Reflections from the Field – Casa Tucan & Safari Surf: Days 16-20

On Friday, Nico and I went to Giardino Tropicale where the Nosara Tsunami Evacuation Planning Committee had their first community meeting about the new evacuation plan. Representatives from the area’s tourism industry, police and fire department, as well as the medical community, were there to discuss the new map, installation of sirens and the strategic use of satellite phones in an emergency. It was clear that all the members involved are fully committed to the project and are eager to get the community involved. That being said, education and awareness is another issue the committee is focused on, because most of the local Ticos have no idea what to do in the event of a tsunami. Tyler and I had finished writing Casa Tucan’s evacuation plan a couple days before, so this was perfect timing. Casa Tucan staff will now be involved with the planning process every step of the way and they will be trained in the formal evacuation procedures along with a few supplementary educational materials I found online. I also created subscription accounts for the owners, managers and surf instructors with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) tsunami and cyclonic alert services so Casa Tucan will have as much reaction time as possible. Alejandro Gutierrez came up to me after the meeting and was interested in my work with sustainable surf tourism. He is mapping out all of the environmental risk factors for over 100 beaches in Costa Rica. This research will be a great asset for Casa Tucan and Safari Surf, as Playa Guiones is their bread and butter and they need to protect it.

After the tsunami meeting, the accountant Linda and I worked out what percentage of Casa Tucan’s food purchases are spent locally. While all food purchases are local (within 160km radius), we wanted to see what percentage of the food is imported. It turns out, that on average, 84% of the food purchased in a fiscal year is made in Costa Rica while only 16% is imported—impressive. Buy local!

There was a surf contest at Playa Guiones on Saturday, which seemed pretty laid back and not too competitive, just the local Nosara crowd enjoying some fun waves on a sunny day.

Paula Soto, the owner and founder of Green Solutions, a distributor of all types of environmentally friendly products in Costa Rica, came to Casa Tucan to showcase what is available on her website. After getting to see the products first hand, we talked for a little bit and decided to reconvene on Sunday to organize a list of products the hotel will purchase from now on. I met with Evelyn, the maid, and Eduardo, the chef, to compile a list of all the products Casa Tucan currently uses in the kitchen, restaurant, bar, and housekeeping. Once the list was put together, I was ready for my meeting with Paula on Sunday.

Paula and I knocked out the order list Sunday morning for Casa Tucan and now the hotel will be using biodegradable/grey water safe cleaning products, recycled office paper/napkins/toilet paper/paper towels, compostable storage containers, and organic fertilizers/herbicides/pesticides. Not only is this change great for the environment, it is also great for the staff who will no longer be exposed to toxic substances.

Once the order was placed, I Skyped with my Mom for Mother’s Day, and then I surfed that evening after finishing writing material for the new guest book. I caught a nice farewell wave from Playa Guiones that session with a tiny barrel that topped off the trip. Later that night I saw my first scorpion and it was super tiny, (the smaller the scorpion, the more poisonous the sting) Nico caught it and froze it. Tyler has a whole collection of frozen scorpions at his house—I guess its tradition in Nosara. Nico told me how one time he tried to catch a big scorpion that had all these little orange bubbles on its back and when he tried to catch it, he hit the back of the scorpion and all these baby scorpions exploded from the orange bubbles (eggs) and scattered all across the room.

For my last day, Monday, I picked out souvenirs for family and friends with Jeffrey’s help. These local Ticas are stationed on the main road with their handmade jewelry, bracelets, and pottery for sale. Then I went to the Nosara Surf Shop two doors down to pick up some shirts and a Costa Rica Craft Brewing Co. beer mug. I’m going to miss their red ale, Segua. Jeffrey and I made some phone calls in regards to testing Tucan’s water quality, training the staff in CPR/first aid certifications, and exchanging grease for biodiesel at the plant in Cartago. I also helped John learn how to write professional emails to other businesses and organizations (he was stoked and it felt great to help).

After lunch, Jeffrey and I went to Tyler’s house so Tyler could have a look at my additions to the guest book and the environmental/cultural/historical/sustainability interpretive tour I wrote for the hotel. Tyler’s new puppy:

Once that was all finalized, I had one last surf and then me and a few of the surf instructors had dinner with some Safari Surf students at Kaya Sol. Had some beers and then I packed up before Francisco (shuttle driver) picked me up at midnight and drove 5 hours to the San Jose International Airport.

I landed in Houston with 50 minutes to make it to my connecting flight (factor in customs/immigration/baggage check/security checkpoints), needless to say I was sprinting all over the Houston airport to make my next flight, but I made it and a few hours later I landed in sunny San Diego.

It was hard to leave after finishing all my work, knowing that if I had more time I could have done some tourist activities, but I still had a lot of fun and I know I’ll come back. The pura vida vibe is too good to only experience once. I just want to thank Jess and the Center for Surf Research for giving me an awesome internship this past year, the owners of Casa Tucan for choosing me as their consultant, and a big thanks to Tyler for letting me borrow his Al Merrick 6’3” Flyer, she was a lot of fun! Of course I want to thank all the staff and community members who helped me with my research. I would not have been able to complete my work on time without their help…and it would not have been as fun! I can’t believe I graduate from SDSU this Saturday, what a way to end my college career. Pura vida!

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