Rutgers - Science Summer Abroad 2010
Nine Science Undergraduate Students Around the World

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

And I thought I would never have dining hall food again

After a long, windy, bumpy bus ride, interrupted by a couple bathroom breaks and ginger-ale-and-saltine runs, we made it (alive, I am happy to report) to EARTH University. Established in 1990, and set on 8,154 acres, EARTH has approximately 400 students from various Latin American countries, as well as some African nations. Many of the students are from lower economic classes and this university provides them with invaluable education. The curriculum sounds fascinating! Agronomy, environmental sciences, business. You may be familiar with the university, more familiar than you think. Whole Foods sells the bananas they produce! Look out for the EARTH sticker.
We are now on the Atlantic/Caribbean side, where it is hot and humid and rains nearly every afternoon.
EARTH hosts an annual international fair and we were lucky enough to see it on Sunday. We ate lunch and dinner at the concession stands, each of which served food from a different Latin American country. I went to El Salvador for lunch. And Dole gave me a free bunch of bananas. Perhaps lunch wasn't free, but dessert was!
We are staying in the on-campus hotel, not the dorms, but we still get to eat in the cafeteria (yay?).
Sunday evening, we had a discussion. On the way to the classroom, we saw an armadillo and a cane toad, which is invasive here in Costa Rica (and in Australia). There was a bat in the classroom, which we had to literally shout out.
Yesterday, we trekked through the rainforest and spotted a tarantula, some bullet ants, and a couple poison dart frogs. I don't think I really ever want to see a bullet ant again. Once is enough. Big buggers, they are, and they call them bullet ants for a reason. Anyone care to guess why? Yet our tour guide (who lived for a time in NJ) did not hesitate to pick up a stick with a bullet ant crawling on it.
After lunch (yay, more dining hall food) we visited a family that had a biodigestor installed by EARTH students. A biodigestor produces methane to be used in cooking, etc. from animal manure. So, this family, which raised hogs and chickens, could produce power from waste. We then constructed a biodigestor for one of their neighbors. No longer would the woman we built it for have to search for firewood, which was sparse and often too wet. (During the construction, one young man cut his finger with the blade; I do not like blood, no not at all. Water please? Yet, the young man, an EARTH University student, was unphased. He has a rural background, used to cuts and scrapes and things of that sort. I'm a bit more squeamish, coming from suburbia, NJ.). This community of 23 families received their land from the government. They have no electricity or potable water. The houses have no doors, though one did have a beaded curtain. They sleep and wake with the sun. Their lives are very different from my own and I have difficulty imagining them.
Not surprisingly, the day ended with a thunderstorm.

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