“Fruit”ful Beginnings

Let’s back up a few days to the plan ride. My parents and I left Milwaukee on Wednesday at 2 am en route to O’Hare for a 7 am flight. Given that Milwaukee to Chicago is about two hours, I wasn’t too thrilled to have had to wait a little under three hours at the gate that early in the morning, but that’s just the nature of my parents. They like to be early for everything. My layover in Phoenix was three hours, but waiting that long was mitigated by the fact that some of the other students in my program were on the same flight.

From Phoenix, our flight to Costa Rica was six hours, the longest time I’ve been on a plane at any one time. Despite being unable to sit with the other people in the program, I was fortunate enough to sit next to a couple of biologists- right up my alley! In between sleeping and reading, they advised me of the best sites to see while in Costa Rica. When our plane finally landed in San José (capital city) at 7:30 pm, we all took a cab to the hotel Balmoral, where we’d stay the next two nights. It’s great to know that Costa Rica is in the same time zone as Wisconsin. It makes communication a lot easier. We had a mini- orientation at the hotel with the whole program before going to a bar with our instructors to “icebreak.” I’m one of five guys in the program, out of 22. Not a bad ratio- no complaints there!

Yesterday, my life got flipped, turned upside down, and I’d like to take a moment and sit right there to tell you about it… catch the reference? After the real introduction to the program, we were given a lecture on fruits for our Tropical Diversity class. We were taught on the development of flowers and then how they produce fruits as well as what makes a fruit, a fruit. After this lecture, it seems as if everything I learned in elementary and middle school on types of fruits was completely fabricated. Fact: bananas are berries. Fact: so are watermelons, cucumbers, and squash. Cashews (yes the “nut”) are actually fruits. True story. Shocking. We also had a taste testing session to try many of the tropical fruits produced in Latin America. Mom and Dad, you’ll be happy to know that I tried a bunch of them. From lecture, we went to a museum and were greeted with a fabulous butterfly garden!

Besides the ones actively fluttering about, there were cabinets full of chrysalises. Some butterflies even emerged right before our eyes, which was awesome to see.

Other notable exhibits included one on gold, and another on early trade and pottery.

Today, we had a lecture for another one of our classes, Humans in the Tropics. We basically learned about urbanization in Costa Rica and ecological footprints. Our assignment was to calculate our own footprint, and then in groups of three, go to the market, mall, and university to interview people in order to calculate their ecological footprint and compare their standard of living to ours. Obviously these interviews were done in Spanish. While I’m not at the point of fluency yet, I do know how to hold a conversation. I’ve even gotten complements on how well my Spanish is and I’ve only been here three days! I’m well on my way to fluency.

Tomorrow, we’re embarking on an 18 day camping/hiking/backpacking trip along the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. How exciting is that?? Along the way, we’ll be stopping at nine different areas to observe the diversity of different ecosystems. Expect to see pictures of sloths, capuchin monkeys and toucans soon. We’ll also be snorkeling. Maybe we’ll even get lucky and see some whales and turtles. Since we’ll be in the middle of the rainforest, communication will be nearly impossible until we stop in a town, but I’ll try to post again soon!








P.S. Did I mention that weather here is 81 degrees and sunny? Sure beats the snow back in Wisconsin!