¡Bienvenidos a Costa Rica!/Welcome to Costa Rica!
Pure Michigan to Pura Vida
By December 28th everyone has arrived to San Jose, Costa Rica and are ready for our first day.
San Jose is the capital city of Costa Rica, located in the center of the country, and is one of its most populated regions. In the city of San Jose, traveling is very easy because many of the roads are paved, unlike some less-developed areas throughout the country. San Jose is described as “the cultural hub of the country” because it contains both a traditional Central American city and cosmopolitan urban center. This provides an array of activities and attractions.(1)
San Jose was founded in 1737. Though through the years San Jose has been transformed into the Latin American metropolis it is today, the first thing you see when driving through the city are the rows of working coffee plantations that are responsible for San Jose’s thriving success.(1)
Our first stop of the day is the National Biodiversity Institute of Costa Rica.
The National Biodiversity Institute of Costa Rica was established in 1989 to gather knowledge of the country’s unique biodiversity and to promote its sustainable use. The institute believes “the best way to conserve biodiversity is to study it, value it, and utilize the opportunities it offers to improve the quality of life of human beings.”(2)
In the afternoon we will be visiting the National Museum of Costa Rica.
Museo Nacional de Costa Rica contains information on the Natural History, Anthropology, Archaeology and History of Costa Rica. We will have the opportunity to explore Costa Rica’s past all afternoon, until we head over to Universidad de Costa Rica.(3)
While at Universidad de Costa Rica, we will receive a tour of the campus.
Tentative Event Scheduled: Bull Fight in the evening.
Bull fighting is a popular form of entertainment in Costa Rica. Costa Rican bullfighting differs from the Spanish form. Instead of aiming to kill the bull, the challenge is to avoid it! Participants enter the ring only to dodge the charging bull. Personally, I very much prefer this variation! (4)
We began our day at InBioparque, the National Biodiversity Institute of Costa Rica. Here we watched a video that informed us of InBio’s mission: identify, describe and share all of Costa Rica’s biodiversity. This is a large task due to the fact that Costa Rica is home to over 500,000 different species! Costa Rica makes up about 6% of the Earth’s land, but is home to more than half of the known species. This vast array of organisms is due to the fact that Costa Rica is on a land bridge connecting North and South America that was formed by moving tectonic plates. This allowed the movement of species from North to South and South to North America. InBio uses their bio-prospecting research to to discover new medicinal uses of plants, observes flocks of birds to study climate change, and educates the public about sustainability and species protection. On a tour through InBio’s constructed, premature humid forest we were able to see just a small fraction of the species Costa Rica offers.
Photos taken at InBioparque
Gracias a InBioque por una gran visita!
After our visit to InBio, we took a short bus ride to the National Museum of Costa Rica, which is located in the city of San Jose. At the museum we discover much about Costa Rica’s history, specifically clues on what the environment means to native Costa Ricans. This knowledge is very important to have and take into consideration when engineering in a different country.
Following our visit to the National Museum of Costa Rica, our group headed over to the main campus if Universidad de Costa Rica and met up with 4 Costa Rican students who are joining us on the trip. At the Universidad we were given tours of the campus and learned about the life of a Costa Rican student. It was very interesting comparing their experiences to our own back at MSU. Here in Costa Rica the university is free to attend, this fact alone exhibits a huge difference between universities in the two countries!
The visit to la Universidad concluded our first day in Costa Rica, but the night was still young, and we were given the opportunity to attend a bull fight in San Jose. This is an experience I will never forget. It was nothing that I could ever imagine. Hundreds of Costa Rican men (and a few women) entered a circular arena and awaited an angry, charging bull. When the bull entered the arena everyone scrambled, if the bull got too close to a group of people they would jump over the arena wall in order to be protected from the bull. There was singing and dancing all throughout the bleachers as people watched the events, but our section was the loudest, and we were awarded with prizes such as jerseys, calendars and purses for our spirit! This is a true Costa Rican tradition I will never forget!
Each of the locations we visited today gave us an idea of the relationship Costa Ricans have with the environment. While visiting InBio, the importance of educating people on the vast diversity of Costa Rica and the benefits it has to offer to people medicinally and educationally. The natural history museum within the National Museum of Costa Rica provided us with a historical relationship between native Costa Ricans and the environment. We learned that there are very strong spiritual and cultural bonds between the two. Ecosystems engineering focuses on the proper, least invasive approach needed to solve a problem through the use of natural system treatments. Once you have a grasp on the importance the environment has on a community, you are able to successfully create a solution that will be accepted.
What a day!