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Costa Rica 2005
(page 1 of 4)

At La Selva Estacion Biologico, where we saw howler monkeys, toucans, parrots, peccaries, and army ants.

The constantly erupting Arenal Volcano, as seen from the plane and the ground (behind Frodo and Sam). The hydroelectric plant associated with the lake generates 60% of the electricity used by Costa Rica's 4 million people. The lava formation under Caleb and Luke is from 1992. While we were there, the volcano let of steam like a whale and hot rocks constantly tumbled down from the summit. They looked black in the daytime, but apparently they're red when seen at night.

A roadside stand near Puerto Viejo Sarapiqui features a variety of tropical fruits.

While it now resembles the Shire, this area (near Monteverde) was jungle a few decades ago. Costa Rica's international debt led to a rapid expansion of cattle pasture (and deforestation) in the last 20 years.

Eco-tourism (and preservation of forests) is now the nation's #1 industry and earner of foreign exchange. Costa Rica's amazing natural resources have benefitted from several "debt-for-nature" swaps, whereby international organizations agree to buy down some of Costa Rica's debt in exchange for land preservation. A remarkable 25% of Costa Rica is now protected by national parks and other preserves.

This is the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve, originally acquired by a group of Quakers from Alabama. We saw a Resplendent Quetzal here.

On a worldwide scale, Costa Rica would be considered and "upper middle-income" nation, though that still puts average incomes (and purchasing power) at about half that of the First World. Immigrants from Nicaragua may live in shantytowns, but, unlike their counterparts in Africa and elsewhere, they have access to free medical and hospital care, public schools, and other forms of government assistance. See page 3 for more on this little shantytown.

Public schools (free through 12th grade; compulsury through 6th) provide a large meal of rice, beans, and often chicken every day.

Futbol is omnipresent and we found that any average kid off a playground in Costa Rica would shine as one of the top players in Davis. While these kids have a barbed-wire fence for a sideline, most communities have a nice well-groomed and contoured field, with good goals and often with lights.

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