Saturday, June 9, 2007

There's a moth with a wider wingspan than my hand is long over there on the wall

We left at 7:30 for our 6 mile hike, and although it was completely amazing, it nearly killed almost everyone…one notable event was seeing a leafcutter ant soldier with a head and pincers bigger than its thorax (natives used to use them for sutures…hold the ant up to the held-together wound, let it bite down, and then cut off its head. Then your cut or whatever is held together for a while). Seems kinda painful, but looking at those mouthparts, I would totally believe that it works.

During the hike, we also saw several amazing furry caterpillars. One was rainbow colored with white fur…its back was red, its sides were yellow, its lower sides were green, and its feet were blue-black. Javier found that one, and I got a picture of it. I found one that was dark brown with little tufts of white on each corner which looked like eyebrows or pompoms or something. I also found a stripey millipede that was in a big hurry.

Initially, Jeremy and I started kinda fast in front of the group, because we wanted the chance to hear monkeys before everyone else came through being loud…but we didn’t hear monkeys. The people with Rodo (resident biologist, whose real name is Rudolfo Quiroz or something like that) did, though, because he knows what to listen for.
Rodo does this funny thing where if he loses his balance and is waving his arms, he’ll make frantic monkey shout noises to make everyone laugh. It always works. He had a machete (actually, they call them ‘cuchillos’ which means knife, but can refer to a butter knife or a…machete. Apparently in Costa Rica, machetes are rounded and used for gardening…I really want to get one, and he told me the two good brands. Coronetta and Imacasa…or is it Amicasa? I’m not sure…probably the second one, as it’s more Spanish than French.)

At dinner, I played with my food and made a design with lentils, carrot, chayote, and rice. Then I wrote my name with rice on the plate. It made people laugh.

So, on the hike I caught two lizards, and got to see a third one. Two of them (the one Doug caught, and the second one I caught) were Norops (anoles)…and one was more of an iguana type thing…I think the species is Corytophanidae christus, but I am probably wrong. Corytophanidae isn’t a genus, for instance. It is related to a JesusChrist lizard, which are named that because the juveniles can run across water (bipedally) when they’re scared. Apparently the adults also run bipedally. I would like to see that. It seems comical.

After the hike and after lunch, I tried to siesta, but couldn’t sleep, so I went down to the forest to have some space, and maybe make a bamboo flute. The flute didn’t turn out so well, but before I started it, when I was walking around, I saw my first wild wild snake. I was walking down a path and looking for lizards to practice catching (both of mine got away today…damn damn damn), and I heard this swishy swishy noise, so I turned around, and I saw this big black snake (about 5 or 5.5 feet long, and not so fat, but not really skinny) coming out of the ferns towards me, about…oh, 20 feet away, and kinda fast. I jumped, and said “Oh my god!” started backing away, and when it was 15 feet away, it stopped, reared up about 15 inches (it had a pure white ventrum), and just looked at me, flicking its tongue. I looked back, and part of my brain was like “TAKE A PICTURE YOU IDIOT THIS IS PERFECT” and part of my brain was like “SHIT is it a mamba? Is it going to chase me? Do they HAVE mambas in Costa Rica? I don’t think so….” And the other part of my brain was like “Are you serious? I’m seeing a 6 foot snake and it’s just standing there looking at me? This is SO COOL!!!!!!”. But by the time I unfroze (15 seconds or maybe 30…it felt like forever that it just kept flicking its tongue and looking at me in a totally impersonal “hmm” kind of way) and started to fumble through my pack for my camera, it had put its head down and begun to go back from whence it came. I got two pictures of it slithering, but I can’t get the picture of it slithering after me out of my head…it freaked me out, a little. Of course, then when I ran into a branch, I completely flipped, and my legs were shaking pretty bad. And I had to check everywhere around benches and stuff for a while before sitting down. As it turns out, that snake eats venomous snakes around here. But it still startled the crap out of me, and I’m pretty sure that that is the first real wild snake I’ve ever seen. Certainly the biggest. I think the reason it got me is because I have that mamba story in my head. But…if nothing else cool happens this summer, that was definitely worth all the bugbites so far.

After that, I kinda didn’t do much interesting for the rest of the day. We measured banana leaves in the pouring rain, and got so wet that we could barely see (it then rained for almost 8 hours, alternating between heavy drizzle and outright downpour)…we went to town the same way they toted us back from our hike, in the back of a jeep on benches with our backs to the side windows, knees all squished in the center. About 9 of us went, because we wanted to get warmer clothes. I got an L.L.Bean jacket and some nice fleece pants (green and purple jacket, burnt orange fleece pants) for about 3400 CRC (which is around 6.50 USD). After that, a bunch of us went to the grocery store and I bought peanut butter, which is good emergency field food, since it’s good, slow energy (everyone else pretty much bought excessive amounts of beer…first of all, YUCK, and second of all beer is mildly forbidden (Doug considers it “unimaginative”, which means you won’t get kicked out unless you’re drunk, but you will be minorly persona non grata, which isn’t so good), and thirdly, we’re leaving tomorrow, so they are just going to have to leave it here. Oh, and most of them are now broke. Sheesh. I am considering getting a bottle of really nice tequila, except I don't like tequila.

While we were waiting to come back home, a drunk guy hit on me pretty hardcore in Spanish. But, I didn’t understand most of it. There were a lot of ‘guapa’s (which means hot, or cute, or pretty), and some “—a mi casa” s (which means at my house). Jeremy says the guy thought Jeremy should marry me, and when he said he didn’t want to, the guy wanted to instead. EW. But I just ignored him, because that’s what you’re supposed to do. Dinner…not so yummy, but good food. I played with it…then we had the herps lecture, which was pretty interesting, but nothing hugely new or different. Not at all exciting compared to what happened earlier with herps.

Tomorrow morning we leave for Cuerici, and after four days (i.e. on Thursday, 6/14) we leave for La Selva. After La Selva, we spend three days (starting 6/18, when we leave La Selva and arrive in time for lunch at Bribri) at the Bribri reservation, then spend the afternoon and evening of June 21 in San Jose (I’m going to buy a hammock and a machete…cuchillo…whatever), and the next morning we … go to Guayabo national monument, which is an archaeological dig site, or something. The NEXT day (June 23) we come back to Las Cruces, and then really start rolling on research and research prep.

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