Monday, January 22, 2007

Buying a Car

We are back in Costa Rica to start the new year. We have an awesome intern, Sofia, who flew down with me (Eliot) a week and a half ago. It is warm and sunny and great to be back down here.

The first item on our agenda was to buy a car. Brendan met us in San Jose and we started first thing in the morning looking for a car. We had tried to get the Mendez family to help us find a friend of the family that knew about cars. But that all seemed to fall through. So we jumped into a sympathetic looking taxi and asked the driver to take us to some used car dealers.

I hate dealing with cars, dealers, and mechanics because I really don't know much about cars not to mention I am not fluent in car talk (in English much less in Spanish). As we were driving I did my best not to let the driver aware of my ignorance while at the same time probing him for the right vocabulary words and bureaucratic regulations involved in buying a car. It took us about 3 hours driving around the suburbs of San Jose until we found the car we were looking for. I asked the driver to take us to Cartago (a suburb of San Jose). The taxi driver wasn't sure that there would be any cars there. I told him there has to be because its called Car-tago. I was right.

One thing that I have realized being from the United States is that the US has some of the cheapest cars in the world. Costa Rica has an extremely high import tax on cars. Originally our idea had been to drive a car down here from the US, but we were warned that it isn't worth it after all the taxes you will have to pay. So we decided to buy it here.

The car we ended up getting is a 1988 Toyota 4 Runner. Its pretty awesome. After negotiating we ended up getting it for about $4000 although we had to pay a lawyer a little bit more to get the papers filed. The Mendez family thought we would never be able to buy a car in only 2 days. But we did. We drove strait to Aguabuena after we bought the car. It took about 6 hours and we didn't get in till around midnight.

We promise to write more blogs than we have been. We are also starting Finca Video Blog 1. 0. So keep checking in. It should be fun.

The sunset as we drove over Cierro de la Muerte.
Hasta Pronto

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Butterfly Breeding

I went to Monteverde to check out the rainforest reserve and I stumbled upon a mariposario (butterfly garden) where I received a quick lesson in butterfly breeding. I thought the reproduction process would be complicated, but with a little chat with a specialist (the woman pictured above) I realized that it is fairly simple. She taught me about the most important aspects of butterfly breeding - from when the eggs are first laid, to the growing larva, to the forming pupa, and finally to the emerging adult. As we talked, it took me back to the third grade when I first learned about the amazing life cycle of the Monarch butterfly. This woman (whose name, I am embarrassed to say, I have forgotten) never went to school to study; she is a self-taught expert and has been working with these creatures for over 25 years. I asked her if she had an email address in case I had any questions in the future. She looked confused, then chuckled and gave me her home phone number.
She told me "Primero..." (first), after choosing a species, you must know what plant the caterpillar of that species eats. This is the plant where the mother will lay its eggs to ensure that her babies have a sufficient food supply after birth. The temperature must be higher than 76 degrees F (around 80 F is optimum). This is especially critical when the caterpillar decides to build its chrysalis. When the caterpillar is full-grown, it makes a silk pad on the leaf where it attaches itself in preparation for the chrysalis. Inside the chrysalis nothing new is created; instead, the wings, legs, and other parts of the butterfly are formed through the modification of already existing parts of the larva. When the butterfly emerges, it must find a new source of food because it has developed a proboscis (a long tube-like mouth) and is unable to consume solid food. For the adult butterfly, the flower and nectar are the sources of its nutrition.
I followed up this conversation with a visit to the library at the National Museum in order to research specific species. There I took notes and dreamed of the design of Finca Project's butterfly breeding house. We will work with the local high school students to create breeding houses at the high school as well as on our farm.

Butterflies play a vital role in the pollination of many tropical rainforest plants. Some plants and butterflies have developed co-dependent relationships. If one specific species of butterfly were to die, the plant that it pollinated would quickly follow its fate.

Today butterflies.......tomorrow bees!

So long from the Finca,