Saturday, January 10, 2015

The family business: producing salt and shrimp

Even though my host family live up in the mountains in the capital San Jose, their business is 2 hours away along the Pacific coast.  A few days after I arrived in the country, we took an overnight trip to check on their business and stay at their second home which sits next to their salt-production factory near the gulf of Nicoya.  

Because many of the roads are rough, and they need a high-clearance vehicle on the dirt roads around their salt-production ponds, we made the trip in their very comfortable Range Rover.

After passing beautiful countryside:

we stopped at a place near the sea to clean up 2-year-old Santiago, who had become car sick and thrown up in the car.

Their beautiful second home is near a river named after the little crocodiles that live near there.

As I was walking along this path from their home to their factory, I was surprised to see one of the little crocodiles sunning itself on a wooden pallet that was floating in a holding pond.  Not sure if it was just a big stick, I stared at it until it got tired of being the center of attention and slipped into the water.

Papa Luis showed Santi and me the forklift and tractors they use to move the bags of salt, and then Luis and I had to work very hard to persuade little Santi to climb down off the equipment.

Santi and I taste-tested the salt.  Yum.

Then Luis took us on a drive around the shallow ponds where the salt is produced.

He uses a tractor to pump the sea water into the shallow ponds, and then it uses a gravity flow system to move along several different ponds until the water eventually evaporates, leaving the salt.  Here he is chatting with an employee who keeps things running.

Seeing the way he slowly drove around the ponds, looking over them for problems, reminded me of the way my Dad used to drive through our barley fields. Once you've done all you can, the rest is out of your hands.  You often find yourself at the mercy of the weather or other forces.  Luis is able to produce salt only during the dry season (roughly December to June, I think).  So he also has another business as a shrimp farmer, growing them in big tanks, I believe (I wasn't able to see that process, since you can't grow shrimp in December and January because the variability of the weather causes the shrimp to die).

This part of Costa Rica is very hot (as it needs to be to evaporate the water for salt), and so I especially appreciated that my host mom (Mariu) gave me some of her light capris to wear.

After a long, hot day, we enjoyed swimming in the pool at their beautiful second home, and I felt really grateful to have such an awesome host family who gives me amazing experiences like this.

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