Found the best itch cream

I know my family, especially Mari and Miya, understand how bad mosquito bites (well most bites from little insects) can be. This has got to be the BEST itch cream I have ever used.... and yes, it does say lidocaine on the package. I would have to say that was the best $8 I have ever spent. Who wants some for Christmas?! hahahah


Nightly Patrols

So I thought about posting pictures from our exhumation the other day but thought better of it. They're kind of gross. So I'll keep them in a special folder on my iPad and iPhone for when I get home and I can show you if you want.

A lot of people are probably wondering what our day to day like activity is like and well we rest a lot during the day. It gets to be pretty hot outside by 8 am, I think usually around 32 C but I could be wrong. But we spend most of our time working in the very late night or very early morning, really depends on what tides are doing. Turtles come up to nest only when it is dark out and usually the babies hatch at night, though we do have exceptions which makes it hard for us to really travel far from the house during the day when we need to check the hatchery.

This morning was no exception to our early mornings, we were up and patrolling at 3 am and bringing babies down the water too. Unfortunately, we went at the wrong side of the tide, turtles came up last night and they had all been poached. We go to bed early when we know that we have to do early morning patrols, so we were in bed by 8 last night, Courtney did the first hatchery check and had to release some babies. I did the second hatchery check at 10:30, I didn't find any babies but I did find Andre in one of our hammocks. Mom and dad, you probably know Andre as Michael's brother, he has started patrolling with us, though we never really know when he is going to show up. It was nice he came though because while we patrolled the north side of the beach and found nothing Courtney and our British volunteer Izzy found 1 nest to bring back to our hatchery!

And of course we had more babies waiting to swim out to sea when we got back!


Leatherback Conservation in California

So we found out this morning that California has a new official Marine Animal! Jerry Brown signed, yesterday I believe, that starting next year October 15th should be used to teach about leatherback conservation in California public schools! Guess this is good news for me and my venture to becoming a high school biology teacher and now working with a sea turtle conservation group! The reason for picking the leatherback as the turtle was because they make an amazing journey each year from Indonesia to the California coast to eat jellyfish. The "new" state flag looks pretty cool too haha.  read the article!

Things that bite

We've started having babies, lots and lots of babies. We are thinking they have all started coming up out of order due to the earthquake. Talking to some of the other camps it sounds like holes might have shifted a little making it hard for the babies to get out.

So I have discovered that a lot of things bite in Costa Rica. The mosquitos and biting flies seem to be the least of my problem, except when they get at my feet. I was thinking that it was ants that bit my feet up but they are still so itchy I don't think it could have been. But compared to the rest of my body my feet are the worst looking part, and I don't think it helps that I'm always barefoot and walking in the sand and dirt.


You can help Green Turtles!

So for my family, when we're driving in Hawaii and we get slowed down driving up to the North Shore between Haleiwa and Waimea it's because we have hit "Turtle Town".  It's this beach that is so popular for the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles (or Honu) to come up and sunbath. These are actually the same green turtles that are seen all over the tropical regions, in fact we have some due to come up on our beach this week to lay another nest!

Honus were placed listed on the Endangered Species Act by the US National Marine Fishers Services almost 30 years ago when their nesting population was about 60.  The Hawaiian Sea Turtle population has grown to 800 nesting females a year, but still not the 5,000 nesting females a year they had hoped for to remove them from the Endangered Species Act.  Please sign this petition by October 1st in order to keep the Hawaiian Sea Turtles population growing and in the ocean rather than quickly dwindling down by being slaughtered on public beaches and sold in restaurants and souvenir shops.

Again, here is the petition.

For more information on sea turtles and how to get involved at home look at SeaTurtles.org

Thanks for listening to me and all the support!


Bull Sharks, Turtles, and Trash

So about two days ago, Wendy (an American that lives down the street) told us that she saw a shark about 3 meters long earlier in the day.  She said it did not look like it was swimming aggressively but she got out of the water.  Yesterday while we were with Eric (Lotti's, my boss,  husband) it was brought up, apparently we had a bull shark swimming out in front of our house.

It amazes me, especially after a storm, how much trash washes up on our beach here.  I'm learning everyday how luckily I am to live in California and have such clean beaches.  This picture was taken after a storm (or maybe before I can't remember), but the amount of trash that washes up on our beach just astounds me each time. Courtney and I plan on doing some tie dying with the kids, and now we are thinking that the project will be an incentive for doing a beach clean up.  I mean yesterday Victor came to get the bike to help him pick up a computer monitor! And we are not talking about the nice flat screens we have everywhere these days, but a big boxy desktop computer.

Yesterday we went to the boat to go out with Eric but I didn't really know what we were going to be doing when we went down.  I was nervous I might get sea sick but decided that it would be okay because, no matter what, it would be something different.  The PRETOMA truck came and picked us up at 7 and we got a ride down the Coyote Estuary. This is the estuary that we patrol to in the south every night and we've been told by locals this one is not safe to swim in because of sharks and crocodiles.  

The boat came across the estuary to get us and bring us to the dock to get ready to go out to do some research.  Now we aren't talking about the boats we see in San Diego when we go on Dave's boat; no, these fishing boats were so small almost like dingies with a motor (the Titanic lifeboats might have fit more people).  Needless to say, on a boat this small sitting just outside the surf I got sea sick.  It wasn't unbearable, I had Dad's voice in my head the whole time telling me to look out at the horizon and sit up straight, which I did and was able to keep my breakfast.
We put out a net looking for Hawksbill turtles.  These guys rarely come up on our beach to nest so it would have been really cool getting to see one.  We dropped the net and had to jump in the water with snorkels to make sure that the net was all untangled, but we were also warned that there were jellyfish out.  At one point my leg started stinging.  I've been stung before and it felt similar, but I don't think I was actually hit by one because I never saw the mark on my leg.  So we escaped crocodiles, sharks, and jellyfish!

Our search for Hawksbills was not successful.  We went back twice before deciding it was time to pull up the net.  But when going back to pull up the net we see we have a turtle! We had a Olive Ridley, which is what we get nesting up on our beach most frequently. They were actually recently taken off the endangered list and put on the threatened animal list.
After untangling the turtle from the nest we were able to get it on the middle bench in the boat.  And she wasn't very happy about being on the boat.  Turtles have an instinct to flap their flipper when on their stomach and trying to get away, she didn't realize that she was suspended in air by a bench.  They flap pretty hard, there were these loud slapping sounds coming from her trying to get away until we put a shirt over her head to get her to go to sleep.  Victor held the turtle, Courtney grabbed the measurements and Eric tagged her.  I haven't been able to tag a turtle yet, in fact,  I haven't even seen the whole nesting process. And while Eric offered to teach me how to tag there I didn't feel comfortable tagging a turtle while on a boat and feeling not so great.  So I opted to be the photographer of the event.
She had a cut on the side of her mouth, we believe that it was from a fishing line.  It is really sad to see how beaten up these turtles can get, and we don't always realize what we are doing to contribute.
These were a little bit smaller than the boat we went out on but these are the Costa Rican fishing boats.  They don't use fishing poles but just throw lines out.  Hopefully sometimes soon, when the fish start biting again (we have had big shrimp ships out front that take all the fish and turtles) I will get a chance to go over and help at the fishery some more.

After we got off the boat we went to drop off a new research assistant at the Caletes project.  This project is known as the camping station; they are very secluded from the rest of us and they have made their whole camp.  It was a really cool camp, they had iguanas running around everywhere.  But, I was really glad that I have walls and a ceiling that keep out the mosquitos at night.

Things are about to get really tiring around here. Matt is leaving us tonight and Victor is leaving for his visa run later this week.  Courtney and I are planning on going into Coyote Thursday or Friday to try and gather up some locals to help us patrol.  Girls cannot be alone on the beach so really Courtney and I count as one person together so we really need to find people to walk with us.  This way the whole beach can be covered, but we figured we will probably become vampires staying up all night with nesting turtles and turtle babies about to start hatching! Hopefully when Courtney goes on her visa run it won't be so bad, since Victor can be on the beach alone and we will either have some volunteers or Ingrid (who works for PRETOMA) will be with us.

Probably will have an update tomorrow with babies! They are hatched in their nests (two nests) but we just have to wait for them to come up.  We went and took a look at the hatchery with Lotti when she came by today.  We had to fix the nests, the sand was not packed in tight enough and we weren't sure if this is from the earthquakes, rain, or just not being renested right.


Curse of the parents

So I spoke too soon about not seeing any turtles last time.  After my parents left that night was a pretty exciting night for us at the house.  In total we got 4 nests, 3 turtles, 2 false crawls, and nothing was poached!

Last nights turtle patrol was a little sketchy.  We went out about 10 minutes later than planned because there was a lightening storm within probably oh a mile of us.  So we waited it out, sounded like it was going north.  There was still some heavy rain but we all were prepared for that, and dressed in a pair of pants, shoes, and my patagonia rain jacket, we braved the storm.  Courtney and I went south and made it past the rocks, I would say that is probably like 800m down the beach, and the only tracks we had were from the wood (basically tree stumps) being washed up on shore.  We noticed another lightening storm was moving in and acknowledged it was close and a good thing we turned around.  While the first bolt went horizontal in the sky, the second went straight down with the loudest thunder I can remember hearing.  Needless to say we both booked it, neither of us wanted to be the tallest thing on the beach when the next one struck (and we are both the same height).  We made a beeline for the trees while trying to figure out our best escape route.  We thought about finding a house and going to sit on the porch while we waited it out or try to get back to the main road.  Luckily we found a little beach road that led to the street our house is on. It was probably a ten minute walk through a lot of puddles, saw crabs running everywhere and even a toad.  We've been told that we won't see poachers on a night that there is lightening, because Ticos are afraid of lightening, I'm thinking that they are smart and don't see poaching as worth the risk.

So this was written a few days ago, and I haven't had any turtles since so still have not seen the whole process, yet.
There are so many sand dollars 
 The beach is covered with these huge pieces of wood that cover the beach.  During the rain storm these weren't much help, we kept having to flash the lights to make sure it was just tracks from the stumps and not turtle tracks.  
Here is a Costa de Oro sunset, once you see it you understand why the beach is called the Gold Coast.  The sand even turns this gold color in the light. 

This one is directly right in fornt of our house, we have a nice little beach break.  This was taken during the same sunset as the one above, it's cool to see how the colors reflect different at different sections of the sunset.  


no turtles yet

So we are thinking there might be a parent curse as far as seeing turtles.  When Courtney and Victor's moms were visiting they didn't get to see turtles, and neither did my parents (or I because they were in close proximity).  They're gone now, Mom and Dad left for San Jose around 2:30 ish, they should be there just waiting to hear from them (hopefully they aren't stranded on the road some where).
My Spanish is coming back to me a little, well I only really knew a little, three years or high school and a semester in college doesn't really get you far. I've given up on making sure that I conjugate everything correctly and just going for vocab (hoping conjugating will come with time).
Lets back track a few days, Friday we left Arenal.  We got to the volcano national park around 10:30 and contemplated going on the shorter trail (about an hour long). In retrospect we were glad that we did not even try that one (my previous blog talked about our long car ride).  

 Here are the horses that were right next to our hotel when we were in Arenal.   

 This is from crossing the dam that creates Lake Arenal.  IT IS HUGE! We drove around it and when we got to the other side we couldn't even see the dam.
 On the other side of the dam, I believe, there was this stream.  I could be totally wrong and it is some place I don't even remember.
There was this water fall we encountered while on our dirt road from Samara to Javilla.  We thought we were lost, Laguna Mar is not on the GPS program yet and I had no real directions as to where I was going except Playa San Miquel y Playa Coyote.

Here is our kitchen in Costa de Oro.  We have a stainless steal refrigerator AND and oven.  Oven is a pretty big novelty around here, at least non of the other projects have it. The house mates are great, Victor has been our cook he informed Court and I tonight that he was going to go on vacation though. Victor really isn't our like cook he is one of the research assistants on the project who just happens to like to cook and make good food with left overs for lunch the next day.  We have clean water, on the well system here (so no flushing toilet paper).  The out door shower makes since to where I will probably shower the most while I am here, but we do have a bathroom in our house.
So Drew, who owns Laguna Mar, told us that we would find the house on the street with the Pretoma sign.  It was dark out and the sign hadn't been made yet.  Today Victor and Matt worked on hanging it up on the two logs and maybe tomorrow we will start painitng it.  Thinking it will end up saying Costa de Oro house of PRETOMA.  It is cool working at this house because it is a trail project and so a lot of the work hasn't been done yet.
Here is our living room.  Through the door on the left is our porch where we have two hammocks, some chairs, Matt's surfboard, my yoga mat, and lots of little crawling critters.
So the view of the back porch from the mangroves.  We can see the ocean and the waves but not like Mike's house (the house my cousins stay at in North Shore).  We do have beach front property though but they have building laws in Costa Rica as to where the house can be placed.  Where we are the house has to be 50 m from the beach (I believe and at least it looks like I'm standing at the other end of a long course pool when I look back from the beach).  But there are leases on the land that are 25 years and you can "own" those 50 yards.
Our outdoor shower, not nearly as nice as Betty's shower.  We don't have a water heater so all of our running water is just regualr temperature.  I wouldn't say it's freezing but it's not a hot shower either.

Here are our mangroves filled with coconuts.  My task for the next few days is to learn to get cocount water from them.  this is actually our view from the porch too.  I did yoga up there tonight about 5 so right before sunset.  Victor told me later that it was a really pretty sunset and was going to tell me to go look but didn't want to interupt.  I should probably plan my practice better so that  I can get some pictures for everyone it really is gorgous.  The sky turns beautiful colors and the ground turns gold (pretty fitting for the gold coast right?).

Here is our hatery, Court is really proud of it.  I'm going to have to get more pictures to show it off she and Victor really did do a great job at constructing the whole thing.  We were hoping for baby turtles today for Mom and Dad, one of the nests have hatched, they just have come up yet.  Hopefully later tonight or tomorrow they will.  One of the other projects called Courtney today and asked her if we have had babies yet, apparently the earthquake (we're thinking) wasn't easy on their hatery.  They had a nest hatch, well kind of,  only one survived the rest were developed turtles but for some reason didn't make it which is why everyone is thnking the earthquake had a lot to with it.
There wasn't any real damage done from the earthquake, no turtles nested for three days after and rumor has it the peninsula came out of the water a centimeter and a half.  There are still aftter shocks being felt, they are usually around 3 or 4's we are guessing.  Lotti gave Courtney a website that lists the Costa Rican earthquakes 10 seconds after they happen.  We all know the evacuation route if another big one happens though.  Basically closed toed shoes only and we were told by locals that if we can get to the bus stop up the road we should be fine because there are so many mangroves.  I told Courtney when she told me about the evacuation route that if I hear there is a tsunami coming I'm going to keep running up those hills as fast as I can.  But over all the Pretoma group has figured that Drew's hotel (which is on a hill) is a good meeting place for the group and the hill keeps going up so we  can keep going if necessary.
Laguna Mar is like our hang out spot I guess.  We went last night, Drew had live music and a friend in town it who he was trying to impress and we didn't want to just bail at dinner time when the party was just getting started.  Mom and Dad were our shuttle service, the car they had seats five.  our way out there we had six and we came back for Victor adn Ingrid came with us so the drive home was a little crowded.
Today I went up and hung out with Mom and Dad by the pool and got lunch and took my last hot shower for a while, though Drew said we can come up at any time for warm water and he will give us towels too.  The treck is about 10 min by car.  He is also having live music next weekend too and said that if we all want to go he would send the car down to pick us up.  The friend he was trying to impress was quite the character.  He says he owns The Springs resport up in Arenal (which is the celebrity hang out in Costa Rica).  According to Courtney's dad, Tom, said that if he is who he says he is and can get us a deal we should take him up on it.  Rooms hardly ever go less than $400 a night and told Courtney and I we could stay for $89 a night (we might have to look into this after we are done here).  For all the Bachelor fans out there, this is the hotel that Brad went to when they went to Costa Rica, and it puts all the other resorts up there to shame according to Tom.
Anyways, this is long enough for now.  Patrol tonight hopefully there will be a turtle or two or three now that Mom and Dad are gone the curse might be lifted.  Since its independence weekend here we are having a lot of poachers from out of town.


the longest 4 hr car trip

So not a lot of pictures tonight, long day in the car.  We were told that the car ride from La Fortuna (where we stayed last night) to the beach here would take oh 4 hours.... well acutally they told us to Samara it would be 4 hours, no one really knew where we were going. So I guess there were pretty right on about the drive to Samara, we left at 10:30 ish and got there about 3, okay so a little over but we did stop for lunch! Well once we got to Samara we were kind of stuck, where do we go next? We got to the town just south of that and realized that the GPS was taking us inland if we contiuned on the paved road we were on.  There was a surf shop with internet back in that town so decided to turn around and go look there, maybe we could find something online about where to go if no one was able to help.  I was able to ask and get direction in Spanish, while mom and dad stayed in the car trying to look at a map and the GPS.  He told me what towns we woould need to pass through to get to where we were going, so basically had to take it one town at a time reading the signs as we went.  at about 5:30 we made it to Laguna Mar.  This hotel is owned by Drew who is from D.C. and it is really nice.  I will have to post pictures later.  He gave us directions down to the pretoma house.... which we got lost trying to find in the dar.  I had to get out of the car again and ask for directions, basically had to ask for Courtney and the Pretoma house and they knew where to point me.  But, Costa Ricans are so nice! not only did Don Victor tell me how many houses to go he walked with me down while Mom and Dad followed in the car behind us.  Still need to work on my Spanish though, I got my basics down but can't really have a converstation.  The house here is nice, again will have to post pictures later.  It's three bedreooms 2 bathrooms.  Courtney has the master bedroom.  And for now we have the Boys (Victor and Matt) in one room and I'm staying with the German Girls (I can't Spell her name) in the other.  We have bunk beds to 4 people could fit in each room.  So if we get more voluteers I can decide with the boys if we all share a room (the research assistant room and volunteer room) or we keep it boys and girls.  But looks like as of Tuesday I'll have my own room.  Going out on patrol tonight, hopefully will see some turtles.  It's very humid here, nothing like in La Fortuna! Well for now that is all going to rest a little before going out.... which is at 10.



So we made it to Costa Rica safely!  Our plane from LA to Florida was pretty sketchy, my seat reclined back on take off and was never able to go back again once we got it up.  Oh well, we at least had some in flight entertainment on our second flight.  There was a group of about 20 guys all going to Costa Rica for what sounded like a bachelor party, basically they were all wasted and while rather annoying they were also pretty funny.
I've been in the same clothes for over the past 24 hours now our timeline was:
5:30 Leave Carlsbad
The view of the Carribean 
7:00 Arrive at In-n-out (obviously an important step in our travels)
8:00 Check in at LA
9:50 flight from LA to Florida
5:30 arrive in Florida
10:300 flight to Costa Rica
Basically we had the longest layover and people were sleeping on the airport floor, Dad and I were wondering if mom should check their temperatures.  The flight from Florida, though, had pretty ocean views.  The water was so clear and blue from the airplane.  Unfortunatly, I was only able to get one good picture and it's just a little bit of what we could see.

We drove up to the hotel we are staying at tonight, right outside our window is Arenal (the volcano).  The owner of the hotel said the best time to see the volcano is at 5.... AM! But we did take the scenic route up we  found out only once we got here.  There were a lot of windy roads and "dangerous bridges" according to our GPS stystem.  But none the less at least it was a pretty drive throug the rainforest.  
The place that we are staying tonight is very cute.  It's clean and not the bates motel I stayed at with Jenna in Flagstaff, but I do think that we are the only ones here.... The man that lives here was very nice when we came in. He told us where to get THE best steak ever.  It really was the best I have ever had.  Dad and I figured it was probably so good becuase it wasn't pumped with hormones and they were't corn fed.  In the morning we have breakfast from 7-9 I think he said.  It is made at his home which is on the same property, a dairy farm.  Our friend Carol stayed here last time she came with Courtney and recommended it.  Apparently the breakfast is really good because everything is so fresh.
The milk farm we are staying at



Waiting at LAX

We got to LA about 7 pm. Of course I was hungry and wanted In-in-out, which was also conveniently located next to the supulvada spot parking garage. I was able to get my last dose of American fast food before heading to the airport (grilled cheese, french fries and a rootbeer). We went next door to park and everything was FULL! (except of course valet) We drove down the the century Spot to see if it was the same situation, and of course it was. Mom was starting to get a little antsy, she hadn't been able to print off my boarding pass online and I think there was another reason but I can't remember.
So we ended up at wally park, which there valet is like a car dealership every car was shinny and fancy looking (but I really don't know if they were because I know NOTHING about cars).
We got to the airport and all checked in. Maybe mom was stressing about bag weights (the max for spirit is 40lbs. Luckily all the bags made it! The heaviest bag was 38.0 lbs. There were some doubts about my duffle bag weighing too much but it was still only about 32 lbs.
We waiting in line for security. I've come to the conclusion that San Diego TSA is much much friendlier than LAX. This wouldn't be a trip with my mom without making friends with someone in a line, so while waiting in the extremely long (guess I'm used to quick SD TSA) security line we talked to a mom and her daughters who were visiting from Australia.
Now we are waiting at the gate for our flight, I believe it's at 9:50.
Yes I did bring Mr. Bear, he's been on the Disney Cruise, to Hawaii, and France figured he might as well go to Costa Rica


24 hour count down

With a little 24 hours to go today has been filled with lots of packing and cleaning.  Yesterday was my last day of work, which has left me with two days to try and pack as little as possible and clean my room and my car.  These are all very daunting tasks, if you have ever seen my car or room you would know.

Excited to get started in Costa Rica, for those of you that don't know I'm going to be spending the next few months in Costa Rica as a Research Assistant for an organization called Pretoma.  I will be working with other volunteers and interns collecting research data about turtles! 

Since I'm not going to have texting/calling capabilities while I'm there this seemed to be the easiest way to keep everyone up today with whats going on.  And hopefully there will be lots of pictures!!!