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My Education at EARTH University

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Life is kind of surreal at the moment. On Friday Hazel Dean (my acting alter ego) got to work on a pilot created by one of my all time favorite people ever, Michael McDonald. And yes, it took every last shred of my self control not to say, “look what I can do,” in the tone of Stuart from MadTV after each take.

Merely days before this acting dream come true I returned home from a week in Costa Rica at EARTH University, a non profit school that teaches sustainable agricultural practices and entrepreneurship. I went on behalf of GreenLAGirl (read my first post about the trip here) with a group sent by Whole Foods to experience a week as a student.

I learned a lot during my visit, most of which I will be sharing in future posts. But my real education came from witnessing people living a life radically different from mine, and I will never be the same for it. The first thing I took away from the trip is my responsibility as a consumer. When I choose cheaper bananas over fair trade or whole trade, the difference comes out of the pockets of a laborer in Latin America. After seeing the way EARTH does business, that there is a viable solution to treat workers fairly, protect the environment and still make a profit, I have to wonder how companies and banana lovers alike can justify the savings. But more on that later.

in the banana fields

Rural Costa Ricans live with very little, but according to the Happy Planet Index as of 2009 Costa Rica ranked number one, while the U.S. was near the bottom of the list at 114. This reaffirmed for me why living with less is a worthwhile pursuit. You can imagine my excitement when I found this recent post on TinyHouseBlog. I have been following TinySunHouse for awhile now and I am really excited at the prospect of teaming up and finally making my tiny house dream a reality.

Graduation with my amazing classmates and the President of EARTH

The University threw us a fantastic graduation party. There were a couple of incredibly moving speeches, including one by EARTH President Jose Zaglul in which he told us that EARTH grads are expected to enact positive change in the world, and even though our education was compressed, he still considered us real EARTH graduates.

A reggae band comprised of students played music for us including Bob Marley’s Don’t Worry, Be Happy. I’m a little bit embarrassed to admit that I had never really understood the song before. I’m an anxious person. I worry about my future, my finances, my career or lack thereof. I’m upset when things don’t go my way. Don’t worry, be happy?!? I’m very worried, and I’ll be happy after I’ve accomplished what I need to, thank you very much.

But for now, I’m on a high of eye opening, inspiring and humbling experiences. From being told by my comedy hero, “Great job young lady,” to spending time with a local farmer who had only his small farm, family and not a care in the world. There is a saying synonymous with Costa Rica. Pura Vida means life is good. And life is good.

Life is good.

Squirrel Approved Adventure!

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Me, ziplining, courtesy Benjamin G. Philabaum

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of experiencing the Navitat Canopy Tour, a four hour adventure in the trees of Wrightwood, Ca, just 75 miles out of LA. This “Squirrel approved Adventure” includes 10 zip-lines, 2 repels through tree branches, bridges, and my personal favorite, sky-stairs.

Afraid of heights? Never fear, the friendly staff fasten you safely in a harness that you wear the whole time, and your tour guides are in charge of clipping you in and out of the zips, so you pretty much just enjoy the ride! At one point I even zip-lined alongside a really pretty blue bird, we were going the same speed.

Navitat’s platforms and zips are built in harmony with nature, and the tour guides do an excellent job of explaining how they minimized the impact on the trees, allowing them to continue to grow unaffected by our exploring from their mountaintop views. Of course all I could think about was how to build a tiny house with zip only access!

Bridge in the trees by April

Tips to plan your visit:

  • Get there early, Wrightwood is a cute little town up the mountain off of the I-15, walk around a little before your tour.
  • Wear pants! One member of our group didn’t, and it gets cold up there.
  • Keep your eyes open for the San Andreas fault line, you cross it on the way up!
  • Hydrate ahead of time, but know there are no bathroom breaks once you get started. Small water cups are provided twice along the tour, but you will still be thirsty.
  • Check out the Yodeler for some drinks and pizza after, it won’t disappoint!

Navitat also provides tours in Asheville, NC and they are possibly coming to a forest near you, with plans to open a new location each year for the next ten years. Learn more at Navitat.

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