Monday, March 12, 2007

I survived our first midterm! yay. and I wrote my paper, and I did the stats homework.... but i forgot to do my spanish, oh well, 3 out of 4 isn't bad. After my midterm I took a very nice hike through the cloud forest and rediscovered how off kilter my sense of direction is. It turns out that it is possible to hike over the continental divide without even knowing it, woops. I did have a fairly obvious clue to my misdirection when the weather changed from dappled sun (the pacific) to pouring rain (cuz thats what it does on the Atlantic side). I eventually did manage to meander my way back to a recognizable trail and then slide my way back down to the station. On my way down I was accosted by a flock of butterflies. There is a species of butterflies that roost in groups during the day down here. The ruckus I created while tromping down the mountain woke up about 20 of these flying terrors and sent them flapping straight into my face. Almost immediatly, we both realized our mistakes and headed in our separate directions. Shortly there after I came across a large gathering of army ants but after my butterfly encounter I figured it was best to leave all 6 legged critters alone. Also, from recently acquired experiance, I now know how much ant bites/stings hurt. Acacia Ants (Pseudomyrmex spinicola to be exact) are not toys! Amusingly, for that project we did with the ants and acacias, we managed to pick the most aggresive ant species and harass them at their most aggressive time. woops, again.
On an entirely random note, I have finally found a Costa Rican food (actually we aren't even sure this is a Costa Rican food) that I will not eat. Today for lunch we had a "banana bean wrap". ummmm, yeah. beans wrapped in mashed sweet plaintains topped with cheese. It was a unique meal that I hope never to have to experiance again. On the plus side, we got mango juice at breakfast and at dinner today, and mango juice is pretty much the best thing ever (it's up there on my list with sleep, salamanders, and chocolate). Actually, I think the possibility of mango juice is really the only thing that forces me to get out of bed for a 7 am breakfast..... mmmmmmmmm.... mango juice.....
Coffee is good too, we drink a lot of it here. I will be returning home an even bigger caffeine addict then when I left. It turns out that coffee (with milk and sugar) makes an excellent growth medium for tropical fungi. I forgot a mug on my desk for a week or so and the results were a little frightening. I won't be doing that again. On that very disgusting note I am going to bed (where hopefully there will be no scorpiones, or stinging wasps, or crunchy beetles).

Friday, March 9, 2007

more from Monteverde

I have now been in Monteverde for almost two weeks. Everyone is thoroughly busy right now as we have our fist midterm this tomorrow. In celebration of this quickly approaching torture I am procrastinating by watching a film of fighting beetles set to very up-beat music.
The last week has contained many exciting events. Last Saturday we did the tourist thing and went to the ziplines. We spent a thoroughly enjoyable and un-educational morning flying over the forest canopy. After the zipline adventure I finally got the milkshake I had been dreaming of. One flavor tried, 20 more to go!
The week days are filled with class, lots and lots of class. Most days have biology related lectures from 8 until 3 and Spanish class from 3:30-5:30. I am starting to feel that studying and classes are getting in the way of my learning (and by learning I mean tromping around in the cloud forest whenever I feel like it). My Spanish vocabulary is expanding. I now know such useful words as querida (mistress), mapache (raccoon), and aguas muertas (neap tide).
Some days we get a break from the usual lecture format. Yesterday’s exercise in biology could best be described as “High Speed Field Biology: Survivor Style”. At 8 am we were divided into groups of 5 and presented with our research question. All field data was collected by noon. After lunch the data was analyzed, background research was conducted, and a 15 minute powerpoint was constructed. A mere 11 hours after learning of our research topic we presented our results (statistics, discussion, relevant articles… the whole shebang) to the whole class. My group analyzed the nest distribution in a species of high altitude neo-tropical bees. It turns out that Crawfordapis luctuosa (aka big friendly bees that didn’t sting us even though we hovered over their nests for 2+ hours) display a clumped nest distribution. Yay.
Today’s lecture started off with a two hour hike through the cloud forest, over the continental divide, to the lecture hall. I really think all classes should start like that. We hiked up the Pacific side and then slid down the much wetter Atlantic side of the mountain. While mud-skiing down the Atlantic side I managed a thoroughly graceful, and apparently very noisy, swan dive into the mud. While untangling myself from a guilty tree root I was told to shut up so as to not disturb the hummingbird nest someone had just discovered. It was incredible; a hummingbird had built a nest right along the trail and stuffed inside were two almost full grown chicks. That might have been the best thing I saw this week (there were also about 20 Quetzals on a different hike, but I think the hummingbirds were cuter). Anyways, at the end of our hike we popped out of the forest at an insect museum (random, I know). The rest of the day was spent learning insect orders, how to tell a true shrunken head from a knock off, and the difference between a butterfly and everything else in the order Lepidoptera. The grand finale of the day was definitely when the owner of the insect museum (a former opera singer) performed the Costa Rican national anthem on his organ followed by the US anthem on the accordion.
I guess there is only so much procrastinating one can do at any one time, so I am now going to think about studying.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

We have now been in Monteverde for almost a week, and as the weekend approaches I finally find myself with a bit of free time. Unfortunately I used those three minutes of free time trying to find my socks, so now I am just eating into my sleeping time. It’s ok though, because sleep deprivation makes everything suddenly hilarious. Like sloths, talk about funny…. Actually, what was really funny today was Spanish class. I am in a class with three other people and we spent most of our time just practicing conversational Spanish. Somehow in today’s two hour class I ended up having to explain reproduction in kangaroos and the 1918 Influenza… in Spanish. It was amusing, probably more so for everyone other then me. (El conguro tiene una bolsa, y en la bolsa hay un bebe……etc)
Classes have been really intense for the last few days. I need a weekend just to catch up on all the studying and assignments we have. Of course I also have lots of important plans for this weekend like going to the zipline, buying at least one milkshake (a monteverde diet staple), sitting under a quetzal roost until one of those damn birds flies by, finding some frogs in the woods, and other stuff.
There are plenty of adventures to be had at the station we are staying at. Like last night, I was quietly studying and minding my own business when a very large moth barged into the room and proceeded to make a ruckus. So, of course I did the most logical thing and grabbed a butterfly net. For the next several minutes the moth and I went in circles as I slipped and slid across the hardwood floors in my socks. The flying distraction was eventually caught and released outside so that studying could once again occur.

some pictures

hanging out in the cloud forest

heading to Corcavado

playing with toads

it takes forever to load pictures, so I might attempt to put more up later but I am now on a mission to buy a milkshake (the monteverde quakers have a cheese factory with the best milkshakes in the world, or so I have been told).