Reasons Why I’m Ashamed I Owned Rain Boots in the States

  1. There are streets and sidewalks there. Not half cleared trails that are semi overgrown with ferns and plants that people have named the “hurty” plant and the “itchy” plant and “malamujere.”
  2. My ankles are typically not in danger of being a snake snack. Even though I haven’t seen them doesn’t mean they aren’t there….
  3. Puddles are usually only a couple inches deep.  Not sucking mud that seems like it wants to eat you whole.
  4. Better drainage systems. As in slipping down a hill covered in slick mud into a very dirty-looking swamp river is not an issue. Good news though, I have mastered the art of mud surfing…almost.
  5. I want to jump in puddle and feel the rain soak into my shoes. Instead I almost fall out of sheer clutziness due to lack of ankle mobility.
  6. They look way better when worn with trail pants that go up to your belly button, a long sleeved shirt tucked in, a rain jacket worn only over your head with the rest tucked between your back and you backpack (to keep the mosquitoes away from my neck), and my glasses attached to some croakies. I make a pretty sexy adventure librarian. Unfortunately there was no camera around to capture this.

 

While I know there are locations in the US where all of these things probably happen, those are places I don’t visit frequently. At this point I completely accept that rainboots should only be used in the most functional sense. Thinking about how rain boots are a fashion statement rather than a functional wardrobe item had me wondering why I ever bought them in the first place. Moving from SoCal to NorCal isn’t exactly a HUGE difference, even though it seemed so when I had just graduated from high school (welp, that just made me feel old).

 

Now that I have gotten the shame out of the way, the last couple days have been quite awesome. I have gotten a tour of the small town a Primavera where I am staying, and rode on the bus to the slightly larger town of Cariari (yeah, I’ve been spelling it wrong…woops), where there are larger grocery stores for people to do their weekly shopping. It’s a small, slightly claustrophobic town with bakeries on and sodas (small Costa Rican restaurants) everywhere, the line between the sidewalks and the streets is barely visible because they have been deteriorating for quite some time.  It was a nice outing, we got some lunch, did some snack shopping, got some ice cream, and 2 and a half hours later got back on the bus.

So that was supposed to be it, but now that I have walked the half a mile to the Internet shack, a small room with an Ethernet cable, it has started raining like a monsoon.  So I am semi-stranded because I forgot my raincoat and am pretty sure that getting my computer wet is not in my best interests…

In other news, a group of capuchin monkeys moved through the trees in front of the house I’m staying at. I could see them from the sitting-room window. Once again I feel like someone needs to pinch me because I was almost unbelievably excited and sprinting around to get my camera and then once I got my camera the battery was dead so I had to go get the second batter and hope the capuchins weren’t in any hurry so I could capture them on film, and by film I mean memory card. I finally get the camera and do my tourist thing and am standing outside taking pictures when I feel about 4 more mosquitoes land on and bite me. I would definitely say it was worth it. And now I understand why the dining and sitting rooms of the house have screen windows on all sides. No like I hadn’t noticed the mosquitoes before, but they are very sneaky.

The site is in the small town of Primavera, it’s fairly rural and is bordered by banana and pineapple plantations.  Bordered is kind of a lose term though because there are places where it seems like the town got in the way of the plantation and not the other way around.  These plantations also seem to dominate a lot of the life here, with a majority of the men working long days in the fields, being exposed to pesticides that then leak into the rivers going through the station, apparently people have seen frogs with an extra leg. The conditions are not ideal but there are rarely any other places to work in such a small town and Cariari is an hour away which is a 2 hour round trip commute that could be spent working.

Also, apparently sloths are everywhere in the forest around here but no one ever sees them because they basically never move, one girl saw one come down a tree to poop once and that was it.

Therefore, my free time will now be known as Sloth Watch 2013.

The Alarm is Set for 4:15 AM

I’m sorry…what?

Not like I haven’t been up that early before, I woke up at 3:30 to run Big Sur Marathon and had no problem.  There’s just always the initial shock to hearing that.  Then again, I was so tired that I went to bed a little before 9 (it gets dark here early, ok?).

The La Suerte Biological Field Station houses field schools and groups of students looking to study primates, environment, forest preservation, etc.  I am here with 3 other girls working on studying capuchins, but I will be doing a study on human health and cultural influences in the small town the field site is located. I have a more flexible schedule and am still reading up on articles and whatnot so I’m tagging along with the girls and the other primatology field school for now.

Back to this 4:15 nonsense though.  There are 3 types on monkeys in this area of forest: howlers, capuchins, and spider monkey. In order to study the monkeys…you have to find them. And so begins the most serious game of hide and seek you will ever find yourself involved in.

We ate early breakfast at 4:30, with the musical stylings of mother nature pouring rain outside, then everyone put on whatever rain gear they had, and some headlamps, and we were off!

2 hours of searching, a river crossing, some boot-sucking mud action, and other wildlife sightings later and we had nothing.

So by 7 AM most people were done for the day. Hammock nap? Ok.

In quick list form…other exciting events before I must disconnect:

1. I saw howlers in the wild! I basically feel like I am in the middle of a rainforest special on the Discovery Channel or something, it’s insane. I also figured out that howlers “howl” in two ways, with their voices and their stench, you hardly need to hear them because you can smell them before anything.

2. I have seen about 30 small poison dart frogs already.  And if I didn’t know that bright=no touchy in the forest I probably would have tried to hold one. Until I looked in a field guide and saw that the bright green and black frog’s poison is enough to kill 8 humans.

The forest means business y’all.

3. A caterpillar got stuck to my pants. This is not exciting. Round 2: The caterpillar that was stuck to my pants brushed up against my leg, resulting in a burning sensation.  I have yet to figure exactly why this happened. Did this caterpillar have a beef with me?

4. I went running with 2 other girls in the rain today. And the humidity. But I was too busy geeking out about HEY, I’M RUNNING IN COSTA RICA to focus on that.

5. My rice and beans and coffee consumption have skyrocketed. I can’t get enough and they are served at every. single. meal.

Seriously, the coffee is available all the time. Just when I thought I was weaning myself off of the caffeine I’m right back in the throws of it’s wonderful powers of alertness.

The 5 Minute Update

Hokay. So. Here is ze deal.

I’m leaving in 5 minutes to go on a 2.5 hour drive to the field site in La Suerte, Primavera. But I haven’t said anything about the trip here. (technically I didn’t finish…so this post is uber late already, my apologies)

So here we go:

Drank champagne in first class. Then was offered dinner. Declined at first because of the whole airplane food but then realized…hey, I’m in first class and that never happens.  So vegetable gnocchi and cheesecake it was. I was honestly surprised, airplane food tasted delicious for once!

Land in San, Jose, Costa Rica.  Navigate our way to a taxi (trusting that the airport service workers wearing white polos would suffice) to hotel Don Carlos, where I have been staying since then.  The hotel is pretty sweet, a nice little eco place where they remind you to conserve energy and water and have recycling bins all over.  I grabbed some food from the wonderful breakfast buffet, took it up to the room, and set it one the table to eat later while I passed out.

Costa Rica is way different than El Salvador.  It’s not hard to tell that it is more developed based on the stores and even just the types of dogs roaming the streets, or not roaming the streets because it seemed like there were a lot less.  Streets were in a grid fashion and numbered, there was Calle 3 and Avenida 3 and hopefully you didn’t get them mixed up.  The streets also rarely run straight for very long, meaning that they are broken up by shorter streets, continuing on the other side or to the right or left of other streets and creating a labyrinth of confusion for visitors. Me included.

We try not to look too lost which is inevitable as a group of 4 girls who aren’t from the area.  Eventually we find what we needed, some food, calling cards, etc then back to the hotel for napping round 2. My body was completely thrown off by all these short sleeps, I felt like I was going into military style sleep and relying on coffee to fill in the gaps.

After some anxiety on getting to the site, some more roaming around,a meal at a small Costa Rican health food cafe (surprisingly delicious, with juice drinks that don’t taste like they’ve had 6 spoonfuls of sugar added to them), and a run through the city to a small park on the outskirts, we faced the day we had all been waiting for with excited grins.

The drive was so beautiful, we were on the same highway the entire time, lined with tall trees and butterflies floating around, it was a tad bit surreal with the thick clouds and fog covering some of the greenest, vine-iest trees I’ve ever seen.

And then we got there and got out of the car…

I swear I have never felt more like li was walking “into” the air than I did with those first steps.

I imagined those first steps are what it feels like to walk into a forcefield…or a giant cube of hot sticky jello…it was almost like an anti-gravity environment of warm air particles that had me going from dry to sweat-stained in about 5 minutes.

The next two months are going to be quite tasty.