A Journey Into the Forest

La Ventana viewpoint from the Montevrde Cloud Rainforest Reserve!

Before I get into the events and whatnot of the last week or so I wanted to talk about a couple of interesting cultural differences that I have gotten used to, because I feel like I haven’t talked about them much- maybe that’s a sign that I am adapting to them relatively quickly.  😀

  • Because Costa Rica does not currently have a sewage treatment plant anywhere in the country all the raw sewage gets flushed directly into the rivers.  As a result of both that and the piping not being solidly made or with large enough pipes toilet paper actually has to go into the trash in 90% of places.  There are a few places in San Jose that have been designed later to be able to actually handle it so that the toilet or piping don’t die, but overall it is not recommended.
  • Dogs.  In Monteverde, but also in La Carpio and the other places we have been even if briefly the dogs just kind of run around more often than not.  Sometimes they have collars and sometimes they don’t, but when we did our first tour we had something like 5 different dogs following us by the end of the trip.  It is also kind of nerve racking because people drive around narrow corners here pretty fast and the dogs tend to walk in the middle of the road as often as the side.  Very few of them also appear to be spayed or neutered… though one of the cats that came into the restaurant we were eating at last week was.
A dog in Costa Rica that even found its way onto the roof.
  • Thunder and Lightning!  The thunder and lightning here may not be daily, but in that case it is often every other day.  It is absolutely beautiful as are the torrential downpours though they tend to happen right around when we got to Spanish class which isn’t as convenient.  (Not exactly cultural, but still place based).  The thunder was so loud the other day that it actually shook the walls of the study center and sometimes the lightning has struck in town, but it doesn’t usually light anything since it is downpouring at the same time.
  • Saying goodnight or goodbye.  It appears in my family and at least a couple of the others that saying good night when you go to bed or good bye when you leave the house isn’t done culturally as much here.  I talked to some of the other students and they mentioned that it isn’t frequent in their houses either- it’s not a big thing, but since my room is slightly off to the side of the house.  Which actually brings up an interesting point- my room with my family is bigger than any of the rooms I have had in college- I am 90% sure.  But you walk through a sliding glass door that doesn’t lock and then off to the left is my room and I have the key to it and then there is another door straight ahead that goes to the rest of the house.  So at night I am locked out of the house, but I also get my own bathroom- but it definitely means that I need to actively engage the family if I want to interact because going to my room is almost like going to another building.
A Tree Fern- literally a fern the size of a tree! (Maybe I am just a geek, but that is so cool!)

On Saturday we got our first exposure to the cloud rainforest in full when we went to see where the other CIEE program Tropical Conservation and Ecology is based.  They live in dorms up away from the city and can hike directly into the forest- it is absolutely beautiful.  The forest life here is so much more complex than what you see in the Pacific Northwest of the United States.  Just looking at the various levels of the forest makes the biodiversity of plants so obvious with ephiphytes, hemiphytes, vines, trees, ferns- including fern trees! and so many others including fungi.  (as promised to several people this blog comes complete with pictures).

On Sunday we got our first exposure to the actual Monteverde Cloud rainforest reserve.  It costs $9 to get in, but the teachers reimburse us in order to encourage us to explore the cloud rainforest.  It was absolutely beautiful.  We went around on several trails and went up the viewpoint called La Ventana or the window in Spanish.  It was an absolute marvel.  While we were there we also saw a white nosed coati!  It was so great!  There was a waterfall and everything too.  I was trying to take mental notes while I was there on how it differed from Bajo del Tigre and how to try and make the differences benefit the location as the reserve is the primary competition (this will make a bit more sense in a second).

We were also assigned to our internships and mine will be the AMC or Monteverde Conservation League and the beautification of the Bajo del Tigre location.  I am hoping to get out there on Saturday and take some pictures of the location and post them so that any feedback can be offered on how things might be better.  I am really excited about what can be done about making the area more appealing, especially to families and want to be able to think about it over our two week fieldtrip that we leave for on Sunday- and to solicit feedback.  I don’t currently have any pictures of Bajo del Tigre, but I am going to be sure to get some up before leaving if anyone has any thoughts.

The flowers are an example of some of the epiphytic plants that grown on tree trunks without ever reaching the soil.

I met the teachers from my sister ticas school who she told me where from the states and the Czech Republic, but I didn’t realize they are all approximately my age.  Two of the teachers are actually from Vancouver, Washington- you realize how small a world it is when you travel.  When I was traveling in Ireland 2 years ago I ran into a bunch Huskies- some of which were my roommates in the hostel.  They are all great people and missionaries, I guess, from the states because the private school that Tracy goes to is religious and they have a Bible class.  I helped her with her homework last night, which was in English on natural disasters and the different types- though the classifications that they were using I don’t remember hearing before.  She helped me study for my Spanish class a bit too.

One of the several birds that we have seen outside our study center at CIEE.

On the subject of Spanish I had to give a 15 minute presentation yesterday entirely in Spanish, but I chose whatever I wanted to give it about.  It was so nerve-racking to prepare for since I have only been working on Spanish for two weeks really AND I have already learned and am accountable for regular verbs, irregular verbs, past, present, and future tense!  Though we haven’t learned how to use the two different words for to be yet, which kind of hinders coherent sentences at times (but ya know).  I gave the presentation on when I volunteered at Mollywood Avian Sanctuary back in highschool and told some of the stories like Rufus (a Moluccan Cockatoo) chasing the cat around screaming “Here Kitty, Kitty!”.  It wasn’t as bad as I was expecting, though I had most of the sentences written out beforehand.  I actually passed the fifteen minute limit, but that is because she asked me several questions about the birds and whatnot and I also found out that the spanish word for cages jugas is actually kind of difficult to pronounce, which made having it in the presentation not the best idea.  The professor seemed impressed by my effort at least.

On Sunday we will be leaving for our field trip for two weeks and I do not know how much internet access I will have, so it may be a little limited as far as blogging or responding to anything.  It also represents the end of our daily Spanish classes, which I am both relieved and kind of saddened by.  My Spanish teacher is great, but at the same time the class is super intense and sometimes impacts the amount of time I can spend with my familytica…or more often how much sleep I really end up getting.  I will still be working on my Spanish over the breaks with remembering vocabulary and whatnot, but I won’t have to be so focused on THE vocabulary for the test and can instead also try to work on some that is just over all very useful.  My mom gave me a little notepad before I left and I have been using that to keep track of helpful words or phrases that I have learned in Spanish class that I want to work on during such a time.

We were supposed to have a salsa dancing class tonight, but that got changed to tomorrow, so I am going to go out with the other students for my birthday tomorrow.  Hopefully my sister tica does not pelt me with eggs when I get home, because apparently the custom in Costa Rica is to hit someone with eggs on their birthday one for each year.