Sunday, February 7, 2016

Semana cuatro/week four (1/24/16-1/30/16) Monteverde Costa Rica

This week was fun. Lots of stuff to talk about. First, I cannot catch or throw. I can hit things out of the air very well but the above escapes me. Often literally. Which is why, even though I had a blast playing, I was no good at Ultimate Frisbee when I went to play it this past weekend. I did hit the Frisbee out of the air and stop the other team scoring but I personally am no good at all. Still, it was fun and I got to run around and have an excuse to buy ice cream later. I got fig, it was delicious. On Sunday it was birthday day for one of our group who is vegan so we went out for Mediteranian food as much of it is vegan. I got Orange Soup that was made of ginger, sweet potato and carrots. It was excellent. I also had a bite of falaffel, lots of roasted egg plant, fresh made goat cheese and a smoothie made from honey, milk and sesame. It was all delicious. That was my weekend as I spent the rest of it doing homework for my various classes.

Later that week we visited a cattle and dairy farm. Much more cattle than dairy but male calf's will be eaten as they really aren't good for much else. I got to milk a cow which was a fond reminder of my time in Ecuador but then the cow pooped in the milk and I was displeased. We planted some corn, saw fields protected from the frankly terrifyingly intense trade winds by living fences and wind breaks and then were served some corn tortillas. It was a very nice trip. (Pictures included below)

We had our first service learning project this past week. We built an outlook where we are going to put benches and a barrier for people to lean on right by the best outlook around. It's right on our walk to school which is always fun. Seriously, watching the sun set over the Bay of Nicoya is spectacular. I also now have a very high respect for sidewalks as we hauled all the cement from where we were mixing it up the hill to where we were laying it down. We worked for about six hours, eleven of us plus three guys who knew what they were doing, and we got down maybe twenty square feet of cement. Hugely underestimated the work intensity of sidewalks, even with cement trucks. But we did it! And are very proud of it and so are really not pleased that people wrote their names into the cement and put hearts with initials into our cement. You didn't do the work, we did. You don't see our names do you? Nope. It's tacky. (Pictures included below. And yes, I am a bit touchy)

Work got done and then it was the end of the week. We had a field trip into the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve first thing in the morning. Our guide was very knowledgeable and told us all about the epiphites, trees, insects and birds. We saw huge fig trees, hanging vines, flowers for every type of pollinator and so much more that I couldn't list it all if I tried. We did see howler monkeys but that was far from the highlight of the trip. Birds had that distinction for that trip. At the end of the tour we visited the institutes hummingbird garden which consisted of five full hummingbird feeders absolutely swarming with the darting, tiny birds. It was like watching the crown jewels of England come to life and fly, it was so colorful and gorgeous. Blue, red, brilliant purple, black stripes, white belly's, it was a feast for the senses. None crashed into us, but the flitted back and forth across our vision, chirping, buzzing and bumping into each other when they disagreed as to who should be allowed access to the feeders. But even these birds colors and rare up-close siting was as special as the Quetzals that we encountered. Bright greed backs with white and black striped tails and red chests, these birds were worshiped by ancient cultures. Quetzalcoatl, the flying serpent, is based on how a male Quetzal's tail looks when it is flying. We saw only the flash of a males tale and a streak of a second but the third, a female, sat where we were able to observe her for a good long time. These are very rare birds and people come from all over the world to see them, and we saw them on our first go. It was a truly special experience to be in the presence of these magnificent birds. (I have photos and they are located below, but not of the male Quetzal)

We decided to walk into Santa Elena Friday afternoon and visit the shops and farmers market to buy stuff we both do and don't need. I bought some pastry at the farmers market that was sweet with coconut and dense. I loved it but nobody was willing to help me finish it so I ended up eating some of it for breakfast the next morning. We saw half our professors as we walked around town as we normally do. It's a small world and getting smaller as we are introduced to more people. I'm not sure anyone bought stuff from any of the shops but we visited about three. I found potential gifts for a lot of people but I'm not ready to start buying yet. I did buy some very cheap string from a small local store that clearly sold sewing things for locals and not tourists. I'm half way in-between by this point so it's OK. We decided to get dinner in one of the restaurants and spent about an hour trying to figure out where to go before we settled on a small restaurant near our home-stays. I had veggie pasta and shrimp and avocado salad for appetizer. It was pretty good.

That was my week. Not the most exciting I have experienced, but getting us into a pattern. We are getting used to being here and really starting to appreciate all that this town has to offer.

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