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. 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 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.
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.
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.
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!!
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)!?!
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.
For my first international event, I went to a lecture entitled “Bagaisu Men Don’t Cry” with Dr. Pamela Khanakwa. For the majority of the lecture, Dr. Khanakwa talked the Imbalu ceremony, which is a public right of passage in Bagisu tradition. Throughout the past few hundred years, the role of the Imbalu ceremony has changed in the Bagisu culture, thus indicating a shift in the greater understanding of masculinity. Ever since the origin of this tradition, it has been greatly celebrated. Anywhere between the ages of 16 and 26, a boy could choose to go through the ceremony. This process happens publicly and is generally a large celebration. Within the past one hundred years, however, Bagisu elites have challenged the cultural norms. They argued that the ritual was “irrelevant to the needs that they had established” and that the tradition aimed to “tribalize people deviating from the minority culture groups within Uganda.” Bagisu society met these concerns with several solutions. The first solution was to introduce the practice of medicated surgery that would occur in private. Many argued that allowing men to have anesthesia during the procedure would defeat the purpose of the ceremony. Another solution was to forbid women and children from watching the public surgery. These solutions were met with opposition.
This was a topic that I had no previous knowledge on. I was not even sure exactly what the topic would be when I arrived at the lecture. I was pleasantly surprised and actually gained a lot of new knowledge. Throughout my time in grade school, lots of what I learned about Africa was from a very Eurocentric perspective. This lecture made me realize that I have never had the opportunity to learn about tribal customs or norms. Everything that I know about Africa is about one of the following topics: colonialism, decolonialism, The Scramble for Africa, or the slave trade. This is very unfortunate. I would like to expand my knowledge about Africa after this lecture. It was interesting to have the opportunity to hear someone from Uganda speak about the issues that face her community.
I attended the “Pastries in Puebla” event on Thursday, September 21st. At the event Armando, the Director of OU in Puebla was there. He talked about his favorite parts of OUP and how many students have great experiences there. It was nice to talk to him after first meeting him while studying in Puebla this past summer. He is a great asset to the OUP program. Armando and I also talked about opportunities to study abroad in Puebla for a full semester. If I did so, I would be required to take geology classes with the OU faculty that goes along. This seems unnecessary and would not count for any of my required credits for my major. Anyways, the event took place in Farzaneh and was lovely. There were pastries and other people interested in traveling to Puebla. I also got to share about my experience in Puebla with some other students who were interested.
This semester, I was part of the International Business Student Association. This group is comprised mostly of people with my same major, International Business. This group has meetings and events to inform its members about international happenings and opportunities, mostly geared towards business. Through this organization, I have been able to talk to fellow IB students and hear about their internships abroad. While I might not have the opportunity to intern abroad during my undergrad experience, it is fascinating to hear others talk about this experience. International internships are a big focus in IBSA. I am looking into possible internship opportunities while I do my semester abroad, thanks to this organization.
In Mexico City this past summer, I got to visit the Museum of Memory and Tolerance. This museum was absolutely fascinating and one of my favorite experiences from Puebla. One of the temporary exhibits, however, has stuck with me in the past few months. The exhibit was about Mexican immigrants to the United States. Clearly, this is a very relevant topic at the moment. The exhibit showed instances of violence against immigrants in the United States, and urged the necessity and impact of compassion. With new administration, the past few months have been difficult for immigrants. This exhibit is in the back of my mind at all times when I see divisive rhetoric or hateful words. This exhibit has stuck with me for the months since I returned from Puebla, and it probably will for the rest of my life. I wish that all of America had the opportunity to visit the Museum of Memory and Tolerance and see this exhibit. It was truly eye-opening and impactful.
I recently watched a movie, in Spanish, called “La Lengua de las Mariposas,” or The Language of the Butterflies. I really enjoyed this movie, so I thought that I would take a moment and reflect on it. The movie focuses on the life of a young boy, Moncho. The boy is living in a particularly challenging time – the Spanish Civil War has just begun. The movie is a coming of age film that focuses on the boy “finding himself” in a difficult time. Moncho has a teacher in school who he builds a relationship with. The teacher has untraditional views and Moncho can pick up on that. The boy is in a challenging place and is wondering about the future of his family and country. The boy is developing his ideas, beliefs, and thoughts as the movie continues. This movie made me think about how the 2016 election affected children. I actually wrote a paper for my Spanish class about this topic.