Costa Rica means rich coast. After Christopher Columbus bumped into Costa Rica,
he saw the gold hanging around the necks of the Indigenous people and coveted
it for his own fortune.

Although the Spanish Empire never found the gold it had hoped to unearth,’rich
coast’ has developed into a whole new meaning in Costa Rica.

Two coastlines – one on the Caribbean Sea and one on the Pacific – means there
are beaches. And where there are beaches, there is water; and where there is lots
of water, the ships come in.

The port city of Limon and Puntarenas each erected piers to attract cruise ships.
In addition, Puntarenas also opened the Parque Marino del Pacifico, a biologically
diverse project dedicated to the preservation of Costa Rica¦s marine biology while
incorporating ways to increase ecological tourism and boost the natural economic
opportunities within the community.

Unusual happenings often float, fly, or erupt in Costa Rica. For example, active
volcanoes spit, stew and steam live performances every day.

Astrological viewing is incredible here, even just a few miles away from the
city. Mars, the closest it had been in 60,000 years, was a sight to see on top
of one of those bubbly volcanoes or a nearby mountain.

The local news stations in Costa Rica were all ‘a-buzz’ of the incredible ship,
MV LOGOS II, in Puntarenas. A ship that carries books around the world was worth
a beautiful two-hour drive from San Jose.

The ship moored on August 6, 2003 and according to its posted schedule, will
set sail for Guayaquil, Ecuador on September 8th and then sail on to Arica, Chile.

What is a former ferry ship from Morocco – big enough to carry 600 passengers
– doing in Costa Rica? The MV LOGOS II is bringing books to the world along with
other community development projects.The combination is odd enough that people
at every port flock to see not only the books, but the ship on a mission.

MV LOGOS II was purchased by Educational Exhibits, LTD., about 15 years ago.
Since the champagne christened the refurbished ship, almost 7 million people have
visited it in 43 countries.

Educational Exhibits, LTD. is a private, non-profit organization. Their mission
is to visit port cities throughout the world, supplying vital literature resources,
encouraging inter-cultural understanding, training young people for more effective
life and service, promoting greater global awareness, providing practical aid
and sharing a message of hope in God wherever there is opportunity.

The ship just finished a tour in Nicaragua. While there, the crew helped the
community build a clay oven. The oven would not only provide food, but also it
would an economic resource for the community. While in port in Costa Rica, they
hired local youth to help work cash registers and other jobs.

Puntarenas is a sleepy little town that has suffered great economic depression.
The pier, along with other development, has helped revive the town.

The ship opened it¦s port door at 10 a.m., but a long line was formed already
by 9 a.m. Excited Costa Ricans and tourists donned hats and hovered under umbrellas
to shade from the sun while waiting in the long, orderly line for the doors to
open.The line moved efficiently. The cost was about 30 cents to get in.

On the top deck, all the eye could see was shelves, cases, and racks of books
– and people. Children’s books, religious books, cookbooks, cassette tapes, CD’s,
a few children’s toys related to education like pencil bags and notebooks were
sold.

Blue canvases draped over the top deck and kept out the cool sea breeze, a necessary
protection for the books, but a stuffy inconvenience for the patrons.

The second deck held a ‘discount’ store that held mostly education textbooks.
Little cafeterias sold coffee ice cream, coffee, even espresso, and homemade,
still warm from the oven, cookies. One woman while cooling down with a vanilla
cone said giggling it was ironic she had just bought a book about dieting.

Almost every person that left the boat toted a bag of books. The prices were
reasonable ranging from 60 cents for a coloring book to some books as high as
$10, but most ranged around the $2 or $3 range.

Just 400 meters from the pier is the new Marine Park of the Pacific. It opened
in April of 2002. The intention is to attract ecological tourism and promote scientific
research. The Marine Park of the Pacific has designs to serve as a research and
educational center in hopes of finding sources of revenue for the communities
in and around Puntarenas that work in harmony with the environment.

On entering the Aquarium and Marine Park, there is a pond housing turtles and
red carp. A tall lighthouse in the center of the pond welcomes visitors.

The project is in the first phase of development and is estimated it will cost
almost US$5 million when finished.The project is co-managed by the National
Biodiversity Institute (INBIO) a non-profit center for promotion and study of
biology and ecological diversity, the government agencies of the Environment Ministry,
the National Learning Institute, and the National University.

The Marine Park will bring tourists, and it will also bring jobs. There are hatcheries
for fish and other sea crustaceans.A recycling program is underway, not only
of cans and of plastic, but also of the discarded fish parts that have for years
polluted the shorelines. These (not so pleasant smelling) parts are cherished
by the cosmetic, pharmaceutical, and organic farming industry.

The solution reduces pollution, of land, air, and water and provides income from
already captured fish thus reducing the need for more to be taken from their habitat.

There are 28 large fish tanks and a series of educational modules in the main
building including a mother shark and her two offspring. The exhibit also highlights
the marine life of Cocos Island – a possession of Costa Rica located off the Pacific
coast and a favorite film subject by the scientist and filmmaker Jacques Cousteau.
Children and adults have the opportunity to appreciate and learn about the beauty
underwater without ever getting wet.

The price in the aquarium was $2.00 for adults and $1.25 for children 2 years
and over, (though this reporter’s two-year old was not charged.) There was also
a big wooden playground, giant colorful cutouts for fun photo-ops, and a cafeteria
where the service was a bit slow but kind and generous.

Two pelicans spent the afternoon, not as an official attraction, but hoping for
a nibble from the kitchen. The brown pelicans were adroit at making their way
into the kitchen every 10 minutes or so only to be shewed out by the cook.

On the Caribbean coast, the city of Lim+¦n is gearing up for the National Arts
Festival. The activities are boundless. Many will celebrate the Afro-Caribbean
culture of Limon. A parade kicks off the event on Friday, Sept. 19th at 4 p.m.
From that point on, the city will burst with performances and several evenings
will end in fireworks.

There will be dance performances for all ages including ones by the National
University to folk dance. Music ranges from jazz to Calypso to classical. In addition
there will be plays for children and theater for adults. The performances run
through Sept. 26, 2003.

As yet, there is no website. The phone number listed is 506-223-6361 or many
of the newspapers in Costa Rica list all the events.

Gold mines were never found, but there is gold on the shores of Costa Rica.
Instead of hanging around on a chain, it comes in books, education, fun and the
incredible life of the oceans.The national and international community is dedicating
a new generation to keeping the land and the sea as bright as when the Indigenous
people lived on unspoiled ground.

Susan Carmichael is a freelance writer living in Costa Rica. She has developed
several education curriculums for children and adults. She has also taught journalism.
Susan produced and hosted radio programs and documentaries in Costa Rica including
a short story program called “In the oment” and an hour long interview program
focused on the issues of women called “A Woman’s Voice”.





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