Fair Trade Trip Report: Monteverde, Costa Rica
“When we rise in the morning…at the table we drink coffee which is provided to us by a South American, or tea by a Chinese, or cocoa by a West African; before we leave for our jobs we are already beholden to more than half the world.”
Since I first encountered this unforgettable quote by Martin Luther King, Jr., I have tried to remember the fact that there is a person, people, who cultivated the coffee beans I drink now, and I kept thinking that it was odd for me to not even know what a coffee bean looks like. Through my trip to Costa Rica, I have realized how beautiful coffee beans are – and much more.
Monteverde, Costa Rica
At the Life Monteverde farm, I was astonished by the fact that the farm was self-sufficient. Everything we ate came from the farm, and it was all incredibly fresh and tasty. An intern at the farm, a girl from the United States, was working with a system that decomposes organic matter into gas. We bumped into a boy wearing rain boots and rain coat, seemingly just 10 years old. He was volunteering and learning how to cultivate crops. It was something which would rarely be seen in Korea where young people, including myself, seek internships at a distinguished place for our next job.
The way to Monteverde was over a very steep hill through a bumpy road, where the scenery was magnificent. One member of our group asked why they don’t pave the road. I thought it was because they didn’t have enough money, however that wasn’t the case. They had thought about it and asked themselves what kinds of tourism they want and need. If the road were paved, there would be a ton of tourists, which would not be good for their community. It would also be difficult to remain self-sufficient and sustainable if more tourists started to visit.
Traveling with Global Exchange
A month after my trip to Costa Rica, the image I have of the country is a very greenish, peaceful atmosphere. I loved Costa Rica. I’m not the type of
person who travels with a group, and I didn’t like the idea of a package tour, but Global Exchange was totally different than I expected; it was an eye opening experience.
The other people on the trip were amazing. There was Bob, the labor lawyer, who from time to time during the trip shared his expertise and advice with the producers. He was very warm person, not showing off at all that he is a lawyer. His wife, Emily, was a retired history teacher from Boston – she helped me with my English and looked after me when I was sick from cold weather. Jen, a young enthusiastic professor, took this trip so she could teach what she had actually seen. Our leader, Ricardo, a Costa Rican, made it possible to see the breathtakingly beautiful wildlife in Costa Rica. All of us worked very well together, as if we knew each other from a long time ago.
I keep thinking about my days in Costa Rica, even after coming back to Korea. The reason the people are so amazing is because we met through Global Exchange. These people were mindful towards other human beings and the environment, and open to travel. I’m so grateful that I had a chance to have this amazing opportunity in Costa Rica.
Gabi is a Fair Trade advocate in her home country of South Korea. She spent a year studying at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Gabi traveled to Costa Rica with Global Exchange in July 2016, as a winner of Fair Trade Campaigns’ Fair Trade Photofest.