A perfect weekend   4 comments

For anyone who knows me well, it’s probably no surprise that I absolutely loved our field trip this weekend, given that the majority of the trip was dedicated to chocolate. However, it wasn’t just the chocolate that made this weekend so wonderful, it was a combination of so many great experiences packed together in just three days. The challenge is going to be trying to share them with you without this post turning into a book.

We hit the road early on Friday morning to head northeast of San José, to the Atlantic lowlands on the other side of the mountains. I was already enjoying the weekend with just the drive itself – there was some pretty amazing scenery as we drove up into the mountains. We were completely surrounded with green, until we drove into the clouds and were surrounded by the grey mist. It was really amazing to see such huge expanse of truly savage forest and extreme topography – but of course neither my descriptions nor the few photos I snapped from the bus can do justice to the experience.

We were headed to FINMAC – an organic cacao (chocolate) plantation, which is actually where I will be doing my research for two months. I’ll be able to tell you more about what the plantation and little village is like later, so I’ll just skip to the highlights of the plantation experience. We got to walk around in the plantation to learn about the process of growing, harvesting, and then processing chocolate. Because the cacao on this farm is shade-grown, the plantation supports a high level of biodiversity when compared to many other agricultural systems – which we got to observe first-hand as we found all sorts of interesting animals on our walk including two- and three-toed sloths, a Jesus Christ lizard. We even got to hold one of the three-toed sloths (the more docile of the two species). We were also treated to a fabulous lunch and desert/demonstration from the women’s group that makes chocolate bars right on the farm from the cocoa that is produced there. Overall it was a great experience and it was really nice to meet a lot of the people that I will be living and working with in just a few more weeks – I’m really looking forward to going back!

The next part of our trip took place in Tirimbina – an area of preserved rain forest. We stayed at a great hotel right in the reserve; that night we had a session to learn about bats, and then went out into the jungle to experience the atmosphere at night. I still haven’t decided if crossing the 300-meter long cable bridge suspended 50 feet about the forest floor and rushing Saripiqí river is scarier at night or during the day…

Saturday was also filled with wonderful experiences –beginning with getting up early to go for a hike around one of the forest trails with a friend to see if we could spot some birds before we had to meet the rest of the group for breakfast. We accomplished our goal of finding a toucan, but were even more thrilled when we were able to locate the howler monkeys that we heard along the way. It was actually ironic how we took so long to find the first pair that we heard, only to cross paths with another group that seemed to be joining the others as we crossed another one of the suspension bridges. I was a little bummed not to have my camera with, but luckily Jon had his so we were able to capture evidence of the monkey that practically chased us off the bridge (he did not sound happy with us – but I’m not sure if howler monkeys ever can sound happy).

So Green!          

Top: Jon’s picture of the howler monkey that sat in the tree to grunt at us after chasing us off the bridge and a picture walking through the rainforest. Bottom: Grinding roasted cacao beans with sugar to make chocolate, and preparing the hot chocolate drinks like the indigenous

After breakfast, we had a guided tour with another chocolate demonstration – where we got to learn about the process of how chocolate was prepared by the indigenous groups many years ago, and make our own chocolate from the roasting and grinding the beans. It was definitely a sweet morning, with our awesome guide Jorge we found some more wildlife, including the pair of spider monkeys, a few pit vipers (snakes), the dreaded bala ant, butterflies (including a few blue morphos!), and some birds and turtles, all in addition to learning about some sweet plants and the rainforest in general.

Back in San José on Saturday night, we finally got to experience some josefino night life, as almost our entire class plus some of our host brothers and sisters went out to celebrate a classmate’s birthday. We had a great time dancing, and I even got to use the dance moves I learned from our dance class last week when dancing with my new tico friends. The weekend was topped off with a nice relaxing Sunday spent with my host family, which included going to mass in the morning, then to the fería (market) with my mom and sister, a lively lunch with nine of us all sitting together in the small kitchen, praying the rosary, and winding down the night watching some TV.

It is amazing how much was packed into just those three days – so many new, exciting, and special experiences that I want to be able to write about them all, but really this was just the summarized version. And I know many more new and exciting experiences are still to come in the weeks ahead…


Posted February 15, 2011 by rwieme in Uncategorized

4 responses to “A perfect weekend

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  1. Well, I am glad that the monkey is the one up in the tree and not you! It all sounds so wonderful and tasty!! Hiking, dancing, and tasting-3 of my favorites-glad to hear you enjoying all of them.

  2. Hey Raquel, not sure if my first message went through , so here is another!, Love your blog and that pic of you and the sloth is so cool!!, I want to wish you a very Happy 21st Bday on the 16th, not sure when you will read this, so hope you have a very special day!
    Love You
    Uncle Pat

  3. Rachel,

    What a memorable way to spend your 21st birthday..”hey Rachel- what did you do for your birthday this year- Oh I decided I would just hang out… in Costa Rica” Hope all is well!!

  4. Showed Tyler the pictures of you with the monkey and he was soo excited for you!! Hope you’re having tons of fun Rach!!

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