Today was our last full day in Costa Rica. Some of us parted ways in La Fortuna while the rest of us made the jaunt out to San Jose for our flights tomorrow. Considering it was our last full day, we really did a lot.
We started our day with an Arenal Volcano tour, which was amazing! It was funny hearing all of us agree that we were “so over seeing monkeys!” since they’re everywhere in Costa Rica. Then we’d quickly change our attitude when we saw Toucans or cool frogs — I wanted this frog as a pet basically all of my life and I don’t know the name of what type of frog it is! It was really quite cool though.
We got to see another waterfall on the hike and go on a few cool bridges. Then we set out to go to a natural hot spring which was such an amazing experience. Some people even got their dead skin eaten by fish … ick! I couldn’t bring myself to do it, but my skin had still never felt more clear because of all of the steam.
Then we all went to eat lunch back in La Fortuna and say our goodbyes to the people staying in Costa Rica that we would be parting ways with. It was actually kind of a happy moment even though the trip was sadly ending, we all had so many memories to share!
Finally, after we split off, the rest of us (10 students left!) got on the bus to go to San Jose. I think a lot of us slept for most of the ride, then slept immediately again at the San Jose hostel. We were going to need all the sleep we could get for our flights tomorrow. There was some bad sushi in between each of those sleepy times though — I’d like more Casados instead, please! What a crazy, amazing day!
Having wrapped up our 3-week project with a community presentation the night before too say the least we were all exhausted, running on no sleep and lots of amazing Costa Rican coffee. We departed from our temporary home and said goodbye to Quepos, El Cocal and many of the amazing staff that helped us over the past few weeks.
We drove from Quepos to La Fortuna, taking around 4 hours. We arrived and were immediately taken to go see the iconic La Fortuna waterfalls. This breathtaking waterfall is over 75 meters tall, cascading down from the Arenal Volcano landing in a picture perfect pool of clear yet absolutely bone freezing fresh water. I like most people immediately jumped into the water, not expecting how refreshing it was after walking down 500+ steps. We spent around an hour swimming, lounging and taking pictures, then it was time to make the journey back up the 500+ steps. Taking what felt like a lifetime we finally all made it up to the top, exhausted and sweaty.
Heading back, we rested back at the hostel for a while, having a well-deserved break. Later that day we knew we were going to experience the Arenal Volcano hot springs, not knowing that our guide Julius was treating us to an amazing night at a 5-star hotel’s hot springs. When we landed at Baldi Hot Springs Resort we were all taken away by how beautiful this place was. We were treated to a buffet of amazing food, a great break from rice and beans! After dinner, we started to explore this crazy place. It was not just a couple of pools like we expected but a massive wonderland of hot springs. They had 25 different hot pools with varying temperatures, extreme water slides, steam caves, and jacuzzis. After several hours, maybe a few concussions from the water slides and being perfectly relaxed by the hot springs it was time to call it a night, heading back to our hostel for the night.
Today was our last day of our project. We put all our last efforts into completing our assignment and presenting a proposal for a waste management and collection service to El Cocal. Our proposal originated from the efforts and interviews from the dedicated residents of El Cocal. The scope of work ranged from creating an identity for El Cocal, establishing a residents association, creating job opportunities and a daily waste management collection service. The most important part, developing education plans and literature on recycling and taking care of the environment.
Leading up the presentation we were working diligently, trying to finish all the complex aspects of the project. It was all worth it. We were advised that the turn- out from the community could be minimal. To our amazement upon arrival, we were elated to see a decent turn out of the residents who were patiently waiting to see what the plan we had come up with.
It was a total joy to present to the community, the presentation which was in English and Spanish. A special thanks to GVI for their assistance in translating the presentations slides, ensuring our messages was conveyed in Spanish. I was so pleased to see everyone’s work come together and to really see my classmates expertise, experience and skill sets applied to this project. I can totally see why Sarah picked all of us. We’re a talented bunch. Our dedication and drive came from the compassion we all have to help the community in the best way we could, through design and systems thinking.
Our job was to apply systems thinking to propose a formalized way to move them forward to attaining their goals. We leave El Cocal with hugs, smiles and an implementation document. We planted the seeds and encouragement that they can do it. As we were wrapping up our evening the residents were already planning the next meeting to make this seed blossom.
We are getting so close to the end of our journey here and the end of the project. We started the morning by continuing to work on our own parts of the project and then doing a group discussion in the afternoon to get feedback from everyone else and see how we can improve and present things more cohesively. After doing the group discussion and laying out everyone’s work on the floor it finally felt like every aspect of the project is coming together to create a well-integrated design solution for El-Cocal. It was really interesting for me to see how the children’s education/branding team work’s coordinate with the work from the pilot/infrastructure group. The rest of the day was all about using our design tools, taking the advice from everyone, making wise decisions and hoping that we will all finish everything on time for our final presentation on Wednesday. At this point, I was thinking about what if we had more time to spend on the project and in the community.What would be different and how would everything be like? From the beginning of this process, I was thinking of the last week of the project and how things would work out without knowing that work is getting done and the project is growing little by little every day. We all got so tired at the end of the night but some of us were awake until one or two hours past midnight.
Monday, May 28
We are getting so close to the end of our journey here and the end of the project. We started the morning by continuing to work on our own part of the project and then doing a group discussion in the afternoon to get feedback from everyone else and see how we can improve and present things more cohesively. After doing the group discussion and laying out everyone’s work on the floor It finally felt like every aspect of the project is coming together to create a well-integrated design solution for El-Cocal. It was really interesting for me to see how the children’s education /branding team work’s coordinate with the work from the pilot/infrastructure group. The rest of the day was all about using our design tools, taking the advice from everyone, making wise decisions and hoping that we will all finish everything on time for our final presentation on Wednesday. At this point, I was thinking what if we had more time to spend on the project and in the community. What would be different and how would everything be like? From the beginning of this process, I was thinking of the last week of the project and how things would work without knowing that things are working little by little every day. We all got so tired at night but some of us were awake until one or two hours past midnight.
The last Monday of the project, wow! This entire experience has just flown by in the blink of an eye. As we are nearing the end we have entered crunch time, each person is working quickly to complete as many aspects as possible. Each section of the project is coming together to gather feedback and establish a clear path forward, as our Wednesday presentation with the community quickly approaches. Our children’s education team is busy at work creating interactive lesson plans to teach the kids basic recycling and waste habits that can be then used at home. The branding and awareness team is working closely with all groups to create a cohesive style for all signage and visual components of the project. Moving towards infrastructure and pilot project both are designing systems and schedules that will be during the easy the process ounce implementation begins. By Wednesday we hope to accomplish a fully designed system that will ensure El Cocal has a waste management system and the ability to organize similar activities in the future.
Today was another work day for the crew. As the project due date nears, people are scrambling to get their side of the project ready for the home stretch. We start with a debrief at 9:30 am, where everyone discusses what they’ll be working on for the day. Compared to a couple days ago, panic has slightly declined as people get their directions laid out more clearly. Everyone has completely surrendered to the inevitability of the fast-approaching deadline.
I’ve taken the role of designing the visual identity for the community, which basically entails a logo for El Cocal, that can go on signage and so forth. I tell the group that I’ve narrowed it down to three directions, on which I will need some feedback. We agree to meet back at 1:30 with print-outs for an informal critique. We scatter off to our respective holes, and hunker down for some aggressive keyboard punching.
Our meeting later that afternoon is impressively constructive. Along with the branding prototypes, there are trailer mock-ups, way finding signage, a compost shelter rendering and a layout for the calendar which will also include trash pick-up schedule. I’m happy to receive some solid feedback on my designs so I can finally move forward. We all receive useful suggestions and everyone comes away feeling relieved and motivated. We get back to the keyboard slapping to create a presentation that will never actually happen.
I fall into a flash nap while my so-called friends go watch the sunset without me
(I did not actually view this in person)
Surprise, another birthday… Happy birthday Octavio!
For the average procrastinator, it was a hectic and stressful day. Everyone was in work mode, well, except for those who actually got their work done on time—kudos to you! For some of us, we started working from when we got up at around 8-ish in the morning to around dinner time which was at 6 PM and to be honest, it’s not as bad as it sounds. We blasted our favorite tunes and sung until our hearts gave out to throwback songs. One could almost say that that would be the reason for our late accomplishment but to me, there isn’t any other way to finish work other than to finish it in style.
When dinner had finally approached, we were taken to a small burger place a little further behind the hostel and all I have to say on that matter is that God had granted us such a privilege ‘cause, Oh my God, that was the best, most juicy burger I have ever eat in my entire 21 years of living.
On our way back to the hostel, we stopped by a practicing band in an empty parking lot, coincidently the same one we stopped by the first night we stayed here, at Quepos and any stress and pressure that was still lingering slowly melted away with every drum stroke as I was reminded why we were here and everything suddenly became OK.
Sunday again, a very quiet day here in Quepos. But for us students, it was a day of work and focus. We’re in crunch mode now, with lots to get done before our final presentation to the community on Wednesday.
Our group met this morning to make sure everyone is on the right track and clear on what has to be done. We then got to work and spent most of the day trying to complete our tasks, in order to turn all of our research from last week into a cohesive solution.
Taking a break for lunch, Zaiah and I made the trek to the marina to find sushi. Most places in town were closed since – again – it was Sunday, a day of rest in this place. The walk there gave us a nice break from the hostel, and the beach of Quepos looked very inviting today. We saw people surfing, fishing, and just enjoying the water.
Back at the hostel, there was more work to be done – creating sketches, icons, mock-ups, and smoothing out the logistics of our plan.
For dinner we went to a great little place called “Smoked to Go.” There was just about enough room for us to all squeeze in there, and the food was delicious.
There is still a lot to do, but after some good focus today, I’m sure the next few days will be fruitful. Somehow, some way, all our hard work might just come together.
In a perfect world, everyone would willingly and happily sort their own garbage to perfection, but then the world wouldn’t be in such an environmental crisis and we wouldn’t be here doing what we do. Going off of that, I realized sorting through household garbage is something no one should have to go through but looking at the bright side of things, some would say it left us—the Waste Infrastructure and Pilot Model team—with a special bond of some sort, although I could do without it if it meant erasing my memory. I sound like I’m whining but we did get the answers and results we’ve been looking for and that’s what is most important so I’m happy. Now we can go on with our project with the accurate numbers, Yay!
After a much-needed shower and lunch, we were given a exciting tour of a cacao plantation and let me tell you; it would not have been same if we didn’t have such an amazing tour guide who also happens to be the owner of the plantation. With such enthusiasm and passion, Juan really did open our eyes to the cultural richness and historical significance of how cacao was grown and used and the demand for it all over the world. If there is one thing I like, it’s a history lesson given with cultural pride and humor.
Also…HAPPY 20th BIRTHDAY, ASHLEY!
For the Waste Management and Pilot teams, our day started early at 7:00 am to sort a sample size of garbage in El Cocal as part of an informal case study to figure out the averages of waste, and recyclables. Although the weather was cloudy and rain-filled, we did our best to stay in high spirits while sorting all kinds of waste, as we knew that this was for the betterment of more than just ourselves. The small waste trial truly did give us a better understanding of where the community was at, and even revealed their willingness to try sorting their garbage.
After the trial, we headed back to the hostel where the collective of us decided to either rest, finish up Project 2, or continue researching. By 1:00 pm we were picked up by a taxi and a minibus driven by our tour guide Juan, who really sold the tour; his positive attitude, quick-wit, humor, and love for his profession, really showed through the tour and made the experience all the more enjoyable, — besides the delicious cacao. The tour provided us with deeper insight to the history and legacy of cacao and coffee plants in all forms, such as roasted and grinded cacao, cacao tea, and my personal favourite, the cacao liquor.
After the tour, we were again left to our own devices until 7:30 pm when we ate breakfast foods for dinner; a spread of French toast, pork and turkey breakfast sausages, and cassava hash browns to name a few. Since it was my birthday, (Happy 20th Birthday to me!) I was greeted with two delicious birthday cakes to end off the night. Thank you all for the well wishes throughout the day and for the surprise by the end. I’ve had a day full of unexpected surprises and experiences which I’ll hold with me for a long time. Thank you!
Today was a great day to be on the infrastructure and pilot project crew… With much enthusiasm, the 10 of us got up early, in the pouring rain, to get a scientific sample of the community’s trash. We picked up and sorted through the trash of 6 families. The goal was to gain a visual understanding of how many kilograms of trash one family makes, record statistics, observe the level of sorting executed within the home front, determine when the last time they got rid of their garbage and, lastly, if it’s not taken across the river, what do they do with it. Through our interviews we’ve learned that burning trash is a common practice along with a pick up service provided by individuals in the community. However, at the price of 500-1000 Colones for pick up, it can be too expensive for some families, working out to be 84 cents to $1.50USD. Getting a clear analysis of the amounts of different trash enables us to better design a system that matches the communities consumption.
As I said before, we picked apart the trash as a trial run for when we implement recycling strategies in the community that work in unison with the current recycling facility in Quepos. Ideally, once sorted, this could be a source of revenue for the community. This experience made me reflect on the lack of separating I do and gain an appreciation for Toronto’s recycling services and the workers who organize it. I mean, I separate the general plastic, paper and cans, I pile up my compost in the freezer until compost day, but separating my recycling further to ensure that I don’t contaminate and ensure that it’s all actually useable will be something I will start taking more seriously at a personal level. Just to add to the joy of the morning task, did I mention it was pouring rain? We all looked and smelled like wet trash walking back to the hostel.
The afternoon was a delight as we went to a cacao plantation. We were encouraged to consume cacao as it’s good for belly fat. I highly recommend for keto dieters. It was so good, almost too good. After a couple spoonfuls of ground cacao, sips of hot chocolate, coffee, some of us started to feel a bit zainy. This worked in our favor as “Fast” and “Furious”, also known as Mia and Nash, ran in circles using a 120 year old mechanical grinder to make sugar cane pulp. It was a super fun and informative tour of how cacao is grown, fermented, dried, and consumed in many delicious ways. Modeled by our professor, Sarah, we got a good understanding of how much work collecting coffee beans are. It can take a minimum of 45 minutes to collect 2 dollars worth of beans, which seems so wrong when we pay 5 dollars for a cup of coffee that gets consumed in 10-15 minutes for some. Anyways, today was a fun filled day with two equally good experiences which provided further reflection and appreciation for our time in beautiful Costa Rica.