Monday, July 30, 2012

The continued adventures of Costa Rica

So very much has happened that I haven't had a chance to write, so I will recap. A few days after our adventure with Carla and her queso farm, the group and I decided to go into town to check out a festival that the local church had put on. There were vendors there selling everything from rice and beans, to cotton candy and candy apples. There was music in the plaza and it seemed as if all of Turrialba had come to celebrate.

The very next day the festival continued with a cultural parade of indigenous dancers and people supporting the local community. What I thought was interesting about both the festival and the parade was that it was put on through the church. The church sits directly in front of the plaza, where you can go to sit and enjoy an ice cream and the afternoon. Another component of the plaza are the shoppes that are centered around it. This makes for a very tight nit community that work together, practice religion together, and party together.

7/16/2012 Dr. Vargas hosts a language and food party. In attendance were some of the CATIE staff, some students from the MIST (Masters of International Sustainable Tourism) program, and ourselves. The goal of the party was to get the staff to learn English and the rest of us to learn Spanish all while having fun and cooking. Half of us cooked Chifrijo, which to me seems like a loaded nacho consisting of rice, beans, chunks of beef, topped with guacamole and pico de gallo and tortilla chips. The other half cooked a relatively Northern American dish, apple fritter. All of the food came out fantastic and practicing the language was a complete success.

7/20/2012 Dr. Bloomquist arrives and we head to Manuel Antonio. On our way there, there is an infamous bridge overlooking a river that is a huge tourist attraction. The reason that this bridge in particular is so well known is because this is where great numbers of crocodiles live. According to Eric, our instructor, this is where fresh water meets salt water and is a perfect environment for the crocs to live in. If it gets too hot during the day, they wade underneath the overpass until it cools down.

Manuel Antonio is the beach of all touristic beaches. There are people from all around the world lodging in or near Manuel Antonio to catch some waves, shop at the souvenir shops or enjoy the night life. I was shocked at the completely different vibe that little old Turrialba has in comparison to the bustling Manuel Antonio. We did three things while in Manuel Antonio – went to the national park, took a tour of a 5 leaf/ 5 star hotel and caught some waves. The national park, although a fantastic park, was situated near the touristic area of Manuel Antonio. This was problematic because there were too many people in the park which destroyed the naturalistic feel that the park is supposed to give. Mostly what we spotted were white faced monkeys but was fortunate to see two sloths who are known to be found in this region. Sadly, visitors to the park often feed the monkeys snacks and junk foods and these monkeys will get sick and die from having such a poor diet. There are signs everywhere warning visitors against feeding the monkeys, however, on the park beaches the opposite occurred.

Next was the hotel tour. Before I begin to explain the tour I have to shed some light on this leaf system that has been adopted by Costa Rica. The leaf system is a sustainable approach to the star system. How it works is that a hotel will gain points based off of how they maintain and sustain their resources. They can get points for having solar panels, having recycle bins, hiring locals, etc., and these points will determine how sustainable the hotel is. The more sustainable a hotel is, the more leafs it will earn. We went on the tour to see just how a five leaf hotel operated and the processes that needed to be done in order to keep their leaf rating.

Fun came next. After all of our hard work and learning, we finally got to take a break and try out surfing. This was all of our first time and there is no better place to try it out than at the Rich Coast. Board rentals - $20. Bathing suit - $40. Being thrashed around on a wave with a board tied to your ankle - priceless. In all honesty, that was well worth the scars and bruises that I found the next day.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


The other night we went over to Dr. Vargas' (a professor here at CATIE) house for a cooking and Spanish lessons.  Dr. Vargas' wife hosted the event and invited our group (the SSS), the MIST students from UNT, and some local Latino students who are trying to learn English.  We were separated into two groups, one to cook the main entreè (which would be a local Tico dish) and the other to cook the dessert (which was US-based).
Denisha and I were part of the entreè group because we wanted to learn how to cook a meal local to this area.  Another important part of the activity was the fact that when we were in the kitchen cooking, we were to use only our non-native language, which allowed us to practice our Spanish and the local students to practice their English.  Although I was a little nervous about this at first because my Spanish skills are a bit lacking, it ended up being really fun and I happened to learn a lot.  It was also great just interacting with some of the local students and learning a little about their lives growing up in Turrialba.

We made Chilifrio, which included rice, pork, avocado, and a salsa like pico de gallo.  I am vegetarian so they made mine without the meat, which was nice.  We also fried some pineapple, which they added into mine to make it more hearty, but all of the Ticos just ate separately.  The fried pineapple was DELICIOUS!  Here is a pic of the finished product.  If you are curious about the recipe, here is a link to one:  For dessert, we had apple fritter (although I did not eat any as I am not much of a dessert person).  Overall, one more great night in CR!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Turrialba, Costa Rica

Above are a few additional photos from the weekend festival in Turrialba.  We watched the parade on Sunday as it went through the town plaza.  It was great!  I enjoyed seeing some of the local culture in action. 

The great thing about Turrialba (which is a short five minute cab ride from CATIE or a 30-40 minute scenic walk) is how friendly the people are.  Ever since we have been here we have been treated so well be the local people.  I always keep in mind that I am a guest in this community, so I try to be as respectful as possible, observant of the locals and how they act, and also aware of my surroundings.  Overall I feel very safe and comfortable here.  In fact, we already joke that we are becoming part of the community!

The plaza in the middle of town is a congregating place for the community and you will frequently see people of all ages hanging around down there.  A lot of great restaurants and nightlife spots surround the plaza, which is very convenient.  There is a Friday and Saturday market (which we have yet been able to attend) which sells crafts and local food items.  A local CR ice cream chain called Pops has great sweet treats and there is also pizza, fried chicken, and Chinese food places as well in case you get home sick for some common US foods.  However, as we have been discussing in our course, these establishments have to expend far more resources than usual to appeal to tourist taste buds, so if you can, try to eat local-based dishes with foods that are grown or produced in the local region.  Plus, food is a HUGE part of culture, so by eating local cuisine you will have a much richer cultural experience while in Costa Rica.   I personally like the local food better because it is much healthier and although it seems like all we do is eat, I still feel like I am losing weight instead of gaining it!     

Friday, July 20, 2012

About to meet up

They should be arriving to pick me up soon. Stayed at the Grand Hotel Costa Rica last night. Very classic property. We stayed here in January when we first came down to establish this relationship with CATIE.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Just arrived

Just checked into the Grand Hotel Costa Rica and will meet up with Denisha and Jared Friday morning. Hanging out on the patio at the 1820 Cafe of the hotel. Beautiful evening.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Tico Time

What can be done in Costa Rica in three and a half days??  Well, A LOT.  In my short time here at CATIE I have already fallen in love with the people, the culture, the food, the class, the ecology, and our amazing adventures.  Costa Ricans (and the crew here at CATIE) are very friendly.  Since we are the first generation of SSS (Sustainability Seminar Series) students at CATIE, we are acting as the guinea pigs for the program, but we have already learned so much!  
On Thursday we took a field trip to a local farm where they make Queso de Turrialba, which is a highly desired cheese in the region.  I even milked my first vaca!!!   
I am milking a cow for the first time with Carla, our wonderful tour host.
We drove up to the closest point of Volcan Turrialba, which is a National Park in CR that has been closed for some time now due to the activity of the volcano.   
MIAM + SSS in front of Volcan Turrialba
We experienced the nightlife in Turrialba with a group of students from the MIAM program (Master's in International Agribusiness Management) and the MIST program from UNT (Master’s in International Sustainable Tourism). 
Me, Denisha, and a student from MIST at Charlie's, a local bar
Our first class was great and our instructor provided us with an introduction into the concept of sustainability and into sustainable tourism.   
Carla, her second cousin, and Eric Norman, our instructor for SSS.
Last night, we went to a festival in Turrialba that included local arts and crafts, live music, a DJ, and dancing.   
Vendors at a local festival in Turrialba
Today we white water rafted on the Rio Pacuare, the fifth top rated river in the world! It was a fantastic 19-mile stretch filled with unique wildlife, first generation rainforest, and intense class 4 rapids.  
Me, Denisha, and Juan (our UNT counterpart) rafting Rio Pacuare.
And to think, we have just begun…

Friday, July 13, 2012


Water is Fiji's thing, pineapples are Hawaii's thing, and well, cheese is more than just a thing in Turrialba. Mastering the cheese making process was not something I thought I would be learning about. Nonetheless, here we were in front of cows learning the technique of the infamous Turrialba Cheese. Cheese can be aged, it can be new, it can come from a cow or it can come from a goat, the one thing that is for sure is that the Tico's love it which means there is money to be made. Carla, an amazing Costa Rican native, was muy paciente with me through all of this, since my Spanish is less than basic. Her family owns a farm where they produce a large portion of the cheese sold in Turrialba. Now that cheese is coming from my ears I have to go! Costa Rica is waiting for me!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

First Meal

Just ate my first meal in Costa Rica at a restaurant in Turrialba!  Casado con pescado (a typical Costa Rican meal that includes black beans, white rice, fish, salad, and in this case a fried egg and french fries) with a Piña to drink (refreshing pineapple drink).  It was delicious!  So happy to be here.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Jared and Denisha are off to Costa Rica today.  I am looking forward to meeting up with them in 10 days.

Monday, July 9, 2012

An Introduction

Hello all!

Tomorrow I leave for Costa Rica and I am quite excited!  For my first entry in this blog, I will share a little bit about myself so you can get an idea of who I am. 

My name is Jared Dial and I was born and raised in northern New Mexico.  I am 26 years old and I graduated with my BS from the Hotel, Restaurant, and Tourism Management department in the fall of 2010.  I have currently returned to school to take prerequisites for future graduate school in Anthropology or a related field. 

My interests include sustainability education, environmental and cultural interpretation, and social justice and equality.  I am interested in seeing how I can tie these interests to my degree in hospitality, which is one of the reasons why I am doing this exchange program to Costa Rica.  I love to travel, explore nature, read, cook, and watch obscure films.  I also participate in a myriad of community service projects revolved around LGBTQ equality and environmental preservation and conservation. 

I am thrilled to be able to participate in this program at CATIE because it directly aligns with my interests and allows me to travel to a part of the world that I have always wanted to see and experience.  I participated in a National Student Exchange program a couple of years ago and absolutely loved it, which is why I hope to continue traveling, exploring new cultures, and learning more about the world and myself.

 I am happy to be part of the inaugural group for this program and I will continue to update you all along the way (while sharing many photos!).

There will be more to come soon, and as they say in Costa Rica –

Pura Vida!!