Precious Cargo: Episode 3

Posted by Gabriela on 21st Mar 2018

Ah, the motherland, Costa Rica…or maybe more accurately, my mother’s land! I was #blessed to have been born to a Costa Rican mother, who I love so dearly and visit often. There are many reasons to visit Costa Rica—the first one being that Carelle is sold at Joyeria Muller, which is historically the best jewelry store in the entire country, and one of the best in the world. Be sure to visit their location in the Multiplaza Escazu to see the latest Carelle collections.

Costa Rica is so beautiful and chill that it has its own motto: pura vida, which translates to pure life. It’s a magical place where everyone still cares about one another. Costa Rica is known for standing firmly behind education, health and the environment. The country has been running on exclusively renewable resources such as hydro, wind, solar and geothermal power as it positions itself to become totally carbon neutral by 2021. The country’s greatest asset is its virgin rainforests and beaches, which are home to 5% of the earth’s entire biodiversity. A decade from now many of the earth’s beautiful animals and flora will be unable to flourish due to climate change and pollution, so I’m trying to see as much as possible with my own eyes before it disappears.

I fly into San Jose where my mom is waiting for me with a big smile on her face. We get home and she has my favorite snack ready for me: the elusive and exclusive pejibaye. Wikipedia says it’s called a peach-palm and has been in the Costa Rican diet for centuries. The pejibaye fruit is prepared by boiling it in brine for at least 5 hours. Once the skin has been peeled and the spiny pit removed, it tastes like a delicious mixture between a chestnut and a sweet potato. My favorite place to get pejibaye is from the window of a vendor’s home in a not-so-good neighborhood of San Jose. He always remembers me and gives me an extra one because I come all the way from NYC just to see him.

I’ve made a very loose itinerary with my mom, Maria. We are headed to Puerto Viejo on the Atlantic coast, in Limon province, and then to Isla Bastimentos in Bocas del Toro, Panama. My mom is spontaneous, completely fearless, whip smart, utterly hilarious, and as agile as a squirrel, so she’s a great travel buddy.

Puerto Viejo is located on the southeast Carribean coast of Costa Rica. We drive through a rainforest, up and down through mountains and valleys until we get to the beach. We rent a cabin in Playa Negra, which is famous for its black sand beach. We arrive in the early afternoon and take a stroll along the beautiful and mostly empty beach. We pick up any plastic we see along our stroll, since I’m inspired by the #5minutebeachcleanup started by Costa Rican environmentalist, Carolina Sevilla. The #5minutebeachcleanup initiative encourages the Instagram community to take 5 minutes to clean up beach waste and be a hero. Annually 8 million tons of plastics are dumped into the world’s oceans. These plastics threaten marine life directly and ultimately humans are affected by the plastics in the seafood that we eat. Let’s clean up the oceans so we can continue to enjoy plastic-free lobster rolls and experience the magic of swimming amongst healthy and happy fish. It feels really good to make a difference—take five, clean up the beach, use the hashtag, post your pic and spread the word!

I’m proud to say that Carelle upholds the highest standards of social and environmental responsibility. As a company, we care a lot about the environment and our production decisions are governed by our passion. We exclusively use upcycled gold to prevent the proliferation of toxic air, soil and water pollution produced in gold mining. We procure all of our diamonds and gemstones from verified conflict-free site-holders to ensure that our ethical standards are upheld. We manufacture our jewelry in New York City, free from illegal or harmful working conditions. We pride ourselves for being part of the Responsible Jewelers Council, Women’s Jewelry Association, Kimberley Process, Jewelers Board of Trade, American Gem Society, Jewelers of America, Jewelers Vigilance Committee, and Made in NYC. We vet all of our business partners to ensure compliance to our standards as we strive to be arbiters of responsibility in our industry.

After an amazing day at the beach, listening to old Caribbean music and drinking Imperial, we prepare ourselves for an early morning. We are so excited because we have booked a visit to see some cute animals! We visit the Jaguar Rescue Center Foundation, a non-profit rehabilitation center that helps animals requiring medical assistance or care with the goal of reintroducing them back into the wild in good health. If you find any injured animal, call the JRC immediately. The most common animal at the rescue center is the lovable, adorable three-toed sloth. El perezoso, the Spanish name for sloth, translates to English as “the lazy one”, which makes me immediately think of Prince, The Purple One.

In spite of their name, three-toed sloths can move quickly and can act viciously in the face of danger. I was surprised to learn that the most common injury to sloths in Costa Rica is electrocution due to contact with power lines. Sloths spend 85% of their lives hanging upside down so they have very little muscle mass and their fur grows away from their bodies and is full of algae. The algae provide the sloths with camouflage and it also serves as a snack, which the laziest of the lazy ones will eat when they don’t feel like grabbing a leaf. Sloths have good manners and come down from the tree once a week to dig a hole to do their bathroom business. Sloths are generally solitary creatures and tend to have symbiotic relationships with their favorite trees. In exchange for fruits and leaves, the sloth plants the seeds and fertilizes the tree. They can also hold their breath for up to 40 minutes underwater and they can swim quite well. Say what?! I’m shocked too!

The baby monkeys were probably the most adorable because they made the cutest giggling sounds. The monkeys at JRC were either orphaned or injured babies or adults rescued from homes. The JRC strongly stressed that monkeys are NOT pets and need to live their best lives in the wild. The rescued former pets had frequent infections and often exhibited disturbing and threatening behavior. Since the goal of the rescue center is to rescue and release, we saw some of the monkey patients in the trees. These monkeys were free to leave once they felt they were independent enough, but still able to swing by for a snack. Some of the animals were too domesticated to fend for themselves in the wild, like Chanchita, the javelina pig. She was running around the place like she owned it. We saw a lot of other rescued animals including an ocelot, a margay jungle cat, cayman, deer, baby hummingbirds, birds of prey, and a scary baby ultimate pit viper aka the fer de lance.

The biggest take-away from my visit to JRC was that you should never smile at a monkey. You read correctly. Never do it. The bearing of the teeth is a symbol of aggression and monkeys are not cute and cuddly. They are wild animals with razor sharp teeth. Never smile at a monkey. Now you know.

The following day we will be heading down to Bocas del Toro province in Panama. We ask around and we hear the same thing from everyone: it’s pretty easy to get there, just take the local bus and then a taxi. Costa Ricans are pretty famous for their chill attitudes and terrible directions. I’m suspicious. It’s pretty easy…hmm…