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

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Catch up

Pineapple picking is a great way to start the day. We harvested pineapple at the EARTH University farm, just like their students would do. There is a work experience component in the EARTH curriculum. Students work on the university´s farm Wednesday and Saturday mornings, 6 - 10 AM. They cannot miss a single session (unless they have a doctor´s note). If they do, they fail. Yes, one absence = failure. They do not kid around! Then, they also have to make it up with twice the work!
So, we harvested some pineapple, only for about half an hour, and then ate some in the field. It tastes so much better down here. Pineapples picked for export to the US are not allowed to ripen on the plant. Instead, they are picked green and later gassed with ethylene, a ripening agent. (Ethylene is produced naturally by plants.)
After our foray into the world of pineapple production (more on that later), we took a bumpy bus ride to a dock from which we took a boat to Mawamba Lodge, in Tortuguerro. On our way, we spotted howler monkeys, spider monkeys, and capuchins!

2 boat rides, one before and one after breakfast. We went along the canals, some of which are manmade, dredged during the time when logging dominated the area.
Despite the history of logging, there is much wildlife here: birds, monkeys, caimans, and sloths! (I am happy to report that neither the sloths nor the monkeys bothered us)
The lodge we stayed at also had its own wildlife collection: butterfly houses and frog habitat. There were blue morpho butterflies, which are just so dang fast! It´s easy to get a picture of them with their wings closed, but to get them open, that´s a real challenge. In the frog house, there were tree frogs and poison dart frogs. Small little things, but once you spot one you know what you´re looking for and it starts getting easier to find them amongst all the vegetation.
After dinner, about 9ish, four of us went with a guide along the Caribbean to look for leatherback turtles. It´s not green sea turtle nesting season yet. If it were, we wouldn´t even be allowed on the beach. There are strict regulations during green turtle nesting season, as there are so many tourists who come to see it. I am sorry to report that we did not see any turtles. However, we saw some lighting strike over the Caribbean while sitting on a piece of driftwood surrounded by coconuts. Very Pirates of the Caribbean.

Long travel day. Had to take the boat ride back to dock. Boat and plane are the only ways in and out of Tortuguerro.
There is a lot of sedimentation in the canals, making them very shallow, making it very easy for boats to get stuck. We got stuck. Dragged along in the mud for, I don´t know, let´s say half an hour (on top of the boat leaving late).
Then back on the bus. Quick stop to look at the conventional banana production. Makes me feel very guilty about eating bananas. So many inputs, so much disruption to the native habitats, hard labor. Why must they be so good?
Then traffic jam: the boats had come to dock and trucks were going to back and forth to load and unload their products.
Eventually arrived at the pineapple farm. Organic producer, but on a very large scale. This is no joke. There were a lot of pineapples. Hundreds of hectares of em. Most of the pineapples grown at this operation are sold at Whole Foods, so you may have bought one. I love visiting these farms; I love learning where my food comes from, seeing how it gets from farm to fork. That phrase it getting to be very overused, isn´t it.
The operation is also trying to tap into the ecotourism market, offering tours and selling food and souvenirs.
Staying at a wonderful inn: delicious food, a butterfly house, frog habitat, a pool (which we didn`t get to use because it downpoured). I want to come back to all these places.

Ready to start the day!


  1. Very cool Stacy. I hope you can inspire more people to recognize from where there food comes and how it gets there! There is so much that we take for granted.