Monday, January 28, 2008

Bagaces Final Days

My final days doing research in Costa Rica!

Day 22
Undergrad T still has sunburn and a backache, so we spend another day in town.

Sleep in. Make some zebrafish graphs for a project I am doing with Dancing Fish. Though I can´t email them because Flash Drive has gone missing (Likely it was left at internet place and now it is gone forever).

Go to Rodeo with Prof B, Twins and T. It rains, which is apparently very weird for this time of year. Rodeo is supposed to start at 5pm (when we show up). Of course, in this town, everyone understands that when something is supposed to start at 5pm, that really means 8pm. During 3 hour wait, T gets mad because he is unable to carry on an intelligent conversation. He then refuses to talk to anyone all night.

Rodeo is interesting, like an American Rodeo. Especially liked the event that was like musical chairs on horseback.

Day 23
Finally back in the field. Get 10 samples for T´s undergrad project (that will surely not have my name on it). Also get lots of video and photos. Also see capuchins again!!

At night, spend some time at a local ¨futbol¨game (aka soccer). Don´t really know soccer rules. And no scoreboard. Very confusing.

Call the love of my life, who is actually in Buffalo visiting with all of my guy friends! Excited that he is enjoying himself in his new town!

Day 24
Last day in the field!!!!

Find more little baby, nonswimming fish and video tape the parents retrieveing them!! YAY!!!

Get 16 more samples for T´s project!

Celebrate last day by throwing out field clothes!

Find another large spider hiding under my luggage. Canadian Roommate says it is a Tarantula. Does tarantula just mean really big, hairy spider? Hope no tarantulas have found their way into my bags and travel back to the US with me and then mate with a house spider and infest the whole Little Town with killer attack spiders (yes, I have seen Arachnaphoia many, many years ago and still shudder at the thought of spiders. Especially large spiders.).

Have amazing Bagaces pizza one last time.

Day 25
My ¨dia ultimita¨.

Spend morning cleaning and packing and shopping in town for souvineers (oh, the souvineers of Bagaces). Have lunch at favorite restaurant (the Soda La Fuente). Take last shower in scorpion infested bathroom. Spend afternoon in airconditioned internet center.

Tonight, will maybe play one last game of Gringo Poker.

Tomorrow, up very early to travel 5 hours to airport, then spend all afternoon and evening in airports and on planes, to finally arrive back in the States at midnight!!!

Well, in just 18 hours I will have officially survived 26 days of field research in Costa Rica! At times I wasn´t sure if I would make it, but it looks like I just might!

Thanks for all of the comments and emails these last 4 weeks!!! You all really helped me stay sane!
After a day of getting used to cold weather and English speaking people, I will surely share more about my time here!!!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Bagaces Week 3

My third week of adventure in a small Costa Rican town!

Day 15:
Day off from field work. Go to farmacia and buy more hidrocortisona from my new pharmacy friend. Also discover they sell phone cards! Calling the love of my life has been difficult because the ladies at the grocery story will only sell me one phone card at a time. Not sure why. But I can only buy a 20-minute phone card each day. Weirdness. Wish I could ask why.

Do a bit of work on the computer and watch TV with T while Prof B & twins are at the pool.

Read and review a paper that Prof B gave to me 2 days ago. Try to give him my comments and he says he already returned his comments (way to waste my life).

New phone cards don’t work today. Darn third world countries and their unreliable international phone service.

Day 16:
Go to the field and get lots more replicates! Very good day again! Data is looking awesome!

Have horrible night sleep. Well, no sleep actually. Around 11pm, convince myself that a peeping tom/rapist/murderer is sitting on my back porch, watching me through the window. Hide in corner for 30 minutes while debating what to do. Not able to outrun anyone, decide my best option is to hide and hope that my predator gets bored and moves on to other prey. Hide in bathroom for 2.5 hours. Decide it is safe to try to go back to bed. Fall asleep with shoes on, while holding pocketknife. Canadian roommate scares the hell out of me when he returns home at 4am. Finally sleep between 6 and 8am.

Day 17:
Field day on 2 hours sleep. Miserable. Get some more data collected.


Bug bites and rash are clearing up. Still look like leper, but less painful.

Convince myself that no one was on back porch last night. It was just the wind and the dogs and my keen imagination. Actually get some sleep.

Day 18:
No field work. Make plans to rent car and go to beach. Prof B cancels plans to rent car (for some reason he is very anti-car rental. Anti-spending any money, really).

Buy light for back porch (added security against non-existent rapist/murderer).

Do some work at home. Watch a few episodes of Gilmore Girls. Find myself talking like the Gilmore Girls.

Go to pool with Prof B, T and twins. Somehow, am convinced to go down the super-scary waterslide! Also have drinks at in-pool bar. Nothing like public pools in the States.

Day 19:
Meet at 8am at Prof B’s house (as planned). Leave for bus to beach at 9:15 (does no one else in the world appreciate efficiency as much as I do?).

Watch a few buses go by. Get on one to Liberia (closest “major” city). After hour bus ride, sit at Liberia bus station (“parada”) for 50 minutes. Get on bus to far away beaches.

After 2 hour bus ride, arrive at beach with Prof B, T and twins. Twins are whiny with hunger, so we head to an all-inclusive type resort. We sit and T is appalled by the prices on the menu (though $7 for a burger and fries is not expensive by American standards, it is by Costa Rican standards). He curses the gluttony of Americans and their propensity for vacation. Try not to get into debate (because I would win any debate against this 22-year-old). Try not to hit him.

Get to spend 1 hour at the actual beach before next bus arrives. Waves are beautiful, yet powerful. This beach is not a protective cove and gets serious waves. Prof B seems to think his kids can handle the massive waves and associated undertows. The police officer that calls me out of the water (by yelling “Baby, Baby” at me) disagrees and tells me I must remove my children from the water immediately because it is too dangerous. Try to explain that they are not my kids. His English is limited and I end up talking to someone on a walkie-talkie. Agree to remove the kids from the water. They fight with me until Prof B shows up and basically says he knows better than the people that live and work at this beach and his kids are not in harms way. Fortunately, our time is up and we have to go anyway.

After 3.5 more hours of travel on the buses, arrive back in Bagaces. Rush home (covered in sand and salt) to discover that Gringo Poker is at our place. Shower quickly and try to straighten up.

Small crowd at poker. Good for chatting and laughing with the very nice English speakers. I only buy in one time this week! After many hours, actually get Second Place at the tournament style game! This means 7,000 colones (about $14)!!! Woohoo!!!

Day 20:
Back in the field. Hike for about a mile to get to new study area.


Very glad I booked earlier flight home.

Spend evening discussing stats (Thanks Joe!) and conclusions.

Call RyGuy very late at his new place in Small City. Hard to believe that when I get back to the Little Town that he will be gone. But very excited to visit him (and my family) a few days after I return!!

Day 21:
No field. Undergrad T has hurt his back and has a sunburn, so how could we possibly work?

Spend morning discussing data and find results very interesting.

Spend early afternoon working on graphs, photos and blog!! (Benefit of poker at my place = table & chairs to do work on!!!) Lots of email to catch up on too!

So, week 3 is finally over. I only have 5 days until I travel home, and, while it hasn’t turned out badly, I am excited to be getting back home!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Bagaces Week 2

The continued ramblings of a "crazy girl field biologist" ...

Day 8:
Head to field with Joe. Spend lots of time looking for very small, non-swimming fish. Joe finds them and is the very first to see them in the field!! Move them and videotape as the mother picks them up and moves them back to the nest! Very first time recorded in the field!! Justification of my entire dissertation and this field trip!!!!! Very Very Good field day!

While waiting for taxi, howler monkeys urinate on me. Joe does not believe it. Until he also gets a spray of urine.

Celebrate wonderful day (and Joe’s last night) with Bagaces’ very best (only) pizza and watch Transformers on Joe’s computer while the power is out! See another tailless scorpion.

Meet up with Meelo and take T (Professor B’s newly arrived student) out for drinks.

Day 9:
Sad day. Must so goodbye to Joe. He heads back to The Little Town for the start of classes and leaves me to fend for myself. Take nap. Do laundry in backyard. Go out for dinner on my own and survive. Look around town for international phone cards and survive, though with limited success.

Day 10:
Head to field with Prof B and T. Get LOTS of data points. Very successful field day. Loose sunglasses (luckily, still have 2 more pairs). See Arenal Volcano erupting at a (vary far) distance.

At home, find small “real” scorpion on the wall next to my bed. What is with the scorpions?

Day 11:
No field work because I insist on staying at the TicoPC to watch live webcast of Ry’s dissertation defense. It is amazing and I cry at the end when he says (in front of everyone in the department and the internet) that he loves me and misses me. I am so proud of my Dr. Boyfriend!!!! CONGRATULATIONS DR. RYGUY!!! (Can´t wait to visit you at your new postdoc!!)

Relax a little at mi casa, then head to pool with Professor B, T & the twins. Break out in complete body rash, perhaps due to the hundreds of bug bites, or stress, or dirty clothes, or chlorine, or fleas (that my roommate allegedly has). Book ticket to fly home early. Just 15 days left.

Day 12:
Field with T & Professor B. Get many more data points, but agitated all day because of body rash.

See an agouti, white-faced capuchins, coati and howler monkeys. Get more bug bites.

Meelo picks up T & I for some Gringo Poker. I only buy in twice this week! I think next week (my last) may be my night!

Day 13:
Another day of field work with T & Professor B. Very successful, collect 5 replicates of data!

See an amardillo (so cool), big spider, another Basalisk, and white faced capuchins very, very close. The troop of capuchins are habituated, so they had no fear of me!

Enter in data and try to get to bed early … though sleep is still difficult due to the howling dogs, the roosters (that crow at all hours), the cat fights, and, of course, the bugs.

Day 14:
Third field day in a row! Another excellent day of data collection. Somehow, more bug bites appear. Now have bug bites and/or rash completely covering body. Even between fingers and on toes.

Stop by the “farmacia” to get “hidrocortisona”. Takes a while, but finally get what I want! Should have bought more.

After entering data at Prof B’s, come home to find HUGE brown spider in my bedroom. What does a brown recluse look like? I did not get a photo, because I was too busy spraying it with 100% DEET.

End of week 2!!!!! Just 11 days left in CR!!!!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Bagaces Week 1

Day 0:
Arrive in San Jose, where Nat (labmate), Meelo (her Tico boyfriend) and a rainbow are waiting for me. It’s definitely hot in the afternoon and the “coca light” (diet coke) that Meelo offers to get during the 4-hour drive to Bagaces is refreshing … even if it is served in a plastic bag with a straw!

Get to Bagaces after nightfall. Unable to get a spectacular view of the small town, but did notice a lot of dirt, cement houses, and dogs and kids running around in the streets (it’s “summer vacation” here, so the kids are always around …). Meet up with Joe (another labmate) and checkout our humble abode and new Canadian roommate. After some spraying with DEET, blow up our air mattresses and head to bed.

Day 1:
Not sure if I actually sleep my first night in Costa Rica. Apparently the dogs that roam the streets get together between the hours of 11pm and 3am to have long, loud conversations. Around 4am, the roosters join in. And when the sun comes up at 5:30, the grackles start calling to each other. Also, the bugs like to bite me. Oh, how I love nature.
Joe and I wander around Bagaces and find a nice little grocery store (yay Coca Light!) and the “internet cafĂ©” (only 100 colones per 15 minutes!! WOO HOO!). Meet up with Professor B and his two 9-year-old twins that are down here until the end of March. Professor B and I are troubled because of lack of transportation to get to the site where we want to do research.
After dinner of PB sandwiches and Nacho chips (no fridge or stove for us!), head to the bars with Nat and Meelo and meet the rest of the “gringos” that live in this town. Listen to Spanish karaoke and watch 80s videos while enjoying cervesa and English speaking people. Find out that someone that previously had stayed at my house developed a rash. Fleas are suspected. Close the bars down at midnight and head home.

Day 2:
Finally make it to the field with Nat and Joe. Great to see out fish in their natural habitat! Also see a Basilisk (Jesus Christ Lizard) and Blue Morpho Butterflies. Take 400 underwater photos (later delete 250 of them).
Travel to nearby Liberia to get keys made for my luxurious apartment. Stop at cinema with Nat and Meelo to see Bee Movie. Completely in Spanish with no subtitles. Joe & I make up own script. Who knew animated movies had so much sexual innuendo?

Spend the evening at a cock fight with Nat and Meelo. Sit in the front row and watch the chaos. Make bets with Joe. Joe owes me a shot.

Day 3:
Still without reliable transportation to field site. Go to “la playa” with Nat and Meelo. Enjoy the beach and pool at some sort of Costa Rican resort. Snorkel near the rocks and find big fish and a huge shoal of sergeant majors. Wish I was actually doing research. Get home late and find that we have a new roommate (the tailless whip scorpion). Enjoy a cervesa with Professor B. Car issue still not resolved, but things are looking up.

Day 4:
Reject possibility of purchasing or renting a car. Decide that Taxi is the best way to get to and from the field site. Do a little work on the computer. Take a nap. Watch Harry Potter 5 on Joe’s computer. Have dinner with Professor B and kids. Watch Animal Planet in Spanish (Professor B has cable). Look forward to FINALLY getting into the field tomorrow to start a project with our fish!!

Day 5:
First day in field! Take some data and videos. See howler monkeys. Howler monkeys throw feces at me.
Go for long hike to waterfall. Fall along shore and get giant cut and bruise on inner thigh. See giant iguanas, coati, more howler monkeys, and lots of bugs that enjoy feasting on me.

Head to “Gringo Poker”. During 6 hour tournament, buy in 3 times (2000 colones each time). Joe beats 11 other gringos to come in second (though he swears he could have won, but felt bad being “that guy” who shows up once for poker and wins 50,000 colones (about $100))!

Day 6:
“Sleep in” then head to field with Nat and Joe to collect fish for the lab back in The Little Town. After great success, have great lunch of patacones and sulchipapas! It’s Nat’s last day, so we must celebrate!
Discover that the (only) pizza place is open and have delicious pizza dinner with Professor B & kids. While they head to the pool, we stay at Professor B’s to watch some Romeo and Juliet with Spanish subtitles and happen to meet famous Monkey Lady. When Monkey Lady arrives, Joe is playing solitaire and I am reading an educational text about Costa Rica (that she comments on). Joe feels silly.

Day 7:
Up before down to catch bus with Professor B and kids to Monte Verde. On the first bus, we stand in the very front window/door for the entire hour drive. Discover that second bus is a 2 hour wait. Convince taxi to drive us for low price. Hike around Monte Verde and see the Continental Divide. Rush back to town to take bus home. Second bus passes us by. Costa Rican police drive all 5 of us (in the back of their police truck) to main bus stop so that we can catch the next one.

Can this first week in CR be topped????

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Merry Christmas, Happy 2008 & Adios!

Hope you all had a very Merry Christmas! Ry & I enjoyed our time in WNY tremendously!

And we ushered in the new year in our pjs ... while I fought off a cold and packed for my field adventure!

Now I am off to Costa Rica for 6 whole weeks of fieldwork! I'll write when I can!!!