An Unapologetic Long-winded Account of When I Felt Like Anthony Bourdain

6:47PM

“My friend is coming to meet us at 7:30.”

I am slightly hungry/also thinking it is a result of being awake and moving since 4AM. I take an extra few seconds to pause, then have one of those moments where you think you should say something and then you top and you come back later to realize you should have done the opposite. Anyways, I decide an interview in a second language I would not consider myself fluent in to be a bad idea and hold back a question to be revealed later. I respond:

“We should just grab something really quick and be bad before he gets here.”

Really quick turns into a dinner of fish/shrimp ceviche followed by ice cream because the sweet tooth is strong with me this particular evening.

7:34 PM

The friend shows up and we invite him inside for an interview.

“No, we go to my father’s restaurant.”

Duh.

Now the backstory (or if this were a film manifestation, the title and opening credits). I must get all of this out in the span of minutes because we all know as audience members we stop watching those credits as soon as we don’t recognize names anymore. I am a teacher’s assistant for a field course in Costa Rica. The field course is in primatology and I am no primatologist of non-humans. “Then why are you there?” you are asking, it is because I had collected data for my own study on diet and culture during the previous year and this year there happened to also be some students interested in the human promote side of things so my knowledge would be useful. My ticket was paid for so I could assist and travel around and drink wine and watch monkeys and do all of the things but also help out students with the cultural side. This took me and one student from Primavera (a very small town that no one has heard of and can only be located by exact latitude and longitude) to the capital San José. This trip involved a 4 AM wake up call and a little over 3 hours on a bus.

Skip ahead just a tad.

We have been waiting for this student’s friend for half of the day to get an interview and some inside information on the city that will be useful for the student’s and my research. He is useful because he speaks a little English and grew up here and will probably know some people.

Note: we are all caught up now.

Alan comes to the door and introduces himself, a large set latino man with the skin tone of a man who works in software (which he does), close-set brown eyes, and thin dark hair slicked back into a low ponytail. He is relieved I can speak (some) Spanish and we follow him to some midsize black car that is very nice looking and get in.

“You ever had chifrijo?”

“No, but i was wondering what it was when I passed by and saw that Burger King had it.”

He seems to get a little more excited.

We drive in enough directions that I am turned around. A task that is actually….quite easy to do. Many a turn later, we arrive at Rafa’s.

Rafa’s almost looks like a tourist bar, it is covered with mahogany tinted wood panels both outside and in, but inside there is the classic long bar situated on the right, stocked with about 1/3 of the amount of booze you would see at a US bar and a drink fridge with enough bottled beer for a busy night. No, beer on tap is not a thing here, but beer as the primary drink is. You still might be surprised to know that beer choice is limited to a handful of things, with Imperial and Pilsen being the most popular.

Back to the food though.

We pull up and are greeted by Alan’s father, Rafa (short for Rafael), and his two friends Daniel (pronounced Danielle), and Sherman (pronounced very convincingly as chairman). After sitting at a table in the back Morris and I are asked if we would like beers.

“Si, claro.”

“Imperial?”

“Como no.”

Translation:

“Yes, clearly.”

“Imperial?”

“Well obviously, how could I not have an Imperial.”

Note: that last part is not a direct translation.

We sit and chat about the city of San José, where Alan has lived his whole life minus the year he just spent traveling Europe for a study abroad program in English and Business. He really loves it here because the for is great, the people tranquilo (chill), and the beautiful scenery (he keeps trying to take us to this volcano but we have to tell him no because we need interviews for our research).

And then comes the chifrijo. At this moment I also realize that chifrijo emerges from the combination of chi-charron and frij-oles. Just wonderful.

It is served in a small bowl that might otherwise be used for a little side of beans. It already look magical and then we are told that inside this tiny vessel of tastebud glory are whole red beans, chicharron(in this case grilled pieces of what looked to me like pork loin, and topped with what Alan called chimichurri but what appeared to be pico de gallo. The dish is usually served with tortilla chips which were brought out on a small plate along with some homemade chile sauce in a repurposed water bottle.

At first bite, I was in the throes of red beans complimented by diced tomato and onion. At second bite I had found a hunk of the grilled pork which tasted like it was marinated in spices that I wouldn’t mind eating for the rest of my life and had just come off the grill because I even got a tiny bit of char at the end, which I, unlike people who’s taste preferences I won’t comment about, very much enjoy. I continue to take bites and then realize that I also need to keep up in the conversation. I turn away from this tiny bowl and talk with Alan some more while sipping my Imperial to draw out the bites.

IMG_0009

Rafa himself comes out and I quickly tell him how much I loved it, all of it, everything, and don’t offer me more because I will eat it all. He smiles gratefully, whole heartedly even, and I can tell we understand each other. I love these moments, and here is why:

Food is culture, it is a manifestation of the history, the people, and the agricultural resources of a nation. It tells a wild story of conquerors and diseases, of revolutions and the strength of people, of someone’s wild idea to just “throw something together” with a creativity that can only be inspired by knowing one’s nation. When I cook, I love, and I like to believe that those truly passionate about sharing food feel the same. Food is how I connect with people, it is something I can talk about for hours (as my close friends have noticed), and it is offers me the opportunity to learn and teach. Food became a passion of mine, the source of giddy excitement and wonder, and identifying it in myself has allowed me to see it in other people. Do you know how great it is to help someone else find what they are passionate about? Let me tell you that excitement is equal to the excitement of totally nailing a new recipe and people liking it. I’m almost too excited to continue now to tell you the truth, my heart is racing and I can barely form words because how can words describe that? Ok, I’ll calm down (takes one deep breath), we continue.

So Rafa and I share this great moment and then Chairman (yeah, I know Sherman is his real name but I just love this name so much) comes over and tells us he makes patty, a typical Caribbean baked empanada. So of course I have to try one those and talk with him about the Caribbean culture in Costa Rica that is a result of immigrant Jamaican workers back in the 19th century. The patty is a small baked empanada, Chairman tells me he has made beef and chile or plantain. He then says

“My policy is, you try it first, then you pay, if you don’t like it you don’t pay.”

I like this man and his Caribbean ways.

First, beef and chile. Tasty. Ground beef plus green chiles encased in a thin dough. Second, plantain, I take a bite, it’s red! Why is this red? There are no such thing’s as red plantains, are there? Have I been missing out on this crazy fruit/vegetable? It is plantain, cinnamon, and some beet juice for color. Well no wonder I love it, cinnamon is my jam. So I paid for them.IMG_0017

At this point we are full. We have chatted, learned, shared, laughed, and just spent the last 5 minutes trying to get someone to take a picture of us and figure out how to turn the flash on Alan’s camera phone. He drives us back, points out a popular expensive hotel and tells us many prostitutes hang around because of the travelling business men inside, tells us areas to stay away from at night, and we part ways at our front gate.

That question I was going ask earlier before we ate ceviche/before we met with Alan?

“If his Dad owns a restaurant do you think he’ll take us there to eat?”  

Lesson: Second dinner and dessert should always be welcome.

Woman Traveling Alone, Stay Away

QUICK! A SUMMARY! 

Rebecca has been working hard in San Francisco, she has two jobs working as a deli girl at Whole Foods and a waitress to the Marina folk who love brunch (so all of them). She misses school and is still working on a Biocultural Anthropology paper with her super cool professor and will be applying to grad school shortly. She runs and works and tries to fit in drinking good beer on her time off. She was kind of talking to her professor about going back to Costa Rica but was really nervous for a lot of dumb reasons so when her professor called and said she could come down to help out again for 2 weeks she said, with a adventure-ridden mind, yes. 

Cue curtain and the short tale of her arrival begins:

Oh boy I’m in Costa Rica!

Same aggressive behavior from the taxi drivers. Shouting at the confused gringos, assaulting with help.

Henry approaches me and speaks in English asking where I want to go. Even though he speaks in English my mind tangos with spanish and things just kind of pour out of my mouth without the filter of my mind to stop them.

Are there buses from here? I need to get to Cariari.

Oh Cariari, you need to get to the bus terminal de caribeno.

Ok, and there’s no bus from here that can take me there?

I already know he’s going to say no, even if there were/is a bus, telling me means losing business. But I take the bait, this guy seems nice. I think about it as he waits there, well why not? It’s faster, and I’m already travelling (read: struggling) with three bags.

So Henry takes my bag and explains to me that his car is parked “over there.”

Oh cool, over there in a dark alley? Over there out of sight? Over there by other cars?  I am slightly prepared to grab my bag back from him and run (read: struggle) back with my three bags. I had been previously advised to only trust the guys with the red taxis in white shirts. Henry was wearing a white polo, but the car would tell all.

We walk across the street.

It’s just a little further, Henry says.

We walk into the parking lot of a gas station and there is sitting a red taxi.

i then wonder if this taxi is stolen and this is all just a ploy. But on the walk Henry tells me he is from Minnesota and he loves the United States so I relax a little. And then I get twice as paranoid because i think he is that smart to pretend he is from Minnesota (a state I know little to nothing [nothing] about).

Traveling as a lone woman is hard, guys.

On the drive Henry tells me he loves the United States, it feels like his first country. He wants to be there permanently but he has to be back here to figure out some paperwork (Also questionable).

Normal conversation topics pass as I hope we eventually end up at the bus terminal I am familiar with from previous travels. Twists and turns, no less than 6 near accidents occur, and then familiarity.

Hey! I know that taller de automaticos.

Hey! I know this bus stop!

Hey! Henry wasn’t trying to capture me after all!

I am lone woman traveler, here me roar! 

The time did that thing again…

You know, that thing when it seems like you have so much of it and then POOF next thing you know you have less than 2 weeks left and you are craving greek yogurt like none other.

Ok the greek yogurt thing is more personal but Central America is not up on their grecian dairy yet which always saddens me.

So recently I’ve been doing oodles and oodles of data collection in the form of observations and interviews which really just entails me going to town and talking to people. It’s a pretty sweet deal but I always feel like I don’t have enough and continue to go out and get more which will be useful in the end…and also lead to many hours of analysis. But since this blog is not really about the research aspect of things (because talking in research language is no fun) all that is important to know is that I have enough data to start some analysis and I am very excited to churn this baby out. I feel like I technically never graduated college which kind of excites me, especially because writing essays was my favorite  one of my favorite parts!

Don’t worry I own the nerdy vibes. I am currently wearing chacos, leggings, and a bright-ass blue tie-dyed shirt with turtles swimming on the front. I am so cool.

So I went to Guapiles last Saturday where there are about 10 types of stores repeated in almost the same pattern up and down the streets and I really don’t understand how any of them stay in business. It was a Saturday so there were some cool little things going on but most importantly a FARMERS MARKET which made me so excited because during school I went to the farmers market every Saturday and have been going through withdrawals since then that a coffee addiction really can’t cure. It was a beautiful sunny day and I tried some new fruits like a columbian zapote that tasted like a pumpkin and a pejivalle which is like a sort of palm fruit. Both bright orange and tasty. Then I bought some pork tamales and took them to the big central park filled with benches to enjoy along with a coconut cookie and some fresh squeezed oj…

another exciting thing: salt in oj is totally a thing, and it totally blew my taste buds away because it makes the sweetness come out.

(It would also taste good with a little tequila if you ask me)

And I listened to a group playing some traditional windpipe music which was just delightful. And then I met three women who brought some little crafts and jewelry to sell and the gift buying voice in my head went off so be ready loved ones you are getting some of this stuff. All in all a great day and I still got back to the station in time to do an evening run in the sun.

A couple days later I went to Cariari with the class and Michelle to do some shopping, get some lunch, and figure out a phone card situation.  This turned into a huge ordeal…basically the place where I had bought phone cards just 3 days before was now denying that they sold them.

Then they told me they sold them next door…

And then the place next door told me they sold them next door…

And then one of the students bought something and was charged 3 times instead of one so I dealt with that whole situation…

And then everybody hated the gringos for ruining the flow at the checkout which is just bound to happen at some point.

Next thing you know I realized that all of that took an hour and it was time to get lunch with Michelle and La Marisqueria which is just Spanish for “We sell good seafood here.” The grilled tilapia and ceviche were great reinforcers to the good seafood reputation and the rum mixed with club soda and lime were great reinforcers to the rum reputation of Central America (Flor de Caña and Centenario are the big ones here). We talked and I met one of her friends that lives in Cariari who knows everyone and can help me get some info for my study. The rest of the trip was just picking up fruits and snacks from the store since Cariari is an “errand town.”

Other than that the station has been it’s usual, awesome self. Michelle’s class is bringing a lot of great attitudes and fun times in the forest as proven by a crazy scavenger hunt mapping activity and the spontaneous singing and dancing that has popped up while they are doing work. We have even gotten treats from the US brought by Michelle like cheese and magic anti-itch cream that we enjoy on the little veranda at the faculty house while watching the sunset and looking for giant potoos (you have to see this) by making wookie-esque noises.

It’s the little things sometimes. But mostly it’s the making giant potoo noises.

I agreed to go somewhere without knowing where it was….

One of the best parts about doing cultural anthropology research is being able to go to other parts of the country and see the cultural differences.

You could also call this a mini vacation.

Whatever you want to call it, a group of us decided to make a trip to Puerto Viejo this weekend. I had no idea where this actually was until the morning after we had gotten there and looked it up.  Turns out its right next to the Panama border, never would have guessed that.

One of the girls was heading back to the States to start law school at NYU and she wanted to make one last trip that didn’t involve examining monkey poop under a microscope to see what they were eating.  That seemed pretty reasonable to me.

While I greatly appreciate the public transportation system in Costa Rica (and the fact that I can actually take the public transportation), there are always some drawbacks.  This one just happened to be taking 4 different buses with a total travel time of about 7 hours. That was just getting there.

But hey, it was cheap and a good way to see some more of Costa Rica.

Then I found out that if you just drove there it would take 3 and half hours. I must admit my jaw went from closed to dropped pretty quickly at this point. Thankfully this was after we had arrived so I didn’t have the time to consider splurging on a cab.

It was dark when we arrived and it turned out the hostel we had planned to stay at was full.  Then again I don’t imagine many hostels will have enough beds when you’re rolling 8 gringos deep (technically one of the guys was Costa Rican, but he was with enough gringa girls that I don’t think it mattered).  Since it was dark we settled on one that had a large dorm-style room with 9 beds in it for $8 a night. The beds looked slightly sketchy and the windows weren’t all that close-able but we could lock the room up and keep valuable safe and there was wifi so I was pretty happy, the $8 thing was pretty great as well.

Puerto Viejo, I came to realize, is a very “backpacker” town. It’s small with plenty of cheap hostels and restaurants, a little dingy but for a backpacker that’s not necessarily important so it gets away with having a cool local art scene along with plenty of your typical tourist shops FILLED with “Pura Vida” branded items. You could walk anywhere within 10 minutes depending on how distracted you got by the ocean or the couple horses roaming around, or in my case the delicious smells of the bakeries and the health food/all natural stores.  I was geeking out a little but it was all completely justified.  I mean, I found fresh brewed Kombucha Tea at a farmers market where there were also locally made bracelets and other foods, how could I not get super stoked on that?

I was also introduced to the dish of “riceandbeans” during the trip.  I’m sure you are wondering why this is an exciting thing. Haven’t I been eating rice and beans for weeks now? And basically with almost every meal? And loving every bite of them? All yes. BUT. This riceandbeans is different. Yeah it’s different (I’m sorry I couldn’t help myself).

Because they also cook them with coconut milk.  This seems like a pretty hard thing to imagine because there are a whole lot of flavors going on in there but it’s a very delicious combination of white rice, black beans, some spices, and coconut milk. It’s a pretty wonderful combination of salty and ever so slightly sweet and tropical-y. I think I might have actually had this in Belize and not realized it, but eating it again was like a re-awakening that everyone just had to know about.

There are basically 4 bars in town that everyone gravitates towards, so we could walk to each one and check things out.  Then it turns out that the 4 bars turn into 2 just because people will naturally go to where the crowd is in terms of bars. More people = more chances to find someone you can go play chess with right? If you haven’t picked up that playing chess doesn’t mean playing chess then here is a clear indication that playing chess is a cover up for other…slightly more physical activities. I could actually make a whole metaphor out of this…perhaps another time.

So first we hit up a Reggae Bar, grab some drinks and dance the best you can to Reggae, usually just some swaying, if you’re lucky and have a partner you can do some spinning action but then when you couple that with drinks you end up making far more enemies than friends. And you just hog the dance floor, which is kind of rude.

No matter what, Mango is THE place to end up at. Big dance floor. Lots of tourists looking to dance to a collection of American top 40 hits and some classics like “My Humps,” and also kind of weird amount of locals standing on the outskirts of the dance floor doing too much staring and using all the wrong pick up lines/being aggressively forward. Sorry you have to read this Mom, but it’s a cultural experience, right?

There was dancing, more spinning, drinks, semi-creepy dudes, all the things you need (maybe not the creepy dudes)….and then there was rain.

So much rain.

The hostel was probably less than 300m away from Mango, and in one trip there and back the rain managed to soak through all of my clothes including my lightweight rain jacket.  I was wearing a white tank top. I guess I should have known that vacationing on the beach always involves a wet t-shirt contest. It actually wasn’t that bad, I just felt compelled to put something about a wet t-shirt contest in there.

I’m slowly realizing how much I am typing so I will now super speed up the summarizing.

That night finished and we went to bed only to be woken up by torrential downpour and thunder and lightning multiple times in the night, later I heard it rained 5 inches which was not hard to believe because I could hear zero things over the rain pounding on the steal roof separating our uncomfortably sleeping bodies and the closest thing to a hurricane I have ever experienced.

The next day was also decently rainy.  Enough to make me want to get a blanket and watch a movie even though it wasn’t even cold outside and I was right by the beach. We walked through some of the shops, went to a farmers market where all the cool Costa Rican hipster artists sell things and hung out. Some people got a deal on a scuba diving lesson but I wasn’t too down to spend money to not be able to see underwater because the rain made it really muggy.

That night we went to El Pescador get fish for dinner, I was budgeting money and had only eaten oatmeal, bread, and an apple with peanut butter so I could get some fresh fish at dinner.  It was well worth it because I ordered a Red Snapper casado.

Note: Casado is a Costa Rican dish that you can get with all types of meat. It’s kind of similar to a sample platter because it will have meat, some form of rice and beans, plantains, and a small salad.

So I get the casado and was ever so pleased to find out that when the waitress said the cook slightly fries the fish she meant the entire fish, head and all.  It was a sad moment realizing I didn’t bring my camera or phone because it was raining outside and it didn’t seem worth it to damage it. But this was a decent sized fish, with decent sized riceandbeans, patacones, the cook’s special Caribbean sauce, and a salad.

And I ate it all.

And then I ordered a brownie with ice cream.

And I ate all that too.

And I was happy (really full).

*shakes hands in air like champion*

And we go out to the same two bars and dance even though I can’t really move all that much so I just adapt a form of waddling and call it dancing. And it was the same deal as the night before but with less rain and slightly more spinning because I was wearing a dress that is fun to twirl around in.

Of course the next morning when we would be stuck in buses all day it turned out to be sunny but I made the most of it by getting up a little earlier and walking around, drinking some coffee on the beach and talking with an interesting, slightly-off man who lives in Costa Rica for 45 minutes in Spanish about life and culture and education and he seemed to be not as off as he first appeared and had a great philosophy about life.

After that I met up with everyone else for breakfast at Bread and Chocolate which blew my taste buds away and sent them off with the perfect meal sitting in my belly for the 7 hours of bus hopping back. Cinnamon oatmeal pancakes, eggs scrambled with a little cream, seasoned potatoes, jerk BBQ sauce, fresh fruit, and to top it all off my own little French press full of coffee all for me. I would ride the 7 hours in the bus just to go back to that place.  Everything made in house with organic eggs and a selection of truffles and dessert to take with you. I got a mint chocolate brownie for the trek back and the mint was so fresh I’m pretty sure people around me might have thought I was chewing gum.

That was probably the worst attempt at quick summarizing I could have done.

Woops.

Adventure Time with Palomo

Palomo is one of the forest workers at the station. He is Nicaraguan and for a while a lot of the students thought he was so mysterious that Palomo was actually the only name he needed, so basically he was like Madonna. He is also from Nicaragua and fought in the civil war, but I don’t know too many details about that…yet.

Palomo knows the forest better than anyone else on site, it’s hard not to when your workday consists of going out and clearing trails. I was invited by some of the other long-term researchers here to go out and explore the primary and secondary forest with him Saturday morning.  Weekends are oddly not really a thing for primatologists since monkeys don’t really know what a weekend is and the primatologists need data, so this little break with Palomo was going to be well worth not getting monkey data.

Therefore, my response was hells to the yeah I will go into the unmarked trail rainforest with super badass/mysterious Palomo.

Breakfast is still served at 7 and we leave around 8.  David and Marvin (pronounced Dah-veed and Mar-veen), 2 other workers at the station, also come with us. We take the marked trail, crossing the river by walking over some rather shaky bamboo and almost falling a few times because the bridge washed out, and walk all the way to the end. On the way Palomo points out some ocelot tracks, some types of fruit, and different types of trees that all look the same to me but are amazing nonetheless.

Once we reach the end its time to pull out the 16-inch machetes and clear the trail.  Both him and Marvin carried machetes and chopped away with the ease of a natural, a slight tap here and big swing there and we were through. At one point we emerged from what some of the girls call “the rabbit hole.” Very appropriately named because we emerged into a field of just tall grass and no tree coverage, then when we looked back to what we came from it was this tiny hole leading into the dense forest.  And we were still just coming from the marked trail at this point.

Next we went into the part with zero marked trails. We walked in the trees instead of on a path around them.  Wonderfully tall Almendra trees were pointed out and Palomo said they are a favorite of the Macaw bird.  Unfortunately, no Macaws were out, but there was something even better…a white hawk. Apparently it’s super rare, it was also super far away, this did not stop me from utilizing the super intense zoom feature on my camera to get a semi decent look at it. I also discovered Instagrams new filter, rainforest humidity, it made a cool vignette-like edge blur around the picture.  And while I’m sure it wasn’t the greatest thing for my camera I really think I could be onto something with this instagram filter.

We continued walking around, though I don’t know how much you can call it walking because the floor is so slippery from humidity and there are tree roots sticking out everywhere and those are slippery and then you have to watch out for spider webs because those just come up out of no where and sometimes we have to cross more sections of river which is actually pretty tricky because you never know what parts of the mud are 3 inches deep versus the parts that are 2 feet deep.  One of the girls found that out the hard way. Also, not all pieces of wood/logs are as atable as you think they might be because of the humidity and sometimes they will just crumble right out from underneath you. As far as I can tell there are a lot of downsides to humidity, most of the upsides involve some chemical reactions all happening below the surface/help the plants breathe and whatnot. But in terms of laundry it is about the least helpful thing you can imagine, some of my clothes smell sour.

Anyways, so we are gallivanting around the forest and I’m channeling my Joseph Conrad to see if there are any grand speculations about the nature (and horrors) of humanity I can make but then I get distracted by Palomo pointing to a small little leaf sprouting out of the ground, then pointing to a very large tree a couple feet away and tell me they are the same thing which just absolutely blew my mind and I was so in awe that I just stopped and looked up and gave nature a mental high five…make that mental double high five with some extra gusto because she deserves it.

There was also a point when we couldn’t find ourselves on the small GPS one of the researchers brought and a few points where I saw Palomo look around one too many times. But after about 4 and half hours of walking in what I could only perceive as a bunch of squiggly lines we made it back and I filled a bowl with white rice and black beans, not even bothering to change my sweat and dirt stained clothes or wash off my deet-ridden body…and I ate until I was full, took a very lazy shower, and fell into bed with a happy stomach and a slightly aching body.

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 Day Nature was on Our Side and then….

the day(s) air travel was not on my side.

It was my last day in Montana and Seth’s day off so we decided to make a trip out of it and head to Yellowstone.  It’s technically a 2 hour drive both ways which doesn’t seem all that appealing. But when there are trees all around and big beautiful skies and no traffic it’s really not the bad.  Then again I was not the one driving.

I had no idea how large Yellowstone actually was…or that upon entering the West entrance you were also entering Wyoming (there was no welcome sign, so I guess Wyoming wasn’t all that excited to see us). We really only had time to drive through the lower left corner of the park to see some geysers and hot springs with some stops to walk through a river and do some handstands/falls.  We even got up close and personal with Ojo Caliente, one of the little hot springs, and by up close and personal I mean no one was around to tell us not to step over the barrier and touch a small stream of the water that we hoped was not going to scald our skins. And the water flow changed the color of the rock from grey to rust orange to brighter orange to pure white.

I mean, sometimes nature is neat.

Then we arrived to Old Faithful, whose faithfulness lies between 40-126 minutes.  We had no idea when the last eruption had been but walked around, vowing to keep her (it?) in our sites. Just a short while after hiking up to a viewing spot the show started. I must say, I was impressed. Even though we were a short distance away up a hill you could tell that baby was blowing, steam/smoke effects included.

But the best part about this whole day was that even though it was raining off and on.  The on parts were always when we were in a car, and the off parts were always when we were outside. I’m pretty sure that rarely happens so I’m to take that as a super big “Good on ya!” from Nature herself.

Yet when I tried to deal with technology and society and modern means of transportation I was met with delay…

upon delay….

upon delay…

I was already pushing it by getting back Saturday afternoon and leaving Sunday night for  Costa Rica. Then my flight was delayed so my layover involved me running through airports and have barely any time to think. I get back feeling frazzled and start doing laundry and unpacking and repacking for the next portion of my trip…took a break to see Despicable Me 2 (pleased with Agnes’ screen time). I had a feeling that the crash at SFO would change something, and sure enough I was woken up at 8am to hear that my flight was cancelled and moved to the next day. First I was upset because I was getting antsy to leave, then I found out I was put in first class…so I was alright with the change after all.

Original plan:

SFO to LAX leaving at 8PM (1 hour flight)

LAX to San Jose, Costa Rica leaving at 11PM

First flight gets delayed until 9:12…then 10…then 10:24. According to my calculations that means we ain’t makin’ it folks.

So we change it to a flight that was supposed to leave at 7 but has been delayed until 8:30…and then 8:50…and then 9. We ended up making it to LAX at 10:40 and walking to our gate (and first class seats) with hearts pounding and stomachs ready for complimentary drinks. I heard someone say something about chan=mpagne so when the flight attendant came by for pre-departure drinks I replied with little to no hesitation…

I heard there was champagne?