Interview Process – Survey / Sign Activity

Today our team was out in El Cocal trying to gain some insight into what made people happy their community. We created a survey-like activity that would allow the residents to have a say in the visual identity of the community. One of the projects we believe would be beneficial to developing a visual identity is creating a welcome sign that could be displayed at the boating dock. Upon arrival a welcome sign could evoke an artful connection to people’s sense of place when arriving at El Cocal.

The activities we conducted asked participants to choose preferred typefaces, colours and icons they felt best represented El Cocal. Imagery including palm trees, boats, fish, coconuts and other fun beach icons. Our survey was the mobile version of the key design activity we had the pleasure of conducting with the English class hosted in the GVI community centre.

Participants in this activity were asked to assemble a welcome design in a master-chef-like environment that they felt would best fit the entrance of El Cocal. Our team provided cut outs of a variety of typefaces, short greetings, icons and coloured paper for quick and easy assembly. We started the music and gave the class only 1 minute to design! Some even running over to the table to get first dibs colours and cut outs.

The activity was a huge success and most importantly the participants seemed to have a lot of fun doing it. From this we were able to get a sense of what the community may prefer when designing a sign El Cocal. In hopes to keep our designs as participatory as possible this insight was a great addition to our design process moving forward.

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Día 10, Mangroves, Niños, y La Cocina

Mangroves, niños de Cocal, and cooking; it was going to be an extremely long, and eventful day ahead of us. To begin the day, we had a 6 am start to be ready to leave for the mangrove tour at 7 but, luckily, we were fed with some scrambled eggs to get us through the morning courtesy of Mia.



On our way to the mangroves our only comprehension of them up until this point was the more dry-land area that was on the north side of Cocal. So, when we got to see this other side of the mangroves, how it actually forms, and the process that it goes through to separate fresh water and salt water, it was very fascinating. Our tour guide, Don Jorge informed us that the process is done by the tree picking a leaf that takes in all of the salt water and essentially kills it off, and that process is repeated.



When we were waiting at the beach to be picked up by Don Jorge, a couple of us decided to do a mini beach cleanup, and the amount of things that we found in such a small period of time was outstanding.

One of my favourite parts of the day was being able to ride in Don Jorge’s Land Rovers, as it reminded me of my dad’s Land Rover Defender 90 back home. Upon arriving to Don Jorge’s place, we were greeted with what seemed like an abundance of animals, from dogs to parrots. After eating lunch, my group headed back to El Cocal on what was probably the most memorable little trip along the beach with the wind breezing through the car, the waves crashing along the tires of the Land Rover, and the sun shining down on us.

Although all of this time has elapsed, when we got to the community centre at El Cocal, it was still only 12 pm. The next 2 hours that we spent in Cocal with the kids felt like a lifetime as the experience was mentally exhausting having to deal with a large amount of kids that only kept increasing as we were doing the work lesson. It was definitely a good learning experience for our group with how our exercise would actually play out with the kids.


After already being exhausted from engaging with the kids in Cocal, most of our group members were also about to have cooking duties for the night. After discussing what we could make, we came to the best decision of the day… to make tacos and yuca patties. From the response of everyone who ate our food (shout out to Zeinab, Ade, Merryn, and Ashley) I will definitely be attempting to perfect the Yuca patty when I get back home, so
hmu for some Yuca patties.

Cook your own breakfast day

Today was an early day. At seven we were all leaving for our manglar expedition. We got on a little boat and drove through the river framed by manglares on both sides. Little Marcel paid us a short visit, and even jumped on board for a while before we departed ways. It was really nice to meet him, and even though he got a little upset with us at one point but I think we left each other on a good note.


The manglar was really beautiful and relaxing, but at some point the boat started to get stuck and we had to do a grand escape through a nearby short cut. A little house by the river welcomed us, and I can’t say I was disappointed. A cow almost ate my hair, and some cool safari trucks picked us up and drove us through the beach.img_0733 img_7006

Our driver was a really nice guy, and jumped in on a picture with me just because he can, what else.


He drove us through the beach and to the “Nacho House”. We spent some time at the beach before walking to the house, and some of us did some beach clean-up.It was overwhelming the amount of garbage we collected in such a small area in such a short amount of time, noting that this is an isolated beach no one really goes to, and all of that garbage was just washed up.


After our little clean up, some relaxing beach walks and some coconut cutting and drinking, we walked to the house to have lunch. The place was really cute and welcoming, there was a pool which of course we took advantage of for some refreshment from the heat. There were cute dogs everywhere and I had a special moment with a butterfly sitting on my finger, which I will bless you with in the following picture.


You are welcome.

Later we split up. A few of us went to El Cocal for some fun with the kids, and the rest of us went back. That night we had “the best Tacos in the whole country”, for which I don’t have a picture of because we ate all of the Tacos; sorry not sorry.

Noveno día

When our group arrived to Dona Aneida’s house, we were put to work right away.  We were told to start making the corn-flour dough for the empanadas and to cut down a big block of queso fresco into little thin strips for its filling.  The rest of use began chopping away at the onions and tomatoes for the salad.  While our workspace was hot an cramped, it was not unlike any other kitchen job I’ve had in the past – except for the occasional chick chirping away as they sauntered around our heels.  The making of the empanadas was a fun and humbling experience, in particular when her sun, Moises, had to break out the tortilla press to help us flatten out the dough since we did not have the same coordination or speed to make them quickly by hand.











After lunch we had the opportunity to conduct a few more interviews to get a better perspective of what locals of El Cocal think might work and what might not work when it comes to waste management.  We presented a few rough proposals to them and heard what they had to say with respect to every one.  What we found is that a few of our proposals was presupposing adequate waste sorting as a given, whereas the feedback we received informed us that proper disposal of materials is still a something that needs to be communicated to much of the community.  It became evident that whatever system we may be attempting to establish, there needs to be an education campaign on waste disposal.  Luckily, our insightful interviews allowed us to gain a better understanding of the situation.





Day Nine

Cooking Class

With an early start to the day, the Waste Infrastructure and Pilot Model groups headed over to Aneida’s house in El Cocal for a cooking class. On the menu today was Costa Rican Empanadas, frijoles, rice, and a salad. Our tasks varied, from cutting up tomatoes, onions, and making the dough. Aneida was expecting a propane tank early in earlier the morning to power her oven top stove but, unfortunately it had not come on time. So instead, her son prepared a fire in there outdoor grill to cook the rice. The choice of fuel source was a bag full of trash and some tempered wood cutoffs. Throughout this trip, there have been many eye opening experiences, especially in this case where we witnessed the many different ways in which trash is repurposed and disposed. Although it was unfortunate to see this, the experience reinforced the importance that education about waste management will play a crucial role in our project.



After the delicious meal that we helped cook, we moved on to our next job: community interviews. After brainstorming over the past couple of days, the Waste Infrastructure and Pilot Model groups collaborated to generate three potential waste management systems. Since there can only be one system, we turned to community elders Aneida and Don Giovanni for some feedback on which concepts they thought would be most effectively operate in the community. So far, the project has allowed me to extend my appreciation for the power of interviews. The instant feedback we received through conversation got rid of our doubt and speculation, leaving us with new ideas and a clearer path towards our next step.


Dance Lessons

To finish off the long day, the class participated in a dance class hosted at the Hostel. During the lesson we ran through Salsa, Bachata, and Cumbia choreography. Prior to the lesson I felt pretty confident that I would be able to pick up on the dance moves pretty easily. But, I was soon to find out I was wrong. I kept blaming my inability to follow the steps on my footwear choice but, I think it was clear that was not the reason. Regardless, the activity was a nice way to unwind, get a little exercise in, and learn something new.


Day 8

Day 8 started bright and early for some, or hours later for others, as we were split into two groups­­—the group who got cooking lessons in Cocal, and the group that stayed to get a head start on the brainstorming process, or admittedly, to catch up on some much needed sleep. While the cooking group was wrapping up all the hard work, the second group had just started their departure from the hostel en route to Cocal for lunch. The travel to Cocal was longer than usual due to low tides, but nonetheless we made it to the dock where we witnessed (to some degree) what the holding site looked and smelled like full, and on a pick up day. The walk to Eneyda’s was accompanied by small amounts of rain, but it was nothing to which we weren’t already accustomed.


Once we reached Eneyda’s, we were greeted by the rest of our group, and by the sight and smell of food, sitting down to eat and converse amongst ourselves, or to Eneyda’s granddaughter Rachel (pronounced Raa-chel) who provided us with humor, cuteness, and makeshift Spanish lessons.


The delicious meal (Thanks again guys!) ended and so we headed back to the hostel for a little free time and relaxation until we met up in groups again to loosely finalize our ideations, which bleed into and after our dinner of burritos, the day ending with our finishing touches of a pitch to leaders of the community amongst sounds of rainfall.


Day Eight: Doña Eneyda’s Boñuelos

Today officially marked the beginning of the design development phase of our project in El Cocal. The most eventful part of the day for me was the cooking lesson with Doña Eneyda, a sweet old lady who has prepared our lunches on days when we’re in the community. Today, she showed a group of us how to make boñuelos.

Boñuelos or tortas de yuca are fritters made from the yucca plant. Yucca is a root plant that is commonly found in areas of the Americas and the Caribbean. It has a rough brown skin and a firm white interior.

To prepare the dish, first we took off the skins of the tubers. To do this we used knives to create incisions that we then used to pry off the backs.

The next step in the process was using a grater to turn the tubers to shave the tubers down.



After this, we combined the shredded yucca with some homemade queso and eggs. All three ingredients were then hand mixed to create a paste-like mixture.


Outside, with the help of Eneyda’s son, Moises we spooned the yucca mixture into hot oil. When the fritters turned a golden brown, we took them out and placed them in a bowl with a paper towel to collect any excess oil.


We had the fritters with a meal of grilled chicken, a simple salad made with lettuce, tomatoes and ground pepper as well as the lunch staples, rice and beans.


Community Kite Festival!

Yesterday we went to see the end of El Cocal with taxi and then walk back to get a sense of what’s going on the far end of this little community. El Cocal seemed to get nicer and nicer as we got far away from the first residence. With wider field and tall chaotic trees almost everywhere, It almost felt like that the landscape is trying to make me ignore the fact that there is still garbage hanging around as well. It was interesting to hear from Julius that there is no actual land ownership so maybe right now I can just go there and find a perfect spot that suits me and say this is mine from now on. As far as I know, this is one of the easiest ways to “buy” land without paying for it. During the walk back I noticed that the concept of home is truly relevant to some of these families. The picture of a kind of family lifestyle, with chickens, dogs, birds following each other in the backyard and everyone sitting under a tiny roof with clothes being hanged to dry off anywhere possible, was so fascinating to me.img_13861   img_1523 img_14321 img_14771 img_14511 img_15001

After observing the neighborhood and walking for about thirty-five minutes or so, we got to see the Festival Del Papalote or in other words the Kite Festival. The festival was full of parents, kids, dogs, and teachers and a bunch of retailers selling so many cool stuff. All of these along with the perfect beach to dip your feet in created a complete and very interactive atmosphere for everyone to experience. Even though the festival was meant to be for kids specifically by having a clown and a stage engaging them with various activities, I felt like more than kids it’s the grown-ups who are enjoying the festival. I captured some of these kids playing on the beach, jumping on the trampoline and a lot of them just running around the festival. I thought some activates that were assigned seemed to work well and some, not that much. It was as an example quit obvious that kids loved playing the engaging game of who bites more of the apple were at the end they all held hand to help each other bite more.


They also assigned a game for us and  Zeinab won and walked so proudly away from the whole situation. After a long day, we came back to the hostel and spent the afternoon to finally get together and gather some possible ideas for our project.


Day 7 – Festival Del Papalote

After breakfast and some rest time this morning, we headed to El Cocal to check out the Kite Festival (Festival Del Papalote) being held there today.


Upon arriving in El Cocal, we took off in groups by taxi to get to the end of the road, so that we could get a better sense of the size of the community. The walk back gave us some good perspective, as we got to see how the community feel changes and the houses become more spread out the farther you get from the docks. Some of us noted how this must affect the way services and information reach the area, with the distance making community engagement on that end more of a potential challenge.


Back near the community centre, the kite festival was in full swing and oozing with life and laughter, with colourful kites in the sky and lots of happy people on the beach. Visitors and locals were spending a lovely day in the sun together, with plenty of food, music, and activities to enjoy.


Games had been organized to entertain the festival-goers, and kids and adults alike took part – including the visiting Bomberos (fire service) and GVI staff.

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It was great to see the community come together and put on such a successful event, where everyone involved seemed to be having a great time. I believe seeing everyone be so excited about the kite festival gives hope to our project as well, as it shows that the people of El Cocal have an interest in creating meaningful community experiences together.

Back at the hostel, we divvied up into our project groups to figure out next steps for the coming week. Hopefully we’ll be able to create more fun experiences for the community as part of the project, using the joy of the kite festival today as inspiration.


Day 6 – Manuel Antonio National Park

5ad92581-ed02-419b-b68f-6e7bdb39d573Day 6 started bright and early with a trip to Manuel Antonio national park. The bus ride there was familiar, and the park was anything but that. One of the most biodiverse areas on the planet, we were split into two groups with two guides to help us explore it all and spot all the fascinating creatures who made the rainforest their home. like a much better version of “where’s waldo?”. Words don’t really do it justice, but hopefully, some of the photos will get close.  Sloths, Monkeys, hummingbirds, flora and fauna galore. It’s paradise. Much like so, so many places here. The highlight for me, personally, was a large wooden observation tower that capuchin monkeys have made their headquarters. The fearless monkeys were play fighting, launching themselves from tree to tree and observing us as much as we were observing them. Arriving at a secluded section of the Manuel Antonio beach, our group split into two so half of us could search for more elusive sloths. We were not disappointed. We found Sugar monkeys, and both the two and three toed variants of sloths. The last spotting was so good it had our guide giddily filming it and narrating his find for his Instagram. After about three hours we strolledout of the rainforest and into a charming beachside restaurant. We arrived at a small seaside restaurant called Seaside Burru in Manuel Antonio next to national park. This was the first time since arriving that we felt like we truly could just relax. After having lunch all together as a group we where given the rest of the day to our selves. Many from the group decide to make a beach day out of it, heading to Espadilla Beach to ride the waves. We later all reconvened back in Quepos at our hostel for a well deserved low key meal and swim in the pool. Tonight many of us plan on heading back to the town of Manuel Antonio to explore more. I know all of us are ready to get back to work tomorrow in El Cocal.

Davis & Henry


Day Five


Day 5 of our journey brings a day of writing and experiencing the local Friday market. Majority of the day was spent gathering our thoughts and creating a more organized perspective on the interviews and observations we had made. Over the past 4 days we have been observing and speaking to the Quepos and El Cocal community members. In the morning we started with a debrief on our meeting with Warren from the municipality. We discussed the limits that the municipality has when interacting with El Cocal, as well as the reasoning behind why bridges and access to roads are not an option for Cocal. This discussion as a group was a large step in understanding the waste management options for Cocal, as the municipality has no ability to go over to Cocal without setting a precedent that contradicts the Costa Rican Environmental Polices.


At this point in the project we are establishing what we as a class can truly do to help decrease the waste in El Cocal. After our debrief we begun the decision process of dividing into four groups, these groups will be who we work with over the next 2 weeks. Each group has a specific focus, Waste Infrastructure, Awareness Campaign, Pilot Model and Children’s Education. By the end these four sections will come together as one to create a long term system.915ece20-50f3-46f3-a15f-4f179389a886

For the rest of the morning and majority of the afternoon we worked individually on our first project, reflecting on our first week in Costa Rica. Everyone was scattered around the hostel working at there on pace and taking breaks when needed.


In the later evening we put down our computers, put away our notes and head out into Quepos for the market. The market was located near the board walk and was filled with various venders, most selling fruits and vegetables but others had jewelry, succulents, baked goods and meats. One vender sells hand made jewelry made by him and his wife which I really liked. Some of the necklaces were made of recycled materials like €10 aluminum colones (Costa Rican currency) and coconut shells that had been carved and warped into beautiful designs. The craftsmanship of these goods were so intriguing as you rarely get the opportunity to speak directly to the designers of products in Toronto.b67ed15b-18f4-4a69-99ab-72a0631a9ede

In the evening we all gathered back at the hostel for a healthy dinner of vegetables and local produce. This concluded the events for day 5!

Day Four

Today, the group took a short break from conducting interviews to help with our project to visit the Espadilla beach. The journey to the beach consisted of a twenty minute bus ride. The route was scenic and gave us a chance to experience some more of the beautiful greenery that can be found all around the country. Our time at the beach was spent splashing about in the waves, playing beach soccer and simply soaking up the sun. We also enjoyed some refreshing coconut water (straight from the source) sold by vendors in the area.


After returning to the hostel for a quick lunch of casados, we headed over the Municipality building which was located a short walk away. Here, we got the chance to speak to Warren Umaña, a biologist who worked for the municipality. Warren was directly involved in the waste management system of Quepos and gave us a detailed presentation on how waste was processed in the canton. In addition to this, he also provided us with very useful information on the history of El Cocal as well as the relationship that exists between the community and Quepos, in regards to waste management. After the presentation, he answered questions from members of our group that related to the project we are working on with the community.



Our evening was spent at the hostel where we had a delicious pasta dinner that was prepared my some of the team and GVI staff.