Basura – Trash

This morning I saw our neighbor dump a leaf and trash mixture onto one of the beach burn piles. I asked them to not dump trash there and they said that they would take it away. They ended up putting it on another pile on the other side of their property. I thought about how I could convince them that this is not the solution. But then I began to wonder if I was right. Is sending it away in plastic bags on a dump truck to an unknown location better?

Well I did about 15 minutes of research, and yes, it is bad to burn trash. The chemicals that burn into the air and are left in the ground can cause some major medical problems over time. I didn’t find any studies about wildlife, but I am pretty sure it would have an adverse affect. A Canadian government site I found laid out all the information clearly.

Trash management is an issue that every single person across the globe deals with every day. Most people mindlessly throw away without thinking about the consequences.   I am just as guilty as the next person.   When I am in a cleaning frenzy I just throw away not thinking at all about how I could repurpose something, etc.  I feel good that I am not burning my trash. But can I feel good about knowing it is being buried or burned by my government?

Costa Rica has taken great environmental steps in a lot of fields. However, they are far behind in waste management. I don’t necessarily blame my neighbor for the lack of infrastructure provided by the government. While the Costa Rican government has not been very successful with waste management, I can’t really say that I am proud of the USA’s waste management either. The world as a whole needs to rethink the amount of waste they produce. It starts in the house, in the kitchen, the bathroom, but ends up in the air, water, and earth.

I have found that it is a lot easier to recycle, compost, and generally use less when I am at home in Virginia. When I travel I produce more waste. Especially with a toddler!

What are some things travelers can do to eliminate waste?

1- Carry a reusable water bottle with you.We use (and love) the Klean Kanteen insulated bottles

For those of you that don’t prefer to carry a bulky bottle around there are water pouch options. These pouches are great when you have limited space. There seem to be a lot of options out there, but this seems like a good company.

2 – Ask questions.Don’t be afraid to ask about recycling or trash wherever you travel. If enough people ask about it hopefully they will put a little bug in someone’s ear.

These are just two actions that can make a big difference. There are so many other “green” things you can do, but I am into simplicity. This is simple. Be the change.

I know that there is a lot to say about trash management.  Please leave a comment below about issues, solutions, green traveler ideas, etc.


Our Boruca Adventure


Looking down upon the Boruca village.

After about 3 hours drive from Esterillos we arrived in the village of Boruca. It mostly looks like any other rural Costa Rican village. If you were driving through you may not even realize it is the home to indigenous people. When you step out of your air-conditioned car into the hot, somewhat dry air and walk around it is clear how this unique place has a story to tell.

The Boruca are an indigenous tribe in the southwest of Costa Rica. Most visitors in Costa Rica will see a Boruca mask in many tourist-oriented shops, or art galleries. The masks are intricate pieces of art that were primarily used in the culture to tell a story. The masks are used in a yearly ceremony that celebrates their defense against the Spanish.

Our first stop was at the one-room museum. It has a “gift shop” where some artisans consign their work. The museum had the village history in Spanish and English.

There are four animals that are very important to the tribe. This is why you will find the jaguar, frog, toucan, and macaw in many masks and other pieces of artwork. The jaguar was known to be a friend of the tribe and came out to help protect them when the Spanish arrived. Similarly, the frog helped by providing its poison to use on their arrow and spear tips. The toucan helped deliver messages in the battle. The macaw is known to bring happiness, symbolizing hope. The greatest warriors wore macaw feathers to battle. I don’t know how historically correct the above description is of the four animals, but this is what I was told by one Borucan artisan in the village.

FullSizeRender 5

Cuasran & Eagle mask

FullSizeRender 3We bought three masks. FullSizeRender 7The largest is of Cuasran with an eagle above him and morpho butterflies on each side of his face. The other two are diablitos.

Here is a link to a video for the story of Cuasran.

The masks are a big part of the Boruca culture and what draws most tourists to the area. Boruca people make other crafts as well. They weave with natural-dyed cotton thread, make drums, bows and arrows, and carved calabash gourds (jicaros). While we were there we visited a women’s cooperative, where we were shown more weaving materials. I ended up buying some thread that was made and hand-dyed by the women. One was dyed with turmeric and the other with the ink of a sea snail.

FullSizeRender 6

Tumeric and Snail dyed thread.

The woman at the cooperative explained that on the crescent moon (not sure if it’s waning or waxing) about 200 people will go down to the sea and look for these particular snails. The Plicopurpura snails live on rocks. The people will blow on the snail so it emits a dark ink. The ink is the snails’ defense mechanism. They collect the ink in a bowl along with sea water and put the cotton thread inside. After letting it soak, they lay it out to dry. Once it is dry and the color has set they wash the thread many times until it doesn’t bleed out color anymore. Then it is ready to be used. What a process for purple thread! I’m not sure yet what I will make with the thread, but I am sure it will be special.

Our overall experience with the Boruca people was great. Everyone was friendly and happy to share a story or smile.

One of the few woman mask makers painting her mask.

One of the few woman mask makers painting her mask.