Whitewater rafting was truly one of the greatest experiences while on the trip, and that’s saying a lot considering all of the other adventures the Costa Crew has been on. I was nervous at first just thinking about it, I knew how fast the rapids could get and how easy it is for someone to slip out of the raft, and I had no idea what to expect, so I expected the worst. When we got there, the guide who explained it to us was very light hearted and constantly making jokes, and soon after I was put in his group, and I felt much more comfortable since he was very open with us and making us laugh all the time. I still didn’t feel completely confident, and during the first few rapids all I could do was scream and hold onto the raft as tight as I could, and for a good amount of time, all that was running through my head was “THIS IS SO INTENSE!”. But it got better, and after a few more rapids and many more times crashing into rocks, it got easier and more fun for me, and I was all smiles from there. In fact, I got so comfortable with it that I volunteered to sit in the front of the raft for the rest of the time, and I ended up getting soaked because I was the one getting hit with the big waves and competitive splashes from people in the other rafts. Of course the waters and rocks got really rough at times, but for me it only made it more exciting. I enjoyed my last few moments absorbing the beauty of Costa Rica very much. Overall, whitewater rafting is definitely one of my favorite experiences while on this trip, and it was great way to wrap up our adventures with the Costa Crew before our journey back home.
Trip Reflection: Paying My Way
When I first heard about Reagan having another opportunity to travel, I was filled with excitement because I have been wanting to explore the world for a long time. Knowing that this was a foreign trip, I knew that I had to work for it; I did not expect my mom to pay for the entire trip because she had bills and expenses of her own. I saved up enough money over the summer by working at McDonald’s for the down payment and the first couple of months of payments. I then started my paid internship at a hospital which supported me a lot with this trip. I did however, not forget that my education was important. I had to make sure that I kept my grades up while working. When telling people that I was working two jobs while going to school, I would usually receive comments such as “don’t stress yourself out” and “you’re crazy”. I am blessed to be given opportunities to work at such an early age. This allowed me to be able to pay for the entire trip by myself while having enough spending money. By working two jobs while focusing on being a full time student, I was able to travel to Costa Rica and Panama for a great summer vacation and learning experience.
Trip Reflection: The Best Tour Guide
Irene, our tour guide, has been in my eyes an excellent guide whom I’ve come to admire in the short time that I’ve known her. During our tours and even bus rides she has given myself and the other students loads information that will stick with us when we go back home and be able to apply it to our daily life and to our projects. History of both Panama and Costa Rica has been explained and even agricultural/environmental information. Not only the information that is given but the way it’s given I think is what helps me retain and be so intrigued. She speaks of these countries with such passion and interest that it made me want to listen even more. I’ve noticed that she talks about her country with such pride and I can connect that to my culture and the people of Puerto Rico because we’re very proud to be from our country that we have our flag literally everywhere. I do love my culture and where my family is from but listening to Irene talk about her country makes me come to the realization that I don’t know as much about my country as I’d like and it makes want to study my country more. I also love that in some way shape or form she answers all of our questions, like today on one of our bus rides there were so many questions being asked by multiple students and Irene was able to answer every single one with a valid response. I’ve had the opportunity to have tour guides for short periods of time like at museums and none of them come even close to Irene. I absolutely love the impact that she’s made on this trip so Irene if you ever get the chance to read this just know that I want to say thank you, we really appreciate you, and you’ve been one of the best parts of my trip.
Trip Reflection: Desire to Know More
On this adventure, we spend a boat load of time on research and analyzing data. Furthermore, the costa crew has gained knowledge in newfound ways. For example, the standard way of learning is to sit in a classroom and focus on certain subjects like English, math, science, social studies, etc. The way school systems are set up in the United States do not alway teach us life lessons. We never acquire how to do our taxes or how to be a good contributor to society. Contradicting, we are taught to rank our knowledge on a grade. Sitting in a classroom is not everyone’s preferred or best way to learn. Moreover, it is not factual that grades equal the certain amount of knowledge a person inquires. Consequently, the Costa Crew has learned and acquired new knowledge by taking the trip of a lifetime. We emerged in our surroundings and took in the culture surrounding us. The culture contrasts from Milwaukee but we all have adapted to love Costa Rica and Panama. The food, people, language, social standards, politics, art are all so very different from what the Costa Crew is used to but that has only inspired us to learn more. In ten days, several life lessons have been taught. For example, some parts of the crew do not speak an inch of Spanish and had to communicate with Spanish speakers. The portion of people connected with the people with limited verbal communication. We were taught to just let nature be and let nature, be nature. We have been taught to be curious and ask questions. The Costa Crew learned traveling is more than just being a tourist. Traveling is seeking to understand and connect with the people who live there. Traveling is trying food that you aren’t use to. Traveling is emerging yourself into the native language. Traveling is studying the art and listening to the music. Traveling is discovering and researching. Traveling is new adventures with new friends. The Costa Crew learned “To be a traveler, not a tourist.”
The British School of Costa Rica compared to Reagan
Reagan is a school which I have come to love, the classes, the students, and even the teachers! So when I heard there was another IB school [the British School of Costa Rica] here in Costa Rica I was excited, but I was also skeptical. As the Costa Crew walked up to the school, we were all marveled at its greenery. The school was so integrated with nature, the classrooms basically walked into the outdoors. As an IB school they had a lot of the same projects as we had, such as the Personal Project and the Extended Essay. They do not have the same A/B day schedule; however, they get a random order of classes in a week. The school itself is very culturally diverse there are a lot of kids from China, Korea, and even India! I am almost jealous of there school, but one thing we do have in common is that there is no AC. The visit helped the Costa Crew (and the other IB students) use our communication, social and research skills.
Project Highlight: Teenage Lifestyle in Costa Rica
Today we went to the British School of Costa Rica, which helped a lot with my project. Once we got to the school a couple of seniors took groups of 3-4 people on a tour of the school. My project is how teens lifestyles in Costa Rica and Panama are different than my lifestyle in Milwaukee, so I got a lot of good information from the tour guide. She gave me the times they start school (8:00 am), how long school is (January to November) and a bunch of other things helpful for my project. She also told me that the students there like to bring their own food from home because the lunch is pretty expensive. Other people in my group asked questions that helped their project too. Overall, this experience really helped my project because I got to directly observe a school and ask questions of students.
Doka Coffee Tour
Today we had the amazing opportunity to visit a coffee plantation to have a tour of it! After lunch, we were given sample of some cinnamon iced coffee, and it was so good. We were then given a detailed explanation about the process of making coffee. First, the coffee cherries are handpicked by hundreds of workers. Then the coffee beans are taken out and put in the sun to dry out. The quality of the coffee cherries is determined by whether or not they sink it water. The heavier ones are deemed a better quality and are exported. Once the coffee beans are extracted they are roasted anywhere from 10-18 minutes depending on the type of roast that is desired. After learning all about the process of making coffee, we were able to purchase some of the famous Costa Rican coffee. Overall I am very grateful for this opportunity because I was not only able to taste some of the coffee, but learn all about how they make it!
Being here in Costa Rica has been a blast. I don't usually go on vacations and I have never went with the school but this was one experience I'm glad I did not miss out on as it was fun and taught me a lot. Sadly it is all coming to an end like everything has to at one point. But, I can still share the sights and sounds I discovered. Tonight we had a night that cannot be forgotten. The Costa Crew and I visited a nice restaurant where they held a folklore dinner, and it was delicious and entertaining. The dancers were very nice and invited the whole costa crew to join in on a conga line and then a couple rounds of limbo. Their dresses were beautiful and the men wore sturdy clothing as well with a nice bright orange and blue mix. The dancers made loud screeches that was kind of funny. The screeching sound was what the cowboys from Costa Rica used to do to express how happy they were. I really enjoyed the indigenous dances!
Trip Reflection: IB Learner Profile
Before this trip I was pretty anxious to go because I've never been outside of the States before, so it's been an exciting adventure and being on Day 8 looking back it is pretty cool out in Costa Rica and it was fun to visit Panama as well even though we spent like two days there. On Day 7 we went to the waterfall, it was fun at first I didn't want to get in because of the strong current but I eventually gave in and went in with the help of another student to help motivate me to be a RISK TAKER. I swam against the current for a bit and to my surprise I didn't get swept away like a twig. Well, not that much but I was able to swim to shore before it would take me on a wild ride. After the waterfall we went to the chocolate tour, it was so much fun our guide "El Chapo" was super funny. I didn't think I really was going to volunteer as much as I did, I was able to volunteer at least 3 or 4 times. I was pretty OPEN-MINDED and it was quite funny that I was the only one who volunteered when it was time to blow the shells away from the good part of the chocolate. Last but not least today we went to the British School of Costa Rica. I was asking so many questions I was practically interrogating my tour guide about their school. The most shocking part I found out (Well what I thought was shocking) is that their school doesn't have theatre class. Plus they DON'T have to take the ACT unless they want to which is crazy lucky for them. I was an INQUIRER by asking so many questions and I learned quite a bit by asking. So far I'd say the trip is going excellent and I'm fairly sure it's going to get more exciting seeing it's almost time for us to go back I'm sure we're finishing with the best of the best things we will do on this trip.
La Fortuna Waterfall
When I first heard that there were 500 steps just to get to a waterfall, I was like...no thanks. However, by the time we ended up at the bottom, the view was absolutely incredible. Just being able to look up and watch this immense waterfall crashing down into a stream is an experience you would never comprehend until you’ve seen it in person. Of course, because this was fresh water from the river, the water was quite cold at first, but nothing you couldn’t get used to. What was interesting though was the strength of the currents sliding and crashing through the rocks into the stream. Far from where the waterfall fell into the stream was another pool-like area where you could swim. However, just getting across to it from where we initially got in was not as easy as it seemed. After crossing through the currents into the calmer area of the stream, there were rocks across the bottom that people could carefully stand upon. There was more than enough room for people to commune and especially take a great picture. The view from the bottom of the waterfall in the stream was arguably the best view. Seeing the true capacity of the waterfall was not only inspiring, but it gave you a sense of relaxation. Although we are occasionally the rowdy teenagers, the true power behind the waterfall brought focus to this amazing place. If there was one thing I would suggest to anyone reading this, it would be that, should you have the opportunity to see or interact with a waterfall, anywhere, take it. For everyone who has seen a waterfall, I think most would say the view is worth it in itself. If that’s not enough, it also makes a very interesting story to tell to those around you.
For probably most people, you think that the flavor of every candy bar is the exact same taste as the beans that come out of the cacao plant once ripe. However, my mindset has shifted once again as I found out differently today, as well as the rest of the Costa Crew. We were told the origin of the cacao plant, it’s history, how it grows, when it’s ripe, and how it’s made into the chocolate we know and love today, of course. It always seems interesting, to me at least, to find out that what you’ve been told your whole life is a lie, relatively speaking. Have you ever noticed that on many candy bars, there’s no percentage of cacao on it? Well, it’s a low percentage. It takes maybe 4 beans to make that candy bar. Now, how about a bar of say 85% cacao: approximately 70 beans. Puts into perspective how much sugar is in those things. And just as an even bigger perspective, there can be anywhere from 26-40 beans in a cacao plant. And on each tree that makes cacao, only 3% of the produced plants will ever be used to make chocolate. So, what did I take away from all of this? Three things, or at least three that I feel won’t bore you. 1) Cacao is super bitter and it about 15 days to ferment properly, so appreciate the time put into each bar of chocolate. 2) The history of chocolate is a long and interesting one, so do a bit of research and treat yourself to some interesting factoid to impress your friends. 3) El Chapo Guapo (our Chocolate tour guide) is a pretty cool dude.
Kayaking on Lago Arenal
Our kayaking adventure started with a small boat ride to a shed floating on the water. Within it held all of the kayaks and the double-ended oars. Each kayak held two people, so we had to make a choice about who our partners were going to be. As soon as we got into our boats, our two guides told us that while we were getting everybody else ready, we could practice kayaking. It was difficult at first, but after learning the basic directions everyone got the hang of it. Earlier, Irene (our tour guide) encouraged us to pick our partners wisely because we would have to work together. During that practice, my partner and I learned the hard way on how to successfully communicate and cooperate. When everyone was ready, we followed the guide to one end of the lake where we ended up climbing out of our kayaks to swim around. We enjoyed the water, the people around us, and the place that surrounded us. Near the end of our activity, we kayaked ourselves back to the other end of the lake, where we started. My kayaking partner and I were off to a rocky start, arguing about how someone was paddling or if one of us was splashing the other. But, in the end, we made it and ended up singing on our way back!
Baldi Hot Springs
Little words can express how amazing it feels to bathe in the hot springs of Baldi, especially after a long day of exploring the exotic areas of Costa Rica. The hot springs gave us time to unwind and observe how beautiful Costa Rica really was. There were many different hot springs with a variety of temperatures so that you can find the perfect spot for relaxation. In our case, we were able to hang out with friends and reflect on what a journey we've made so far or just enjoy each other’s company. We all know the feeling of entering a hot tub: at first, it feels a bit too hot, but after a while you drift aimlessly letting all thought melt away. So if you ever get the chance to visit these hot springs I highly recommend it.
The zip lining course in Costa Rica was a little different than the ones I’ve done back home in Milwaukee. The techniques were different at home, where I didn’t have to place and hover my hand behind my head over a cable. There was more to the technique in Costa Rica, where the guides would help hook you up to the cable and then it was your responsibility to remember the position you had to sit in and when to break and how. We also had to take a somewhat strenuous hike in order to reach the platforms of each section. Conversely, the courses I had been on prior to this trip required you to just hold onto the front of your harness and someone would just catch you at the end and you’d usually take stairs to reach the platforms. Most zip lining courses back home were through everyday forests or even at the Zoo and overlooked dirt and concrete. Zip lining in Costa Rica was a completely different experience that entailed views from extreme heights where you could see animals like parakeets, plants and just the land overall and that really gave me a different perspective when looking at nature. The view was absolutely breathtaking, like nothing I had ever seen before. In that moment where I was zip lining in between platforms, I found a sense of calmness and peace in my body and mind.
Cooking Class & Soap Making
When I learned that we were going to a cooking class, I was really excited. Then I learned it was authentic food, I was even happier. The ladies in charge and the tour guide were all amazing in involving us in the process and making it extremely fun. We had laughs and laughs again. They introduced the kitchen to us, then we started cooking. We had to grind corn and then add sugar. We mixed that together along with other things. After someone had to mix the dry ingredients with water, their hands were messy after that experience. But we went outside with the mixture that we created and made empanadas and something else. It was really fun and a very good experience, especially if you have never cooked anything before. Overall the cooking lesson was really cool.
After we had a soap making lesson. The guide talked to us about how they make the soap and why. Since this place is a sustainability farm the soap was made from ingredients from the farm. We mixed oil and water throughly and added one of two smells. One group was chocolate and the other was apple. Then the two smells mixed to make the soap. We couldn’t stay for the whole process because it takes 45 days for the soap to harden and be able to use in the shower. But we still got to take some home, they were in amazing designs too. This was an amazing experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything.
During the ziplining, we got to experience some of the thrilling activities Buena Vista Lodge had to offer, as well as take in the truly stunning view of the land. However after that, we reconnected with the ground and got to take part in the sustainability tour, as Buena Vista was dedicated to being sustainable and environmentally friendly.
First, we were led to a small structure that held a few cows. We learned about how they get the milk and what they do with it, and were given an introduction to sustainability as a whole. After listening and seeing a demonstration, everyone was given a chance to milk the cow, which, as we learned, could produce up to 7 liters of milk in the mornings.
After milking the cow, we were shown the compost piles. Every day, the workers shovel the horse stables and deposit manure into a certain area. Then, coffee grounds and eggshells are added because of how good they are for plants. Everything is left there until it turns black, which is when it's suitable fertilizer.
Next to the compost piles was the garden, where plots lined with plastic bottles harbored freshly grown cilantro, cabbage, mint, lettuce, etc. Some plants were even being grown in an old washing machine! It was really eye-opening to see all the ways in which they made things more eco-friendly.
The penultimate section of the farm that we saw was an area in the ground for separating solids. They sectioned off manure, water, and solids from the restaurants to create sustainably sourced gas that was then sent through pipes back to the restaurants for fire.
Finally, we went inside a small structure in which multiple bins of manure sat, being turned into fertilizer by worms. We were all given the option to hold the worms (which I did), and we were then given some fertilizer to spread over some of the plants outside.
All in all, it was a really eye-opening experience. Oftentimes, people just use a recycling bin and call it being eco-friendly, but really, there's so much more we can all be doing. We may not be able to have a huge pipe system connected to a solids separation area, but we can be composting, growing plants, and finding innovative ways to recycle things—even if it means planting mint in a washing machine. Our guides wanted us to learn from the experience and bring at least some knowledge and plans back to the U.S., and I really think that we will.
“Being in a place like Costa Rica has completely changed my mindset about the world. I now
have hope that us humans can save ourselves from the damage that our ancestors have inflicted
on this planet. I am very grateful to be apart of this beautiful learning experience.” - Aidan
Rincon De La Vieja Parque Nacional
Today, we explored Rincon De La Vieja Parque Nacional. During this hike, each chaperone team was responsible for researching, identifying and presenting about a plant, sight, or area of the park. During this hike, we also encountered and learned about Rhino Beatles, Spider monkeys, Leafcutter ants and Howler monkeys! Below captures information that students learned on this adventure.
Ms. Schuld's group was assigned geysers. There are two different types of geysers, fountain geysers like old Faithful in Yellowstone witch erupts with water. There are no fountain geysers in the park we went to. The type of geysers that were in the park are cone geysers which don’t erupt with water but have a constant stream of steam coming out of them. The geysers could reach 280 degrees Farenheit and are heated by magma that was flowing underneath the geysers. They geysers would lift minerals like sulfur from underground and if you smell it than that’s how you know you are near a geyser.
Today at the national park we did research on dry forests. As a group, Mr. Molfino's team found out that there are usually less trees and more rocks in these locations. The reason for this is because the rocks will stay if tree roots don’t break them down and there is a lack of trees so the rocks stay. We also discovered that some of the trees have the ability to store water in their trunks. When trees store water in their trunks they are more likely to survive the dry season every dry forest has.
Mr. Walker's group was in charge of looking and learning about the Bromelia plant. Bromelia is a family that includes things such as pineapples. They're native to Central America and have a red flower on a long stem. The plant has little hairs that help catch and hold moisture. They also make perfect places for poison dart frogs to lay their eggs. Fossils as old as 30 million years have been found of these flowers. Also, the Aztecs and Mayans used every part of the plant for various things.
Mr. Koester's team searched for Ficus parasites, which are a parasitic plant that feeds from its host tree until that tree eventually dies. The tree rots while the ficus, acting as a sheath, remains in the same position as the tree Although it is a parasitic plant types of ficus, such as the strangler fig, are a main food source for the eco system. They form from the top growing down since the seeds are spread by animals and weather while the water is in the ground. This is relevant to Costa Rica because they can be seen everywhere and play a role in the eco system.
Many people view orchids as a simplistic house flower. Ms. Sato's group discovered that there is much more to the delicate flower after a long search for one in the Ricón de la Vieja (the Old Woman's Corner). We also had a solid research session that helped us grow a larger understanding. In Costa Rica alone, there are over 1200 different species that are spread throughout the jungles and 80% of them are epiphytes, meaning they are a plant that thrives and grows by attaching itself to another. The orchid's seeds are so small that the dust-like particles struggle to thrive and grow into a true flower. But when they do, they grow to be different colors and different shapes. This is because the difference in color attracts different pollinators. The different shapes of orchids are for when the bugs, in this case a bee, comes to collect it's seeds the flower pollinates different parts of the bee. This is so when it goes to the same type of orchid with the same flower shape, the bee can then do its job. There are a lot of charqcteristics people still overlook, though this is an unique and beautiful plant.
We all had such a fun time snorkeling! We drove over to the beach after eating a delicious lunch of some veggies, rice, and some sort of meat (it was a cafeteria style restaurant). We got to the beach and walked over to where the snorkeling instructors where waiting with boats. We took the boats to the other side of the U-shaped strip of beach. The instructors went through the safety stuff, and how to use the equipment correctly when we go to the other side. We used flippers when swimming and to walk with them on you have to walk backwards as to not damage the fins, my friends and I all looked really funny going into the water and we could barely even walk because we were laughing so hard. We all got into the water with all of our equipment on and waited for the guide to get in. While we where waiting we got used to the snorkel and were goofing around, splashing, racing that sort of stuff. The little strip of beach and ocean was full of laughter. The water was clear and warm, the perfect little multicolored shells and palm trees made it feel like a dream. When we started to look under more at first we saw lots of Pufferfish, some huge females and some little males. The pufferfish had to be one of the fish we saw the most, they were white with brown spots or fully brown. As we were swimming along with the guide and making less noise more fish started to come out. We saw a school of what I think where some blue and yellow butterfly fish. They where definitely used to humans and came very close to us, one even pecked my hand! There was also a school of these little striped fish, about three inches and skinny, and grey, blue, and yellow. Most of the other fish were by themselves or in small groups of three to five. Some of the fish we saw were; Pennant Bannerfish, Humbugs, lots of sea urchins, three spot Dascyllus, bluebanded surgeonfish, and I heard that some people saw an eel! That lasted about an hour. After that we played in the shallower water, some relaxed and some played a hardcore game of 500 with a soccer ball. I personally played 500, I only got the ball once because there were so many people playing but came close about three other times. It was fun though and would definitely play another round again. We had to stop and go home early because of a storm but we had a lot of fun anyways.
Animals of Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio
Today we took an hour bus ride to Costa Rica’s national park, Manuel Antonio. On the bus ride to the forest, we passed many beautiful palm tree fields and small towns with local markets and vibrant houses. As soon as we got to the entrance of the park, our tour guide spotted a small of pack of white-faced monkeys that were swinging in the trees above us. Their playful and energetic nature captivated everyone, and it seemed as though they too were getting a kick out of us watching them. We then entered the hiking trail and began our journey. All of the trees were entangled by vines and other plants that were stretching to the top of the canopy. Bird calls of all sorts could be heard overhead, creating a natural symphony like no other. The sunny green leaves were incredibly varied and plentiful. As we got farther down the trail, some black lizards hesitantly crossed our path. Even further down the trail, the forest slowly became a mangrove, which reeked of some serious sulfur.
After walking through more mangrove and forest, we could start to hear the inviting sound of ocean waves crashing onto the shore. We got closer and closer, until we finally reached the breathtaking view of the Pacific Ocean. The light blue ocean water shimmered and waved, almost seducing anyone who saw it to go for a swim. Once again our tour guide, being as awesome and knowledgeable as she is, spotted a two-toes sloth that was just chillin’ in one of the trees on the shore. She told us that this was rarity, given that sloth’s are usually only active at night. And the even crazier part is that we saw another one just a few meters farther down the shore! How lucky!
After lingering at the beach for a while, we started our hike back to the bus. On the way back, we saw more lizards and geckos that scrambled around the jungle floor. I spotted an agouti, a large and more pleasant-looking rodent. There was a raccoon that someone saw, which wasn’t as exciting because of their popularity in Milwaukee. After more hiking and observing, we finally made it back to the entrance. On my way out I bought a raw coconut that had a straw in it for the coconut milk. What a refreshing way to end such a fulfilling hike!
Plants of Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio & Crocodile Bridge
Hiking through the Manuel Antonio National Park was a very immersive experience. It allowed us to view the vast diversity of flora and fauna that Costa Rica has to show. We saw the tropical plants that grow there and the animals they support and shelter.
We also saw the more touristic side of the country at Crocodile Bridge. Seeing the crocodiles flock to the bridge in hopes to be fed was as eye opening as it was exciting. Students were in awe and the crocodiles were quite large and looked very intimidating. After you cross the bridge you see several locals that capitalize on the crocodiles from restaurants to souvenir shops.
Trip Reflection: What I’ve Learned About Myself on this Trip
So far into the trip I personally have been making the best out of every moment. I have been more open-minded to things I sometimes can be pessimistic about. For example, in Milwaukee I never go to the beach or on hikes. I’m a lot more afraid of animals than most, but in Costa Rica and Panama we went on two hikes where there were a lot of different animals. The first hike was in Panama at a place called Cerro Ancón. There weren’t as many animals compared to Costa Rica but we saw a boa constrictor, a nest of termites, and Panama’s version of a rat. In Manuel Antonio National Park where we saw the beautiful palm trees, sloths, iguanas, and crabs. I went in with a positive attitude and now all I have are positive experiences from the hike.
Even though we’re in a different country I have been able to learn how to be more open-minded even if you’re facing your life-long fears. I’m very thankful for this trip because I have been able to learn things that I can take everywhere with me.
Project Highlight: Water pH Sampling
One of the many many beautiful traits associated with the Costa Rica area is their dense rainforests and several natural water sources. In order to learn how the characteristics of the water affect the surrounding plant life, data collected from these water sources can show how different species of flora can flourish given the right circumstances. pH samples were collected from different naturally-occurring water sources in the Costa Rica area. So far tests have shown that the water being pushed through these areas is slightly more acidic than a glass of milk. The water with higher alkaline levels were surrounded with less shrubbery and plantation than the ones that tested lower. In order to collect data, we had to take some out of the ordinary measures, all while preserving wildlife and not disturbing nature.
Note: All students in Reagan's International Travel Program complete a research project based on a self-selected research question. The question must be one that requires students to travel to Costa Rica and/or Panama to answer it by gathering in-person data.
On our second and last day exploring Panama, we made our way to Panama's Biomuseo. With colorful panels and an architecturally interesting building overall, it was a beautiful sight, designed by Frank Gehry, who is currently living in the states with his Panamanian wife. Here we were presented with lots of history of Panama's past, present, and also the future to come. Some history included, talking about the original indigenous tribes of Panama, and what their lives were like. It also included the effect that the Spaniards had on the environment and lives of the indigenous people when coming to Panama.
Another big aspect of the Biomuseo was the environment in Panama. This includes the land, and the plant and animal life. This part of our journey largely contributed to my personal research question of: What actions does Panama and Costa Rica take to maintain and conserve the environment?
Some of the data the I collected from this, was that at the current growth of population of about 2 people per second the biodiversity is slowly dying off. This then changes the whole ecosystem around the area. But also 45% of Panama is still forested and over 50 protected areas cover over 30% of the national territory. Although these numbers are high and seem hopeful, the staff and resources available to protect these areas are limited and are in need of more support to continue to conserve the natural wonders of Panama. After using our audio guides to listen to information about biodiversity and the biodiversity in Panama, we stepped in a room with screens on every wall around us including the ceiling. This projected images, videos and sounds of the natural world of Panama. The vivid and colorful images and videos, made it seem as though we were right there with them.
Once finished, we made our way to the rest of the natural environmental part of the exhibit. Although we did not make our way to the recycling exhibit of the museum, the Costa Crew had fun and learned lots from Panama's Biomuseo.
This also concluded our main activities for the day, which we then headed to the airport of our flight to Costa Rica!
Chu Chews: Panama Style
By: Sabrina and David
Hola Chicos ! Throughout the world, it’s known that culture could be expressed within food. It’s a great representation of their customs & culture. It’s been about a few days in Panama and we’ve ate more than enough to get a taste of their food.
The food in Panama is extremely fulfilling and savory. We’ve noticed there is a trend with rice in Panama, it seems to be served with all meals. Also plantains (also known as platanos) seem to be a big trend within dishes as well. Plantains resembles Bananas, however they’re sweet, giving it a slimy texture with a delightful taste. Plantains seem to balance out the savory within the dishes. Plantains can be served for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. After our tour of Panama City, we went to a local restaurant and we were greeted by a friendly staff. For dinner, we ate an authentic dish of pulled pork that was served with a salad mix, a sweet plantain, and some rice. The dish was absolutely amazing, it was a mixture of many new flavors.
Another trend taken into account is the dessert! There always seems to be room for dessert in Panama. Their dishes are always accompanied by something very sweet, whether it’s a sugary drink, or a plantain, and some type of dessert. An example of a sugary drink is the photo above, which is called a “raspados hechos a Mano” which basically translates to “shaved ice by hand” in english. We were also given a rare experience to craft the dessert by ourselves accompanied by the owner of the pop up shop. The flavors were: coco (coconut) , maracuya ( passion fruit ), limon(lime), guayaba (guava), Fresa (strawberry) and grape. After adding the syrup on the freshly shaved ice, condense milk was added to the dessert to make it sweeter. We were also able to try many different flavors of ice cream, some flavors that are foreign to the United States. This made it quite difficult to pick a flavor.
The food within Panamá was truly astonishing and it was a great way to get out of our comfort zone, and expand it our pallet! I would totally recommend to try any dishes that are associated with Panama! Hasta luego, Chicos!
Panamaniam vs. Costa Rican Architecture
There was a HUGE difference in architecture throughout Panama and Costa Rica, that's for sure. We went from seeing tall glass sky scrappers in Panama City to tiny colorful houses in the middle of forests in Costa Rica. The people of Costa Rica get the advantage of living within nature as those in Panama do in the city.
What I noticed in Panama was that all of the houses were clumped together and the buildings were very cracked and old. Most of the houses over there were made of cement and the windows were covered with metal bars. One of the buildings in Panama that fascinated me the most was the museum [Biomuseo]. It was topped with colorful shapes to represent the country's biodiversity, which made it stand out from all of the other buildings around it.
On our first day here in Costa Rica, I can't say much about the buildings due to the fact that there are more greener areas than anything, as we are in more rural areas but that says a lot about the country as is. Lastly I cannot wait to explore this Costa Rica in these next couple of days and be able to answer my research question, which is studying how these buildings are influenced by their culture in both countries.
Today the Costa crew took a rigorous expedition through the national reserve of Cerro Ancon which is the highest hill peak in all of Panama City. We started off by walking in the old American Zone which is where U.S. diplomats living in Panama that were apart of the Canal Administration resided. On our way to the peak we found a local Panamanian school, El Hijo del Carpintero, and began walking along side them to the peak. People that needed to interview locals for their project were given a golden opportunity to collect data for their research. We were able to practice our Español with them and they were able to practice their English with us.
Once we arrived to the peak we took time to walk around, take photos and talk some more with the kids from the local school. Once we were all finished exploring, Irene, our EF tour guide, had us participate in some ice breaker activities. It was a fun and interactive way of meeting the people we are going to be spending the next 10 days with. Overall, it was a lot of fun and this was definitely a hike that none of us will ever forget.
One of the best parts about today was visiting a historical area of Panamá called Casco Viejo. The small town is currently being rebuilt/remodeled for new restaurants and shops. We visited a church and a few spots where churches once stood. We learned that a lot of the town was burnt down by the leaders of that time because pirates were consistently invading Panamá to steal their valuables like gold. So to prevent that, the people burnt down their town to keep the pirates from coming. It was all rebuilt eventually but architecturally a lot of the buildings were abandoned and had a very broken down appeal to it.
I love history so learning about all of that was an amazing experience for me. It was even better for a history nerd like me when we participated in a scavenger hunt to test our ability to communicate with our teammates and locals to learn new knowledge about the area. My task was to study a famous statue and memorial about the history of the Panamá Canal where I learned about the dozens of countries involved. One of the most amazing parts of visiting Casco Viejo was when we steered into the local market shops where it was full of beautiful things made by the natives which took a long time to make but it was still produced wonderfully. It gave off a great feel of Panamanian aesthetics and culture!
Mira Flores Locks - Panama Canal
For the last thing we did for the day, we went to see the Miraflores Locks on the Pacific side of the Panama Canal. While we were there, we went to a balcony where we could see the entire lock we were at with two ships going through it at the time. When we were done at the top, we went outside to learn many facts about the canal and the lock we were at. Right after that, we saw a short movie about the canal, showing the history of it and how each of the locks work. Right after we saw the movie, we went to a museum that was there. At the museum, we saw an exhibit showing machines that were used to dig the canal, as well as some wildlife living in the area in the next exhibit. The last exhibit showed how the canal was engineered to work using gravity, as well as how a ship would move through the canal. We had a lot of fun there, and were able to take plenty of pictures.
Mira Flores Locks - Panama Canal
The Panama Canal is crucial to the Panamanian Government. It generates millions of dollars in revenue a year and, without it, the Panama would not have nearly enough money to truly support its people. The Panama Canal is so important, it can't even be stopped to replace the original locks from 1914. To do so would require them to shut down the canal, which the government literally can't afford to do. The canal is the single most lucrative resource in Panama, and they protect it as such. To even enter the Canal, a ship has to be cleared and have a special canal staff member to help navigation. Cargo must be checked and legal, and no crew member is allowed to leave the ship while in the Canal.