10/31/13

Buenas Dias from San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua!

Yesterday afternoon we made it to San Juan del Sur, and boy was it a fun adventure crossing "no man's land" from Costa Rica to Nicaragua.

We left Costa de Oro about 10 AM and drove by San Miguel real quick to drop off a present my parents brought down for Maddie, though she new exactly what it was since she had ordered it for herself. We made it up to Liberia in time for lunch about 1 PM and stopped off at this nice little restaurant called Cafe Cristina, where is enjoyed my first latte in months! From Liberia we had about an hour left to go to the border, and I think Dad and I spent most of that time making sure that we were following the GPS correctly (she eventually threw a fit about where we were going and stopped giving directions).

Leaving the car in the dirt at the boarder

We made it to the border about 2:30 and parked our car in a sweet dirt lot, since it was a rental it couldn't leave the country, we gathered all our belongs that we cared about and started our trip across the border. We walked the 1Km of "no man's land" only to get to Nicaragua and find out that we had to go through the immigration building in Costa Rica first to get our passport stamped. So, we walked back to Costa Rica and filled out our paperwork just to walk all the way back to Nicaragua, Miya and Mom looked quite sweaty after. Eventually, we made it through the three different stops of immigration to get to Nicaragua and found our driver that was taking us up to the hotel.

San Juan del Sur is about 40 minutes north of the border and it was a really pretty drive. I love how green Nicaragua is, and the flat paved road wasn't to hard to love either. We had to go into town first because our driver needed to go to his boss' house to exchange his car for a 4x4 to make it up the hill to Mango Rosa (home for the next few days). On our way up the hill I was admiring the lush green, rainforesty hills and it dawned on me that there might actually be sloths here since it was rainy and cold like Monteverde. I asked our driver if they had sloths in San Juan del Sur, and Miya picked up what I was asking, and sure enough Miya and I will be sloth hunting in the hills of San Juan del Sur over the next few days.

Costa Rican boarder

Our hotel is very nice, it is more of a condo with two bedrooms and a fully stocked kitchen. We went to the restaurant at the hotel for dinner last night and I enjoyed a some amazing fish soft tacos and a pina colada made with my favorite nicaraguan rum, flor de cana. After dinner, Miya and I decided to go and find the hammock hang out, a lani filled with hammocks and wifi. Well, we found it and only stayed for about 10 minutes before starting to feel the bugs crawl on us and retreated home where I enjoyed my first hot shower in months.

I tired to stay awake for as long as possible to watch the World Series but I ended up asleep in one of the chairs and decided to call it a night.

Mom crossing "no man's land"

 

Dad getting to the first step of Nicaragua boarder crossing

 

My Family Made it to Costa Rica!

Mom, Dad, and Miya made it to Costa RIca Tuesday morning and by noon they were in Costa de Oro. We had a fun turtle-y day around the house. I had just had 6 tracks form the night before so I thought Tuesday nights patrol was going to be a really fun one for them. We also had two nests come up the night before that were going to need to be exhumed in the afternoon, which also meant that there were babies to be released with the people around town.

 

Once I went through the suitcase of things that were brought for me (by the way Courtney, my Dad said it only weighted like 35 lbs) it was about 1:30 and people were starting to get a little hungry. We gathered Lauren and went to Loma Clara, the nicer restaurant up in Coyote that I really like. Miya put her spanish learned form school to good use by ordering after Lauren and just saying "yo tambien." After lunch, we went to the super because I needed to introduce Miya to Trits, my favorite Costa Rican ice cream, which is an ice cream sandwich with graham cracker cookie and a little chocolate syrup in with the vanilla ice cream.

 

By this time it was about 10 minutes until 4 and we had to get home to do our exhumations. Miya was able to get Dad to take some nice pictures of the exhumation for a project that her marine biology gave her to make up the points that she would miss for the week out of school. Santos came over to visit while we were doing the exhumations and we decided that we would release the babies at 5:30 and I asked him to bring the people from his house.

 

5:30 came and it was just Santos with three of the kids, but we still had halloween (early since I was going to be in Nicaragua but I had treats for them). Courtney sent me a sweet halloween mask so I dressed up as a bat with a glow in the dark mask. Dad brought some Rocket Fizz candies that were probably consumed as dinner for the night, they were gooey marshmallow (they had a jelly center) eye balls.

 

At this point Mom, Dad, and Miya were looking pretty tired, their flight had got in about 5 am-ish after a red eye from LA, so they went home and took a nap until patrol at 11. I stayed home to make sure that everything was going smoothly and that everyone would have things covered while I was gone, I kind think me leaving for a few days might be what being a teacher leaving and needing a sub might feel like lots of preparing.

 

Well the family made it back to patrol and they showed up at 10:30 and I had coffee waiting for them and Miya and I ate our ice creams. I had just had two nests come up at about 10 so those were also in the house waiting to be taken out on patrol and I figured we could just walk them down to the end of the beach during patrol. Unfortunately, we did not have the same luck with turtles that we had the night before on patrol, but by the end of three hours we had released almost 300 babies.

 

 

10/28/13

Trip to the Farm

About a month ago one of our locals and I had a conversation while patrolling about how I like milk and cheese, mostly because we use powder milk here and have weird squeaky cheese (named for the squeaky noise it makes when you eat it). Well, during the next week he brought me a jar of fresh milk from his work, he works on a ranch with cows, horses, and pigs. He also told me that next month, when he had to milk cows again, he was going to bring me with him so I would learn to milk cows.

Well fast forward to current time, and it was time for me to go learn to milk my own cow. After a night of patrolling and taking care of babies I was up and ready to go up to the ranch at 5 AM, I got way to little sleep that night. Santos came by and picked me up from the house and I jumped on the back of his motorcycle and headed up into town.

Upon our arrival, one of his friends/coworkers was already herding the cattle up to the barn that we were going to milk them at. There were 12 females and one male walking up the road to greet us, and when we got to the barn there were 12 calfs waiting to be fed. I'm curious as to what time Santos' friend got to the ranch because it seemed like so much had already been set up for us to go, we just needed to go grab the buckets. The calfs were kept in a separate pin and eagerly awaited to be let out to find their momma to be fed. Each calf was let out one at a time they would start to feed and then would be tied up away from the momma cow and the momma's back legs were tied together so she didn't kick us or the bucket of milk.

I was very shocked, milking a cow is not quiet as hard as I would have thought. Except, it takes a lot of hand and forearm strength, I'm surprised carpal tunnel is not a big problem for these guys. We collected two 5 gallon buckets of milk from the cows and each guy was able to take home a few liters of milk to their families. And I got to have cafe con leche with very fresh milk.

After we finished milking the cows I'm pretty sure Santos grabbed a huge shovel to go clean up the poop from the cows in the barn, but I was sent with his friend to go hang out with the pigs, so I will never know! After watching the pigs and seeing them be fed and cleaned, we made our way back to the main barn and there were two horses out! So I pet the horses for a little bit before we made our way back home.

It was 8 AM when I got home and I had already helped milk a dozen cows and fed pigs for the day! I cleaned up and crawled into bed for a little nap before getting up and getting the show running at our house. Where we had a couple visiting from San Jose and we wanted to make sure that they saw an exhumation before they headed back to the capitol. (They were extremely lucky and saw a turtle nest, babies, and the exhumation!).

Tomorrow Mom, Dad, and Miya arrive for a week in Costa Rica/Nicaragua for my visa run. I am so excited to see them! They will be in tomorrow afternoon and I think tomorrow morning will go very slowly with my anticipation of their arrival.

 

10/24/13

Hatchery Update

Total eggs relocated to the hatchery: 5,999

Total nests relocated to the hatchery: 63

Babies released to date: 555

Average hatch rate: 95%

 

10/21/13

It's 5 O'Clock Somewhere

Lauren found the gallbladder.

Last year we started a tradition that we would release any babies that had come up during the day or from our exhumations with people in town at 5. I last left you with running to do an exhumation. Exhumations are when we go through the nests after they have hatched and count the egg shells and open any unhatched eggs to see what kind of development they might have been at. Occasionally we get one or two little straggler turtles, and these are the ones that I like to hold off and release with people in town.

So this year was no different. After our first nest hatched and we exhumed that nest and had one straggler I decided to pull up a nest where the babies had been poking their head out for the past hour to have everyone in town come and see what we have been growing in our backyard. I went running down our main road to go and let some of our locals and the kids know that we have babies and we will release the babies at 5 on the beach.

Glow stick jewelry making.

We had a great turn out at 5 PM and so many people we excited to see the babies that we had!! I was so excited that they were so excited!

As I noticed that the kids started to lose attention to the baby turtles I pulled out some glow sticks. We had a turtle release rave, or just jewelry making party. The kids left to go get some dinner and the adults hung out a little bit longer, before the lightning came in and they almost all went running back to their homes.

 

The Costa de Oro group

Today we walked to San Miguel for a Sunday Funday, hoping to watch a little American Football. The restaurant over there was technically closed because her help was sick, but she still made us food and let us know it would just take a little bit longer. We were not able to watch football but she did play it so we could listen. Maddie and Ana (a research assistant in San Miguel) came to join us for a game of apples to apples before we got our lunch and they headed off to their own meal down the road.

PiƱa con leche

We knew our walk back was going to include a swim across the estuary since the tide had been rising. This worked out to our advantage though because we were able to play in the estuary for a little bit before continuing the walk home. Don't worry everyone this is the estuary free of crocodiles and sharks!!

When we got back Lauren had a fishing lesson with one of our locals and Ryan ran out for a sunset surf sesh. We decided that it was a fun Sunday Funday.

Lauren and Santos wrapping up her fishing lesson
Ryan's sunset surf sesh
Our sunset was just to pretty tonight to pass up posting a picture of it

 

10/18/13

By Popular Demand...

Last night I was awoken by Lauren walking into my room and just saying babies really loud and she walked out.

Costa de Oro's first experience with babies in 2013!

Yup that is right our hatchery is finally hatching!!! Last night we had one nest come up and today we have had some stirring in three more nests.

Here is one picture to make everyone happy. I got to go do an exhumation hopefully I'll have more pictures to share very soon!

 

Redneck Muddin

What we watched happen over and over again.

Last year we attended the 4x4 rally in Coyote, and from last years experience I would not have gone again. However, I was convinced that this year was going to be better (mainly because we were not going to get there too early again), so once again I found myself tromping through a giant mud field. All in all I think it was a good $4 spend this year, I was actually able to see the people drive their cars into the mud pits.

The Costa de Oro crew met up with the San Miguel girls and we had a awesome time bonding with them. We were able to navigate our way through a ton of mud to watch some 4x4. After about an hour or so of watching people getting stuck we decided to venture off to the food venue to see what they had to offer for lunch. Luckily, we were able to find a spicket to rinse our feet off in because otherwise I think my sandals would have actually broken from the mud caked on instead of just almost unwearable anymore.

Eating with the San Miguel girls

We all grabbed some cokes from the bar and then went to the other side of the bar to take a look at the lunch menu. Unfortunately for Steph, the menu was not very vegetarian friendly, our options for lunch were such staples as arroz con pollo, carne asada, and a few other dishes. There was one that sounded like it might be vegetarian, we checked with one of the girls working and she said it was okay it only had a little meat. Steph settled for the arroz con leche, when we saw them dump a ton of whiskey into the giant tub of arroz con leche we knew we were all going to be trying it. Lauren, Teresa, and I settled on the pollo frito even though they decided to up the price by 500 colones right in front of us.

Luckily for us, we were able to all squeeze into a car from San Miguel and were able to get a ride up to the rally, which left us with a little more time to hang around check out some more muddin' (as Steph told us they call it in the South) and bond more with the San Miguel girls. While we were sitting in the dining area they were beginning to set up for a giant party they were going to be having that night with music and a DJ. Unfortunately the rally brings in so many people from out of town that we had to get home and prepare for patrol since we were expecting an above average amount of people on the beach.

Really good fried chicken

Since my last post, we have also received a new research assistant all the way from New Jersey. His name is Ryan and a total surfer boy, who brought along his brand new Al Merick. Like Lauren, he too has a degree in Marine Biology and decided that he wanted to come down to Costa Rica and work with turtles, I think the surf and that he has already been to Costa Rica twice helped to persuade his decision.

 

 

10/7/13

Green flash

A bucket list item is to see the green flash. I'm not sure if I would be able to see it here in Costa Rica, I'm not sure why not; but the closest was probably last nights sunset and there still too many clouds. But here is a picture from tonight's sunset, looks like rain is coming.

10/6/13

San Francisco Day

This weekend we have the fiesta in Coyote at the Church celebrating San Francisco. Last year, if I remember correctly, Tom (Courtney's dad) was in town and we were trying to find the festival but were unsuccessful in our quest, we couldn't locate the Church or a gathering of people. The festival this year is bigger and it was so easy to find it when we went up to Coyote! Might have something to do with the signs that were painted by the Turtle Trax group.

Last week we spent time up at the office preparing welcome, bathroom, recycling and trash signs, and prepping the trash mosaic. They all looked awesome and hopefully they were put to good use (people actually read them and put their trash in the appropriate bins). Yesterday, we went up to help with the festival, and by help we sat in the office cutting up pieces of beach trash to put on the mural, which was going to be the activity for today. It was a good thing to prep since it was also raining out not sure that trying to glue plastic on to the plywood would have worked in the rain. Lauren, Teresa, myself, and with the help of Luca (from Brazil and is training to work in fisheries for the next few months with PRETOMA) sat around a bucket of beach trash and laughed at all the weird things we were finding.

Welcome sign

When lunch time rolled around we went up to the Church to check out what was going on. There was a DJ playing music, ladies serving food from the kitchen in the church, and little activities going on for the kids. (For my family and any other Japanese readers out there it was pretty much Costa Rican Obon). Lauren and I each got a carne asada plate, which literally was just a piece of carne asada on a corn tortilla, it might have been nice if it included some rice and beans but I'm not complaining too much since it did only cost $2. We hung out for a little bit to eat our lunch with Lotti, Erik, Sophie, a couple guys from Caletes, and Luca. The DJ started playing Ai Se Eu Te Pego, which is actually a Brazilian song, and Luca rolled his eyes (this song is played in Michelina's video of the turtles from last year that I posted). Lucky for Luca, the song was cut short so we could enjoy the mariachi band. I thought they were playing inside the Church, but when I looked around I found them in the kitchen with other people gathered around in the kitchen dancing!

Carne asada and tortilla.

The weather has been so different from October last year, or at least from what I can remember. It seems like as soon as October 1st hit that we have just been having rainy day after rainy day. Luckily today was sunshine all morning so I was able to get some laundry done. The rain will probably alter the incubation time of our nests though, now expecting the first ones to take a little longer than expected because the temperatures have dropped. Olive ridely turtles usually take about 45 days to hatch, last year because it was so dry we were seeing them hatch as soon as 37 days. This will impact how long we can relocate nests to the hatchery before we begin to relocated eggs on the beach.

I'm not sure if it due to the rain or the sun or just weathering in general, but, the sand bags around the hatchery have begun to rip and break. The material that holds the bags together is just becoming thing and falling apart. I cleaned some more sacks the other day so Lauren and I spent the afternoon filling up sacks and reinforcing the hatchery where sand bags have broken or are about to break. Luckily, due to the weather we were able to work on it in the middle of the day.

Hatchery Update!!

We have now begun to circle back around in the hatchery. We fill it like a checker board so first we filled in all the black squares and now we are going in and filling in all the white ones.

Eggs in hatchery: 4,446

Nests in hatchery: 48

Nesting events: 169

Babies to come next week!!

 

10/4/13

Welcome October!

This is crabby patty, Lauren found the dead crab on a beach walk to San Miguel one day

It is hard to believe that I have been here for seven weeks and it is already October! Time sure is flying quickly this year. Some days I start to miss home but overall I am just a little bit too busy to really get caught up in it.

Roughly, I have about ten more weeks left to go until we need to be out of the house here in Costa de Oro. I'm not sure I am going to be ready to leave this beach this year. One of the locals was asking if I was coming back next year, he seems to think I probably will. (Michelle what do you think?)

A huge stingray that we kept smelling on patrol. The barb was huge!

Friday, we went up to the office to celebrate Elias' birthday. We were given an odd assortment of vegetables and told to cook something, right away I felt like I ended up on some foodnetwork challange. Lauren, Steph, and I passed the test though and our meal was pretty all over the board. W had green beans and broccoli with salsa de soya, roasted potatoes and zucchini, and sweet plantains with a onion garlic lime sauce Lauren learned to make from a Cuban restaurant in LA. I warned you the meal was all over the place. Of course there was cake. Elias loves to make different cakes, in fact his favorite book is 1000 different cakes from all over the world. This birthday cake was a strawberry yogurt with cinnamon sugar apple slices, it was an interesting assortment of flavors.

Prepping the mural to make a mosaic of trash

We are also getting ready for San Francisco Day, which is coming up this weekend. There will be a festival in Coyote celebrating the saint in which it is named after (San Francisco de Coyote). Apparently, this year it will be a three day long festival and we are going to have a booth where we are completing the mural that we started last year that will be a mosaic made of beach trash that depicts the marine life that lives off the coast here. Due to some bigger storms and some strong currants we experienced a ton of trash on the beach, so with the help of a lot of our locals we collected a ton of trash that will be put to use on the project.

Lauren was hard at work

October 8th will put our first nest at forty days in the hatchery. The first few days are going to be import for us since we will be able to gather a rough estimate on how long our nests are taking to hatch this year. Last year, we had an extremely quick incubation time of thirty-seven days. We've been getting a bit more rain this year though, so I am expecting it to be more around forty to forty-five. But since we need to be out of the house by December 10th, we need to determine this date pretty quickly so that the hatchery will be taken down by the time we leave.

The other day we got in a new volunteer, her name in Teressa and she will be with us for about a month. She's from Dallas and decided to come to Costa Rica, quit her job and sold her house and immersed herself in the culture for a month by going to a language school in Montezuma. She studied abroad here while she was in college and was excited to come back and if she can find a good paying job she thinks she might stay for a while longer. Teressa was also part of the Peace Corps and has an extensive list of countries she has visited.

I did find the Beinvenidos sign for Costa de Oro, finally after weeks of searching!

For our beach trash study that we are working on we needed to walk down to sector 3, that is roughly a little less than 2 km from our house. We gathered two large trash bags full of trash, and we are only surveying a 20 m of the whole 100 m section. Upon looking at the whole sector, we did realize we got lucky in the sections we randomly selected to survey for the day since a mattress had washed up on shore, the only outrageous thing we had to get home was an umbrella.

October is going to be a busy month here in Costa de Oro. We have a few volunteers coming in that will be staying with us almost to the end of the project (hopefully) and a new research assistant. Unfortunately, I am going to be loosing Steph at the end of the month though. Our house will be busy with volunteers and assistants plus (fingers crossed) tons of baby turtles. I advised everyone to catch up on their sleep this week because next week we might not be sleeping to much during the night.

We got a lot going on for me to organize this month, plus towards the end of the month I need to get my butt up to Nicaragua for my visa run! I did not have to do a visa run last year since I was in the country for about 97 days, but this year I am here for an extra month so it's either visa run or a fine, and I would rather go visit Nicaragua than pay the Costa Rican government $100. Sounds like a vacation, but I have heard that it is not stop traveling plus I want to try and explore as much of what I can of Nicaragua while I'm there.