4.24.2012


All that stands between me and Rod and Tracy's Costa Rican adventure is this paper:

But we're all getting a liiiiiittle nutty

Even our professors 




4.23.2012

Costa Rican soccer is mediocre at best, but the energy at the game we went to was just thrilling. 
video

Here's the girls. We play soccer too!

In our *modest* stadium

4.20.2012

I think this is interesting:


http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/05/is-facebook-making-us-lonely/8930/ 


Also something about this reaches me:


“The unending paradox is that we do learn through pain.” 
― Madeleine L'Engle

And this, isn't she wonderful?

“I will have nothing to do with a God who cares only occasionally. I need a God who is with us always, everywhere, in the deepest depths as well as the highest heights. It is when things go wrong, when good things do not happen, when our prayers seem to have been lost, that God is most present. We do not need the sheltering wings when things go smoothly. We are closest to God in the darkness, stumbling along blindly.” 
― Madeleine L'Engle


And finally, this:



4.19.2012


I’ve been reading Obama’s book, Dreams from My Father. It’s the 6th book that I’ve read since being here. I love being able to quantify time by the number of books I’ve read—feels so different from how I spend my free time at Clark. And his book is so fantastic. After only a few days, I’ve almost finished. It makes me feel foolish, having not read it before now. He’s our president, and I hardly knew anything about him! This sounds cheesy but I feel some kind of personal connection to him. Reading is like this moment in time when the reader and the writer touch, you know? I like thinking of it like that. But so much of what he says is so honest and sincere—I keep thinking, yeah, I’ve felt that way before too or, Or yeah, I know what you mean Barack!
This is getting silly.
But I just think that the book is wonderful, and I recommend it.

(And here’s a little passage I like)
“The study of law can be disappointing at times, a matter of applying narrow rules and arcane procedure to an uncooperative reality; a sort of glorified accounting that serves to regulate the affairs of those who have power--and that all too often seeks to explain, to those who do not, the ultimate wisdom and justness of their condition.

But that's not all the law is. The law is also memory; the law also records a long-running conversation, a nation arguing with its conscience.” 


4.16.2012


I’ve been doing internet-less research all week so haven’t been able to upload things! But here’s some thoughts I had while away: 

This is what my setup has looked like for the past week. I’ve spent my days hunkered down monitoring hummingbird feeders, or out catching and measuring them. It’s almost unbelievable that we’re in Costa Rica, as the temperatures been around 50 degrees every day (because we’re at 9,300 feet (this high altitude is outrageous! I feel so out of shape, sucking wind just walking up a small hill!)). The first day we got here, it felt like my body went into shock. My skin was transparent and blue and I had to miss our first afternoon because I just couldn't warm up. But as the week went on, I acclimated. Layers, layers, layers. We’re staying at this funny motel/rest stop/humming bird scientist’s Mecca. You would never guess it by looking, but people come here from all over the world to study hummingbirds! The establishment hangs feeders all around, and every day this little man comes and unhooks them, one at a time, and fills them with fresh sugar water.

I know this is boring, but these are the 4 types of hummers we studied this week: Magnificent, Volcano, Fire Throated, and Green Violet Ear! 



We’ve got mist nets set up—it's this verrrry fine netting attached to two poles, kind of like a volley-ball net. It’s near impossible to see them, so the birds fly into it and kind of drop down into its excess . Then we rush over and untangle them (“It’s like taking off a very tight jumpsuit”, my professor says, “First the feet, then the body, neck, and last the head!”). It sounds sort of cruel explaining it here, but the birds never get hurt (you have to be a certified ornothologist to even get mist nets, because if people aren't careful, they'll leave them up unmonitored and if the birds sit too long they can get hurt). But the net is gentle. Our professor, Geraldo, keeps telling me not to touch the birds because my hands are “too chilly” (they could die if they get too cold when they’re being handled) so I have to keep sticking my hands under my arm pits to warm them up before untangling them. Then we measure their beaks, trace their wings, swab off some pollen they’ve stored on the beak, weigh them (which involves kind of stuffing them into this little cone, and putting them on a scale, they don’t seem to mind the small space), and then we paint their little tiny ity bity toe nails—to make sure we don’t catch the same one twice—and release them! It’s pretty fun, we’ve gotten really good at identifying them quickly—species and gender.

Can you see this? It's hard to see, but it's a mist net! 

Untangling

Isn't she beautiful? WOWOWOW

Maya, organizing our science station!

Wing drawings

Besides the mist-netting, we also do feeder monitoring—looking at hummer interactions and counting the number of times they take a sip. The feeders are on the other side of these great big glass windows, there’s no heat here but the sun rises early and beats through the glass. It’s slow work, but not so bad. We start early, one minute of observation, 4 minutes off, one minute observation, 4 minutes off (ad infinitum). I try to make the best of the 4 minutes of rest we have—like read as many pages of my book as I can, or sometimes when things get really slow, I like to imagine what It’d be like to have a beak like they have. It would be a huge nuisance, really.  On some of these hummers, the beaks is about a third of the length of their whole body! Can you imagine the things you wouldn’t be able to do if you had a 3 foot long beak sticking out of your face? 
But in all, it’s been a nice time to just sit. With all the chocolate caliente I want. Just me and the birds. 



4.10.2012

We’ve had school off for the past week for Semana Santa (holy week). I’d never heard of this before, but that’s just my religious ignorance because it’s a really important holiday time all over the world! And here, it seems like the whole country goes on vacation! We went to the Caribbean coast (along with every other Costa Rican, it seemed), and how different it was! Muggy, for one, but also so much reggae music and beads and people with dark skin and sweet flavorful food—it was refreshing. We stayed in a hostel that was just bonkers! The entire place-floors, walls, ceilings, tables—was mosaiced in tiles and mirror. It was dazzling and confusing and mesmerizing and I can’t imagine having to clean all that grout, but it was wonderful. One night there were 400 people staying there! There are huge spaces of rows and rows of hundreds of hammocks, and floors of tents, or bunk rooms. I expected it to be mostly young tourists, and there were a few hundred of us, but there were also a lot of Costa Ricans—a kind of magical glistening place for young people to meet up. There was a constant bustling hum of energy and noise. One night there was a full moon fiesta, and another night a big bonfire at the beach with an impromptu drum/accordion/voice/dance party. It was really refreshing meeting other kids studying abroad in Costa Rica who also had break for Semana Santa, there’s so many of us! We beached for a lot of our time, and rented bikes and went on a long morning ride—and got caught in the rain, and just generally enjoyed the Caribbean culture there that’s so different from what I’m used to on the other coast. Only 3 weeks left, yikes.




4.08.2012

Feliz cumpleaƱos brother!! I love you I love you I love you. (And a small birthday goodie is coming via the very, very, very slow Costa Rican mail!)


And look at this beautiful angel food cake mama made her Easter baby! I could smell it even through skype. Grandma would be just delighted that her birthday cakes live on. 

4.03.2012


Today, it poured--for the first time since December 16th! It hit our tin roof with such gusto that we had to stop class because we couldn’t hear our lecture. Everything seems smaller, the ground has swollen up and the trees branches have sunk with water weight.

A rainy empty clothes line, for once!

Some flower dissection in prep for the hummers




4.02.2012


This weekend we got away to a nearby surf town. A handful of us got a hostel there filled with other beachy folk. I’m fascinated by these hostel people we meet. They seem to just be bummin around—escaping their lives in the states, or looking for something else, I guess. Most of the guys at this hostel were surfers—what is it about the water that lures people to drop everything and ride? I suppose they’re attracted to the whole culture of it, too.

In the morning Stella, our friend Sara, and I took a three hour surf lesson from one of the guys we met. It was soo sos o sososo sooo so much fun. And exhausting. And silly and exciting. And cool. I’ve always been afraid to fall (like I never stray too far from the railing when I ice skate and I never dove for a ball in soccer or slide tackled an opponent). But the water is so forgiving and soft and we fell so many times but it wasn’t scary at all.



At night we went out to a club. We had fun just dancing around and being goofy. The music and space felt just like being in an American club, circa 1999 (not that I was going to clubs in 1999 (or in 2012, for that matter), but I’m imagining) (and that’s how my mom and I often felt in Kenya—similar to the US, but dated). All around the edge of the club were loungie areas that were reserved. We didn’t understand at first, but slowly got filled up with older American men with really young Costa Rican women, presumably prostitutes (I wouldn’t assume this or write it here if I was uncertain of the relationship, but I really do think this is what it was. One man told us that it’s called “sex-tourism”, people who come solely for that). Each of these bald aging men had one woman that was dancing on them or drinking and laughing with them. I’ve been to the red-light district in Amsterdam and seen prostitutes walking in new haven and Worcester, but this felt different. I think it was watching them interact, the casualness of it, how happy both parties looked. These men didn’t look bad or malicious, they looked like any other male I know.

AND THEN these two American like 30 year old guys came over to us and said, “Hey girls, so we don’t really know how this thing works, but…are you girls working?” I can’t even explain the pure shock on our faces. Are you kidding me?? No we’re not prostitutes!! We were all dancing so awkwardly clutching on to our purses, clearly tourists! And we were all wearing Birkenstocks and chacos!! I just started laughing at the absurdity of the situation, but the guys ended up being really embarrassed and apologetic. We left soon after. In all, a thrilling weekend.
Also, found this little buddy next to our dorms (he's suffocating an iguana)!