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ACES 298: Guatemala

Today (1/11) we had stuffed french toast and watermelon juice. At 9 we left for the Macadamia farm which was “more than an organic macadamia farm” (says the owner). Bo, who was a former surgeon in San Francisco and a nature enthusiast, welcomed us and he then showed us his friend “Macgiver”, the nut separator. Jenna Kaylee Davis fell in love with the machine so much that she almost separated 10 pounds of macadamias. Her and Elyse Harris were ready to perform this job for the rest of their lives.

It was very hard to listen to some of the things the owner, Lorenzo, was trying to express to us while at the Macademia farm because all of his jokes went right over our head. Even though he was kind of nutty we had some pretty good nuts, arguably the best nuts of our lives, with the exception of Kennedy Davis because of her allergy. After we took the group picture with Bo and his best friends the Macadamia trees we bid our farewells.

The group met up at the Chocolate factory where we began our 3 hours crash course on the history of chocolate. Orlando (not Bloom), our chocolate professor passionately explained the origin and the sacredness of the Cacoa bean through Mayan, Aztec, and Spanish drinks. The experience was very informative and delicious! Everyone had an amazing time, especially while we were making our own custom chocolate creations!

 

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ACES 298: Guatemala

Today we started the day off with yet another delicious breakfast. This time we had some french toast filled with cream cheese and jelly along with eggs and fresh fruit. Next we headed to Bella Vista, a coffee plantation about a 20 minute drive from our hotel. There we learned all about the coffee making process. We learned about the picking process and even got to pick some beans ourselves! We then toured the rest of the plantation and got to see everything from the drying process to the packaging process. We ended the tour with some fresh coffee overlooking Volcan Agua. After that it was time for lunch and we headed back to La Concepcion for another wonderful lunch, this time with chicken, rice, and veggies. Afterwards we walked to Caoba Farms which is an organic farm that produces numerous local and exotic fruits, vegetables, flowers, and seeds. Our tour guide was very knowledgeable and insanely resourceful when it comes to organically repelling harmful bugs from the plants with garlic and creating compost from the waste produced at the farm. Overall the visit was very educational and eye opening to the ways by which organic farms are run. After the farm we had some down time when we got back and soon enough it was time for dinner. We ate at Restaurante Sol de Oriente where some of us learned how to salsa dance. We then all decided to get up and dance to the Cupid Shuffle and Illini Shuffle and teach those dances to our local salsa dance teacher at the restaurant. After that we were all very tired from our exciting day and it was time to get ready for bed!

 

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Caoba Farms

 

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Aces 298: The Dominican Republic

January 11, 2016
We woke up bright and early to the cock-a-doodle doo of the roosters and ate an
amazing breakfast provided by Cabanas Los Calabazos. After breakfast, we said goodbye to our puppy friends and took the long, (not really that long) trek up the hills of the breathtaking mountain side. As we took one last glance of the mountains that seems
to stretch on forever with possibly the most green we Illinoians have seen in a while we head off to the farm for more adventures. At the Agroforestry System Farm the owner Don José lead us through his farm and garden. We saw bamboo, goats, geese, cats, and
dogs. Not only that, but we got to walk through the fruit trees and fields and eat some of the fruit off of the trees. We ate many oranges, clementines, blackberries, raspberries, and foreign fruits. We ate the fruit as we hiked the vast mountain ranges of
Don José’s property and learned about all of the fruit, energy, and trees that he has grown with only two other workers to help him. Once our tummies were good and full we sat down for some organic coffee and listened to Don José and Anna talk about his 30
years of experience and more about the Dominican culture. It was very exciting to hear about the organic and sustainable ways that he uses whilst tending to the farm and surrounding fields.

After the farm visit, we took the bus back to Santiago to visit our hotel. Everyone grabbed
what they needed for our visit to ISA, and before leaving we walked down to one of the local markets. Much like the Mercado Model that we visited last Tuesday this one was bustling with activity, with brightly lit shops offering all kinds of goods, including
jewelry, wooden carvings, hand made bags, and too many types of small souvenirs to list. The throngs of people moved all
around and everywhere you looked business thrived. The visit to the market couldn’t last long however, as we had people waiting for us at ISA.

At ISA, we met with the students who weren’t already with us and got into our groups to keep working on our group projects.
About an hour into our work, we were offered a coffee break. The staff at ISA brought us a wonderful fruit platter, piled with a rainbow of colours, everything from mango, to papaya, to pineapple, and even chunks of water melon and bits of cherry. This snack
was served with cold glasses of delicious juice, a perfect refresher before we went back to work. Near the end of work time, everything
kind of settled down and some of the ISA students began sharing aspects of Dominican family life and culture with us. To finish off the day we were served a fantastic dinner by Chef Richard and his staff, it was comprised of sub sandwiches and french fries.
The day was a long one, but it had experiences nobody will forget and provided truly great insight into organic farming practices and life in the Dominican Republic. This was my favorite day! #illinoisabroad #acesabroad

-Abrielle Joseph

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Aces 298: The Dominican Republic

January 6th:

Jardín Botánico Nacional de Santo Domingo (National Botanic Garden of Santo Domingo) was our first stop today. Here, we hopped on a “train” and got a guided tour across the garden. We learned all about the history of Botany in the Country, the various types of plants that grow, and other various neighboring countries and regions. In the middle of the tour, we got a guided tour of their Japanese Garden. The Japanese Garden was probably the best part of the visit for all of us on trip. It was amazing to see how plants and their arrangement could evoke a sense of peace and harmony in people.

On the road to the mercado we passed by a few Dominican impoverished areas which made us really think about the blessings we have and how other Dominicans live. We had a discussion on how they can dispose of their trash and how their lifestyles differ from our own.

Our second stop was to the Mercado in Santo Domingo. Here, we got to purchase souvenirs and practice our Spanish as we had to “regatear” for some good prices. The hardest part was fighting the relentless merchants in their quest for business. However, many of us left with some great souvenirs for our family, friends, and of course a little something for ourselves!

Our third stop was to Juan Dolio Beach. We ate lunch at a restaurant located on the Sea Shore and headed to the Beach. The water was very warm, crystal clear and shallow. It was amazing. We did activities from Jarel just sitting on the side and relaxing, to Sydney and Alanis riding horses on the shoreline, and Sam, Isaak, and Ashi rummaging through the water to find sea creatures; including our favorite, the Jelly!

Amidst the fun, one of the students stepped on a Sea Urchin. We worked hard to try to get the spikes out but, they just wouldn’t budge. We decided to take him to one of the Medical Clinics and the spikes were removed. He’s fine now and even wanted to go swimming later that night, so he was definitely up and on his feet for the next adventure.

Our final stop for the day was to the Quisqueya Stadium to watch the LIDOM (Dominican Professional Baseball League) Semifinals. The Toros del Este took on the Leones del Escogido. In the end, the Toros crushed the Leones, 6-0. The Stadium was very empty, which enhanced our experience further. We were able to talk first hand with the players, got autographs, and authentically used Game Balls. The memories from this game will stick with us for years to come.

It was a very busy day, and even though we didn’t do a lot of touring we were able to see and experience a lot of the culture in the Dominican, and no only that, but we were able to bond more as a group and really enjoy our trip together. Tomorrow will be even busier, as we have to pack up and check out of the hotel by 7:15, and travel across the country to Santiago de Los Caballeros. #Illinoisabroad #Acesabroad #Dr2016

-Abrielle Joseph (Freshman)

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