to a celebratory dinner of homemade tortillas and taco fixings with home-grown cacao hot chocolate and brownies for dessert. What a fantastic way to end our stay at Finca La Anita. As sad as it is to leave this beautiful rainforest property, we look forward to see the beach at Horizontes tomorrow. 

Signing off,
Christine Kane, Mary Mullen, and Annie Ferraro

Our farewell photo with Andy and Pablo

Over 4 inches long!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Sensational Springs in Sensoria


This day began with a delicious breakfast followed by rigorous field and lab research. Leaves were counted, the scent of Citronella was pungent, and discoveries were made. Like soldier ants springing to protect their colony, the students rushed the dining area for an early lunch of chicken rice, beans, and plantains. They were then herded once again onto the converted army vehicle (with 6-wheel drive) for a bumpy ride to Sensoria.

Bringing back childhood memories for some of us, we forged the rapid river similar to the computer game, Oregon Trail. Finally reaching our desired location, we commenced our hike with the confidence of seasoned veterans. Hiking through the Primary Rainforest, we observed huge, old trees, ranging from 200-300 years old. Arriving at our first pool, we were amazed by the roaring waterfall and
bright blue water caused by a mineral riverbed. After a cool dip, we proceeded to a lukewarm pool before our final stop at the hot spring. There, we relaxed, taking in the beautiful surroundings. Finally forcing ourselves to leave the comfort of our spring, we returned to the main lodge at Sensoria. We enjoyed authentic Costa Rican coffee, juice, and cookies while watching recorded animal activity from the rainforest including Ocelots, Pumas, and the King Himself: the jaguar--all, of course, relatives to Tommy the house cat whom we also encountered.

Embarking on our final ride in the army truck, we caught a quick glimpse a huge Ceiba tree with dozens of Oropendola nests. We returned to Finca La Anita and were welcomed by a fantastic dinner of fish, Yucca patties, roasted vegetables, and a dessert of coconut flan and cacao crust. Scurrying off with full bellies, we collected final data before heading off to bed.

Grace and Julia D

Mandarin Lemon juice, honey, and fresh ginger. Pablo's cold remedy!

Pablo pours fresh coconut juice.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Zip, Zap, Zoom!.... Zipping Through The Rainforest


Today was quite an eventful day for the entire group!  After eating a delicious breakfast consisting of pancakes with cacao in them, papaya, watermelon, and pineapple, we continued to work on our research projects.  Some groups designed field experiments to do in the rainforest in addition to their lab experiments. Many people started to see exciting results, some being completely unexpected.  All of us also began to create our power-point presentations, which we will be giving on Friday.
For a nice break from science research, we got a presentation from Pablo about how to make ceviche, where he used his machete to cut open a heart of palm that he grew in the farm.  We were lucky to receive this as an appetizer for our lunch.  Our lunch consisted of ginger lemonade, rice and beans, potatoes, and perfectly cooked beef. It was delicioso.

Afterwards, we headed out in a converted army vehicle to go zip lining over the canopy of the rainforest.  Many students were already experienced in zip lining, but several also were first-time zippers. We all suited up in fabulous equipment and helmets. Once on the zip line, it gave us all an incredible rush of adrenaline to be able to seemingly fly through the air.  One section of the zip line had two cords, so pairs of students could go together side by side. It was super exhilarating, and as some of the guides called, "muy romantico".  Many students caught glimpses of white faced monkeys, which was incredibly exciting. The white faced monkeys climbed super close to one group of students waiting for their turn to go down another zip line. Some even got to see one monkey eating a fig.  Andy, our amazing science instructor, taught us about an adaptation that some ants have who live in the canopy of the rainforest. When a person drops these kind of ants, they are able to glide back to their tree even though they do not have wings. Curious as we are, some of us attempted to drop ants off the side of the zip line platforms to see whether they could glide or not. Many of the ants could glide and it was very interesting to see in person. After making friends with the workers there, we headed back to La Anita.

Once we got back, many students then decided to go back to the village and play soccer again with Amy and the same boys as yesterday. This time however, there were even more super skilled players from the village. In fact, the boys from the village out numbered the vis girls that went to play with them. They split up into two teams, both having an equal amount vis girls and the amazing soccer players. After the intense game lasting about an hour and a half, one team finally pulled ahead and won. We all took a picture with the boys before we went back to La Anita. Many people also stopped at the Pulpería, which is a cute store run by a local named Ida. She is very sweet, and many girls bought jewelry and candy. When we arrived back at La Anita for dinner, sweaty and hungry, we were greeted by yet another delicious meal for dinner. We had yuca, zucchini, ceviche salad, and chicken with a sweet fruit and vegetable sauce on top. Then for best part, we got an absolutely mouth watering dessert of bread pudding with hardened carmel on top. After dinner, we all returned to the lab to collect data for our experiments and began our field experiments. Receiving more exciting results from the lab, we all called it a day.

Christine and Kate :)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Treacherous Tumbles and Tasty Tortillas

Today can be best described by one word: community. The day was filled with a variety of communities ranging from the ant colonies to the Costa Rican boys that joined us in a soccer match.

After a delicious ham and egg breakfast, the future scientists of the world were off to the labs. The day opened with multiple mass murders as the science experiments set off in a bang. Some groups spent their time decapitating ants, others spent time collecting their waste. The first day of experiments was far from ordinary as we struggled to out run the rain while collecting ants. The leaves and ants collected were often subject to a new verb: juicing. We spent our time juicing their abdomens, heads, and waste.

Hours later, the science portion of the day came to an end and the afternoon rolled in with a steaming plate of lasagna. Following our excessive amount of carbs, we headed into the village with a Peace Core volunteer, Amy. Amy has been working to improve the small businesses in the village for several months now. Continuing in her charitable footsteps, we found ourselves picking mountains of weeds in a local women's garden. The garden was home to eight women who depend on the business of tourists as they grow and sell their own vegetables and make jewelry. We really cleared out their stock! Who would have guessed that we could all shop? But before the jewelry came, there were hours filled with mud and creatures. We got down and dirty plucking out weeds only to be interrupted by the presence of a snake. Although the snake was very small, it gave us quite the fright.

As the now severed snake was tossed aside, we found ourselves adventuring to a soccer match. Although the match started off with just us girls (and our questionable soccer talents), the excitement quickly grew as we were joined by four Costa Rican boys who were slightly above our skill level (most likely training for the World Cup in 2018). Some tumbles were had and some memories were made as we found our bodies covered in mud. The motto of the game was clear: pass it to the Costa Ricans. The game ended with a 3-2 win for the blue shirts. The gray and white shirt team walked away with their heads held high because although they had lost, they would still partake in the amazing cooking experience that was to follow.

A mere five minutes from the soccer field rested the house of a lovely lady named Aracelly. After affectionate introductions, we headed inside to start cooking. Thanks to the Spanish of several girls, we were able to communicate as we set out to prepare a meal of chicken, tortillas, coconut rice and beans, cheese, and a salad. Though our tomato roses were not up to par and the our tortillas weren't exactly round, the night was a success. Our hard work was enjoyed as we sat on the beautiful outdoor patio and engulfed our well-earned meal. After hours filled with riddles, laughs, and the cutest puppy the world has ever known, we left her house with not only full bellies, but full hearts. We would have never guessed that a woman with so little could give us so much. You could say that some of the girls found themselves another grandmother.

As we washed the mud off of our clothes, a barrier was also stripped away as we were exposed and immersed in a new culture filled with warmth and generosity.

Ellie and Kaitlyn

P.S. The sunset was beautiful.

P. S. S. All comments are encouraged! We would love to hear from you! :)

Pulling weeds in the community garden

Working in the lab

 Arriving at Aracelly's home
 We left our boots at the door!

 Everyone helped to prepare the meal

See the Community Soccer Game slideshow here