I have officially been in Costa Rica for a little over a month now and have been taken away by what a wonderful place it is (even though I have my moments of not liking it).
After returning from our field trip we have been staying at the Estacion Biologica - Monteverde, which I believe I told you guys about earlier.The past 2.5 weeks here have been about throwing us into full swing.Basically we are taking a whole semester/term of classes in this time…fun.A typical day begins with breakfast at 7.00 am where we cycle through cheesy discs (tortillas with cheese in the middle), scrambled eggs, granola, and French toast.There is always toast with cream cheese and jam.Other meals are not so predictable except that there is always salad and veggies with meat.Before breakfast I usually get up to try and get a warm shower and am usually successful.Sleeping here is on bunk beds with rough sheets.As in Ecuador (and I think most everywhere else in central and south America) we can't flush the TP down the toilet, which leads to a stinky room because it is all in the trash.However it doesn't lead to a clogged toilet that is good.All of the windows here are glass sheets that you open (without screens) to get a breeze, so sleeping and showering with 20 different kinds of beetles, moths, etc. is not uncommon.The other difficult thing is the sink.The hot and cold are found on the opposite sides and are opposite colors than you would think.I can't tell you how often I turn on cold water.It is bad.
Classes usually begin at 8 am with a lecture in Tropical Diversity and activities all morning, followed by lunch, a lecture in Tropical Community Ecology (or Human's in the Tropics) and Spanish class.My classes are okay, the lectures are much of a repeat and show a huge bias with the tropics, naturally, which feels funny after being at a marine lab for so long.We then return from Spanish at 6:20 when we eat and have an evening for…usually homework.In total we have had 5 papers, 6 exams, and 2 powerpoint presentations between classes, so it isn't like we don't have a lot of homework to do in the evenings.I guess this is school…right?
Classes have been punctuated with a series of events that I would like to take about: a coffee plantation for human's in the tropics day, zip lining through the rainforest, hikes around the station, field experiment days, insect diversity day, and town time.
The coffee plantation:
So, about a 1.5 weeks ago we go to this Coop coffee farm that has fair trade and organic coffee.This visit was for our Human's in the Tropics class.Because it is a Coop meaning it is a set of family farms, the actual farm at the center was a bit small, but nice.They showed us the worms they use to fertilize as well as how they turn the beans.Coffee is a good crop in Costa Rica because everything is done at the coffee farm, growing, packaging, grinding, etc. so the profits go to the place of origin, and Fair Trade allows for an even price.I know there are fair trade places in Oregon, but it was weird to be at a Fair Trade place in Costa Rica just because whenever I buy fair trade chocolate or coffee in the states it is coming from Central/South America.The guy that guided us had a good sense of humor and he had us try about 6 different types of coffee after our tour.I've noticed that the guys here are such flirts with gringas.He was giving a few of the girls flowers and asking some of them if they wanted to go out on the weekends.This seems to be pretty true with most Costa Rican men I have run into.I don't really drink coffee, but it was okay here.I find myself drinking more coffee at the Estacion though because it is REALLY good (strong, less acidic, doesn't give me heart burn or a headache).
Ziplining at SelvaTura:
Ziplining was awesome because you put on a bright yellow helmit, and strap your body in harnesses, only to be suspended and moving across the canopy on a steel wire.It was a great course because you go through the trees and over the canopy.I literally had my breath taken away.Too bad it is so loud and fast, cause I wanted to stay up there for a long time.The course at SelvaTura exists of 13 lines so you are ziplining from platform to platform for about an hour or so.The guys that worked there would zipline like monkies, making weird poses because they do it so much and they also tried to ask me questions in Spanish, which I tried very hard to answer, but many "que"'s were used?
Birding at the Monteverde Cloud Forest (very excited for this on)
It is weird because I am technically living in Monteverde, but I haven't really been to the town center very often, I usually go to Santa Elena.On this day, we drove by it in order to get to the Monteverde Cloud Forest for a birding tour.Monteverde was established by quakers so there are a lot of English speaking restaurants and stores as well as farmers markets and 'hippi' type places in the small downtown strip of Monteverde.It was weird to go birding at the Monteverde Cloud Forest Refuge because all the trails were established which felt less 'natural' compared to the trails by the Estacion.However we saw a lot of birds and a sloth in the distance and it was also a good time to be in some primary vegetation.
Field Experiment day
We had a field experiment day where we went up around the station (trails are steep and long, so good for me) to look at the frequency of a beetle parasite in a polyandrous flower.We were out all morning doing field work which was wonderful and a MUCH needed change from sitting in class all day while in a rainforest.Then we had a relaxing day of analyzing data and presenting it to the class at about 9:30.The Profs gave us wine and chocolate which was much appreciated, especially since it was creamy European milk chocolate.Yum, yum.
Insect Diversity Day
We had an insect diversity day where most people hiked for 2 hours over the hill and down to SelveTura where there is an insect museum.I, however, did not go because at this point I had a huge bug sting about 9in.4in in size and it was SWOLLEN, itchy, and painful.I instead ran errands with Alan and met them at the museum for lectures, etc.The Museum was like a freaky funeral home with bugs of all sorts arranged in artistic fashions.There were these huge Hercules beetles as well as a cultural component showing the historical usages of scarab beetles.They also had a human head from a head hunter way back when…gross.After insects we took a visit to the hummingbird garden where 20 or so beautiful hummingbirds buzzed around us.
Ficus Tree climbing
There is this awesome strangler fig tree about 5 minutes from the station and suspended over a small waterfall.I went there one night only to walk LITERALLY vertically up a steep cliff side and they climbed up the fig tree for a freaky and beautiful view in the canopy and out towards the Nicoya peninsula.I went with a few people from the station so at one point we had six people scattered throughout this tree.It was amazing, I even had bats flying around me.
Being at the station during the week is very secluded because it is so far from anything else, making it hard to get into town.It has its advantages though, like easy access for hikes we have no time to take, a howler monkey chorus in the mornings and afternoons, a beautiful view of the valley, and off course an incredible biomass of plants and animals.However, when I get time it is nice to go into town.This past weekend I was able to.On Saturday Lena and myself decided to go do laundry in town.We loaded up our backpacks with cloths and started the descent down the hill.We ate at Café mars where you wait an hour for your food, but every sandwich, soup, desert, or quesidilla is amazing.It had a great Europeaninfluence, which is common in this area.After getting into town and dropping our laundry off we spent our day in this cute café called Chunches where I like to talk with the owner about her yummy pastries (yes in Spanish).
Everyone here is so kind (ticos) and they are very willing to help, and for the most part have a lot of patience.That evening a group of us went out for sushi.It was a really small place, only able to hold a few of us and the food was delicious.
On Sunday I went into town by myself to use a phone and internet.It was nice to be on my own and get away from the people at the station.I was sort of having a bad day, because nothing seemed to be going right, so a little time by myself was necessary as well as time to reconnect with the fam and Ben.I met a very nice owner of an internet café who noticed I was upset and asked me out for hot choclate, also the taxi driver took off 500 colones of my price.
Spanish classes are freaky.I actually switched Spanish classes last week because ours was getting too big and I needed a little slower one.My new class is still conversation all the time, but my classmates are at more of my level (even though still better).I find it hard to speak because it is such a prescribed setting and I don't even talk a lot in natural English conversation, but I am still trying VERY hard to use and learn Spanish.I feel like I am getting better at adapting and listening, but I still have long ways.Yesterday we had a test where we had to talk for 30 minutes…it was messy, but wonderful to have to test myself with each new word.The teachers at Spanish class are awesome.They are all so kind and in general ticos have a great sense of humor.
So, this week has been midterms so everyone is really stressed out and we are all very glad that we are leaving for our next field trip this morning.We will be gone for another 2.5 weeks, and will definitely be ruffing it more this time than last.I've heard great things about this field trip because of where we go and because all of us have gotten really close,but I will have to inform you guys when I return….it is time to literally leave on the field trip.
I apologize for a lack of pictures recently.It is really hard to successfully upload them, so bare with me and expect them to be a bit outdated when I post them.
I love you all and hope all is going well,
p.s. I don't have time to proofread, so oops.