Hello from the heart of the Chilamate rainforest! We have spent the last few days at a beautiful eco-retreat and rainforest preserve here and just got back from rafting the Sarapiqui river. We have explored the forest by day (and by night!) and have come across hundreds of tree frogs (the poisonous “blue jeans” variety a favorite among the students), howler monkeys, sloths, toucans, snakes, lizards and even bioluminescent fungus!
We met Jaime, a local ethnobotanist, who gave us an extremely informative and interactive lesson about medicinal plants native to Costa Rica. Jaime’s grandmother was the village curandera or “medicine woman” and Jaime expressed his pride in honoring her legacy and sharing her wisdom with us. Students painted their faces with achiote (a natural lipstick), experimented with miracle berries, (which make sour things turn sweet!) and Costa Rican spilanthe, which turns the tongue numb and makes you salivate like crazy! We finished the class enjoying the freshest pineapple and coconuts!
A highlight of our time in Chilamate was a visit to a local organic farm owned by Daniel, a Costa Rican farmer who nearly lost his life while working on a monoculture pineapple plantation owned by a corporate fruit production company. Daniel was forced to destroy old-growth rainforests to make way for the plantations which he expressed made him feel like an asesino or “assasin” of the innocent trees, plants and animals. As if this wasn’t hard enough, Daniel and his family, along with many other local families began experiencing severe illnesses and health problems due to the use of pesticides. The air, water, soil (and all that grew from it) was contaminated. When Daniel lost his job in 2000, he decided to take action against the corporate plantations. He started an organic farm of his own and joined a local farmers association. He began reaching out to the community and educating youth on the importance of organic, sustainable agriculture practice. Since 2000, Daniel has planted over 300 species of trees on his property, cultivates arguably the best peppercorns in the world, and just started exporting his prized vanilla beans to France. He believes in the quality of his products because they are sincere, pure and true which is how he believes we must all lead our lives.
After planting 30 Cacao trees, we left Daniel’s farm inspired by his persistence, dedication to sincerity and commitment to his family and la madre tierra.
And here’s a little something from Nicky, the periodista or “journalist” of the day:
“Another day filled with unforgettable experiences that have energized us all! Today we planted 30 Cacao trees that will soon grow beyond our reach and in 8 years as tall as the trees we saw at Rancho Margot! Planting trees is a way to give back to Mother Nature who has done nothing but provide us with food and abundance. From feeding pigs (which we had mixed feelings about) to mixing compost, Daniel shared with us the beauty of his simple yet full of life daily routine…the connection with Daniel reminded us to never forget our values and goals as leaders.”
We continue to be amazed by our group’s intellectual capacity, willingness to engage with the program and the people we meet, and support each other’s profound learning experiences. Plus, we’ve had tons of fun playing around with games like “Big Booty” and “Giants, Wizards, and Dwarves.” Stay tuned for next installment, as we wrap up our final days at Chilamate with cooking and dance classes and a day of rainforest biology research…..
Much Love to the Tribe back home!!!
Haley y Skye