El Walmart !! Y El Resto

Costa Rica is sunflowers and sunshine!!!

Thursday was our “follow Walmart’s supply chain day.” We started out by visiting a large farm that harvested peppers. We had a tour of the greenhouses and the owner of the farm gave a small presentation. He talked about how he enjoys selling his product to Walmart. They give him access to tools and techniques that would not otherwise be available to him. One thing that was interesting: farmers never sign contracts with Walmart. They only continue to sell as long as the quality and conditions are good. We then moved to a smaller farm. The owner gave a similar presentation. We got to see where the produce is grown, where it is washed, and where it is packaged.

Fresh veggies at one of the Walmart farms. They even let us try some different veggies!

After visiting the second farm, we stopped for lunch at a foot truck court. I got some ceviche, it was good. After lunch, we bought some flowers from a woman selling them out of her truck, because why not?!?! Flowers in hand, we headed to the Walmart produce distribution center. We got a tour of the warehouse: where produce is brought in, evaluated, and sent out. It was very interesting.

On Friday we visited an American technology company called L3. After our visit, we got to go to the beach for the rest of the day. It was an absolute blast.

On Saturday, we had a tour of downtown San José. This is the are that we had visited on the night that we first arrived when we were looking for a music festival. It was fun to see it again in the light.

Some graffiti in downtown San José.
“The Blue House” in downtown San José. This is where the President works.

Also on Saturday we went to a coffee plantation for a tour. It was very interesting and one of my favorite visits for sure.

Me and the un-roasted coffee beans. My hands are in the shape of a heart – this is how our guide told us to take the pictures, haha.
I want the concrete outside my house to look like this someday.

Miércoles en San José

On Wednesday, we visited two companies: CINDE and Baxter Healthcare. CINDE is Costa Rica’s investment promotion agency. They work to bring foreign investments and capital into the country. They have been largely successful in creating more of a “business scene” here in Costa Rica. Interestingly enough, CINDE told us that the largest export out of Costa Rica is medical equipment. Convienantly, the next company that we visited was Baxter Healthcare. Baxter Healthcare is a American health care company. They have a massive factory in San Jose that produces medical tubing. The visit to the factory was unlike anything that I have ever experienced before. They walked us through their sterile rooms and showed us a video of the company’s “best practices” for shift changes on the assembly line. After Baxter, I had some authentic “al pastor” tacos for lunch. They were delicious. We took a brief break for happy hour, then went to dinner at an Italian restaurant. It was good — I had a pizza.

Primera Visita de una Compañía

On Tuesday, we drove from the Arenal area and back to San Jose. Our new hotel is in the middle of the business district. It is very nice and lovely. We stopped at a mall food court for lunch, and I grabbed a Greek chicken pita. Naturally, I had to get a palleta for dessert. It was delicious. After lunch, we went to our first corporate visit: Gensler. Gensler is a collaborative design and architecture firm that has offices all around the world. The visit was really great. They have an incredible and ecofriendly office space that was really interesting to visit. We ate dinner at a sushi / hibachi restaurant and it was really great. I had a Costa Rica Roll and it was delicious. It had plantain and fried shrimp. It was quite unique.

San José ➸ Fortuna

Zip lining with the gals.

This morning we woke up to the natural light from the huge window in our room. It was beautiful! We ate breakfast at the hotel (eggs, beans, rice, typical “Tico” breakfast), then headed to the zip lining place. Zip lining as super fun. It was a huge course and there were like 14 cables that we got to cross. It was great!

After the zip line, we ate lunch at a little place. I had beans, rice, a plantain, steak, and potatoes. I also had a mango / strawberry smoothie. It was delicious. I should’ve taken a picture.

After lunch, we headed to the Volcano Arenal National Park. It was about a hour and a half long hike through the jungle. I didn’t take many pictures, but we saw some cool animals including a money and a toucan. It was really interesting and good to get some exercise. We headed back to the hotel and are here for the night.

Some cool trees in the jungle. This tree was huge.

The journey down the hill is so scary and seemingly unsafe, we decided to get some foods to prepare at the hotel from the store. I snagged some peanut butter. I can’t complain!!

Costa Rica – Día Uno

Pretty flowers in San José

Today is our first full day in Costa Rica!

After we arrived last night, we had dinner at a Tapas bar and went to Walmart. We also took about an hour long bus ride to an local arts festival. When we arrived at the festival, all of the music was over. There was, however, a boxing match going on. It was an adventure.

This morning, we got up early to drive from San Jose to Fortuna. We went to a sustainable farm for a tour and lunch. Everything in the lunch was produced at the farm. The tour was also very interesting. We got to try several fruits / leaves / plants. Our guide painted my face with some Turmeric (I hope it comes off lol)!?!

Turmeric on my face. Update – it came off!

After the farm, we headed to our next hotel. To get to the hotel, which is basically on the top of a mountain, we had to take our HUGE tour bus up a HUGE hill. It was quite spooky. I cannot describe to you how large our bus was and how small / curvy the road was. I was honestly surprised that we even attempted to make it up the hill. Somehow, we made it. The hotel is fabulous. We all have little cabins on the top of this huge mountain.

We went to dinner at a delicious Italian restaurant and journeyed up the mountain back to our hotel. On the way up, the bus started smoking. Somehow, we made it up once again!

After dinner, we played card games and hung out. It’s always a good time with these peeps! I’m looking forward to the next few days.

I’m obsessed with all of the flowers here!

Ciudad de México ➸ Norman

Today we are heading back to the United States. I have had such an amazing time here in Mexico. I am absolutely amazed with the culture, cuisine, and beauty of this country. Here is a list of some things that I wanted to reflect on as I head home to the United States:

  1. First of all, I highly encourage going on a study abroad trip without any of your friends. I had one acquaintance, Audrey, who I knew was also coming on this trip. We decided to share an apartment and it was such a great opportunity for us to get closer and make close friends with the others in our group.
  2. Mexico has these little stands that they put by your table in restaurants to hold your purse. America needs those.
  3. Always keep a blog while traveling. I totally wish that I had kept up with mine in Italy. Blogging helped me reflect and remember each day that I was abroad.
  4. Don’t be afraid to sound silly when speaking in the language that you are learning. You will improve so quickly when you are trying to speak with people everyday.
  5. True Mexican food is entirely different than what we are used to in the United States. I thought I knew this coming in to the trip, but there is still so many culinary differences that I was unaware of.
  6. There are lots of things that should be on this list that I am forgetting…..

Woo! This was a trip of a lifetime and I am so excited that I got to share and remember it via this blog.

Lastly, check out the Talavera that I painted in Puebla! I think it turned out pretty well!

El Último Día en México

Today was our last full day in Mexico and boy was it a good one! This morning we went to a Mexican Folklore Ballet. It was unlike anything that I have ever seen before. There were Flamenco dancers, dancers with huge paper mache masks, Mariachi bands, etc. It was so much fun and definitely one of the more “traditional” experiences that I have had while here.

After the show, we went to the museum that was located inside the same building as the theatre (it is called the Palacio de Bellas Artes). They currently have a special exhibit called “Picasso and Rivera: Conversations Across Time.” The exhibit has many works from both of the artists and discussed their stylistic similarities (especially cubism). It was a great and impressive exhibit. The Palacio also had several Diego Riviera murals. How cool is that?!?

A piece by Rivera.

After we finished up at the Palacio, we went to the Museum of Memory and Tolerance. This museum was truly spectacular. It was decided up into 2 parts. The first part was designated to help visitors remember the genocides that have occurred in the past. The second part of the tour was designed to encourage and promote tolerance of other cultures, ideas, and people. This museum is a must-see for anyone who finds themselves in Mexico City. I could not recommend it enough.

Part of the “tolerance” section of the museum promoted the understanding of migrants. This mirrored screen showed clips of our current President and American crimes targeting undocumented immigrants from Mexico. It offered an interesting and important perspective.

After the Museum of Tolerance, we had a late lunch at a huge restaurant inside a hotel. It was lovely! I had some tacos and a fruit / cheese salad. My amiga Audrey tried a traditional dish that actually originated in Puebla. It is called Chilis en Nogada and is a stuffed pepper with a special sauce and pomegranate seeds. It was yummy for sure!

Chilis en Nogada

After lunch, we were supposed to go to the mall for a couple of hours. Audrey and I decided that we wanted to check out the nearby Museo Jumex, that had a temporary Andy Warhol exhibit. The museum had only 3 galleries and they were all filled with spectacular Warhol works. It was fabulous and I had so much fun strolling through the brightly colored modern art. It was a nice change from the (equally beautiful) European art that I have been staring at all summer.

Vacas

We stopped by “the Mexican version of Starbucks” for a quick treat before heading back to the hotel for the night. What a great last day here in this beautiful country. Mexico, I love you!!!!

Ciudad de México

Some flowers in the greenhouses in Xochimilco.

Today was our first day in Mexico City. I love it here! It feels just like any big American city, honestly.

We got up this morning after a beautiful slumber in our nice big hotel beds and headed to breakfast. The place where the OU faculty goes for breakfast (aka it’s free to us) has both traditional Mexican breakfast and more generic American alternatives. Today I opted for the Huevos Rancheros, but tomorrow I’ll definitely be eating pancakes. I’m ready for a good old bowl of cereal and yogurt for breakfast. Not that I don’t love the bean / egg / salsa dishes that are usually served here.

Anyways, after breakfast we drove to the Xochimilco (the city of flowers). This is an area that was once a Mayan civilization. It used to be a city on water, but now it is an area with manmade islands. There are tons of small wooden boats that visitors can rent out. Once you get on the water tons of vendors, also in boats, that try to sell you things including food, drinks, and souvenirs. There are also marriachi bands floating on boats. If you pay them, they will come sing on your boat. It’s pretty cool! In the middle of our boat tour, we stopped at a greenhouse to take a peek. There were tons of beautiful flowers and plants for sale.

A picture of the boats. The tops of the boats are all decorated with women’s names.

After our boat excursion, we headed to the Frida Khalo Museum. The Museum was everything that I imagined. I feel like I have read so much about the Museum throughout all of my Spanish classes, and today I finally got to see it.

We had lunch and I took a brief 2 hour naps. Then, we departed for the El Rey León. It was amazing!! I had seen the musical in London this past summer, but it was more fun in Spanish. It was so special for me to be able to see that again.

I loved this show!!! So much!!!

Puebla ➸ Mexico City

The largest largest pyramid in Teotihuacan. This is the one that we climbed.

Today we left Puebla bright and early to head to Mexico City. We stopped along the way at Teotihuacan. Teotihuacan is an ancient Mesoamerican city that is located about an hour out of Mexico City. While we were there, we got to climb one of the huge pyramid and learn a little about the history of the ancient civilization. Most importantly, I got the most delicious paleta (popsicle with fresh fruit) I’ve had while here. It was so good that I got another one!

Shameless photo of myself at the top of the pyramid. There were so. many. stairs.

We have just arrived in Mexico City and I am so excited to explore. First, a quick rest period before dinner. Today has been exhausting!