Friday, June 8, 2007

My hands are actually swollen from bugbites

This entry is from yesterday...starting Saturday for a couple weeks I do not know what the possibility of Internet access will be. Thus, the night referred to in the entry is not actually LAST night, but the night before last. Time for a fiesta before our second round of tasks. Leave me comments!

We were cold last night, and for a lot of today we were damp, and it was pretty chilly…low 70s, I'd guess Tropics, eh? At the same time, though, I'd rather it be this way than steamy like it will be at La Selva.

After breakfast (at which I had options other than beans and rice, for which my intestines are profoundly grateful), we went on a hike from 7:30 to 12…we walked through the bromeliads, the cycads, the palms, and saw a really big fig tree, too. Those are all in the botanical gardens..then we walked down towards the forest, and covered ground very, very slowly …we saw bamboo that grows maybe 50 feet in 2 months, and a big strangler fig that's probably 300 years old that towers up, and looks like it's made of rope lace. It's an epiphyte, which starts growing on a branch, and sends its roots way far down to the ground, and eventually either shades out its host, or crushes it, because they get absolutely huge. We climbed up part of it, and it's like a tunnel made of big thick mossy ropes, which seem like branches, but are actually the roots. The branches don't start for at least 30 feet.

We saw also the tiniest bamboo in the world, which looks like grass. And lots of invasive bamboo, and a bunch of ornamental gingers with crazy flowerthings, and mossy vines, and ferns with 5 to 10 foot fronds, and flowering banana trees, and tiny flowers, and birds, and some people saw a snake (but I didn't get to). We saw bright blue metallic tiger beetles, and in the morning I hung around the bananas and got lots pictures of some amazing birds. Tomorrow we're gonna go out and try to get pictures of some frogs. Turns out that hiking in rubber boots isn't all that bad, provided you don't mind having a little slippage be a given. It's kinda like walking in slush at Cornell, where you have to always be trying to not slip. Here, if you fall down, most of the time you'll be a mud person before you've even

We made it down to the river, and looked around, and then it was 11:15 and we had to sprint back for lunch. Tracy and I made it our business to make it to the station ASAP because she had to pee, and I felt like my legs were gonna die. I kept wanting to stop, but decided that it was better to just mush on, because then at least it'd be over.

Turns out Las Cruces is a great place to study restoration ecology and conservation biology, because they're slowly taking back clearcut pasture land and bringing it back to secondary forest. Even in five years, it's possible to get back almost a quarter of the avian biodiversity, they've found…they're working on attaching it to the Guaymi reservation, about 7km away, to create a forest big enough to have actual significantly sized predators (tapir, jaguar), because right now it's around 230 hectares, which is not big enough yet. But there are over half the species of hummingbirds in Costa Rica here, and 410 species of birds. Actually, there are 250 in the botanical gardens alone, many of them endemic. I feel so lucky to be here. There are 100 species of mammals, including whitefaced monkey, and 40 species of bats…so pretty low (relatively) diversity of mammals, but they're working on that. On project is trying to make a biological corridor from coast to coast to connect the two biggest wildlife sanctuaries in the country, and Las Cruces is close enough to eventually become a part of that larger chunk. It's so rare to have a success story in conservation and restoration biology/ecology, that this is really exciting.

I've picked up a speech pattern that's kinda funny…influenced by the tendency of Spanish speakers to end with "si?" which means "yes?"…so I've started kinda talking in a faster monotone, and ending with "yeah?" "I-dunno-I-mean-it-seems-kinda-repetitive-yah?" Interesting, but I feel like it's a little bit annoying.

We had the fruit lab tonight, and there were some really great ones, and some really disgusting ones that barely anyone would eat. Noni was the worst…the first time, Frank, Leo, and Javez decided to eat some, and they all ran outside and spit it out and did the "EW YUCK EW YUCK GROSS EWWWW AUGHH" dance for a while. Then they ate some of that pod stuff that Javez bought at the market, and it wasn't as bad as we thought it would be…we were all kinda disappointed. Then they decided to try to eat noni again!!!! Dumb old boys. We all watched and laughed. My favorites were the coconut, the mamones (little green fruits that are mostly seed, very slimy, but sweet and very tart and mildly astringent…you have to suck/chew the slimy stuff off the seed, so it takes a while to eat), the camote…which was like green sweet potato, the guava (which is not like guava in the US…it's like a long bean pod with big old beans inside coated with a fluffy-slithery sweet coating), and the passionfruit. Did you know there are two kinds of passionfruit? I ate one of each, but they aren't nearly as sweet as passionfruit-flavored things. Tamika calls them snotfruit, because you eat the stuff that has the consistency of snot that is all mixed in with the seeds….of course, we were all raring to try them after we heard that. Ahar. Ahar.

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