Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Day 31 - Birthday Boy

Date: 7/31/12
Location: San Miguel, Costa Rica

Word of the day: Feliz Cumpleaños – Happy Birthday 
Turtle Fact: Poachers are not interested in turtle eggs after they have “baked” in the sun (in the sand). What I’m trying to say is that eggs will not get poached after 10am or so.

Happy Birthday Joe Maisano (Dad)!

8:30am wake up. After eating breakfast, I Google talk my dad for a quick “Happy Birthday” session. He sounded pretty busy at the moment, so our conversation will have to continue later in the future. Update Journal. I find that the morning hours are the best to times to update my journal and HelpingTurtles site. I think it’s the combination of faster Internet speeds, coffee and sitting outside while it is cooler, but still bright out.

Lunch. Feeling motivated, I walk the beach to find some large driftwood for the tide-break wall in front of the hatchery. I find a couple of larger pieces in the area and add/rearrange the large logs to make them fit accordingly. Next, I rake the beach in front of the house. I’m doing this simply because the night before, I stuck my foot on something sharp (debris) and it was not a nice feeling. To ensure this doesn’t happen again I did something about it.

OK – now it’s me time… I hopes to continue my artistic skills I head to the beach (5ft away at this point) and start on today’s structure – Pyrmid & Sphinx. It did not turn out so bad. But the next time I do something in unfamiliar territory, I will certainly be taking a look at some Google images before hand. Run. Shower Dinner
After dinner, we stop at the store for a little bit of ice cream (that everyone has been raving about and eating 2x a day). Not too shabby. It was like a ice cream sandwhich that you had to eat with a spoon and the cookie was made out of graham cracker. For not being an ice cream man it tasted pretty good. As I ate my ice cream, Matt and I finished our movie we had started the day before. Siesta. Patrol.
Matt and I had the late Patrol from 2-4am, heading south on the beach. Technically this would be our last time patrolling Playa San Miguel, before moving to Costa de Oro’s beach. As luck would have it, we nearly walk over a turtle!

SIDENOTE: So there are those semi-stray dogs everywhere. Sometimes, these dogs join us on our walks. When then do, they spend most of their time chasing crabs all across the beach, digging holes here. Fortunately, they leave the turtles alone and stay clear when there is one in the vicinity. Regardless, these holes they dig, often look like a turtle nest, from a distance, because of the fresh dug sand on the surface.  Stupid Dogs.

This Olive Ridely turtle was on the smaller side and only laid 76 eggs. Matt collected the eggs as I tagged, measured and document the turtle. Success 2 nights in a row! Sleep – our last night in the San Miguel .

  • Ice cream tastes good when it’s hot out
  • Do your homework before you work
  • Dogs like to dig for crabs

Food:  Ice Cream
Animals: Dogs, Turtles, Lizards

Something I am thankful for: My Dad. Even though we are lengths apart – we still love each other the same.  
Something I don't want to admit: When you tag the turtle, you are supposed to this when she is laying her eggs. At this point in time she goes into a trance (or at least Olive Ridley’s do) which allowes them to only concentrate on laying eggs and nothing else (ie me). Well as soon as I was getting out the materials to tag her, she started back filling in her nest, which means the laying of the eggs are over with – I’m late! Well I made the best of the situation and tagged her successfully. Next time I’ll be ready.

Days of Rain: 15/27
Total Turtle Eggs I have saved: 533

"Ready" digging for crabs

Matt putting the 76 eggs into the hatchery

Sand Creations for the day

Monday, July 30, 2012

Day 30 - Fried

Date: 7/30/12

Location: San Miguel, Costa Rica 
Word of the day: Mala Opción – bad choice

Turtle Fact:  Myth on painting turtle shells: The turtles shell needs exposure to air. It must be able to dry out when it is basking. Also it needs to have access to UVB light while basking to keep the shell strong. If you paint the shell you will block out the needed light to absorb the calcium to keep them healthy and their shell strong.
8:15am wake up. Recap. Eat Breakfast. After cleaning up breakfast, Courtney, Maddie, Matt and I head next door to our make shift office (on a porch, away from the rest of the volunteers) and we discuss up future updates as well as logistics for the new project in Costa de Oro. I miss these types of meetings (granted they have always taken place in a meeting room over looking Lake Michigan or Millennium Park), but I suppose catching a glimpse of the Pacific Ocean through the Coconut bearing trees will have to do. All of this was in preparation for our meeting with Lotti this afternoon. Lunch.

After get back and straighten up the house, Lotti arrives with Sandra. We discuss everything and anything about the Projects at San Miguel and Costa de Oro. We learn that we will most likely have a chef at the new house that will double as a local volunteer patrol walker. I am happy and sad at this fact. Sad because I was looking forward to cooking all the meals for everyone and myself (for some reason it is ingrained in my DNA that feeding people is a selfish satisfying feeling). However having a local, on a “new beach” far out ways my personal feelings. After the meeting I was overall satisfied, even though some questions where still not answered (due to other factors outside of anyone’s control)

To get my activity in for the day, I head to the beach for some sand sculpting. Anyone that has been the beach with me knows I LOVE to build things in the sand. My downfall is that is usually takes FOREVER to do make (detail orientated). With this though in mind, I limit myself to 1:15min-sculpting time to make a sea turtle. Simple, iconic and great way to start the sand sculpting season.

Run. Shower. Before dinner I had ½ hour to kill. Outside was pretty crappy (raining) and the common area was pretty full of volunteer’s playing card games. I look to technology for entertainment and find a movie on the computer to watch until dinner – A guy thing. It’s not the greatest movie but it will do. Dinner.

After dinner Matt and I head to the Flying Scorpion for some fast internet access. The place ended up closing at 8pm so we ended up having very limited time there. Once we got back to the house I worked on some HelpingTurtle Stuff and continued a little more of the movie. Siesta. Patrol.

I had 1am patrol with the “blondes” (Kristen and Lauren) and Matt. We headed north. Within the first 20mins we found tracks (no turtle). Within minutes we were able to find the nest. YES! 110 eggs later we continue walking the beach. Keeping in mind this is the 3rd nest that night our beach has seen, we are eager to find more… no dice though. Sleep.

  • No matter where you are working, things generally run the same
  • You can never be too prepared
  • Fried foods in can be consumed in moderation if not consumed for some time

Food:  Tacos, Garlic French Fries
Animals: Frog, Turtle Eggs, Lizards, Dogs

Something I am thankful for: Organizational skills. One thing I am grateful to have learned from family and coworkers is the use of tools to keep oneself organized. It does nothing but keep you efficient and professional – or as professional as you can be wearing a bathing suit in a lawn chair.
Something I don't want to admit: When I went to the Flying Scorpion, after dinner, I ordered a plate of Garlic Fries. Dinner was great, but it did not satisfy my belly cavity. With that said, I “mowed” them down. 30mins later my stomach hated me due not having friend foods in a while. Lesson learned.

Days of Rain: 14/26
Total Turtle Eggs I have saved: 457

first sand creation...

Kristen digging out the Nest

Lauren placing the turtle eggs in the hatchery

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Day 29 - Going cocoNuts

Date: 7/29/12

Location: San Miguel, Costa Rica
Word of the day: Siesta - An afternoon rest or nap, esp. one taken during the hottest hours of the day in a hot climate.
Turtle Fact: Sea Turtles can live over 100 years. The oldest recorded age of a turtle was 250 years in India.  

7:00am wake up. I head to the kitchen to clean up last night’s mess and prepare some coffee for the morning. Nick gets up at 7:30am and we head to the beach to enjoy some coffee and coconut crème (my new favorite morning treat) and a banana. We recap the night and try to plan out the next visit (I hope). 8:30am Nick takes off for Liberia Airport (3 hours away). I have a little bit of breakfast the girls made and we prepare to leave at 9am for Costa de Oro.

We arrive a little after 9:30am and get working right away. We borrow a couple of extra wheel barrels from down the road, at a construction site. While there I notice a bunch of used wood in a large piles. We ask (via sherrads) to see if we can borrow these planks. These would be perfect to lay across the sand and move the wheel barrels across and we move sand from the beach to the hatchery hole. Communication effective!

For the next 3.5 hours we all work on the hatchery. Today was mostly cloud clover, however we were still dropping with sweat. To bad Nicko wasn’t around to see this happen…

Around 1pm we get a ride back to the house and get some lunch. Everyone is completely drained from the hard work and last night festivities. With that sad, I set up the hammock and pass out for the next 2 hours. Feeling very much refreshed, I head out for a run along the beach. I really look forward to this part of the day. It’s just so beautiful around 5pm and knowing that I will be working up an appetite, and then eating immediately after showering (clean) it just a great feeling. Shower. Eat. Recap. Patrol.

Kristen, Lauren, Matt, Courtney and I have late night patrol along the hole beach starting at 1am. Even though the early group got a turtle, we did not. Sleep.

P.s. We had coconut flan for dinner and it was AWESOME!

  • Sharp machetes make quick work of coconuts
  • Wet sand weighs significantly more than dry sand

Food:  Quesadillas, Flan
Animals: Crabs, Monkeys, Birds, Lizards, Cats, Dogs, Spiders

Something I am thankful for: Water and quenching thirst. I know that many places in the world do not have water or clean enough water to drink from. Living in large cities, where water seems like a commodity it’s very easy to forget how readily available it really is, especially when it has been recently dubbed “liquid gold” in recent news stories.

Something I don't want to admit: So during the last ½ hour of working at the hatchery today I was SOOO thirsty and one of the locals, got a coconut, cut open a small section and gave it to me to drink. He actually gave me 2, when I only really wanted one. So I gave the extra one to the little (local) kids that joined us. When I did this, they thought I was offering them both the coconuts… so I had to fork the other one over. Dang kids for being cute. At this point I was SOOO thirsty and just wanted to drink the damn thing. So I hustled back to the coconut tree, grabbed a new one, cut it open and drank it record timing.

Days of Rain: 13/25 – light

Total Turtle Eggs I have saved: 347

The Hatchery after today

Heading over to Costa de Oro


Saturday, July 28, 2012

Day 28 - Brotherly Love

Date: 7/28/12

Location: San Miguel, Costa Rica
Word of the day:  Hermano - Brother

Turtle Fact: Turtles are distracted and often scared of the white light, our regular flashlights provide. Like most aquatic animals though, turtles cannot see the color red. In fact studies show that green and blue lights may not also been seen.

6:30am wake up. I have learned that the roosters start to really start crowing at 6:37am. However a couple of them get a little excited a little but premature – thus for my 6:30am wake ups.

WOOO Nicko comes today. I check my messages and learn that he left San Jose around 5am, which means he should be here around 9ish. I help Courtney start breakfast as we make folded omelets with ham and potatoes.  I must say I have finally figured out the best way to make home fries. Boil them half way through and then finish them off by pan frying them in oil and seasoning in the end.

SIDENOTE: Meat at the Pretoma house is a delicacy, so having ham in our breakfast was awesome!
Nick arrives at 9:30am, just in time for breakfast. I introduce him to everyone, eat breakfast and we head to the beach. I we walk in both directions and I give him the background on everyone and everything. To cool off from the morning sun we head to the ocean to play in some waves. We ride a couple waves in and then prepare for the lunch at the Flying Scorpion. Enjoying my day off and a visitor, we order a mudslide for lunch.

Afterward, we head back to the house for a siesta. If there is anything you should know about Nick is that he loves to Sleep. It probably one of his top 3 things to do – ever.  I give him a good 45 mins in a hammock, feet away from the breaking tide on the beach. Being an awesome brother, I wake him up in a tsunami like fashion (pouring a bucket of water on him). Thankfully he took this gesture in jest. We head to the ocean for some more time playing in the waves.

After rinsing off we jump in the car and head south to the Playa Coyote. Here, everyone keeps telling me of this hole in the wall ceviche hut right on the beach. We find this place with ease and order away. This place just happens to be just south of my new beach (Costa de Oro). Needless to say, I think I will be back in the future! Just south of this place are large rocks. Since it was low tide, we decide to go exploring for a bit. We find crabs, limpets and oysters on the rocks and little guppies in some tide pools that got trapped when the tide went out.

As we drive back, we stop at the grocery store to pick a couple things and then to the Pretoma Office for some dry goods for the house. While there pick up some commemorative Pretoma (Turtle Trax) T-Shirts. We arrive back at the house around 5:30pm and we prepare for dinner.  Eat.

Matt, Nicko and I head back to the beach in front of our house to prepare our adult Coco Loco drink (Flor de Cana, pineapple juice, coconut crème, coconut water, sugar and lime). We of coarse re use the coconut shells we gathered the juice from, in true fashion. We sit on the beach for the next couple of hours and catch up on life. Around 10pm we join most of the crew to Albaro’s house just down the road. As we participate in some cards games and random playlist from the 90’s, one of the people on patrol came running up to the house informing us that there is a turtle nesting as we speak, on the beach, just west of the house we are currently at. Nick and I immediately jump up and head to the beach. As soon as we get there, the mother turtle was just covering up her nest. The group of us, uncover the nest and bring them to the hatchery. Nick gets his hands a little dirty and helps in the process. Success! We retire back to the kitchen for a little midnight snack we got at the store earlier. Sleep (Nick and I share a twin size bed, head to feet).  Wow what a way to see Costa Rica (or what I do) in 16 hours.

  • Family First
  • Simple is sometimes best
  • The Maisano family loves to eat

Food:  Ceviche, PIZZA, Coco Loco
Animals: Turtle, Monkey, Lizards, Dogs, Brother, Crabs, Limpets, Oysters

Something I am thankful for: Family. It’s really great to have family that wants to visit and enjoy your company.
Something I don't want to admit: For the next month or so, I will be hording my new supply of snacks. For whatever reason, as soon I received my stash of goods from Nicko this morning, one of my first instincts was to hide it all. Granted I am always one to share my food (after I have had my fare share), I just really wanted to make sure it lasts till my next supply. The things in life that becomes important in a 3rd world country…

Days of Rain: 12/24
Total Turtle Eggs I have saved: 347

Nick and I at Playa Coyote

Nicko Sleeping

Nicko digging a hole and tucking in 89 turtle eggs

Friday, July 27, 2012

Day 27 - Surfing: Team USA

Date: 7/27/12
Location: San Miguel, Costa Rica

Word of the day: Resaca - Surf 
Turtle Fact: It takes baby turtles 3 days to hatch from their shell and climb to the surface of the the sand. 

6:30am wake up. Update journal and begin cooking breakfast. I decided to change things up a bit this morning and make breakfast fried rice. The night before I came up with this ingenious idea to use the rice I had my camera sitting in (Dead – for those of you playing the dead game) and use it for breakfast. It was a good turnout and some people had mentioned it was there best meal yet… just wait until I get my hands on some meat! (p.s. your twisted)

After helping clean up I head to the girls room. For the last couple of days they have been trying to solve the mystery of why their ceiling fan does not work. Vic the electrician to the rescue. Granted my electrician skills are not the best, but I can see what I can do. It turns out the mechanism inside the fan for switching on and off the fan was broken. SOLUTION: Make the fan turn on instantly once the light is turned. A little snip here and a twist there – boom. FIXED.  Lunch.

While at lunch we learn that the Health Department of Costa Rica came though and shut down nearly every food/vending place in town (granted there is only like 6 of them. It was either due to permits, health or saftey standards - Oh Costa Rica. Our lunch spot (Flying Scorpion) was technically shut down but remained open so we could eat - or at least that is my take on it.

After lunch, Matt, Maddie and I headed (walked) over to Costa de Oro to knock out some sector posts. We installed another 10 more posts. Now we are up to 20 posts, keeping in mind that will end up having 45 posts when it’s all said and done (each post is separated by 100m). On our walk back, I find a dead snakes. It appears that a mommy snake was giving birth to baby snacks. I can tell this as the placenta was still attached to one of the babies. After a little photo shoot, we head back to the house.

Being hot from the walk in the midday sun, we jump in the ocean. Matt and I head out to the breaking point, where the waves seems to fairly large today (12’).  We body surf. This is truly one of the first times I can say I actually body surfed on a large wave successfully. It was SOOO awesome. However the second wave I surfed “pants’d me” from the begging and I rode the wave in my birthday suit. What a feeling that was. Without going into to much detail… well maybe I don’t at all. Regardless I was not hurt and it an interesting experience with nature! Run. Shower. Dinner. Patrol.

I walked the beach south on early patrol (7pm) with Wilson and the two newest volunteers to our group. One was a science teacher and the other her student. They came here to check out the Pretoma program to see if this would be something her school/class would be interested in participating in next year. I think they will make the trek again! Well one more night with no Turtles and no Tracks. However I must say that the moon was very bright and beautiful again. I wish I had a camera with long exposure to capture it all… The late patrol ended up coming back with at least 2 nests. Sleep in excitement for Brother Nicko coming in the morning!

*Happy Birthday Doug Hahn!

  • Waves are powerful and jealous of your clothing
  • Sand is very easy to dig in with no trees or water in the immediate area
  • Google map seems to provide good directions. We shall see if this holds true tomorrow.

Food:  Fried Chicken and Breakfast fried Rice
Animals: Snake, Crab, Dog

Something I am thankful for: Having the basic knowledge NOT to get electrocuted today, while servicing the girls fan in their bedroom.
Something I don't want to admit: Ok, ok, I liked it. Ride the wave in the buff was awesome. You just feel so free and “one” with Mother Nature. It’s sorta like skinny-dipping, but your not just standing around on the edge of a pool.

Days of Rain: 11/23
Total Turtle Eggs I have saved: 258

old posts we are replacing

Dead Mother and baby snakes

Health Department putting stickers on the doors and windows to close them down.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Day 26 - Moon Shine

Date: 7/26/12
Location: San Miguel, Costa Rica

Word of the day: Luna - Moon
Turtle Fact:  Leatherback turtles have the smallest hatching success rate, however also have the largest about of eggs in each nest.

6:30am wake up and enjoy the morning waves as I updated journal and social media outlets. I filled in the  rest of my morning with helping prepare breakfast and cleaning up the living area.

Lunch. After lunch, I felt a little malicious so I headed to the hatchery to kill some crabs. Lately we started noticing that crabs are digging holes in our hatchery near where we have dug the eggs. I would like to say I snagged a couple, but that has not been confirmed as I just spear the holes with the shovel – don’t worry I preform this action nowhere near the nest plot.

Still feeling manly, I decide to fix out door handle. Since arriving, our bathroom door did not have a handle, and would always scrap on the ground. So in the middle of the night, when you would come back from patrol or early morning when I would get up, there would be this loud scraping noise coming from the bathroom every time the door opened and shut. After looking into the problem, it seems that a couple of the door panels near the bottom where loose. Since we did not have any wood glue, nor nails and a hammer, I improvised and simply tied a large loop around the height of the door. FIXED. Now for the door handle: Since the only issue with this, opening and shutting the door, I made a simple handle out of bamboo rods, bamboo shims, drift rope and some sand dollars for aesthetics. FIXED

Feeling pretty accomplished I award myself with a siesta in a hammock, on the beach, between to palm trees, in the shade – NICE. After a little cat-nap (1:15) I got for a little “yog” and swim and return just in time for dinner. Eat.

I stay at the Flying Scorpion after dinner to use the Internet until my patrol at 10pm. Patrol. Wilson, Kristen and I head north along the beach. The moon, only half full, completely lit up the beach. My eyes were not even straining to see what was in front of me. It’s really amazing how much light the moon can reflect from the sun. If searching for turtle/tracks was like this every night, then I would be a very happy volunteer! Unfortunately, with this great visibility, we did not find any turtles nor tracks. Sleep.

  • The moon is really bright in the absence of clouds
  • Cat Naps are addicting

Food:  Quesadilla
Animals: Lizards, Crabs, Birds

Something I am thankful for: Manufacturers. I am glad that ever person does not have to master each concept of life. Instead we stick to one thing or another and master it and trade goods for it.
Something I don't want to admit: The doorknob in our bathroom only ended up lasting for about 6 hours until someone (not to be named) man handled the door and broke them slightly. I am going to have to remember that above all else, things need to be made for function and not aesthetics. However I feel most things today are made to break and be replaced often

Days of Rain: 10/22
Total Turtle Eggs I have saved: 258


the supplies


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Day 25 - Happy Guanacaste Day

Date: 7/25/12
Location: San Miguel, Costa Rica

Word of the day: Rastro - Tracks
Turtle Fact: Bugs can burrow themselves into turtle eggs while they are in the nest. This may cause deformity or depredation

6:30am wake up. Having working on my journals and other documents last night, I was able to shoot them all out this morning. It feels nice to catch up. I walk over to the kitchen where the girls have prepared scrambled eggs, onions, red pepper, garlic and potatoes. It was good… but I am wondering how may more meals we can create with the same ingredients. We shall see.

At 8am we head over to Costa de Oro to work on the hatchery. At this point it takes a standard 45mins (via beach) to get there. Today, for whatever reason, we decided to cross the estuary at high tide. With that said, the water is about waist high and the water is rushing out to the ocean. This starts off the perfect scene for a scary movie. As you cross estuary with one hand held high (keeping your personal belongings out of the water) and both feet firmly griping the sandy floor, you can’t help but to keep walking towards the ocean versus traversing the fast moving river in a straight line. As you get closer and closer to the middle of the river, it gets deeper and the current becomes even stronger. I cross, with a little bit of excessive breathing. I look back to find the ladies we are with in much worse conditions. So I hand off my bag of dry goods to Kaz (girl from England) and NOT placing them on the ground, and head back into the river to help those cross. Needless to say, that was my good deed for the day.

We continue walking down the beach and finally make it to the hatchery. The next step in the process is to fill that hole; we just dug, with sand. Well this morning we learned that the backhoe machine we thought we were going to be using was not allowed, as we do not have the permits to use large machinery to build the hatchery. FML. Well if the Egyptians, and Greeks can do it, so can we … or maybe not. After learning this, I immediately go into “Operations” mode and help devise a new strategy. Here it goes: We lay dead palm leaf branches along the path from the hole to the beach (keeping in mind the soil is very sandy and the ground can not support weight for wheel barrels). Next we shovel dirt (from the piles we shoveled out of the hole) on top of the palm leaves. We go through and pack this down. Well this idea worked for a bit, but then the “tracks” got too much worn in. ADAPT. I send search parties out along the beach to find flat driftwood and bamboo. Using the power of my Italian ancestry, I lay the wood on the preexisting dirt path and tile them in place. SUCCESS. Granted some people where better at wheel barreling in a straight light than other, I was on full time roadwork duty repairing the “street” for wheel barrels to move back and forth. Meanwhile the others not shoveling and not pushing wheel barrels, were using large buckets. This is going to take a while.
We finish the day at 1:30pm. The girls (boss ladies) have some learning to do about a “workers mentality” and how to avoid individual (and group) boycotts/strikes… We eat lunch on the job site and end up using our hands as utensils as these were forgotten in the packing of the lunch. We rinse of the dishes, pack up and head back home.

We get back to the house around 3pm. Matt and I have a grand idea to grab a couple adult beverages and enjoy them on the beach in honor or Guanacaste Day. (Costa Rican holiday celebrating Costa Rica's annexation of Guanacaste province from Nicaragua in 1824). We invite one of the new volunteers (Andrew) and only other male (now there is 3 of us) to join in. After we head out for relaxing swim/float and enjoy the ocean/waves.

Dinner. Siesta. Patrol. Maddie, Kaz and I walk the beach starting at 2:30am. We make 2 trips back and forth; only to keep walking over the tracks made by the turtles and ourselves that where seen in the first/early (8pm) patrol. No Turtles, no eggs for us. Sleep

  • Everything in the Internet is not always correct. Google almost caused a war between Costa Rica and Nicaruaga as they had the borders lines in correct.
  • Attitudes are contagious (good and bad)
  • Water currents are real – you would never think that unless you felt it

Food:  Beer (Imperial)
Animals: Crabs, Lizards

Something I am thankful for: Road Crews. I hate sitting in traffic on the highway due to construction. But if no one was there to fix it, no one would be able to get from point A to B.
Something I don't want to admit: Being in my kick of creating everything from scratch, I attempted to make a spork out of a palm tree branch and a machete. It did not end well. I cut my finger (not too bad). I ended up eating my lunch like a dog in disgrace. Better luck next time.

Days of Rain: 10/21
Total Turtle Eggs I have saved: 258

Dirt Road I worked on

Crabs Mating

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Day 24 - Storms & Sunsets

Date: 7/24/12
Location: San Miguel, Costa Rica

Word of the day: Saqueado – Eggs Poached
Turtle Fact:  As soon as the female turtle returns to the ocean, after laying eggs, she is greeted by several  male turtles in the shallower waters. At this point in time, the turtles mate. The female turtle can store the male turtle sperm for quit some time before she is ready to fertilize her eggs.

7am wake up. I start off by making some folded omelets with crispy potatoes. Afterwards I head to the yard to collect my laundry from the day before as it was about to rain. During this time, I also brought in my zip lock bag as I was trying to dry out my digital camera, in the sun, in a bag of rice…
Lunch. Rain and more Rain. We had a pretty big storm that is said to rival what storms would be like in the “rainy” season. So far we have been lucky. Perhaps global warming is affecting here too. During this rain delay, I will have to devise some alternative plans to keep me busy during times like these. But for now, it was a great time to catch up journals – clearly.

SIDENOTE: While enjoying the rain I noticed that the larger lizards would come out, sit on top of fence posts and just enjoy the rain. Weird.

This afternoon we were going to work on posts, but the rain and lightning just never gave up. Most of us, ended up finding each other in one of the rooms and we hung out until dinner. Eat.

After dinner we headed back to the house for a little before Patrol. Since it was soo rainy all day, the clouds filled the sky as the sun set... BEAUTIFUL - make sure to check out the pictures. Keep in mind, I do not preform any touch up (enhancements) to my photos.

Patrol. Kristen, Alfredo and I went walking the beaches at 8pm. Unfortunately we did not find any turtles, nor tracks. Keep in mind there is 2 patrols per shift and 2-3 shifts per night. Other patrols have been finding turtles and eggs. I just have not been so lucky – yet.

Sleep. But not just yet. Since our patrol ended at 11pm and my normal bed time is undefined, I happened to be particularly energized. Needless to say, I made some entertaining shadow puppets for the roommates for the next ½ hour (even though they were supposed to be getting their siesta rest). Actual Sleep.

  • Don’t be sad when it rains. Remember you came during the rainy season.
  • Hand puppets really is a craft.

Food:  Costa Rica Cheese
Animals: Crabs, Lizards

Something I am thankful for: Living (for most my life) in a place that has different climates year round.
Something I don't want to admit: I think I am getting addicted to coffee. But for me it’s due to daily habit. I wake up early to get my internet on, while enjoying the ocean (when there is a cool breeze and light out). When everyone wakes up, they make coffee and I indulge thinking I might need a “wake me up” for the morning. At night before or in between patrols, I grab another little cup thinking it will help keep me awake on patrols. Regardless I think I am going to switch over to tea and see how that works.

Days of Rain: 10/20
Total Turtle Eggs I have saved: 258


yes - that's a rainbow

Monday, July 23, 2012

Day 23 - Camera:Dead

Date: 7/23/12
Location: San Miguel, Costa Rica

Word of the day: Ropa – Clothes
Turtle Fact: One batch of turtle eggs can have up to 4 different fathers in the same nest.

  • For whatever reason, crabs love string and will chase after it.
  • If your going to be a hero, make sure your camera is in a safe place
  • Everyone is not made to be a work horse
  • Clean clothes feel/smell awesome - just make sure they dry all the way through
Wake up at 8:30am. I update my journal and eat breakfast. Matt ended up making egg sandwiches. I am glad another male/co-worker that I will be living with can cook.

After breakfast I wash my clothes. This consists of filling up a tub of water, mixing in the laundry soap and letting your clothes sit for a period of time. After sitting for a while, you take your clothes and rub them on each other, loosening up the dirt and hopefully removing the dirt/coconut/food/blood stains you may have. Afterwards you ring out your clothes and dump the water. Refill the tub with fresh water and submerge your clothes. Ring out your clothes once more time and hang them on the line, in the sun to dry for the next 6 hours. VOILA – clean clothes.

Lunch. After lunch, Matt, some volunteers and I head to Costa de Oro to set some posts. After crossing the estuary at high tide we start measuring out 100m at a time and continue down the beach. Each post from 2 – 45 (the first post would be technically the estuary) is marked with some oil based paint on a large piece of drift wood. This driftwood is then dug several feet into the ground on a higher bank of the shore (in hopes that a large wind gust, a high tide nor erosion will knock it down). After getting up to the #10 post, we call it quits for the day.

After getting back, we get ready for dinner and head over to Alvero’s. Eat. After dinner I head to the Flying Scorpion for some fast Internet. I catch up on journals, social media and worldly news via my good friend, Brian Fox – good times. I head back to the house for a cat nap and then prepare for patrol.
Alfredo and I walk solo along the south stretch. No tracks, no turtles.

Food:  Orange Fanta and Coca-Cola out of a glass bottle
Animals: Lizards, Pelican

Something I am thankful for: Being a guy. Us men (for the most part) don’t have to worry about the same things women do on a monthly basis.

Something I don't want to admit: My digital camera got wet. After crossing the estuary for the first time, I set down my bag on the shore, thinking it was high enough I headed back to the other side to assist the other volunteers crossing over (that didn’t end up crossing in the end). Regardless, a large wave came and washed my bag several feet into the estuary. I chased after it. Everything was wet, including my camera. FML. Anyone want to donate a camera?

Days of Rain: 9/19
Total Turtle Eggs I have saved: 258

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Day 22 - Can you Dig this?

Date: 7/22/12
Location: San Miguel, Costa Rica 

Word of the day: Erosión - Erosion (don't let the accent fool you)
Turtle Fact: Erosion is another “predator” of turtle eggs. Turtles lay their eggs in sand above sea level. After heavy rains, large waves or extremely high tide, the water can wash away several feet of sand, exposing cliff like formation in the sand and thus exposing the once buried eggs. From there, they can be either washed into the ocean, or fall victim to a lucky animal.

  • Hammocks are great for cat napping, not REM cycle sleep.
  • Music really does lighten the mood during times of silence.
  • Sleeping on your stomach is over rated.

Wake up at 5:30am on the hammock in the Kitchen. It was a hot night for sleeping so Matt and I decided to pass out in the kitchen hammocks (separate of course) after our late night patrol. However at this time, I moved to my bed, as my neck was really stiff and I need some sleeping time on my stomach. Re-wake up at 7am, fully rested. The girls are making Hash browns and Omelets. YES - hash browns! We relax in the morning hours and I attempt to add music to my computer via my external hard drive after being called out for not providing music to play (I was complaining about Justin Bieber playlist currently on.) Lunch.

We get picked up and head over to Costa De Oro for another day of hatchery work. We have a big group with us today. Being veterans at this we get right to work with ½ the hole to be dug. Before you know it, time flies and we are nearly done. At this point I have mainly worked the wheel barrel (of course the harder/laborious duty) for the past couple of times working at the hatchery. With that said, I jump into the pit and make sure that our borders are linear and straight. After all, this hatchery is going to be Matt's and mine to look after and work on, day in and day out. We want it to be above par and not a “half-ass” – I was to be sure of it. After skimming a little here and a little there, an additional 20 wheel barrel loads were needed to clean the trimmings. LISTO – the digging is complete!

We get a ride back to the house and immediately jump in the waves as they are very large (a storms a coming). Fun times.

Dinner. On the way back from dinner, Matt and I stop at the poperia (neighborhood grocery store) and pick up some clothes detergent a Pear Soda-Pop, and sweet treat. We enjoy our snacks at the bus stop (the only one in town) like the local do. Yup we are slowly assimilating ourselves into their culture. Siesta. Patrol.
Maddie, the family of volunteers and I head to the beach and patrol south around midnight. No tracks, no Turtles. You really start to understand patients at this point. I mean, I thought I had patients working with college girls teaching them how to back up around a corner with a trailer. But this is more mental…

Food:  Hashbrowns
Animals: Crabs, dogs,

Something I am thankful for: Sweets. Being able to fulfill that sweet-tooth craving is so satisfying.
Something I don't want to admit: Day two of the hatchery scratched up a volunteers vehicle badly. We were returning the wheel barrels to a construction job site (we borrowed them from) by pulling the barrel from the tailgate of a moving pickup. As passed the house the truck came to a stop. I set the wheel barrel down on the ground and attempted to dismount the truck in order to wheel it back to the site. In that instance the driver of the truck but the vehicle in reverse and the lovely metal edge of the wheel barrel caught the tailgate of truck. FML.

Days of Rain: 9/18
Total Turtle Eggs I have saved: 258

Complete Hole

Entrance to House

view from the house!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Day 21 - Hotel Rewards

Date: 7/21/12
Location: San Miguel, Costa Rica

Word of the day: Listo  – Done, Im finished
Turtle Fact: Male sea turtles may never again set a foot on dry land, unless for some reason they get sick and get washed up on the shore.

  • You can say no when it comes to food
  • There is someone out there that are always wanting to entertain good people
  • Hard workers are hard do come by.

Wake up at 6:30pm to respond to emails and update journals. 8am we get picked up by the volunteers down the road and head over to Costa de Oro. We jump in the back bed of a truck and go for a bumpy ride for the next 15 minutes. On our way we see a couple of howler monkeys hangout out on power lines and in the trees near the road. We arrive with a preconceived notion that another group may have come the day before to work on digging out the hatchery. However when we arrive, it was clear that the hatchery was not touched. For us veterans, we assume the position and get right to work. The new volunteers started off strong. Towards the end, you can tell the heat and work was getting the best of everyone. We wrap up a little after 11am and indulge in some snacks provided to us.

We get a ride back to the house and prepare the next part of the day: being wined and dined. After walking up to the gates at the bottom of the hill we were greeted by some other guests that were attending this gathering, but they were in vehicles. We hitch a ride to the top, which ends up being a 10 min trip up the hill, bumpy all the way. Once we approached the property, we can easily tell that we have arrived in paradise. The house/common area sits on the top of the hill with more of a 180-degree view of the Pacific Ocean. There are multiple levels, where various areas are set up: Hammocks, Pool, Kitchen and Dinning Areas. Each section is elegant, yet very simplistic and were made of cement, wood and stone.

We are introduced to the homeowners Zene and Hanir as well as their individuals at the party. Most of them are fellow Expats that stay in Costa during the summer months. With that said, most of them are preparing to continue the “endless summer” elsewhere. We start off with some Bavariarra Negra Dark, a Costa Rican favorite and continue small talk. Before you know it, the smell of barbequed beef fills the air and Hanir walks around with tasting of the beef. Twenty minutes later dinner was served. We all scatter around the property and enjoy our meal. A couple more hours go by as the conversations continue and the sun slowly sets. We wrap conversation and exchange contact information. They have invited us back anytime we needed to get away from the turtleness and need to catch up on laundry and a hot bath. In addition they offered our friends and family an awesome discounted rate if they needed a place to stay (DID YOU HEAR THAT FRIENDS?!?)  I will certainly keep this contact in the back pocket.

We travel back down the windy road and head straight to the Flying Scorpion (last meal of the week there). At this point I am already full of all the delicious food. But being an American, I can always find room for food. Afterwards, we head back to the house and I set up my hammock and bug net outside
SIDENOTE: It’s been pretty hot the last couple nights. Instead of waking up in pools of sweat, I decided to get a cool natural breeze and head outside.

I sleep in the hammock for a couple of hours before our late night patrol. The Germans, Matt, and I head to beach and walk north. As we approach the far north end, we walk across a couple of fake tracks. I am seeing this as a new trend that either locals/poachers are trying to play on us. However, there tracks are easy to spot as sea turtle tracks are more messy and have larger indents in the ground as there is more mass moving around (rather a stick and the heal of a shoe).  We continue walking and stumble apon an actual nest. YESSSS. We follow the tracks up the beach. False Crawl. BOOOO. We continue patrolling the beach, with out any luck. Sleep

Food:  Steak, Fish Tacos, and Spaghetti
Animals: Crabs, dogs, Ants

Something I am thankful for: People who are willing to take you in and give you a break from reality.
Something I don't want to admit: While at the hatchery site today, a younger boy, about 7 years in age, was asking everyone if they had a pocket knife on them in hopes to play with a coconut.

Days of Rain: 9/18
Total Turtle Eggs I have saved: 258

Friday, July 20, 2012

Day 20 - Float On

Date: 7/20/12
Location: Playa San Miguel, Costa Rica

Word of the day: Corte - Cut
Turtle Fact: The turtle spine is fused to the top shell (carapace). In other words you just can’t take of a turtle’s shell and think it would walk around naked.

 5:15am I walk back from morning patrol (we did not find anything). I dedicate my morning to updating some pictures and journal. Feeling energized I start one of my pet projects: building a floatation raft. Technically I am building this for Lauren (as we are celebrating her Birthday tonight) and I am giving this to her as a birthday present (she loves to float in the ocean). However, I am also using this as a rough draft for Costa de Oro, when I build something awesome.

I start off by combing the beach for Bamboo drift wood. I can’t say that I have seen much of it growing along the coast, but there is certainly a lot of if washing up on the beach. I only go for the longer pieces. I take them and split them in half using my battle-axe. Next I gather pieces of rope I had collected throughout the last couple days on the beach and tie them together to make one really long piece of rope. I situate the bamboo in such a fashion that two of the largest bamboo roods run the length of the raft and will be the main support. Next I cut and lay pieces of smaller bamboo the width of the raft 2.5ft all the way down as the “bed”. I then use the rope and weave the “bed” bamboo tight against the main support bamboo. Once completed, I flip the raft on its the backside and create a little pouch where 3 coconuts can sit and be used as the main source of floatation. I do this where the head and footboard would be. VOILA – a Bamboo/Coconut Floating raft, all made from recycled beach material.

Lunch. After lunch we gain another group of volunteers: A family, and 4 students from another organization. Matt and I listen in on the orientation speech, knowing that in the near future we will be taking over these sessions while at Costa de Oro. After the grand tour we end up at the hatchery where conversations go on and on about all aspects of our work in San Miguel.

The rest of the crew just happens to be at the beach (near the hatchery) while we finish our tour. This was a perfect time to give Lauren her present. With a storm closely approaching, I bring the raft to the beach (previously disguised as a new elaborate hatchery door) for the presentation. All of us (including me) wanted to see this baby in action, as I have not actually tested it out just yet. Since Lauren was already showered, I gracefully accepted being the first to try out the raft. A little heavy on land, but once in the water – floated liked the Mayflower herself. Then came the storm with the big waves and I brought it in to ensure this raft lived another day for Lauren to use. SUCCESS!
Dinner. Patrol.

Matt, Courtney and I patrol the beach at 7pm – 9pm. Other than some fake poacher tracks – nothing to be found. After patrol, Matt and I join the rest of the gang at the Flying Scorpion for a birthday celebration. We have a couple cocktails, play a game of beer pong (America/MSU represent) and head back to the house before midnight. Sleep.

  • Beer Pong is an internationally known competitive alternative sport
  • Bamboo is really hollow on the inside
  • Coconuts are extremely buoyant
  • If you unravel a standard rope, you can certainly make a much longer rope using the braids

Food:  Ceviche
Animals: Crabs, Dogs, and Mosquitos

Something I am thankful for: Living in the 21st century. If I had lived long ago, I am sure I would have been some sort of Da’Vinci. However, since I am not and many simplistic engineering feats have been already discovered and proven truthful, this gives me time and a stronger set of tools to create something more unique/awesome/simplistic.
Something I don't want to admit: Since I am using a battle-axe to shop bamboo, it’s really not the cleanest cut. With that said, the ends were a great place to get slivers. After my test run with the raft, I spent some time in the bathroom with the tweezers removing the imperfections of my creation.

Days of Rain: 8/17
Total Turtle Eggs I have saved: 258

The complete raft



Thursday, July 19, 2012

Day 19 - The Hatchery

Date: 7/19/12
Location: Playa San Miguel, Costa Rica

Word of the day: Sudor - Sweat
Turtle Fact: If a dead turtle washes up on shore. It will take about 3 full days before it is bare bones.

 6:30am wakeup. We have an early and exciting day at the San Miguel house. That is because this morning (7am) we are going to walk down the beach (south) to Costa de Oro (Gold Coast). We will be heading to the house I will be living in and start construction on the hatchery near the property. This will be the first time that any one has seen the house or project site.

It takes about 45mins (taking our time) to walk the 3km down the beach. Not too sure which house it is, (based on non descriptive descriptions) we wait around on the beach in the general area until the other volunteers and superiors show up.  We ended up only being about 200m away from the back yard of our new house. They wave us down and we walk over.

From the back side of house I can already tell this house is going to be awesome. We take a walk around inside the 3 bedroom 2 bath house. It has a living room, a complete kitchen (stove, microwave, refrigerator, freezer and sink), outdoor back porch, separate grilling area and a POOL! Once we move in (August 1st), I’ll really be living in paradise.

The place where we plan to build the hatchery is actually in the neighbors lot next door (big advocates of Pretoma and suggested having the hatchery on their property to help get around building a hatchery on public land – government). The placement is about 200ft from the beach and 200ft from the back of the house. With that said, we are going to have to dig out a 40’x20’x 3’ hole and replace that dirt with nice sand. That is A LOT of dirt. Luckily there was another volunteer group from another organization there to help. All in all we were about 20 people, 4 wheel barrels and 9 shovels. We spend a continues 3.5 hours on the hatchery before we quit for the day (noonish). We were able to complete a quarter of hatchery. The hard part was getting to the depth and width and then working across the length from there. The labor was pretty intense as we had to move these heavy wheel barrels full of “earth” across sandy like ground, which our wheel barrels got stuck 33% of the time. We dumped the earth/dirt about 100m west of the hatchery, creating a natural barrier from higher tides during the rainy season. This dirt is also a perfect opportunity to plant a garden (which both Matt and I came up with the idea separately).

PLOT: As we slow down our production of digging out the hatchery for the day, a Muni (Government Official) vehicle drop up from the beach to the project site, where we were working. They demanded (in a nice way) to see our permits for building a hatchery. A revolving theme you will find, like most political stories, is that the government works sometimes with outside organizations (poachers). Fortunately we have permits, however we physically did not have them at the site. Reassured that the next time we work, they will be frames, laminated and posted on a palm tree near by for all to see! Luckily today, we stopped just in time to not cause any friction.

Soaked in sweat (wearing a white long sleeved, breathable shirt) I rehydrate myself which fresh green coconut. One swift bash against a tree and the young coconut opens a seem into the center – just large enough crack to drink out of, but not splash all over your face, when holding if over your head to drink out of. This white shirt is perfect for being out in the sun (covers me), retains some moisture (keeps my body cool) and is awesome because it from the Bangs Lake Triathlon I participated many years ago. Now I just have to make sure to keep coconut water off of it, before it turns a nasty, rusty brown – coconut water stains everything if left untreated.
For being such awesome workers today, we were treated to complimentary lunch and cocktails at Hotel Laguna Mar. We get a ride to this place which is on the way back to San Miguel. Upon first glance, this hotel is very retro-modern with a 3rd world/forest backdrop. As soon as we walk in, you see the clean, clear blue pool with fabric draped from the ceiling for accent. We all sit around bar and enjoy a margarita and some pasta.

Afterwards, Courtney and I make small talk with the owner Drew. It seems that there may be some need for a person with a Marketing background in Costa Rica…we will see what develops. After some time relaxing in the pool, we head back home.

Chillax. Dinner. Siesa. Patrol/ Matt and I have morning patrol. This consists of walking the beach at 4am to see if any of the night shifts happen to miss a turtle or perhaps find a late night/early morning nester. We both walk alone in separate directions of the beach. Never the less, no turtles or tracks to be found.

  • You never really loose being afraid of the dark. Perhaps it because you know more, not necessarily because of your imagination
  • Dad’s pasta is still ranks #1 internationally for me.
  • You can shovel the ground without shoes/sandles – if you’re a native or a bad ass.

Food:  Italian Pasta and Garlic Bread
Animals: Crabs, Dogs

Something I am thankful for: A desk job. Labor intensive jobs are really under rated. Sure it’s work and has to be done by someone. But just think every structure that sleep, live and eat in was built by someone, who sweat a lot making it.
Something I don't want to admit: I am not going to lie, it was kind of scary at first patrolling by yourself in the dark, foreign country, thought of aggressive poachers…etc. However near 5am, the sun started to brighten up the beach and bring a little calmness to my nerves.

Days of Rain: 8/16
Total Turtle Eggs I have saved: 258

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Day 18 - Breaker

Date: 7/18/12 
Location: Playa San Miguel, Costa Rica

Word of the day: Un beso y un abrazo - A hug and a Kiss
Turtle Fact: Baby turtles gender depends on the temperature of the nest. The colder eggs tend to be male and the warmer eggs are the females. When comparing this to the turtles nest, the eggs on the outside are male and the inside (middle of the nest) the are female. It has been known for an entire nest to be of one sex, depending on the average temperature of the beach/season.  

7:30 wake up. Since I was on the early patrol last night, i was partly responsible for making breakfast (YESSSS). Looking at our food supply, I decided to make holey bread/eggs. Essentially this is where you make a hole in the center of toast, crack open an egg in the middle of the toast and cooked it. The breakfast turned out pretty good considering the lack of spices I had to work with. Rumor has it a food supply will be coming within the next couple of days.

After breakfast I look for a little project to work on. I remember the girls (Courtney and Maddie) mentioning that at the end of the rainy season that the hatchery got flooded a couple times with the large tides that came in. So what they did was make small barrier wall in front of the hatchery, facing the beach. Looking at this wall today, I can that it was depleted of the drift wood walls (most likely rotted away or have been for something else). I take a couple strolls along the beach to find some large, sturdy drift wood to help build the walls. I get a shovel a and dig a couple holes as vertical support beams to weave the drift wood through. After working up and sweat and an appetite, it's time for lunch.

After lunch I decide to take a siesta (coma). The afternoon was very chillax - something I am having a slight issue with. The past 17 years has been nothing but structure in my everyday life. There has always been some sort of schedule and goal. Now things are slightly different. Sure we have to save turtles, help the community become more educated and help the environment whenever we can. However there is no schedule or date of completion. So, like anyone trying to make a difference and being proactive, I made a pact with myself to make sure I work on at least one project a day, while living in paradise. Nuff said.

Before you know it it's dinner time. Eat. Siesta. Patrol.

I Patrol with Matt and Alfredo (younger brother of Wilson, another local turtle lover and Tico). He speaks little English, so the patrol was not as chatty as the nights past. Luckily Matt is semi fluent in Spanish so he was able to carry on some conversation. I noticed I am able to pick up on the conversation and what the end result of the story was, but not the specific details. Every now and then I would ask Matt what a key word was in order to make sense of the conversation. As we walk, all we find is large drift wood, whose shadows mimic mini monsters in the night. No turtles, no tracks. Sleep.

  • Water is very destructive
  • Depending on the time of year, the ocean will build beaches, bring tons and tons of sand on beach and will also take it away that quickly.

Food: Eggybread with hole
Animals: Crabs, Squirrel, Dogs 

Something I am thankful for: Being raised the way I was. Thanks Joe and Christine
Something I don't want to admit: Today as I was walking to lunch, I accidently dropped my phone on the ground and cracked the screen on my HTC Rezound. FML

Days of Rain: 7/15
Total Turtle Eggs I have saved: 258

Breakfast I helped make


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Day 17 - Posted

Date: 7/17/12

Location: Playa San Miguel, Maderas, Costa Rica

Word of the day: Estero – Estuary (inlet, creek river mouth, source)
Turtle Fact: Turtles can mate for up to 8 hours.

6:55am Alarm. We make a little bit of breakfast using powdered milk, water and cereal. Courtney, Matt and I head to Costa de Oro (my beach/project I will be stationed at for the majority of the time). We walk south down the beach 1km and cross the estuary. At this point in time it’s just about low tide, so it is very easy to cross, maybe 2ft deep in the deepest part. Our goal for the morning was to check out the 100m markers on the beach of Costa de Oro. This beach is supposed to be 4.5 km long (45 posts). In comparison, the beach in San Miguel is 2.5km long.

As we approach the first portion of the beach, just after the estuary, we notice there is no #1 post. (Great start). However it can be easily be noted that the beginning is the estuary. As we mark off the next  (#2) marker using a 30m tape measure, we notice that something is just not right. The space looks far too small. Looking down at the tape measure, we see that it actually starts at 18m and goes to 30m. Weird, but we will work with it. After getting the correct measurement, and placement, we look into the vegetation and notice a #2 post – it looks like our job just got a little easier. Or so we thought. We walk down the beach, and notice there was a #3, 4. But then it was missing a #5,6, and 7. As we continue walking we see another set of numbers that are being measured out at different intervals. At this point we abandon marking off the sectors, as we would need to find out what we should do and why there is a second string of markers.
You know that feeling of seeing your front yard covered in snow, as you step outside for the first time and notice the snow banks are up to your driver door… and you have to shovel it all? Well that’s what it was like for me, but I am excited as there is so much work to be done and there will be such a difference in the area after it’s all said and done (clean the beach of trash and drift wood, build a hatchery, set up marker posts, get the community involved, have beachfront properties change out their outdoor white light bulbs for yellow, and create an routine experience for volunteers/tourists that join us on our walks)

After stopping to speaking to a local expat (expatriate) we head back. We arrive with a half an hour left before lunch. 4 days of the week we head to an individuals house for lunch and dinner. The other 3 days of the week we have lunch and dinner at the Flying Scorpion. This place is a restaurant as well as hotel (recommended place to stay if you should visit). Breakfasts are provided by Pretoma at the house. As the story goes the individuals house (Albero) and the chef (Crizzly) used to work and cook for the Flying Scorpion many moons ago.

After lunch I trade Matt surfing the Internet for surfing the waves (I gave him my computer and I used his board). After a while of playing in the waves I retire the board and head down to the estuary with the girls. Just before the start of low tide. Once we get down there, I teach everyone how to “dig holes” with your feet it shallow water (basically by stopping your feet in shallow water). A couple minutes later the girls bring this large bamboo stick (about 10ft in length) down to the waiting large waiting pool we are sitting in. After putting 1+1 together I had an amazing idea: why don’t I put fix the large bamboo pole, in my hole and make it stand straight up. Now at this point there are some obvious uses for the pole, which I may or may not have implied – however being the genius I am, I change the idea into a TIKI BAR! Seven pieces of large drift wood and some random rope rope later, we have ourselves a free standing bar/counter. At this point the water is starting to recede (low tide) back into the ocean and the waiting pool is slowly draining. It looks like it time to head back as our pool is being drained by mother nature.

On our way back, we watch for the dogs (Ready and Captain) dig into crab holes, pick the crabs out with their mouths, chase them around and then tear of their legs one by one until they are not amusing any more. I must say this is a very amusing site and I will have to get this recorded in the near future.

I update HT (HelpingTurtles) for a little and then prepare for dinner. Eat. Siesta. Patrol.

We had late night patrol tonight with Courtney and Matt. We headed north on the beach. Unfortunately we did not see any turtles nor any tracks. Well other than a set of tracks that someone made (human - most likely poacher). Sleep.

  • It’s easy to build structures in the sand, in a couple feet of water.
  • Washed up trash (rope) can be useful.
  • Crocodiles live in our area and can be found in the estuaries

Food:  Watermelon Gum
Animals: Sting Ray, Crabs (congrejo)

Something I am thankful for: Have been around so many animals in my life, and never (knock on wood) have had a major injury due to them attacking me.
Something I don't want to admit: I stopped my first surfing session today because I stepped on a stingray and for freaked out. Luckily I did not get stung.

     1km = 0.621371 Miles
     3km = 1.864114 Miles
     5km = 3.106856 Miles

Days of Rain: 7/14
Total Turtle Eggs I have saved: 258

Our Common Area and Kitchen

Today's view of the beach

Monday, July 16, 2012

Day 16 - Old Mother Hubbard

Date: 7/16/12 
Location: Playa San Miguel, Costa Rica 

Word of the day: Viejo - Old
Turtle Fact: Male turtles have claw like nails on the back side of their front flippers. These are used to grasp on to a female turtle when copulating in the ocean (having sex in the water bed). These claws will either grasp into a females shoulders or ridge of the shell 

6:30am wake up. In hopes to continue the trend (which started yesterday) I head out to the beach for a little walk. I find some treasures along the way, including a large bucket (which I am sure will come in handy in the future). At this point I have decided to do a couple creative project using the "treasures" I find on the beach - but I am not sure what that is yet. During my walk I encounter a strange turtle track heading up the beach. The tracks where very small and did not look like the others I have seen. I come to find out that this was a false trail that someone (most likely) poachers had made last night. This was actually discovered and confirmed by the patrol that had that section of the beach the night before.

I continue down the beach and find a legit turtle track this time! I get very excited - what are the chances that in 3 days I find 3 nests? Well maybe later in the season, but not this early. I continue up the beach and find the turtles nesting grounds. You can see a couple of the places where the turtle attempted to make a nest, but did not finish. Well it appears that this gal gave up for the night. I have one of the girl double check the nest just to make sure I wasn't out smarted by the turtle. The call remains the same : aborted nest.

I head back to the house and prepare breakfast for the crew. SIDENOTE: Generally the first 3 hour patrol of the night (early patrol, starts at 9 or 10pm) has breakfast duties the following morning, in order to give the second 3 hour patrol (late patrol starts at 1 or 2am) a chance to get some extra sleep in, in the morning.

For breakfast, I prepare the juice of 8 coconuts and the meat (nut) of only 2 of them. I first crack them all open and drain them into a pitcher, later I run them through a strainer to remove a little bit of the same and coconut fur that may have gotten in there from the poor. As of right now I am using my battle axe (a great Steep and Cheap purchase) to open the coconut as we currently do not have a machete.

I learn that today we are having two new volunteers join us for the next 3 weeks. With that said, I straighten up our (Matt and I) room for the two new guests. Lunch.

After lunch the new volunteers arrive. They are two German girls that just got out of high school (but equivalent to Sophomores in college so I have learned). They both speak broken English and Spanish, but very understandable and apparently love Justin Bieber. After they get settled in, I join the "volunteer" talk that I received a couple days prior. At this point in time I realized that everything I am about to do, could be easily related to Marketing Werks (the marketing company I used to work for in Chicago) in relation to how things are run and the process that occur. Right now, we are going through the training portion before we "hit the road" or go to the other beach to start our own project. The rest of the afternoon we work on a couple of other chores and enjoy the ocean.

The evening portion mimics that of yesterday - Run, shower, eat, nap, patrol.

During this patrol, Matt and I joined Maddie on the south end of the beach. Usually patrol will take about four lengths of 1/2 the beach. Well on our last length back we came across an older Olive Ridley Turtle in the process of digging out her nest. She started nesting only half way up the beach, near the water line. This was already a sign that things are not as they should. As we watch the turtle dig, we notice her back left fin is not working as it should. She would physically go through the motion of scooping out sand, and toss it behind her, but the fact is, her fin was not even touch the sand most of the time. Luckily her right fin was working just fine. All in all she digs the hole, just fine however much shallower than usual and laid 96 eggs. Upon looking over the turtle we notice circular notches symmetrical to each other on either side of her shell. We conclude that this was either a males claws or perhaps some kind of band that was around her at a younger age (like a growth around a tire when placed around a small tree, and the tree grows up to be very large with a small belt like indentation).

We walk back to the hatchery with only a couple minutes left on our patrol and place the turtle eggs in a standard size hole (as this mother was clearly disabled) in hopes to produce a higher percentage of success rate for the hatch lings in 8 weeks.

* I would have taken pictures to show whats going on, but I don't have the proper technology yet. I have to either 1) get a bunch of red lights to illuminate the area 2) purchase a lens for my GoPro that makes it use Infrared Light to record, with the use of Infrared lights or 3)Get my hands on a camcorder that has night vision on it. However all of these options have a nice price tag on them - MAKE SURE TO DONATE (get a postcard, adopt a turtle or "visit" me in CR)

  • Use not abuse
  • Garbage travel to/from everywhere
  • So much opportunity with anywhere you go. You just have to notice/realize it.

Food: Plaintains and Beets
Animals: Olive Ridley Sea Turtle, Crabs 

Something I am thankful for: Being born without complications (if any that I know of) 
Something I don't want to admit: When then Germans arrived we showed them out room where they would be staying. As of right now, Matt and I have the bottom bunks (only 2 bunk beds in the room). They had made a comment in broken English how it would be kind of hard to get up to the top bunk to sleep (keep in mind, these girls are younger and in good shape). I believe that comment was a sign for us to switch with the girls, but I ignored it as all my stuff (bug net, sheets, personal items) were already made and settled into living in the bottom bunk. I know I know, "dick move" - but I am pulling rank on this one.  

Days of Rain: 6/13 
Total Turtle Eggs I have saved: 258

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Day 15 - The Early Bird Catches the... Poacher

Date: 7/15/12

Location: Playa San Miguel, Costa Rica

Word of the day: Bones - Huesos
Turtle Fact: Sea Turtles can have sex up to 12 hours in the open water.

6:00am wake up. I immediately head to the beach to check out the sun rising (not sun rise) and go for a little stroll on the beach. A local semi-stray, cute, friendly black dog joins me (soon to find out his name is Captain). I am one of the first foot prints on the beach, along with some other birds and dog prints. I head all the way north to the end of the beach. This is my first time walking this stretch when it is light. At the end there is an area full of rocks - good for finding crab, sea urchin and other mollusks. As I head back to the house, I notice the tide line towards the top of the beach. It is filled with 16inches of garbage all the way down the beach. From bottle caps, to shoes to random plastic pieces. It's sad to see this, but at the same time, the treasure hunter inside me is very excited. Needless to say I look forward to my treasure hunts.

On my way back, I notice some turtle tracks that were not there last night. As I follow them up the beach and into the vegetation, I see that this nest was poached! Essentially, there was tracks of the of the turtle lead to and from the nest. Where the nest would have been, there was a large hole, surrounded by dog and other human foot print - DAMN. This turtle must have walked up the beach after our patrol. I get back to the house to inform the others of what I saw. Not even 5 minutes later a younger Tico (Costa Rican) stops by the house and has a conversation with Maddie. I am informed that as I was walking down the beach, I actually came across the turtle nest as our "friend" was digging a "false" hole to protect the eggs from poachers until we  (Pretoma Volunteers) got there to collect the eggs. As soon as he saw me, he dipped back into the brush (which I did not see) - why? I don't know. Well, this Tico thought I saw him digging the whole and thus stealing the eggs. So he made sure to stop by the house and let the girls know right away what was going on.

BACKSTORY/PLOT: So there is a family that lives about 4 houses south of our Pretoma House in San Miguel. This family (about 7 sons) are known poachers in the area and are very friendly to everyone including Pretoma Staff (mainly because the sons like the females that volunteer with Pretoma a couple houses away). Rumor has it this family is slightly ashamed to be poachers as in the past. They have been seen walking away from a turtle nest, in the middle of the night, when being approached by volunteers combing the beach. One of the sons claims to be against the poaching his family does. However, it's a living and they must obey their father's orders. With that said, the younger Tico currently at the house is one of poacher's children who is against the poaching. *Keep in mind I am sure the these kids will say anything to impress the ladies (of Pretoma), the source of my poacher knowledge.

Knowing that this was a false hole, we head back to the nesting location, where the Tico reveals the real location. Sure enough, as we start digging into the sand (with our hands) we find the eggs! 90 eggs later we walk back to the hatchery to put them back into the ground, in a safe place. What a Morning

SIDENOTE: Poachers really have a small window to gather the eggs. Once the eggs have been buried in the sand for more than 8 hours (and the incubation process begins) the embryo attaches itself to the side wall of the egg. At this point the egg is less desirable to the poachers. So within our story, the child poacher that got to the eggs right before me, may have been more inclined to give me the eggs as the turtle would have laid them about 6-7 hours earlier.

Breakfast! After taking inventory of the house and it's amenities, I help the girls set up a couple hammocks just outside our kitchen area - the hangout spot. Before you know it's lunch time.

After lunch a couple of us head down to the Estuary at the south end of the beach. This is what divided "my beach", Costa de Oro from the one I am currently working on, Playa San Miguel. After we return, Matt arrives. Matt is another research assist (like me). He will also be stationed at Costa de Oro with me for the next couple of months.

The rest of the afternoon we hangout/get to know each other and do some chores around the house. I head for a little run before dinner along the beach. This easily seems to be my new favorite thing. The is the perfect mix of hard and soft. Your feet sink in just enough to counteract the pounding of your feet hitting the ground. As I run, the sun is setting behind the mountain/hill to north, which provides an awesome reflection the waves going in and out. I get back just in time to wash up and join everyone for a walk down road for some grub.

After dinner I take a little food coma nap in preparation for tonight walk. Matt, Wilson (Maddie's BF and paid Pretoma employee) and myself walk the beach. Small conversation is made between Wilson and Matt as they speak Spanish with each other. I catch on and contribute when ever I can. Using the words I know, I am able to grasp what the conversation is about and what is happening. Unfortunately we do not find any turtles on our patrol, but another team did. Oh Well. Sleep

  • Never Assume...
  • Poachers come in all shapes and sizes
  • Mutual respect comes from the oddest of place

Food: Beef and Rice
Animals: Humans, Dogs, Crabs 

Something I am thankful for: The ability to make friends and others willing to be that friend. 
Something I don't want to admit: That morning when I came across the turtle nest, it was by accident. I just so happened to be picking up a long length of rope off the beach, and one end of it was literately on the turtle track. I am going to have to train my "hawk eyes" for that shapes and patterns to look for in the sand 

Days of Rain: 6/12

Total Turtle Eggs Saved by Me: 162 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Day 14 - The Beginning

Date: 7/14/12

Start: Tibás, Costa Rica
End: Playa San Miguel, San Francisco de Coyote, San Francisco

Word of the day: Bajes - Get off

Turtle Fact:   Many of the suspicions surrounding turtles nesting (moon phase, weather, temperature, etc) are all hear-say. There is no-one theory completely correct.

I wake up early 4:05am to make sure I have ample time to get ready and not have a repeat of yesterday. The Taxi driver (the same one from yesterday that dropped me of to the Widecast Office from the bus Terminal) was going to pick me up ay 5:15am in order to make my 6am bus. Well it’s about 5:20am now and there is no taxi driver in sight. Thinking he is running a couple minutes late, I wait. Nothing. I call his cell which I happen to get ( 1- very smart of me, 2- no he was not cute) and do the best that I can to communicate with him. Out of the conversation I got that he was not going to pick me up as his previous passenger has taken him far away.

Knowing this, I immediately head for the Park Central three blocks away, where I have seen cabs lining up during the day time. I’m in luck. There was hardly any traffic and I arrive in a matter of know time. When I get out the car I instantly get greeted by a bunch of people trying to offer me things and wanting to offer me cab rides (as if they did not see me get off bus. Fools. I head over to the correct bus and place my bags in the belly of the truck. Yes – there is space. I go to coffee shop directly in front of the bus and order myself an chicken empanada and chocolate milk. MMMM. I head to the bus and find my spot in the back left, window seat. Yes – there is space and window seat.

One bus change, a cliff bar and six hour bus ride later we arrive in San Miguel.

SIDENOTE: For those of you looking to travel/visit me in the Nicoya Peninsula, it is a 6 hour bus ride ($9) or a 4 hour rental car ride. The first 2 hours are spent driving through semi-suburban (for Costa Rica) areas and the remaining time is traveling through a luscious landscape of fields, mountains, over rivers and on the edges of the forest. The last 40mins is on a dirt road that would effect the strongest of bladders. None of the time do you see the cost until you are literaly ¼ mile from the ocean. A hidden gem!

I made sure to note all the establishments, and closest towns when we nearly arrived (or lack of). At first glance this place was very simple. One main dirt road with houses scattered to either side of the street and a number of fruit and palm/coconut trees scattered throughout the yards.

I am greeted by the 2 coordinators of Pretoma. ENTER Maddie and Courtney: These ladies were both with Pretoma last year at this site as assistant coordinators (what I am) but where soon to be bumped when their coordinators did arrive. They walk me down 2 “blocks" and we arrived at the Pretoma San Miguel Project site
SIDENOTE: I was assigned to help start a new project site at Playa de Oro, which is 7km south from this site. As of right now, the logistics, housing and final details are being resolved and we will not be moving in for a couple weeks. Meanwhile at Playa San Miguel we will be learning our best practices so we can be efficient and produce quality results once we get things going.

I meet a couple of volunteers (Kristen and Lauren) already staying in the house (more like bunkers) that are working on their own scholastic programs in conjunction with Pretoma’s initiatives. They give me a penny tour of the area and we head to lunch (more info to come in later updates). Afterwards we get the prep talk of the does and don’ts and what precautions are taken with our personal items and the program's equipment. Next, I get settled (a little), gather some coconut water and meat as a peace offering to my new “family” and we all talk about our background. Before you know it, it’s dinner time. We head back to the same place as lunch: Flying Scorpion (more to come later on this place) around 6pm. During dinner, we are notified that we are going out on the first patrol of the year (yay) tonight as they will teach us the basics and foundation for the next 3.5 months.

It’s now about 9pm and we stroll out on the beach (7 deep), with no flash lights on and patrol the beach. We walk down to one end of the beach and head back. As we walk back we see our first set of turtle tracks! We follow the tracks up the beach only to find an Olive Ridley turtle in a little bit of vegetation, preparing her nest. She starts to dig her nest, but half way through, she aborts as there is too many roots in the ground. At this point the turtle either says “I’m fed up with this $hit and I’ll try again later” (in a couple hours up to a few days) or “let me try over here” (she’ll move 5 feet away and try again). After a good 20 minutes of digging, she lays her eggs. I collect them as they drop, put them in a bag and we continue on with performing most of the same data collection (minus the tissue sampling) that we preformed in Nicoya with Widecast. After all was said and done, we continue walking down the beach until we get to the hatchery. The hatchery looks like a checkerboard with rope in the sand as the lines of the board. We place the turtle eggs only in the “black squares” so that there is room for the eggs in other quadrants, or at least until all of the black squares are filled. Then at that point we would move onto the “red squares”.

The hole is dug to same specification that it’s mother had laid them in (depth and size). Once placed back in the hole, we fill it in and pack it slightly. We continue along the beach in hopes to find more turtles on the south end (our house is located in the center). But no luck. We return back to the house to clean up our tools and then head to bed. WHAT A FIRST NIGHT. Sleep

*To not bore you and save some content for later, I left some procedural steps in the turtle egg searching gathering process out of the above info.

  •  Using your computer at night will attract more bugs than using it during the day
  • Used toilette paper is thrown in a waste basket and not flushed.
  • Our beach is really large during low tide
  • We have bats in the showers.
Food:  Chicken Empanadas
Animals: Olive Ridley Turtle!

Something I am thankful for:  Communication and the resources/channels around you in which you can use to relay information between two parties. Sounds a little scientific I know.

Something I don't want to admit: I thought I missed my bus connection and stop like 3 times each. I didn’t necessarily communicate with the driver when my stop was, nor did ask all the right questions to the people of Pretoma before I left, regarding the details of my stop. Luckily the last 15 mins of the trip I over heard to girls (from England) mention that they were going to work with turtles… so I just followed their lead and let fate do the rest.

Days of Rain: 6/11

Sign in front of the house

Sign? in the bus... How I knew I was heading to the correct place... or did I

View to the south of my new house

Friday, July 13, 2012

Day 13 - The Standing Room

Date: 7/13/12

Start: Playa Blanca, Puerto Jimenez
End: Tibás, Costa Rica

Word of the day: Omnibus - Bus
Turtle Fact: The leatherback is the record holder of sea turtles, traveling an astounding 10,000 miles or more each year in search of jellyfish, crossing the entire Pacific Ocean from Asia to the West Coast of the United States to forage off the coasts of Washington, Oregon, and California.

5:00am the alarm goes off. I wash the face, pack the remaining items and look over the room for anything I might have left behind. I sneak into Shay, Ricardo and Paula's "cabin" and give them quite goodbye hugs before heading to the bus stop a 1/2 mile away.

Once I get to the bus, I put one bag in the belly of the bus and then I was directed to bring the other large bag on the bus with me. I step foot on the bus and it was PACKED! Every seat was taken and there was even a couple people already standing in the aisle way - this is not looking good for a 8hour bus ride. I get situated near the rear doors and plop my large bag on the ground, and put my backpack on the top shelf with the rest of everyone else's carry on luggage. Using my Chicago CTA skills, I brace one arm on the top handrail and the other on the vertical handrail next to the rear doors. Both arms slightly bent and supporting some of my body's weight. We Ride.

After traveling like this for a half an hour, I convinced myself that this would not be so bad... then we stopped and a gaggle of high schoolers from WI got on the bus. Since they paid for their tickets ahead of time, they got seniority and sat down in seats, which caused an equal amount of Costa Ricans to stand in the aisle way (Men, Women, and children of all ages). There was certainly something wrong with this picture. Clearly some of these high schoolers were very selfish, but probably did not know any better.

The rest of bus ride remains the same. Every 1/2 hour, I adjust my arms, feet and weight distribution. The bus did stop twice, both for 10 mins. Enough time for a potty brake, a bag of plantains and some random CR juice box.

We arrive in San Jose just after 2pm. I take a cab to the Widecast office where I meet a Luis, a coordinator for Widecast on the Caribbean coast. After our introduction, he assists me in purchasing a USB data card, which will allow me to access internet (coverage willing) throughout Costa Rica (Nicoya in particular). After this, we head to the bus station to pick up a ticket for tomorrow, to ensure I get a seat. Heaven only knows I DO NOT want to do that again!

I taxi it back to the WIdecast office and set up a pick-up for the following morning. Gotta love older male taxi drivers with random icons all over the dash. Within 10mins Didher (Widecast head honcho) and his son, Didher, arrive to drop of some things to the office. We exchange some small talk and off they go.

I grab some dinner down the street, catch up on some journals and get to bed a little early in preparation for the following day. Sleep.

  • When traveling always buy your ticket beforehand
  • Laughter really is universal language
  • Smiles go a long way
  • Even in a third world country the internet is everywhere
Food: Tartaras de coco
Animals: Dragon fly, rat/mouse, cockroach 

Something I am thankful for: Having a seat to sit in - Anytime anywhere I needed it in the past. 

Something I don't want to admit: I was actually late to the bus this morning. As I walking down the dirt road to the stop, I heard the bus from down the road turn a corner and apply the brakes - sound travels. Knowing that this was my bus and I COULD NOT miss it, I ran and ran. Well more like power walked. After all I walking with about 100lbs of gear (again - probably too much gear). When I arrived to the bus (which had been parked there for the past three minutes) the bus driver has just finished loading some cargo from a semi truck and this Americano with bright colored bags and waited an extra minute for me. I hand him my bag, dripping in sweat as if I just walked out of the ocean (for real). THANKFULLY I didn't care all that much because I was wearing my Dakota Grizzly Shirt and shorts which wick away sweat/moisture like it's no one's business! 30 mins later, and a application of deodorant, I was brand new! 

*The standing room is also the name of an AWESOME sandwich shop in Redondo beach, only a block away. I miss them just thinking about their sandwiches.  

Days of Rain: 6/10 - there was a little sprinkle but I'm not counting it. 

Didher and I