Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Post Trip Impressions

Well, Costa Rica was definitely not what I had originally expected. Though it did rain at times, it did not rain every day and when it did it wasn't as much as I expected. There was one night where it stormed really bad but that was it. It was also not nearly as humid as I expected it to be. It was the same as home. The only real difference was when we were in Tamarindo, it was more of a dry heat that started very early in the morning and lasted until dark. I can say it was as beautiful if not more than I expected. I especially loved when we were in Monteverde! The hikes we took through the forests were amazing and beautiful. I loved all the trees and scenery that we saw. There were many more mountains in Costa Rica than I expected, but I'm not complaining, it was all such a beautiful sight.

As far as the business aspects go, they were also different than I expected. We visited and heard from more cultural type businesses and owners than "city" type businesses. I had no problem with this at all. The few big businesses we visited and heard from were interesting and had great speakers, but seeing the hands on work that took place on the farms and plantations gave such a better understanding of exactly how sustainable the country of Costa Rica really is. Especially when we visited the coffee and sugar cane farms. These owners make a living out of preparing these crops and they spread over so many acres of land. When it's harvesting time they have help from friends and family and then in return they provide them with the sugar from the cane. Everyone shares with one another and the fact that they work so hard every day to make sure these crops are maintained properly also helps to keep their amazing food so fresh. All of the food we ate was amazing and it literally tasted fresh every time. The coffee was the best I have ever had, and this is coming from a person that drinks it on a daily basis!

Overall, I have a much greater appreciation for the people of Costa Rica. Not only do they strive to keep their country beautiful, but they also do a great job of fulfilling their goal to maintain sustainability. One of my favorite things I saw was that majority of their fences are made from trees that are already in place or they cut up trees that have already fallen. I loved seeing these fences all over. By harvesting so much of their daily food and maintaining the beautiful land, they help not only the environment, but each other. They don't cut down the forests to make space for new companies and houses. Instead they incorporate these things into their homes and businesses. I even saw a restaurant that had a tree growing through the middle of it and you could clearly tell the tree was there before the restaurant. The way that they protect their environment and help each other, Costa Rica is going to be around for a very long time and I can't wait to go back one day!

Friday, May 19, 2017

5/19 Businesses with local culture

The two individuals we listened to today explained what they do the keep the culture in the country. Three businesses/organizations in Louisiana that also try to keep the culture alive are McIlhenny Co. (Avery Island/Tabasco), Louisiana Trust for Historic Preservation, and Vermilionville. Each of these has their own ways of keeping the culture alive as well as contributing to our state economy.
Mcailhenny Co. is the producer and distributor of Tabasco hot sauce. This relates to our culture because we like our food spicy. Even though most cajuns cook with enough seasoning, some people still like to add hot sauce to their food. One of the most popular brands in our state and even many other locations is Tabasco. Almost every restaurant has them located on their tables. One of the best things about this company is people are allowed to visit the factory and see and learn how it is prepared. This helps the economy by keeping tourism local in the state and because it is such a popular brand and is distributed right here in the state.
Louisiana Trust for Historic Preservation is a nonprofit organization that strives to protect historic and cultural buildings in the state. Their mission is "The Louisiana Trust for Historic Preservation promotes tbe preservation of the historical resources and heritage of Louisiana." As an organization they have frequent meetings as well as an annual conference to discuss and maintain the buildings needing preservation. They do their best to prevent historic buildings from being demolished. Their meetings even take place in a different city each meeting. They provide and statewide effort to protect all buildings throught the entire state. This organization also helps the economy because they give tourism options in different cities. Most of the popular bigger cities have options for their downtown districts to have tours and these mostly consist of historic and culutral buildings. In Lafayette, if a building has been considered historic they usually have a plate on the outside stating this.
Vermilionville is a living history museum and folklife park that promotes cultural resources of the Acadian, Native American, and Creole people. Visitors can tour the restored original homes on the property and see demonstrations from local artisans. They frequently have cajun bands and different events all related to Louisiana culture. As with the other two, they bring in tourism as a way to help the economy. Tourism is a big promotion in Louisiana. So many I have heard the radio ad to be a tourist in your own state. This not only helps our economy, but also educates the people of the culture of the state.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

5/18 Pineapple Exports

Costa Rica's country brand of Essential Costa Rica has a mission that states that Costa Rica is a place where nature surrounds you, where happy and educated people choose to live in peace, where quality products are made and shared, and talent, innovation, and dreams abound. Pineapple is considered one of Costa Rica's largest agricultural exports. This export also follows the mission of their country brand. The plantation that we toured today showed us a whole new side of pineapples that we never even had considered. I know I myself always just assumed the pineapples were grown, harvested, and shipped to the stores. There is a much bigger process though. The pineapple farms are so big, covering many hectares of land, following the mission of being surrounded by nature. Not only are the plants beautiful, but nothing has to be destroyed to plant the harvest. The workers in the plant seemed very educated about the proper procedures and processes that need to be followed in order to determine which pineapples were ready and which were not. They ensure they are sending quality products by inspecting each fruit. Since one person can not check every single fruit because a truck of five thousand are delivered at one time, they used a system and whole conveyors length of workers to sort and cut the tops of the fruits. They even have employees to inspect the ones considered rejects to determine if they can be used for other items such as concentrate. By following all of these processes they ensure that only the best fruits make it to packaging to be exported to other countries. This is the mission of Essential Costa Rica.

The whole process also follows the country's goal of maintaining sustainability. We learned today that one farm can be harvested twice in a year and each plant produces two pineapples. This is very sustainable because it's less space that needs to be used. We also learned that they do not use machinery to harvest the plants, all plantations are harvested by workers. This helps to prevent damage to the land and trees and well and prevents any machine fumes being dispensed into the air. All processes are completed in one factory, they don't have to transport the fruits around. As the fruit is taken off the truck it is then inspected and clean and then employees put them directly into their packaging boxes. They are then placed on pallettes and placed in a cooler until they are ready to be shipped. The factory even has their own boxes that they prepare as well as all the lables needed. By having these efficient workers, it helps to maintain good product quality as well as sustainable practices.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

5/17 Free Zones

The free zone in Costa Rica does a great job of helping the country's goals of promoting sustainable development. First off, if a company is included in a free zone, they are most likely an international company having offices in different countries. A company must also meet a set of requirements to be included in a free trade zone. A couple of these requirements include a minimum export level, minimum employment level, and minimum required investment. These requirements vary depending on which law the company falls under. Though each company may have different practices, they usually share common long run goals. One of Costa Rica's top goals is to achieve sustainable development. The two companies we toured today, vmware and Thomson Reuters, both have their own practices that help with the country's goals of achieving sustainability.

One way that the free zone help with the sustainability is that majority of the companies included in the zone are located in one central area. They are not spread out around the city taking up different spaces with the buildings and parking lots. Thomson Reuter for example, has buses that pick up and drop off their employees at set locations so they don't have to drive their own vehicles. This greatly helps the environment by keeping many cars off the roads causing less gas fumes. It helps the employees as well since this is less gas they have to use. The first zone we went to where vmware was located had a big common area out in the middle of many of the buildings. This was a great area because it was full of grass, trees, and other places for employees to sit while on breaks. There was even music playing. This is such an enjoyable, calm environment that was very natural as well. Instead of cutting down the small trees and replacing the grassy areas with cement, they left it as it was. When the free zones were made, they used as little damage to the land as possible to make a sustainable impact.

Not only do the companies in these zones help to take care of the country's environment, they also genuinely want to take care of their employees. At both companies they had workout facilities for the employees to have access to as well as many comfortable looking break areas as well as large kitchen and snack facilites. Thomson Reuter allows it's recent mothers as much time as they need for maternity leave. Most jobs in the United States would not allow this. They allow the minimum needed which is usually six weeks then they expect the mother's back at work. At vmware, they had a process asking employees how they wanted to change the world and made a video bringing these ideas to the President of the company. Employees at both companies truly feel appreciated and this business practice can not only help the company but can help the country as well by having succeeding businesses that let people know that Costa Rica is doing something right.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

5/16 Country Brands

Up until today I have seen many country brands, but I never knew what they were. Our speaker today, Patricia Gurdian, did a great job of explaining Costa Rica's country brand, Essential Costa Rica, and it's importance to the country. Their brand was made as a tool to help boost their exports, attract more investment, and promote the tourism. These are important reasons to have a country brand, but it is also important when it comes to trade agreements. A trade agreement can't just be made, it's a negotiation that is agreed upon by two or more parties. Negotiations usually take some time until a final agreement is made, it's not a one day task. If a country has it's own brand, this could prolong negotiations even more. The positive aspect of a trade agreement being negotiated to include the country brand is it can help to meet their goals of exports, investments, and tourism. Their country brand is what promotes the country itself. When negotiating trade it would help the country if their trade partners agree to use their brand to promote the country as well. If the consumers in the trade country enjoy the product they will have a higher demand for it. This could even go as far to help the tourism industry for Costa Rica. All in all, negotiating a trade agreement could greatly help to promote the country brand of Essential Costa Rica.

If I were to develop a state brand for Louisiana, it would be "Learn, Love, Live Louisiana". I would choose this name because each word has it's own truth and meaning for our state. I was born and raised in Louisiana and I can honestly say I love our state. But, a person not from here may pass judgement based on bias, this is where Learn comes in. People that have never been to Louisiana can sometimes have their own opinion of us. Louisiana is known for a couple of it's television shows such as Duck Dynasty and Swamp People. Sadly some think these examples are how all people from Louisiana are and this is simply not true. Other people may have seen pictures of New Orleans and Bourbon Street and consider us to just always want to party and celebrate Mardi Gras which is not true of everyone as well. The first thing outsiders have to do is Learn about Louisiana and our actual culture. The best part of our state is we don't have one set culture. Depending on what part of the state you're in, you can have a different experience in just about every city. With each experience may come a different background. The best part of experiencing Louisiana is that you learn about it at the same time. You almost have to learn about our culture in order to fully love it. While learning about Louisiana, you begin to fall in love with it. This is what brings in the Love part of the brand. Many people that I have talked to in my life that were not originally born and raised here and were either just visiting or had moved here have fallen in love with it. The best part of the people that love our state very much, there is a great chance they may visit more or possibly even move here, bringing the last part of Live. I could honestly go on for a long time about the reasons I love our state, but I would just keep going on and thinking of more reasons. I have been a tourist in pur state and have traveled to and stayed in many different areas and have loved them all. I think the country brand Learn, Love, Live Louisiana is perfect for our state.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

5/14 Le Bella Tica & Monteverde

Well, today was the first full day of adventure and I must say it was full of fun. After a nice, bumpy ride on the bus we arrived at the UGA CR campus. We got to experience our first real Costa Rican meal which consists of rice and beans, but never mixed together, and then some kind of meat. It was pretty good and of course I mixed my rice and beans. Then came our first business visits. Today we toured Le Bella Tica Coffee and Monteverde Natural Cosmetics. Both companies follow Costa Ricas goal of sustainability. They make their products themselves and use all natural products. Coffee of course would be already considered to be all natural, but here it is more personal. The coffee farms are grown and the beans are hand picked by the farm owners, sometimes with help from friends and family. Unlike in the USA where coffee if prepared and packaged most likely by machines, in Costa Rica the coffee is prepared by individuals. Though they do use a couple machines to help with the depulping and other preparations, most of the process is still done by the locals. Preparing coffee is a personal process here. The same goes for Monteverde Natural Cosmetics. The owners of this company not only make the products themselves, but they make all of their products in their own backyard. All of their products are completely natural. They use natural oils and waxes in their products, and some products even contain actual coffee grounds. Both of these businesses can be considered sustainable. By locally preparing their products and using natural ingredients they don't do anything to harm the environment. However, they do have some different business approaches. The main one thing that I noticed is that Monteverde Natural Cosmetics wants to expand their product lines and are even trying to expand their market by now selling their products on amazon. Le Bella Tica Coffee is the complete opposite. Le Bella only makes 3 different coffees and they only sell from the actual business location. They do not seem to have the desire to expand while Monteverde is looking for many opportunities to expand. I believe a big part of this is that the coffee is a much, much more time consuming process while the cosmetics require much less work. Though the soaps do have to sit for months at a time to fully harden, it only takes them about half an hour to prepare a batch and they could make them back to back. Coffee is not something that can be rushed though. It has to grow and be prepared properly. I must say though, I hope they never changed their local personal ways because the coffee here is simply amazing!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Arriving in Costa Rica

Well today was an adventure! Started out flying out of Lafayette at 5:30 am on the smallest plane I've ever been on, but the flight was fast and not as bad as I expected. Of course we then had to make our way across the entire Houston airport to get to our next terminal, but not without stopping for breakfast first which was very good! Then we had the fun of our next flight being delayed by almost an hour. But we finally managed to get going, I've gotta say, I was not a fan of the long flight. I got way too restless. Then the best fun of all after we landed... the 2 hours it took to get through customs! Oh. My. Goodness. It was ridiculous! But after what felt like forever, we finally got out of the airport and into actual Costa Rica :) after a short drive we finally arrived at our hotel and then the real fun began! Of course nothing bad lol but just some nice, fun socialising that was well deserved after a long 12 hour day of travel!