Sunday, March 25, 2012

Costa Rica Sustainability School - 1/2/12

KuleMichelle blog – 1/12/12 (just catching up after returning to the U.S.!)
Casa Tordesillas, Costa Rica, El Paso de la Danta sustainability school

It’s an honor to be contributing to the first sustainability school of this kind in Costa Rica, El Paso de la Danta (the path of the tapir) at our friends’ Chema and Marga’s place ( ) in the mystical cloud forest high above Uvita beach and with a view of Costa Rica’s tallest and sacred mountain Chirripo.

Overlooking the Uvita beach whale tail from Casa Tordesillas

Casa Tordesillas

It’s also a tribute to my journey this past year with Kule, that I have travelled far from my old world of consumerism, and have learned so much about sustainability myself! We are doing what we can to help make these two weeks a success – bringing special hand tools that don’t require electricity from the U.S., dome building (Kule, of course), videotaping, leading meditation and sound/music, interviewing the teachers and students to create a record of the school, picking fruit, and sweeping floors, anything to help.
Chema teaching dome building!

This group of 16-23 yrs local Costa Ricans is great; they are enthusiastic and inspired to live more sustainably, the way their grandfathers and great-grandfathers did. They want to teach this to others; this pilot program is the hub of a wheel that is turning to spread change in this country and the world. They are learning organic gardening in the tropical rainforest, ecology and biology, sacred economy (based on sharing resources, not consuming them), reforestation, building a dome with mostly local materials, and healthy daily practices such as Do-In, meditation, yoga, capoeira, and eating Marga’s healthy food. They are learning teamwork and living in community, this is the pueblo (village) model that Chema is pioneering. It will eventually be a school where people live, as domes are built around the new mandala garden.

Chema and Marga are sustainability pioneers, having moved from Spain to buy land in Costa Rica and live off the grid for more than 20 years. They are expert horsemen, gardeners, builders, and craftpersons. They have had the vision for this school for these 20 years, and live the model. Their home is a paradise getaway for ecotourists and explorers like us.
With Lorna and Blanca in Casa Tordesillas

Living off the grid sounds too rustic for most, but at Casa Tordesillas it is elegant living. Their dome structure is large and accommodates 20 very comfortably, including the hosts who live upstairs. We are lucky to have the “pareja” (couple) room to ourselves, and all 5 guest rooms, built around a central fireplace under the second floor dome, have their own bathroom with hot showers and flush toilets. Not too rustic, huh?

The hot water is a mixture of solar and propane; the latter kicks in sparingly as needed. The lighting is provided by romantic candelabras and occasional flashlight and headlamp use. Cooking is done with propane, and perhaps in the future Kule can set them up with a solar cooker, like the one he designed and built at Lost Valley this summer. They use their fireplace in the evenings to warm up the cooler night air and to dry up the humidity of the cloud forest.  They have been able to harvest most of the wood they need by the side of the dirt road they live on, and they also have several acres of forest to draw on.

Although Casa Tordesillas is off the grid, Chema solar-charges his 3.5G cell phone, with internet connectivity, for important business communications. He writes important documents on his phone, and colleagues type them up into documents needed for the school and other workshops and the B&B business. Chema is a manifester! Not having electricity doesn’t get in the way of progress!

Being remote poses travel challenges, and most people are dependent on 4-wheel vehicles on these mountain roads. There is a bus from the nearest pueblo, ½ hr by foot, into town once a day. The 45 minute taxi ride from San Isidro costs $40, which is much less expensive than renting a car at $55 a day. However, Chema and Marga ride their horses into town to get basic provisions and take the bus in to San Isidro for other needed shopping. Visitors come and go to Casa Tordesillas, and they often bring what is needed from the city on their trip up the mountain.

Those unfamiliar with this region of Costa Rica assume that bugs must be a major issue. In fact, we are not even using the natural bug spray we travel with, and the only insects we have seen in this open-window house so far is a large spider (that does its job to keep the small pest population very low), an owl butterfly, a dragonfly at the end of its life cycle, and tiny ants that get to unswept crumbs in the dining area (no eating in the bedrooms for this reason). Chema and Marga have consciously designed their home with insect-repelling landscaping, natural insect-repelling wood materials, and EM (bacterial fertilizer) that provides a balance of nature and keeps insects out of the home.

The trick to living sustainably is to follow the natural rhythm of light, rising with the sun at 5:30 AM (to do morning Do-In and yoga), doing the day’s work before the sun sets at 5:30 PM, relaxing with interesting discussion, music, and hangout time after dinner by candlelight, and retiring by 9 PM. We’re getting into the flow, and it feels really really good and natural to follow the sun.

Speaking of natural flow, I’m doing what I’m guided to do, moment by moment. I’m enjoying writing, reading, visioning, connecting with nature, taking walks, and meditating. I’m getting a break from email and internet, and I’m experiencing what it’s like to not be in the electronic environment, with communication demands. I’m actually finding myself wishing that one of the parents hadn’t loaned them a generator (actually needed for refrigeration of the large amount of food) being used to charge cell phones and computers. Of course, then I couldn’t be writing this blog right now, and documenting daily progress of the school. Well, electronics has its place in sustainable living in our modern world!

Everyone that comes here comments on how wonderful the energy is here. The second floor dome has a beautiful view of the rainforest and the famous Uvita beach whale tale, where whale migrate in the fall months. The sacred geometry of the dome provides the perfect energy for meditation, Do-In, yoga, and workshops. The circular geometry of the first floor living room creates the perfect environment for community building and interesting discussions, with dining room views of the rainforest and the biological corridor for many birds and animals.

Walking on the land is not simple. The horse pasture remains muddy and full of horseprints that make walking slow. The rainforest paths are steep and muddy, as is most of the land here. The steep dirt road that climbs down into Uvita passing groves of toucan-nested trees requires careful footing over the rocks that were paved into the dirt road for better car traction. There are numerous creeks in steep embankments, and to get to a swimhole in this water-abundant rain forest is a vigorous 30 minute hike over slippery creek boulders. However, being in the cloud forest, the mist blows through us before mid-day into the afternoon, so we never get so hot and thirsty for water immersion. It’s a different way of being in Costa Rica! I love this area, it is so mystical. If we move here, we may choose a sunnier area. However,  we are thoroughly enjoying this extended visit, much longer than the 3 days we visited for the first time in April last year when we befriended Chema and Marga.

Again, we are honored to have been asked to be part of this special and needed venture into spreading sustainability in this beautiful country, with wonderful souls, on this gorgeous land.

An evening in Casa Tordesillas with Chema and Marga

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