So a question I hardly ever get is "What do I bring to a Costa Rican turtle project?"
Except, I have learned the past couple weeks people need to be asking these questions, and I suppose I assumed everyone (like myself) did research into where they were going to be living and what they were going to needing. If anything I think I might have over prepared two years in a row, but better safe than sorry. So my friend Lauren, whom I went to high school with, is coming to be a research assistant for three months in Costa de Oro with me, keeps getting very detailed lists of what to bring.
- Clothes- You want to make sure that you have enough clothes that you are not doing laundry every day, remember we hand wash, but not so much that you are bringing a 50 LB suitcase filled with the latest trends from the US. My clothes will all usually fit into a large O'Neill backpack that I use as my carry on. I have: One pair yoga pants. One pair of rip curl linen pants. Old t-shirts (quiet a few of them black for patrol). I have learned that running clothes are great in Costa Rica I live in running shorts and work out tops, they dry quickly when I'm doing laundry or caught by surprise in the rain, and with todays technology they usually have some sort of an anti-stink function! I also have board shorts (just one pair from back when I was lifeguarding because I don't really wear them at home so I didn't have them laying around). One sweatshirt, yes it's rainy season here, yes eventually you will get a little chilly, no you don't need to pack for the snow (or even the rain of Northern California).
- Shoes- Last year I brought running shoes and a pair of rainbows. I didn't really care what was going to happen to my rainbows, though they survived, it was just difficult to walk in wet rainbows. This year I brought an old pair of reefs that I had found under my bed, the kind that were popular in high school with the big thick black strap. For shoes I brought a pair of water shoes for patrol, because I am prone to bug bites I like protective wear from sand flees at night because itchy feet are the worst! I also totally ripped off Courtney and bought a pair of Merrell trail running shoes, BUT THEY ARE AWESOME!! (And Court, you are getting credit!). I didn't like last year how even if I did try to wash my socks they were always dirty and even when they made it back to the States they never really recovered. Merrells are awesome, they have the vibrum sole, with out the funky split toes, they are light weight, and dry quickly! Totally a good purchase even if my sister said they were lesbian shoes.
- Patrol- I wear black pants, like the super cool warm up pants soccer players wear if their game is in the rain (I never played soccer seriously, so if this is an untrue fact about soccer player uniforms I apologize). I have an old pair from when I swam and then I found like the last pair on Amazon. Last year I learned that one pair is not enough, in case it gets wet, but I totally over packed with three pairs and I hated one of them. Some people are okay patrolling in shorts, I'll patrol in shorts if it is raining.
- Rain gear- PATAGONIA!!! They know what it's all about when they made their H2NO rain jacket. My parents bought it for me in college as a Christmas gift one year, during El Niño season so it didn't get much use until I came to Costa Rica. I like it because it is light weight, essentially just a shell none of the fanciness of extra layers to keep you warm, because I don't need to be kept warm. Plus armpit zippers are kind of fun to play with while you are walking 4 KM at night. Some people like ponchos some wear other brand rain jackets. This is just what I prefer. I would not suggest an umbrella, it does not protect against sideways rain, and my fear of being struck by lightening becomes elevated.
- Headlamps- Please, please, please, bring a light with red light. So important for working with turtles. This is important when working with turtles since they are sensitive to the white light, and often confuse it for the ocean. They don't seem to notice the red light and the more people with lights the quicker we are able to work her up.
- Waterproof watch- Okay, I was in love with my watch from last year and it broke last night. It died while sitting at home in my jewelry box this past year, I replaced the battery but it probably died because it wasn't really water proof anymore and I can't really avoid water here, though I could have taken it off while body surfing I suppose. Basically what you want from your watch is waterproof, time, light, and I like mine to have the date and day because otherwise I never know when it is.
- Electronics- They aren't meant to survive Costa Rica, usually. Right now we are trying to still figure out our internet situation, though I have the capability to get us WiFi thanks to Tom King for helping me out with a Novotel Mifi! We are still trying to figure out what the rates are for different data packages. Though up in Coyote they just ran fiber optic cables about two weeks before I got here so their internet is awesome! Except the office is someones house as well, so I don't like to go there all the time because I might get annoyed if that was me, and it is an office and people work there, plus its a 5 km walk. I was able to get a Costa Rican SIM card before I left through Costa Rican Cellular which is a small US company authorized to resell ICE Kolbi cards. Once you get to Costa Rica, and outside the airport, it becomes more challenging to get a phone because you need to be a local resident of Costa Rica. I had my iPhone unlocked (since my contract was up) and ordered a micro SIM card and sat in the corner of the airport and switched our the SIM cards real quick and tada a Costa Rican iPhone! I also have my iPad, I did not bring a laptop because I knew mine would never survive Costa Rica, it barely runs in California these days. After dropping my iPad last year on our tile floor I decided this year it needed a tough case and I brought a bluetooth apple keyboard since they are small and make blogging/data entry so much easier!! IPad is also awesome because of the kindle app! Unlimited reading, for a small fee, but I do not have to worry about running out of books. A camera with extra memory cards!! And always make sure you have your chargers or extra batteries, because without them these things because pretty useless.
- Food- I bring Kidz Cliff Bars, mostly because I actually will eat all the flavors that come in the Costco assortment box. I have some of the Crystal Light individual juice packets for when I am feeling fancy. The Costco double pack of Nutella also ended up with me, since a small jar will usually cost about $6 at the super I felt this was a necessity. Some people bring peanut butter since that is also fairly expensive, I do not like peanut butter so I do not have a problem not having it. My dad also sends me with some Japanese snacks, green tea, candy from his Rocket Fizz store, and lilikoi passion fruit juice packets and hawaiian ice tea packets (homesick remedies).
- Entertainment- Like I said iPad for books, I also have my slackline, body surfing fins, and some card games. My camera is also a form of entertainment I suppose, because I will walk around just taking pictures of random stuff that I might look back on and remember oh yeah that was cool.
- Toiletries- I'm a fan of American shampoo, especially from the States rather than the super because of cost. I do not use conditioner as much as I should because it makes my hair greasier faster, and I do not like washing my hair that often because of the cold water. Girls, go to Costco and get the giant boxes of tampons! Here you can get American female essentials however, they are expensive and not in the great quantities of Costco! I also have an abundance of hair ties and bobby pins. Once again for the ladies, UTIs are popular down here because of the environment always being so humid and I also heard you can get them if you are dehydrated (not sure of the accuracy), but I have cranberry pills just in case I need to ward off any symptoms.
I hope this packing list didn't scare anyone off. Turtle Trax also has one on their website as well, I just like my commentary on mine, theirs also has a few things on it that I have never personally needed but it's always good to get multiple perspectives. And while we may not have hot water or laundry machines, the water is totally safe to drink so do not worry about bringing water purification tablets. Remember, you are going to Central America, it is the rain forrest (even though we are on the beach) there are bugs that bite so be sure to bring your bug spray too!