UGA Costa Rica Blog

¡Pura vida!

Much better than a final

Students studying Spanish 1001 had the chance to choose between taking a traditional final and working on a project together to demonstrate their new skills. They put together Por amor al dinero, a short story about love and money. Because, after all, language acquisition is about more than just taking tests.

Milking: From the stable to the kitchen


Today, we follow Evan and Trevor to the stable where our cows are milked and our pigs are kept. Although we have more than 20 cows on campus, only four to six are milked daily. During the times they do not have a calf, the others remain in our pastures.

Milking begins every morning at 6:20 and again in the afternoon at about 2:30. After the short trip to the kitchen, it is heated just long enough to come to a boil. The milk is used for our very popular hot chocolate every night as well as cream for coffee, baked goods, and even to make cheese.

Preserving history in San Luis


Ana Ligia López Jurado, Lindsay Stallcup, Dallas Fitzgibbon, and Samantha Peykoff stand in front of the beneficio, or coffee processing plant, in San Luis that Ramón Brenes built.

Yesterday, at a special community presentation about the history of San Luis, UGACR students Dallas Fiztgibbon and Samantha Peykoff debuted a 50-minute documentary they have worked on throughout the semester for Spanish 4090, a service-learning class.

Along with their professors, Ana Ligia López Jurado and Lindsay Stallcup, they conducted interviews about Ramon Brenes, an important figure in this town’s history because of his business acumen and character. Both his daughter, Mari Brenes Jiménez, and his grandson, Ramón “Mon” Brenes Morales, shared their memories with us and graciously invited us into their homes.

Special thanks also goes to many others who contributed to this project: Víctor Ramírez Badilla, Carlos Badilla Jiménez, Odilio Ramírez Rodríguez, Tina Brenes Jiménez, Danis Brenes Jiménez, Luis Venegas Pérez, Edwin Rojas Quesada, Orietta Gómez Chen, and Manfreed Venegas Brenes.

The student’s knowledge of Spanish was put to the test as they edited about 12 hours of interviews. In the end, they had a polished documentary to present to the people of San Luis and demonstrated how important it is to preserve history and our stories.

Taking care of the Chickens

Here’s another video in our series of videos about the farm. Watch our Sustainable Agriculture Intern Evan Senie talk about the day to day of taking care of our chickens. Joining him is one of our fall semester students, Julia Kim, who wanted to spend some time helping out at the farm.

Chopping down bananas

After our post on how bananas grow and the differences between different varieties, we wanted to show a video explaining how to cut bananas down from the tree. Watch our Sustainable Agriculture Intern Evan Senie and moth researcher Trevor Czerniawski try to execute the proper way cut down banana trees — with machetes, of course.

Observing Day of the Dead

141102_kdi_greatphotos062This past week Costa Ricans celebrated Nov. 2 as Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. Although many from the US may be familiar with the more elaborate Mexican traditions of this day, here it consists of attending mass and cleaning and decorating the grave sites of loved ones.

I had the chance to accompany members of the Salazar-Ugalde family on their visit to the cemetery in San Luis. The wreaths they places were lovingly made by hand by the matriarch of the family, Sra. Ermelinda. She made the beautiful flowers from plastic bags cut into strips and then folded into the shape of a flower.

At the cemetery, her children, Lindor and Edith, placed the wreaths at the gravesides of relatives.

A special break from Spanish class

Many of the classrooms on the UGA Costa Rica campus are named after animals found here: Toucan, Motmot, Chachalaca, and Perezoso (sloth).

During Spanish class this week in the Motmot classroom, students spotted a Motmot digging a burrow just outside the classroom. Instead of building nests or making their home in trees, Motmots burrow in the ground.

141104_kdi_greatphotos075From a window in the back of the classroom, we had a great view of this Motmot and the other member of the pair sitting back among the trees.

He flew away soon after, but not before we had a chance to watch a little bit of digging.


Students Design Stormwater Plans

The EPA’s Campus RainWorks Challenge invites students to design plans for the management of storm water on their campuses. UGA students studying here this fall have analyzed the sites around campus and planned new and exciting additions to our stormwater management system.

Soon, we will have a video complete with the students’ final designs as part of their submission to the contest, but for now, take at sneak peak at what they’ve been up to!


Bananas are one crop we have on the farm here at UGA Costa Rica that I knew nothing about when I arrived. I think they may be my favorite plant that we have. First of all, bananas are the largest herbaceous flowering plant, and the fruit, botanically speaking, is a berry. The plant looks kind of like a small tree and each one produces only one bunch of bananas before it dies.

141018_kdi_farmetc057We have bananas growing in a few places around campus. These are from a plantation next to the main farm.

We have three varieties of bananas on campus. There are cuadrados, which are a slightly square variety that can be eaten cooked or raw; plantains, which are bigger, tougher, and eaten cooked; and then a sweet variety that is usually eaten raw and is called “banano”, the Spanish term for banana.

To the left is a nearly full grown bunch of bananas. It’s a bit hard to see how it connects to the tree, but you can see that they grow upwards and there are quite a few per bunch.

Banana plants produce flowers, and the bunch of bananas grows along the stem of these flowers. As you can see in the photo to the right, the flowers are open at the beginning of the process and they close once all the bananas have begun growing. The banana variety in this picture are plantains. Even with these not fully grown plantains you can see that they are bigger than the sweet bananas.


These are some sweet bananas in a fairly similar point in their growth.

141018_kdi_farmetc051 (1)This is a banana flower. I know you already got a pretty good look, but our photojournalism intern took this picture and it’s a pretty shot.

141018_kdi_farmetc050 (1)These are caudrados. They are about the same size as the sweet bananas but they have sharper edges. Most people like to eat them cooked but I think they’re really good raw if you get them at just the right time (which is once they’ve turned yellow but haven’t gotten kind of woody from sitting there too long without being harvested).



Here’s the whole operation. It’s easier in this picture to see how it connects to the tree and how it relates in terms of size. The bunches are actually quite heavy, which can cause problems when harvesting them. I’ll cover that in another post.




I’ll leave you with this picture of a tiny banana tree. Like I said earlier, banana trees only produce one bunch of bananas and then we cut them down.


Fortunately, small bananas spring up right next to the large ones and the cycle goes on. On the one hand, there’s something kind of sad about taking this beautiful mother/daughter banana tree combo and hacking the mother tree to the ground. So it goes. On the other hand, I like bananas, and chopping them down with a machete is just as much fun as it sounds like it would be.

In a follow-up post I will attempt to make a tutorial covering the harvesting process.

The Job of a UGA Costa Rica Resident Naturalist

One of the friendly faces you are certain to see on a stay at UGA Costa Rica is the face of a Resident Naturalist. Our naturalists do everything from checking guests into their rooms and planning activities, to leading hikes, tours and dance lessons. Watch this video to see our naturalists in action!

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