It’s weird- it’s felt as though there’s been nothing going on worth writing posts about but that’s quite untrue. Since my last update, I have reluctantly settled back into my little bubble of the IB and the occasional Buzzed quiz. I guess I haven’t become a “New Year, New Me” kind of person just yet.
About a week ago (week ago), I went on a trip to Guápiles in the Limón Province on the Caribbean coast. We were off to visit EcoFinca (or “Eco Farm” as the English speakers would call it) as part of Conociendo Costa Rica with my tutor group along with another tutor group. I probably will not do justice to it but I am presuming that a small crash course on these UWCCR terms I’ve been throwing around is imperative to make sure that this blog post makes even a slight bit of sense. As it is in many other UWCs, I believe, each student is placed under the care of an assigned tutor who is pretty much your parent for your time here. I’ve somehow lucked out and had two tutors in my two years here- as a first year, I had Bernardo whereas as a second year, I was paired with Stephen. Each tutor group is made up of around 8 students along with the tutor and we usually go on outings together seeing as we have a budget! On top of the outings we can go on whenever we decide to, each tutor group must participate in a Conociendo Costa Rica (“Getting to Know Costa Rica”) once a year to learn more about the country we are living in because it can sometimes feel as though we are limited to the confines of our school campus as our only experience of Costa Rica. Now that you’re up to speed, let’s keep going…
Knowingly and regrettably so, I didn’t necessarily set myself up for a good night’s sleep the night before. Sleeping at nearly 1am and waking up at 5:45am, you could say that I was living life dangerously- contrary to popular belief. In my near zombie state, I dragged my way to the cafeteria to get some breakfast that would hopefully jolt me back to life. Eirini (my roommate from Greece) also happens to be in my tutor group so we headed to the cafeteria together. With departure set for 6:30am, we expected to find many more people in the cafeteria as we shrugged in at around 6:10 but we were greeted by way less faces than we expected- a grand total of two to be exact. The earlybirds in question were Stephen (my tutor) along with Emma from Belgium who was in another tutor group that was coming along on the same Conociendo trip. Slowly but surely, people did begin to trickle in but it seemed that Stephen’s tutor group was increased in numbers of people who arrived while Florian’s tutor group had a single member in appearance. Not that this was a competition at all, but you could say at that moment we were winning. However, Florian’s tutor group did begin to show up with time and a huge chunk of both tutor groups was present by the time we were set to leave.
I can only remember the bus trip to the farm in scattered fragments. Mainly because I was in and out of sleep for most of the ride. Just as I eased into sleep, it instantly slipped away when we dipped into, and sometimes dodged, the potholes on the road and it should be noted that resting my head on the glass window isn’t the best position to sleep in considering the constant bumping of my head on, I repeat, A GLASS WINDOW. After the bumpy ride where we managed to drive through the morning traffic in San José to the extremely green natural landscape, we finally arrived at the farm after the 3 hour journey.
© ECO- Finca Terranatura
We were graciously greeted by the owner of the farm, who gave us a brief overview of how his farm works in comparison to the large scale commercial farms scattered around Limón. I found it particularly interesting when he mentioned that he just left his government job in the capital city 15 years ago and came down to Guápiles, Limón to open up a farm as he always dreamed. Although it ultimately ended up as a success, I found this particularly gripping because it is easy to remain where we feel is most safe for ourselves instead taking a big leap and hoping we can reach the dreams we have built in our minds.
© ECO-Finca Terranatura
After a quick crash course of all things concerning sustainable farming, he demonstrated the differences between chemically altered fruits and naturally grown fruits. He even went as far as to show how durability of fruit is a top priority for transporting to distant markets such as the ones in Europe. Fun fact- a chemically altered papaya can be kicked like a football with no bruise whatsoever whereas a naturally grown papaya can barely handle a slightly tight grip of a pinky finger. The more you know…
© Bernardo Rodas
Nice pose, Juanse.
He then proceeded to give us a tour of his farms to see all the amazing fruits he grows on there. We came across various herbs (all legal, I might add), starfruit, cacao trees, mulberry trees- but when we came across sugarcane, I got hit by the feels. Mwabi, a first year from Malawi, and I were freaking out over the sugarcane plant as we had enjoyed it countless times throughout our childhood. It is safe to say that sugarcane is the bae.
After our tour, we headed back to have some lunch- truly delicious lunch. After, he took us through the entire process of making chocolate. We first roasted the cacao beans in a pan for a few minutes then we went on to grind them using an old-school but foolproof method of a mortar and pestle. I had a go at it as it was very reminiscent of how maize and other grains are ground up back in Kenya. After this, we went on to further grind them into even smaller particles which I tried out as well- it was quite the arm workout. This further grinding process reduced the previously grainy cacao into a somewhat fine paste.
© Bernardo Rodas
As the all too familiar scent of chocolate wafted through the kitchen, we all sighed in unison by how amazing it smelt. We even got to get some samples to take home with us. We then went on to make some sugarcane juice which is nothing but the juice of a sugarcane- nothing more, nothing less.
© Bernardo Rodas
All the blood, sweat and tears put into a well-deserved cup of sugarcane juice.
All in all, I loved my Conociendo Costa Rica because it gave the chance to do something I would have probably not had the chance to do any other time in my time in Costa Rica. Furthermore, the hands-on learning applied on this trip made me truly appreciate the fruits I eat (healthy lifestyle) and the painstaking efforts to make chocolate (not so healthy lifestyle).