Wednesday, December 30, 2009


As we wrap up this year we have had some time to reflect on all of the wonderful experiences we have had together. There have been a lot of firsts: first year of marriage, first apartment, first time moving away from family together, and first cross cultural experience together. It seems as though our experiences over the last few months have brought us closer than we have ever been.
With that being said, at the beginning of January I will be moving to a coffee and tilapia farm a little over an hour away. Alex will be staying on for the spring internship at Rancho Mastatal, where they will kick into their busy season, including lots of building, new goats, andhosting group workshops in permaculture, solar energy, and wilderness first response. I will be living with a local family and working with them on their farm. I am excited about shifting to something new, and to have more opportunities to work on my spanish. We will be visiting each other about once every three weeks due to our work responsibilities. Think of us during this time as this will also be a first.

Also, we have made the decision to return home early this April. We had mixed feelings at first, but now we are excited the possibilities of what lies ahead. We are currently looking into other farming opportunities, grad school, and what ever else comes our way. If you hear of any job openings let us know:)

We hope this Christmas season brought you great time with family and friends. We missed you all. Christmas just isn´t the same when it is 90 degrees outside.

With love.
Until next time!

Mary-Laura and Alex

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Closing up ranch life, visa run, and Thanksgiving...

So we are winding down as the internship is coming to an end. Although Alex and I will be here until the end of December, most of the interns will be leaving this upcoming week. Our December will be much more low key, which we are looking forward to. We have been busy finishing up projects as the internship is coming to a close. We were able to take a mini-vacation to beautiful Granada, Nicaragua to renew our visas a week ago. We got back just in time for an amazing homemade Thanksgiving dinner. Here are a few more pictures...
An update on our future plans will be coming soon. Love you all.

Can you find Don Mario? He is 57 years old and probably the strongest man I have ever met. In this picture he has just scaled this tree about thirty feet up to harvest oranges. Unbelievable....

An educational mosaic ML has been working on. Depicting the broken cycle of the food and waste systems in developed nations. It still needs to be grouted.

Building walls with wattle and daub. (weaving bamboo, and sealing it with and earth, manure and clay mixture)

Alex and Jr. (brothers and friends from Mastatal)

Mastatal soccer team.

Harvesting cacao.

Cacao harvested. The bounty.

Lindsay, ML and Dalia at the "traveling discoteca". Because we are in such a rural location and there is very little going on.... there are mobile dances where the speakers, music and DJ are set up in the local community center. Over 200 people come from neighboring villages...a fantastic time had by all.

Workin' it. Learning some new moves.

Granada, Nicaragua.

Granada, Nicaragua.

Granada, Nicaragua.

Granada, Nicaragua.

Granada, Nicaragua.

One of three chickens we ate for Thanksgiving.

Alex was on slaughter duty, while I stuck with defeathering...

Friday, November 13, 2009

A closed circle feast.


A few weeks ago Alex won the lottery! The prize? One massive pierna de cerdo (pig leg). You might envision making a trip to the locally supermarket (which is more than an hour and half away from us) to pick up your prize, giddy with ticket in'd be wrong. Instead imagine driving your pickup two farms down to claim your still oinking pig. You'd work with four locals to weigh it, kill it, skin it, and butcher it appropriately. I'll spare you the rest of the gritty details....and voila! you have your prize. I do have to say there is something innately natural and satisfying about being in touch with the process that brings food to your plate. It's about honoring the animal's life which brings us the nutrition we need for sustenance.
We decided to take this occasion to celebrate and make a feast. We first smoked the leg in a homemade barrel-smoker using Mammonchino wood. We supplemented the pulled pork with barbecue sauce made from scratch, fresh baguette rolls cooked in our cob oven and a side of thyme mashed potatoes. All of it which was cooked on our stove fueled by the methane from our biodigester. The biodigester is fed by human and animal waste, and the methane which normally is lost in the atmosphere, is captured. The feast was enjoyed and shared by the interns and some of the locals.
We have spent many of our days learning of ways, big and small, how to live more "sustainably". We also have had many evenings to sit around and discuss what this buzz word actually means. Expanding sustainability beyond the environment, to include social, spiritual, economic, and political realms, and how it is applied to the individual and community. Realizing how little we do yet excited by the inexhaustible opportunities to improve life. We are trying figuring out what role we want to have in this reconciliation process, but foremost recognizing how all aspects of life are interconnected.
Currently we are focusing on learning new techniques and practices to live and utilize the earth's resources in more responsible ways. This includes energy, food production, building, and using the land's natural assets to work for not against us. Having said all this, I do realize how much easier it is to live a simplified lifestyle in rural Costa Rica than it is back in the States. When you have access to less and are in an agrarian society, life is naturally different. The majority of the world lives in or around cities, and according to migration patterns there is no sign of change in this movement. We have to bridge old and new schools of thought to live more sustainably in urban areas if this is our future. I get most excited thinking about finding creative ways to be involved in this process wherever we may be in the coming years.

Just thought I would share a few thoughts on this rainy day. Hope this finds you all well.


A few more photos....

Most of the women at the ranch.

The chicken coop- home to the 27 ladies the provide eggs for the ranch.

Sophia, Moiseus, and Jasmine.

A bamboo structure: "Tiburons"

18 people in the bed of a pickup truck? Check.

Rural life...The Costa Rican cow

One of the bamboo structures: "The Hooch"

Cob oven used for baking.

Jenny, Kattia, Maria-Laura, and Sebastian on Halloween.

Alex roasting cocoa.

Our biodigester which fuels 60 percent of our cooking.

Mammonchino fruit (kinda like lychees). This wood is used when we are smoking meat and vegetables to give it a sweeter taste.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


After a few hard weeks of work, our group decided to take some time off...We are at the beach, more specifically in Dominical. I am adding some new pictures with a longer blog to come in the next few days! love you all.

ML and Alex




Setting up for the health clinic we had this past weekend. We had 30 community members show for for massage, accupunture, and blood pressure testing. In the past only 5 or 6 people had shown up. We were very excited. Mastatal is a rural town of a little over 100 people.

Sushi night!

One of ML´s carving projects.

Roasting cocoa at a local chocolate farm. There is a barrel attached to the side of the bike, which rotates over the fire when biking....ingenious!

Salima enjoying the cocoa fruit.

Working in the woodshop.

Chepo! he is kinda a big deal around town...

Poisonous caterpillar that stung alex...its a jungle out here

Hasta luego!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

October already....

Hello again!

This is the traditionally the rainest month of the year here. Fortunately we are still here and have not been washed away...yet. I suppose we lucked out because aparently every twenty years there is a drought of sorts and we chose the right year to live in the Costa Rican rainforest. I say drought loosely because we still have to paddle our way (figuratively) from shelter to shelter when it rains, and we are at continuous odds with the encroaching mold attacking our belongings. Our spirits remain high as we bounce between projects and soak up all the new experiences. Days are very busy. During some moments throughout the week when I slow down, I realize that I don't have that much time to think, or reflect I should say. Processing is something we're going to try to focus a little more on in the coming weeks and months. Getting the most out of time here and and taking time to soak it all in is a difficult but much needed balance. Enjoy the new the way I won a pig leg in a community raffle that we're planning on smoking and making some pulled pork sandwiches. Yum

the Sawatzkys

lazy Sunday

Hike and tour of local organic coffee farm (Jose Luis, the owner is on the left). Mary-Laura might work on his farm for a couple months in February.

Relaxing after a long day's work...

Front porch breakfast and meeting

enjoying the view

Volunteers at the elementary school

Face painting adventure!

Baking day

Digging posts for the new garden fence.

view from our window

Until next time...