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Thursday, July 14, 2011

We Brake for Water Buffalo!

Watch out for the water buffalo!
We’ve been back in Costa Rica just over a week now and it sure is good to be here. This is the first July we’ve spent in country and we can understand why it’s called the “green season.” In the six weeks we were gone, the trees have filled out in lush splendor, flowers are in bloom everywhere -- even more than usual -- and the air is alive with butterflies. On our first walk last week, we passed a large roadside patch of zinnias and the number of butterflies of every description, large and small, black and yellow, brown and orange, red and white, was just astounding! I recorded this video and hope that you can spy all the wings fluttering from blossom to blossom. The musical background is the neighbor’s radio. Talk about abundant flora and fauna!

A local cornfield
Local gardens are bursting with the bounty of fruits and vegetables as well. It seems like the corn stalks increase a foot or two every day and huge squash leaves spread wide across the ground. Banana trees are majestic with their large new leaves and still-green fruit. If this is the rainy season, it’s not too bad. Most days the rains don’t start until mid- to late afternoon and mornings are sunny and nice.

Of course, for our own pantry we hope to get back to buying from the local organic cooperative market, now run by our friend Nathalie on the model of community markets in her native France, offering small or large size baskets stuffed with the week’s best buys. In addition to the veggies and fruits, she sells organic goat cheeses, Swiss cheese, jams, chicken and fish, eggs and dark chocolates. Yum!

Atenas recycling in action
And while we’re on the subject of organic farming and other important environmental issues, I recently wrote a column for The Costa Rica News about a relatively new effort here in Atenas to collect and recycle tons of materials, such as plastics, glass, paper, cardboard, to prevent them from ending up in landfills. Señor Alfonso Quiros V, chief of operations of W. Recicladores, CR, S.A., has recruited dozens of local volunteers to help his small staff in gathering and sorting recyclables the first Wednesday of each month at the Central Park in Atenas. He’s providing the same service twice a month in Grecia, the larger town up the hill from us. Such efforts are so important in protecting the amazing biodiversity and beautiful ecology here in Costa Rica. As Señor Quiros said to me, “It will take some time to educate the public and our youth on how critical this is, but we will continue to work toward that goal.”

Such projects are extremely valuable in helping Ticos understand the long-term value of preserving their magnificent country’s fragile environment. But one of the most promising developments in ecological progress here is the creation of a new political party focused on protecting Costa Rica’s vast biodiversity and ready to move the battle into the political arena. Formed in 2004 by reporter Carlos Arrieta and retired English teacher Rodrigo Arias, the Green Ecological Party has set its sights on winning a seat in the National Assembly representing the Cartago province where they got their start and have their strongest support. The party has put Arrieta forward as a candidate for office twice before, in 2006 and again last year, but failed to win a seat. He and Arias are optimistic that as Ticos’ political awareness of environmental issues grows, voters will demand strong governmental policies to protect Costa Rica’s ecology; party members hope that 2014 will be their year for a win. 

One of the main planks in the Green Ecological Party platform is banning plastics in certain Costa Rican industries in favor of biodegradable materials. They support mandatory environmental education programs in schools as well as the creation of an environmental “police force” to guard against litterers, polluters, illegal loggers and others whose activities degrade the environment.
On a lighter note in closing this post, I’ll mention a couple of funny animal incidents we observed lately. The second rider’s unusual mount is a water buffalo! As we were walking down the road, we saw this fellow along with two horseback riders jogging down the sidewalk then crossing the highway to continue along a side road. I’m sure my horse would have been freaked out to share the road with this creature but the Tico horses seemed less concerned with him than with a rough place in the sidewalk.

Roscoe and Layne socializing on the deck
Vicious Bassett Hound
And finally, meet Roscoe, the landlord’s young pit bull who often comes to visit us as we relax on the front deck in the late afternoon. He gives the breed a good reputation with his lovable nature. In fact, he’s so easy-going that a neighbor dog, an elderly Bassett hound that seemed an unlikely attacker, got the best of poor Roscoe on our back patio recently, biting him in the butt. Hard to imagine but the old guy gave the pit bull puppy a sore tail end!

Pura Vida!

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