Please can we pause the week?! My time in Costa Rica has flown by, and I’m not ready to leave this amazing country!
We started our final day at University for Peace, which is a UN founded institution. Started in 1985, the university’s main goal is to foster peace and cordial relationships between all members of the global community. It wasn’t until the early 2000s, however, that the university began accepting and schooling graduate students. There are 3 tracts offered for students enrolled in UPeace, with a total of 8 potential Masters to choose from.
We refueled with a traditional Costa Rican meal comprised of a rice, green bean and chicken mixture, accompanied by fresh salad and refreshing juice. I will definitely miss the juices that are offered at every meal here; they’re all so unique and add an intriguing pop of color to meals.
After lunch, we had the opportunity to tour a sustainable sugar cane processing plant. The plant is locally owned and operated, and all of the sugar cane processed at the plant is distributed and sold within the community. Sugar cane juice is extracted by wringing the cane through a massive machine that squeegees the juice out of the wood, leaving behind fibrous material that is too hard to cook with. In order to repurpose this fiber, it is softened through a number of processes which turn it into compost. This compost is then spread around fields of sugar cane plants, bringing the circle to a close.
After this, we visited a local artists home to learn more about the Costa Rican tradition of paper mache mask making. Each mask takes approximately one month to complete, from molding the clay to drying and painting the face. Characters from Costa Rican fairytales are depicted, as are any other characters the artist has been inspired to make (we spotted Mario and Luigi!).
This tradition has been modified to eliminate the time intensiveness of the process: paper mache has been substituted for fiberglass. However, the masks lose their character and stories, watering down their cultural importance. Ecotourism has helped to slow this degradation process; when more people learn about the true origin of such interesting pieces of art, they are less likely to purchase a false one, inadvertently supporting the loss of culture. It is for this reason among many that ecotourism is so greatly important for countries such as Costa Rica.
We had our goodbye dinner, which was magnificent. All in all, this trip has helped me to find my passion for environmental studies, reaffirmed my love of traveling, and expanded my cultural horizons. I look forward to the day I can return to Costa Rica.