I recently returned from a trip to El Cocal of Costa Rica and have been reflecting on the amazing experiences I encountered there while working on a design project to help improve the El Cocal community. It made me think about my level of knowledge and understanding of my own community and what it means to be a local. How much of a tourist am I in my own town? I grew up and still live in Etobicoke, Ontario. I can confidently say that I don’t know much about my community or know of the pressing social, environmental, government and/or economic issues that we might be facing in Etobicoke.
My art piece will demonstrate the findings of questions I have about my community in contrast to El Cocal. As a whole, the submission will be a physical environment populated with representations of my research. The research will be directed by four main themes the class discovered that were the cause of the excessive garbage within El Cocal. These topics will be contextualized in a fitting matter that represents my understanding and feeling towards my research.
This is an awareness project of what’s going on in my own backyard where the journey of learning, finding answers and where they lead – is the goal.
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.
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.