Sustainable Living

Do you know where your food comes from? Not something I really think much about when I quickly go and do my grocery shopping. It’s a chore I don’t particularly enjoy,  but as we have to eat it’s one of those things that just needs to be done. I try to eat as organic and fair trade as possible and do my bit for the environment and human kind.

Yet, I have been made aware that I may not actually be doing my bit very much at all. Does organic really mean it’s better? Or does fair trade really mean the farmers get a fair share of the profit for all the hard work they are doing?

We had the awesome privilege to visit a coffee farm. Not one of the commercial tours, but El Toledo, a working farm who like to share the coffee process with those who want to learn. And learning we did! The tour started out with a little syrup like drink made with the fruit of the coffee plant. Who would have thought the fruit can be used for other things than just getting to the coffee beans for coffee! The farmer explained to us the difference between the different types of farming, organic versus the old way (using more chemicals than in the organic tradition), traditional versus monoculture. He said that one cup of coffeee uses 100 litre water in the process! He explained how their farm was now a traditional farm, much how God intended it to be. Not just coffee but also bananas, beans, mangos etc. Not depleting the soil to get as much profit as possible, but farming for the long run. Sustainable. He explained how it had transformed their thinking, and with it, hoped ours would too, they don’t export, but sell all their coffee and produce locally. He explained that that would produce the most profits for the farmer. The farmer does not need to pay for shipping and export costs. 

After sampling the different roasts of coffee, where light has the most caffeine and flavour, and dark the least coffee and more specific flavour, he showed us how the roaster works. Lots of things influence the roasting process. I had no idea coffee has such an art to it. After this tour I now know I like dark roast, and Geert likes light/medium roast. Opposite to what we thought! 

I now know that buying local produce outweighs the fairTrade products I buy to support our local farmers. I will pay a little more attention when I do my weekly grocery shopping tour. It’s no secret I like farm shops. I will visit those more! I also know that no matter what coffee I buy, the one straight from the roaster in Costa Rica is best.

It was not just fun, it was educational!

Coffee roaster (15 kilos)
Light, medium, dark roast
Testing the stages of roasting the beans
Traditional farming
10 months from flower to picking
Square bananas!

Feels like Holiday

There are some of those days that just lift you up and fill you with peace. It does not necessarily need to be associated with church. Fellowship can happen in many different forms and shapes.

Yesterday truly was one of those days. Melody and I got up at 4.45am to leave the hotel at 5am (luckily they served coffee that early in the morning!). We drove to a little place in the mountains where we had a cup of coffee (brewed the Costa Rica way with a sock) before heading out for a day of fun and adventures. The Costa Rica roads are a little different than in the US and a 140km journey will take 3 hours. Our destination was the National park Manuel Antonio. We had heard so much about it and were very eager to go there! Those that know me know I don’t really like driving in either the rain or the dark, so I was very grateful Melissa and Tomasz where coming with us and they drove.

After about an hour we stopped at an alligator bridge… we assumed so called because you could occasionally see alligators there… how wrong we were! Mel counted 31 beasts in the wild.. huge! Quite different from what we saw last year in a park in Florida. These were just hanging out under the bridge….

The next stop: the park. Foreigners pay a lot more than Ticos, but still, we got in and looked forward to it. By now the sun was shining brightly on us, at about 10am in the morning. Hard to breath, but sunblock was quite needed. We decided to not use a guide, but trust Mel’s eyesight. She usually does not disappoint spotting things we struggle to see.

Dozens of howler monkeys and capuchin monkeys playing over our heads. Red colourful crabs below the walkway. 2 sloths in typical sloth position hugging the tree. Deer, raccoon, coati.. we really were blessed to be able to see all that… but it was super hot and we were drenched in sweat!

A quick drive and walk to a secret beach promised a dip in the water to cool off. Unfortunately the water was a little murky, so not quite as refreshing.. but still a pleasant couple hours were spent there, with the thunder rolling in over the sea.

After a lovely meal in a restaurant overlooking the vista we were ready to go back. 
It truly felt like a one day holiday! A super pleasant Sabbath day!

What Costa Rica Has Taught Me…

So here I am, writing on the balcony of our hotel room, surrounded by palm trees, birds singing and cocoa trees! Who can complain??

Let me backtrack a bit…getting here was an adventure on its own! My mum flew out a couple hours before me…so here I was sitting in our apartment waiting till it was time for me to head to the airport too. However, suddenly my phone lights up with a notification. My plane was delayed…by 30 minutes!!! Now I know that doesn’t sound like much, but when your layover is only 50 minutes, suddenly the layover is only 20 minutes, which is fine if you are transferring in a small airport. I, however wasn’t! My layover was in Houston international airport. So I quickly call the airline and ask whether I will make my transfer. Of course they say no! So here I sit all on my own stressing!! Anyways…I somehow made it!!!

My first impression of Costa Rica was the airport at 1am! What a crazy airport! So many people calling out names and signs everywhere! I managed to find my taxi pretty quickly and before I knew it I was in the hotel and reunited with my mum! So stress over!!!

So the next day we decided to drive to a nearby volcano…however, mum hadn’t checked to see if we could get there…luckily I did! Poas volcano was the initial volcano we wanted to visit. And we could have if it hadn’t been so active the last couple weeks!!! So for anyone traveling to Costa Rica, Poas volcano is closed indefinitely!!!! So change of plan and we ended up driving to Irazu volcano.

We step foot in the car and maps.me starts navigating us to Irazu. What we didn’t know is that it decided to take us through the scenic route…lots of small tiny villages, very steep hills (in an automatic, not so easy!!!) with no barriers between the road and the sheer cliff edge!! and who could forget the VERY big potholes!!!! But our scenic drive was cut short after a gorgeous viewpoint. My mum had forgotten at what height we were and opened a sports bottle full of watermelon juice. Safe to say there was a watermelon juice volcano! And due to her surprise she forgot to close it! So there we were, drenched in watermelon juice 11 miles away from the volcano. So close yet so far. Hotel here we come!

The following day we went to La Paz Waterfall Gardens (which I can HIGHLY recommend!!!). A Beautiful drive to get there (again steep hills!) and watching cyclists go up there!!!! Rather them than me!!! But the views you get are just amazing, right in the cloud forest!!! When we got there, we were straight away greeted by a hummingbird and then toucans…Now some of you may know that I am in LOVE with toucans and have been since a little child. Well my dream came true! I got to hold a toucan!!!!!!!!!!! It was the most amazing feeling! Ticked another major thing off my bucket list!!! The rest of the day was spent looking at all the rescued animals they have there (including sloths, macaws, leopards and various frogs and snakes) and hiking to the waterfalls!!

Then it was time for mum to go to work and for me to work on my masters. I can’t complain, sitting on the balcony in the sun with all the birds flying around (including parakeets, great kiskadees and bananaquits) is paradise!! This is pretty much how I spent my whole week (whilst indulging in some Wimbledon in the mornings and Netflix in the afternoons!). There are worse ways to spend it!!

Now on to the title of this blog. I really can’t recommend Costa Rica enough, and thats mainly due to their slogan ‘Pure Vida’. The lifestyle here is so relaxed and all about enjoying life to the full! When you visit here you really can’t help but relax…the nature, the people, everything here is just friendly! (they don’t even have an army!!). And the food… INCREDIBLE!!! Did you know there is such a thing as manga here, and their Gallo pinto is so good! Along with all the plantain, mangos and papayas!

So this is it for week 1!! What an incredible week and I am already looking forward to coming back here in a months time!!!

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