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Sustainability on Isla Chira: Global Navigating through Costa Rica

Remember in The Arrival when the aliens arrived on Earth? That's basically what happened next for the Navigators, except this time they were the aliens, and instead of landing on Earth, they were landing on Isla Chira! They had come, much like the aliens in The Arrival, to learn about the sustainability practices of the small island community. I'm pretty sure that's what the movie was about, right? Well, like any good aliens, the Navigators now prepared themselves to closely observe this new land and soak up all the knowledge it had to offer.


Captain Chloe charts the course to Isla Chira. 


She's a humble captain, but a good one.

For their first full day on Isla Chira, the Navigators set off to explore the mangrove habitats which play such an important role in the island ecosystem. In their shady classroom, the Navigators learned how the mangroves served as a nursery for vital sea species, as a buffer against storms and tsunamis, and as a filtration system for the water itself. Now that they knew how important this ecosystem was, they teamed up and began investigating the habitat for themselves, to see how many different species they could find within the maze of roots and water.


 Instructor Gisella shows how mangroves are more than just funny-looking trees.


The race for species is on! Juliet has her eye on some slippery water creature.


 Even Program Leaders get wet sometimes... you think I had a choice??


Angelique had the real job-- translating "brown scary spider!" into an actual species. 


You know what they say... once you've crawled around the mangroves together, you're friends for life. 


 Chris found his natural habitat in the mangroves. He was more at home here than on dry land.

Now that the Navigators had a greater understanding of and appreciation for the mangrove habitats of Isla Chira, they decided to contribute to the reforestation efforts of the island. They teamed up with a local women's project to help rehabilitate the fragile ecosystem. When the Navigators heard they were planting mangroves, they quickly decided that it was a competition.


Who knew you could be so photogenic while filling bags with mud? 


It's too bad that professional shoveler isn't a career, cuz Aiden would be great at it. I mean he's great at lots of things, but really that shoveling was outstanding. 


Nathan was one of the first to carry two bags at a time. He paid a muddy price for it.


 This is what hard work looks like.


These little baby mangroves sure are lucky to have such good mamas.

Family portrait.


 Angela looks like she was born and raised in the mangroves.

The next day, the Navigators set off to learn more about the island community through a visit with the local women artisans. Here, they crafted unique bracelets from island seeds, and carved beautiful pictures on Jicaro fruits. If you're lucky enough to get a souvenir from one of these kids, maybe it could be one of these creations!

Corey and Juliet work on their Jicaros while Corey makes a Corey face.


 Naija and Elizabeth will probably go back home to be expert jewelry makers.

Naija finished making her bracelet, and let out a victorious yell. Victory.


 Katie carved her Jicaro so fast that she looked like a hummingbird.

All pumped up from their craft time, the Navigators decided that they wanted to learn even more about life on the island. To accomplish this, they met up with a women's clamming program to learn about their methods of sustainability, before getting back in the mud to try their hands at the task themselves. 


 Terra, David, Mene, and Clamden look for some clams.


I've clammed in some less beautiful places. 


A few of the clammers got a little distracted by the nice and squishy mud

"So," the Navigators said, "now that we know about mangroves and clamming, isn't it time to learn about the main source of income for Chira's inhabitants? Isn't it time to learn about fishing?" Their instructors replied, "Well yes, Navigators, if you look at your itineraries, that's exactly what it's time for." After interviewing a member of the local fishing co-op, the Navigators took to the water themselves to try their hands at this profession.IMG_6793

Sunny skies called for umbrellas, which also served as surprise sails for the boats. 


 The Navigators took a break for some swimming; they wanted to meet the fish before they caught them.


This was actually pretty darn impressive to watch. 


The Navigators try sustainable fishing like they do it on Chira-- one fish at a time, with a hand-line.


 Taylor caught this little fish. But don't worry, she didn't eat him-- all fish were released safely back to their homes.


Tyler caught a fish THIS big!!! 


Chris the Master Fisher decided that he'd catch a little something too. 

 After lunch, the Navigators decided that there was one aspect of the island they still hadn't seen-- its youth. So they struck off down the road to a local elementary school, armed with some U.S. children's songs they hoped to teach the youngsters, in exchange for some Costa Rican tunes.


Chloe, Taylor, Chris, Aiden, and Angela are hard at work as music teachers.


 Whether we speak Spanish or English, we all clap the same.

But that wasn't enough! Now that the Navigators had made all these new and awesome friends, they weren't ready to give them up. So before they said goodbye, they agreed to meet up later that evening for a friendly game of futbol...


 The Navigators were moving so quickly that all you could see were blurs.


 Coach Chris kept running onto the field to encourage his players, so we built him this Coach's Box to stay in.


 Coach Chris gives a red card to a dog who wandered onto the field.


It doesn't matter if you win or lose; it's how sweaty you get. 

Unfortunately, this all-star soccer match also marked the end of their time on Chira-- in the morning the Navigators loaded the boats and struck off for Guayabo. Here, they would embark upon the Sustainable Energy portion of their course, learning about wind, solar, geothermal, and hydro power produced in the region, and weighing each of these practices for their pros and cons. Maybe they'd even take with them a few ideas for back home... Tune in soon to find out!!!


They were the champions.

More soon,


Words by Kyle Ritland

Photos by Trevor Ritland