Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Day 123 - Feliz Halloween

Date: 10/31/12
Location: Costa de Oro, Costa Rica

Word of the day: traje - costume
Turtle Fact: Sea turtles are amazing swimmers, and they can do it for hours and hours without becoming tired. They can move from 1 mile per hour to about 5 miles per hour. What is interesting is that some of them travel hundreds or more than 1,000 miles to reach the breeding grounds. This can take them a very long time to reach due to their slow but steady pace. .

Wake up 6am in the hatchery. Today is Halloween! I sometimes wish all Holidays had a morning component to it. IE Christmas: opening presents in the morning, Easter: finding the Easter basket throughout the hose, etc. Perhaps a new tradition could be had like eating pumpkin pie and the person who has the piece of chocolate candy in the middle of their pie piece which means that this person has privileges to take whatever candy he wants from anyone in the house in exchange for his/her worse candy they get that night. Just a thought...

In honor of this holiday I decide to test out an idea I have been thinking about some time. Cooking pancake batter in young coconuts! I wander the backyard looking for the best little bunch of younger coconut I can find. I locate some and wack off the bunch of nuts. Using the machete, I make a clean cut in the tops of them, without actually opening the coconut. These is to be used for a flat surface for when they bake. I make one more cut on the opposite end. This time, it pierces through the top third of the hull. I pour the juice into a pitcher and reserve this for later in the baking process. Next I carve out some faces on the top third of the coconut (the piece I just cut), rinse them out and pre bake them in the oven. After preparing the pancake batter with a little extra cinnamon, nutmeg, chocolate powder and sugar, I pour this into each cavity of the ore heated coconut and stick them back in the oven. About 40 min later I put them out. I filled each coconut mostly full so that it would over flow once baked. Knowing this, the pancaked did spill out of the coconut resembling vomit. It turned out perfect.

After consuming my holiday creation I help tidy up the house as there is a chance that the top dog of Pretoma may stop by the house to check out the project site. By 11:30am we gather our belongings and get picked up from the house in the Pretoma vehicle. Today we are heading to the Hotel Laguna Mar where we are having a little Halloween get together.

The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing by the pool and enjoying a couple pina coladas. Since all 4 project sites were in attendance, I really got to know the other research assistance and volunteers. They come from all over and (mainly Germany, Switzerland, Spain and the US). All of them from various backgrounds, but usually somewhere in the nature realm. Its so interesting to think that volunteering is such global activity. Thinking like an American, I forget sometimes that other countries can volunteer too. We are served fish tacos and long some fresh quad and beans. After we eat, the clouds start to settle in, so now my costume comes out. Essentially I dress in my Ninja Turtle Onzie , along with a HT patch over my eye, and a faux mustache. I wear this with pride as I am now one of the few that I currently wearing a costume. We all hangout out and get more comfortable with each other as now we are planning future events in which we all can another one again. Before you know the Pretoma vehicle arrives once more to shuttle us back home. What a great time!

Back at the house I warm up a little bit of left overs and prepare for another night in the hatchery. Hammock. Netflix. Sleep. A little more Netflix. Sleep.

Lesson: Costumes are worn at night for reason... all that extra clothing makes you hot!

Food: Reese's peanut butter cup. Some great friends of mine had gave me some of the treats in my latest supply drop. Good thing I had these as this was the only chocolate I consumed on Halloween.

Animals: Ghost , Goblins, Skeletons, Gypsies,

Something I am thankful for: Knowing that your not alone. Its nice to meet other people that are doing the same things as you. Its nice to hear how they handle various situations and have much on a common topic to talk about.

Something I don't want to admit: I used to be a pirate for Halloween when I was younger, multiple years in a row...I still held on to that tradition with the eye patch.

We have officially stopped collecting turtle eggs for the season!

Total Nest I have saved: 45

Total Nests Poached on my Patrol:44

Total Turtle Eggs I saved: 5102

Total Baby Turtles I Released: 955

Days of Rain: 79/119

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Day 122 - Devil's Night

Date: 10/30/12
Location: Costa de Oro, Costa Rica

Word of the day: Diablo - Devil
Turtle Fact: It is believed one method that males use to see who should get to mate with the female is who can raise their neck the highest. The female will choose who she mates with.

Wake up 6am in the hatchery and move inside to finish off a couple more hours of sleep. Breakfast (cereal, oatmeal and banana).

I get right into the chores in the morning and dig out more holes in the hatchery left over from some exhumations done earlier this morning by the females. As I move the buckets of sand out of the hatchery, I notice considerably how much hotter the sand keeps getting. Had I not been digging y last hole out, I would have had to go inside the house to get my Sandals, Yeah the sand gets that hot in the morning (sometimes).

Updates to Find, sift and sort sal plastic pieces on the beach. Lunch (leftovers).

Find sift and sort more plastic pieces on the beach. I really have a good system down for this! I have a small tin can in which I initially soup a small piece of plastic (ranging from a quarter the size of a dime) to pieces as big as my hand). Granted I am still picking up the larger pieces I come across, however these just won't get used for my creative purposes. After placing the contents of the tin can in a much l larger bucket, I continue the process until my arm goes numb from holding the large bucket as each small tin full adds up. I then head to a shady place in the middle of the yard, and filter my findings through the several layers of box screens. I had put together a couple days back. I go through each screen sorting each piece of plastic into various colors and placing these in groups within individual zip lock bags. So much work is required to gather these "art supplies", but I am sure it will all pay off in the end.

Getting thirsty and anxious to try out the new sharpened machete brought back to me yesterday, I easily slice open coconuts with one swing. Both Leo (TMNT) and Prince Adam (He-Man) would have been proud of me. #80sreferencetocartoons. While my machete sword was flying so swift through the air I decided to give the backyard Coconut trees a little hair in the area where the branches were too low. After cutting several of the palm fronds, I was inspired to make play around with some above water basket weaving techniques using a whole branch, rather than singular leaves weaved together. Success. I will let creative juices marinate on this idea until I can decide on something cool to make.

Now that the sun as started to set the gaggle of us head to hatchery to do a little work. We keep busy for an hour or so and enjoy a picturesque sunset as we move buckets of sand, and go through turtle eggs on the beach. Dinner (Italian stir fry).

Hatchery. Hammock. Netflix. Sleep.

Title of Todays Blog: Devils Night -'s_Night

Lesson: Costa Ricans like their knives sharp.

Food: Sausage Stir Fry. Set up like Mongolian BBQ , the girls set up all the fixing on the counter and we were instructed to make our own bowls, in which they would cook. Awesome concept.

Animals: Crabs, dogs, Mosquitos, Birds

Something I am thankful for:  Creativeness. Seeing some of value in everything around me, regardless the value or potential others might not see.
Something I don't want to admit: I think my chocolate kick is back. Granted its a day away from Halloween, I found myself sneaking into my own personal stash.

Total Nest I have saved: 45
Total Nests Poached on my Patrol:44
Total Turtle Eggs I saved: 5102
Total Baby Turtles I Released: 955
Days of Rain: 79/118

Monday, October 29, 2012

Day 121 - Caught Red Paw'ded

Date: 10/29/12
Location: Costa de Oro, Costa Rica

Word of the day: plastico - plastic
Turtle Fact: It is a common myth that sea turtles cry. What is really taking place is that they excrete the salt water from their bodies through their eyes.

6am wake up in the hatchery. I head inside and make a quick bowl of cereal, however today i add rolled oats to the corn flakes. Great new addition to the milk starch combination. . This morning I decide to go on an adventure bike ride. My original plan we as to just bike tot he estuary and have a look around the mangroves as it was low tide. I must admit, I was inspired to make this trip after reading Maddie's blog (see below for link). However after getting to the estuary and seeing how low it was and being a betting man (from time to time), I would wager that Maddie would be up already at San Miguel. So I lift the bike over the 16“ of water and cross the little stream. As I bike closer to the San Miguel Pretoma house, I notice a fishing troller that is fairly close to shore towards the north end. I approach the house from the beach and find Maddie blogging away with her cup of tea. Perfect!  I help myself and make of coffee. We spend the next hour or so catching up on life and then head out to the beach to snap I some pictures of the fishing stroller boat that is now in front of the house. I have never seen the boat this close before - what is going here?

Not intending to stay for breakfast, Hilary (San Miguel research assistant from Canada - also Maddie's friend) convinces me to stay as she has heard rumors about Chef Victor's great cooking and hopes to impress me with her skills. As I am not one to turn down food, I gladly accept the invitation. Breakfast #2 (Scrambled eggs, toast, and assortment of fruit). Approved!

After chatting up the crew of San Miguel for a while, I take off on the newly flattened gravel road (perfect for biking on when compared to sand) and head south back toward the estuary and my beach. On the way I stop to take some pictures at this torn down house on the side of the road. Over grown with plants, and cement walls still standing, it was a interesting environment. By mistake I almost ran onto this NASTY spider web. After seeing this huge creature (later to be determined as a Yellow Orb) I take a couple picture to eventually harass a younger brother with on social media in the near future

Sidenote: Back in the day, we used to torment my younger brother (yes the one who visited) with dead spiders. Like any older, loving brother would, we use this fear against him any chance we could. In fact sometimes, we would just wad up a some paper towel and pretend there was a dead one inside. These chases around the house would end when he would lock himself in the bathroom and we would get too bored waiting for him to come out. Thanks. I'm Sorry. Your Welcome.

I continue south a eventually hit the estuary. Since it was low tide, the area looked very barren with small steams running into small pools of water. All along the mud floor was hermit crab tracks leading from one pool to the next. Many of the local birds were perched in the tree tops looking to make their move on the muddy surface below. I bike the perimeter of the area while taking it all in.  I stop in one area where the mouth of the river widens greatly and is the actual start of the river. The banks are covered with small snails that are actually clinging on to small mangrove roots waiting for the tide to return. Snails climbing on trees? Crazy.

I eventually cross the river and ride back using the road parallel to the beach. Once I reach the house I find everyone, including Lotti, in the hatchery going over future procedures. After re-uniting me with my now sharpened machete she takes off and we (Courtney, Kayla and I head to the ocean for a cool down swim. Lunch. The girls made some anti-pasta salad which has been marinating since this morning - yum. Siesta beach side.

Enjoying the afternoon soon, I head out to the higher banks of the beach with my sifter in hand and start looking for small pieces of plastic. I have semi-stole the idea of making a mosaic of plastic pieces and gluing them onto a piece of driftwood - more on the actual project later. Jumping back into the ocean to cool off, I decide to get my sweat on. Run. Shower. Sunset.

Dinner (sausage tacos). After dinner I was preparing myself for an evening siesta before my late patrol when Courtney came running into the house. Very quickly, she requests my assistance as she just caught a dog in our hatchery! I run out to the hatchery to asses the situation. There was a new gaping hole next to the previous house and 2 nests had been slightly disturbed. So the story goes... Courtney was in the Kitchen with Kayla when she thought she heard a motorcycle approach the house. Several moments later she hears the vigorous clinking of empty glass bottles (which were strung to the side of the hatchery) in the back yard. Both girls immediately run outside and see this large dog, just just through the side of the hatchery fence. By the time the girls got into the hatchery, the dog had started digging two (but disturbing too much) and was now cornered. Which I could assume was a very scary situation for them, the dog decided to make an exit move and just Juggernaut himself the the back of the hatchery with out hesitation. The girls described it as if it was a cartoon where the thief runs straight through a brick wall to make his escape. Moments later, they notice the motorcycle in the distance (on a public beach access road, 2 lots down) which had the made the noise earlier take off. Was this person part of the culprit, or just coincidence?

Knowing my evening patrol was just canceled and just put on hatchery duty, I go inside to gather my 'night in the hammock' essentials (tablet, speakers, water, snack and a shirt). The feeling around the house was that there would be another visit from this creature again tonight. This is most likely due to the fact that we had preformed several exhumations earlier in the day and the smell of the turtle eggs where in the air. Netflix time.

Around midnight I hear scratching just to the right of me, on the outside of the hatchery. Peeking under the tarp very slowly, I see the large dog that I could only assume was the culprit earlier today. Just as the lift the tarp a little higher to get a good profile of the dog, it notices me and takes of running. Damn dogs...

2am sleep.

Lesson: Dogs have great noses and some have great personalities. However I find most in Costa Rica a threat to my main objective - HelpingTurtles.

Food: Sausage/Chrorizo Tacos. Plated with flavored corn, melted tico cheese and homemade salsa

Animals: DOGs, spiders, crabs, snails, birds,

Something I am thankful for: Being at the right place at the right time.
Something I don't want to admit:I hate spiders too. They are just scary/alien looking. Upon seeing the spider I saw today and trying to be adventurous photographer, I got pretty close to this creature. In fact, as I was getting a close up (using the macro setting on my digital camera) I disturbed the web a little which made the spider move all around. This sent me into a semi panic as I was currently perched on a broken wall, with only cement rubble beneath me if I should fall. Luckily my nerves subsided and I was able to get down calmly with out injury

I did not go on patrol

Total Nest I have saved:45
Total Nests Poached on my Patrol:44
Total Turtle Eggs I saved: 5102
Total Baby Turtles I Released: 955
Days of Rain: 79/117

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Day 120 - Gone Fishing

Date: 10/28/12
Location: Costa de Oro, Costa Rica

Word of the day: puesta del sol - sunset
Turtle Fact: If you look closely, you will see that they all have eyelids that offer them protection from the sunlight for their eyes. They are able to see very well in the water but not on land. They are also color blind.

7:30 am wake up in hatchery. Not like you needed to know but several times throughout the night I had to use the little boys room. However upset I was at the fact I had to unzip and athletically remove myself from my bug net and hammock while still half asleep, I was excited to finish marking my territory along the perimeter of the hatchery.

I head inside and prepare to make some french toast. I learn that a key to successfully making french toast is to add nutmeg and cinnamon to the top of each slice if bread, while cooking on the pan. Indeed this was proven to be true. Thanks Courtney's family for sharing the family secret.

This morning ingrid stops by for a visit and the girls go to hang out at a neighbors pool. To pass some time, I get in a little cleaning kick and mop down some of our floors that definitely needed some tlc. Lunch - rice and asian sauces.

A couple days ago the Pacific ocean dropped of a nice size able log on our beach. Keeping up with our cleanlyness, this wood not be here for log. I grab the trusty ax and start hacking away, perhaps relieving some natural tension. A couple blisters later, and leaden with sweat I complete a sizeable chunk of the chopping for one day. I jump in the ocean to cool off where I am treated by Santos. This Tico local has been a big advocate if Pretoma and has been a big help with patrolling with one if the girls from time to time. However today e was going to teach me how to on-shore fish!

He brings a an extra set of fishing reel coiled up in a plastic ring. In the end of it there is a Norma, fishing hook followed by a sizeable lead weight. He hands me the unit and hooks a crawfish like creature. Letting out a couple feet of line, he swings the line above his head like a lasso several times and throws it it in front of him in between the breaking waves. Keeping in mind we are sitting in 2 feet of water already the line reaches about 30 ft in front of us. Now that the line has been casted, my left hand is holding the reel and the right is holding the fishing line with my finger tips feeling for any movement on the line.

After several line casting and re-baiting - due to fish eating it and being whipped off where casting to violently, I feel a jerk on the line. Using a method I saw from one of the little kids earlier fishing, I run up the shore winding the line as I go. I definitely have something on the end of my hook. Before you know it, I see a fish break through the water. Woooo I can fish! After taking the hook out of the mouth, I look over this mall/medium fish (species unknown) and place it in a side of a log, in the shade, on the beach. Ten minutes later after rebaiting I catch another. This time its a large Corbina (similar to white sea bass). I will certainly be getting some nice fillets out if these!

After using up the rest of the bait, Santos uses a small fish he caught earlier and uses that as bait live bait. He sticks the hook, near the end of the tail and let's out lots if line so it can swim away. He explains that a small fish catches much larger fish than the bait we were using previously. After watching him for 30 mins and catching nothing, he gives up and releases the little fish back to the ocean. I hope to do mire fishing in the future. I just need to learn where he found his bait at...

With my two fish in hand, I clean, cut, flour, fry and eat them. So good, so fresh.

I readjust the hammock straps for tonight and prepare my GoPro for an awesome sunset.

Shave. Shower. Dinner (sweet and sour Asian chicken).

Hammock. Netflix. Sleep.

Lesson: The best things in life are free ($). However everything has a cost (time, love, energy)

Food: fried fish. Using some all purpose flour mixed with heavy seasonings, I fried pieces in hot oil.

Animals: Dogs, crabs, birds, fish, lizards

Something I am thankful for:  Fishing. So simple, all you need it time, line and some bait.
Something I don't want to admit: I had hard time carrying the live fish. I know your supposed to carry them by the gills, but swear they were hitting me from the inside of their mouth. Needless to say I dropped them several times in the sand trying to transport them (while alive).


Total Nest I have saved: 45
Total Nests Poached on my Patrol:44
Total Turtle Eggs I saved: 5102
Total Baby Turtles I Released: 955
Days of Rain: 78/116

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Day 119 - Leave it to Weaver

Date: 10/27/12
Location: Costa de Oro, Costa Rica

Word of the day:
Turtle Fact: It is a myth that all turtles can tuck their heads into their shells. All land turtles can but not sea turtles. .

7am wake up from 9 hours if straight sleep. No tossing and turning, no going to the bathroom in the middle if the night - just sleep. This morning Julia and I head out to the beach bright and early. The night before she had mentioned she wanted to cook clams for dinner and wanted to go pick some. Because the tide was perfect at 9am (2 hours after low tide) we set out with a plastic bag and a hardened plastic piece I had found in the beach a couple days prior. As soon as we walk onto the beach when we see a family of 7 or so geared up for the same thing. Ohh man talk about awkward! So we approach them and say hello as they are directly in front of us already searching and digging for clams. To give them much space we walk 6 sectors to the south (600 meters) and start our searching for clams there. Being in a party of 7 vs the two of us, there were certainly able to cover a majority of the beach, rather than the 10 ft radius we were searching within. By the time we had gotten 3 more sectors down, they had caught UK to us. At this point in time time our bag was fairly full, but we were not satisfied. So we turn around to walk back and walk much lower in the beach. Along this strip we are able too find more clams that just happened to be larger in size to score.

By the time we get back to the house, Julia cleans the clams as instructed and ,gets them sit in a fresh water bath with a couple table spoons of salt. Meanwhile, Courtney had made us Banana Bread for breakfast. Yum.

Now that we are approaching Halloween and our costa rican pumpkins are finally dry from the paint, I clean up a bit of the paint dribble and move them to the front if our house for the community to see. After moving around a little dirt to make them stand upright, we are all set. Next on the decorations list is a scarecrow. Seeing that no one wanted to donate a shirt, in fear it would get stolen or damaged, I decide to make a pinch for it using coconut palm fronds. Remembering back in my Boy Scout days and a little bit of crafty common sense, I am able to come up with a decent size patch of woven palms to my surprise.

Lunch (leftover soup, salad and bread that Kayla made). Afterwords I continue on with making the scare crow. I dig a large thick bamboo stick into the ground. I nail some smaller pieces of bamboo as legs and a shoulder, which I then tie on arms to. I use some extra latex gloves in the house as hands and blow them up to their shape. Next the head. I walk next door and grab one if the larger yellow/orange coconuts I find in a garbage pile. After a little carving and placement on the head, we are all complete!

Play in ocean. Try to siesta. Fill hatchery holes with sand. Shower. Dinner.

The Germans had made another meal for us. Tonight they made a garlic oil pasta wth clams. Simple and tasty. After cleaning up dinner I head to the hatchery for a night of guarding the hatchery via my hammock and bug net. With clear skies about me, I remove the tarp and enjoy the clear sky as the moonlight was so strong that it casted a shadow on everything it touch. So beautiful. After finishing up the series of Breaking Bad on netflix, I get some sleep. a

Lesson: If your heart is not is not into it, don't do it or just wait till you have a change if heart.

Food: Clams and spaghetti with oil garlic seasoning.

Animals: crabs, birds, mosquitos

Something I am thankful for: 
Starry Nights. Its great when the clouds can part leave the skies open to interpretation. Something I don't want to admit:

The pumpkin head I made for the scarecrow was not up to par of my standards.

Total Nest I have saved: 45
Total Nests Poached on my Patrol:44
Total Turtle Eggs I saved: 5102
Total Baby Turtles I Released: 955
Days of Rain: 77/115

Friday, October 26, 2012

Day 118 - 1/2 Birthday

Date: 10/26/12
Location: Costa de Oro and Jicaral, Costa Rica

Word of the day: cumpleaños - birthday
Turtle Fact: It is often hard to differentiate between male and female sea turtles due to the similarities in size. The way you can identify them is that males have a long tail as this is where the reproductive organs are located.

Wake up 6am. I walk into the kitchen and notice our new friends Mark and Steven preparing their stuff and getting ready to leave. We say our goodbyes and I escort them out the door. This morning I am being picked up and taken to Jicaral with the Pretoma gang (Lotti, Sandra, Iska) to help out with the food and supplies shopping. I get picked up by Eric's father (whom I call Popeye secretively), whom is the designated Pretoma vehicle driver and we stop by everyone's casa to pick them up. Before you know it, we five are in the Pretoma pickup and driving through the country side to Jicaral. Traveling over small bridges, flooded rivers and several pot holes, we make our way and drive 45 minutes to the city. Passing by teak farms, small villages and rice fields, you really get a feel for low key living. Love it.

Once we make it into town, I am reminded what a "real city" is like. Being Friday morning, they have an open air fruit and vegetable market where you can by items at much discount rate when compared to the local grocery stores. Lotti had mentioned that the reason we left so early from Coyote, was to make sure we had a first selection of the food. We pull into the market and pass through a gated fence. We walk down an aisle and either side of use are long tables filled with vegetables and fruits. On the other side of these tables are the workers, who weigh the food and collect the money, much like it is in the states. After hand picking the a BUNCH of fresh goodies for our project site (along with the 3 others) we pay the amigo helping us and depart to a couple of others stores in town. The most important of these other stores is Pali. Owned by Walmart, these stores have all the mainstream packaged grocery items. We essentially grab a shopping cart per project site and go down each aisle loading the basket with all the essential staple food items. I felt like I was shopping with my parents at Costco, trying to sneak in the "goods". However knowing this is a different situation, I ask before setting in a non-normal item with of course a set of puppy dog eyes. Yup, I still got it (it worked most the time)

One of the other stores we stop at is Musmanni. I was sent to this store for Courtney and Kayla to get them some regular and cheese loaf breads. When we arrive, their showcase of breads was COMPLETELY empty. Apparently the power had gone out this morning and the store was unable to bake their morning bread. Sorry ladies.

With the bed of the pickup completely loaded, we head back to Coyote and first stop at the office to divvy up the goods amongst the 4 project sites. After all is sorted I get dropped off back at the house and walk in like Santa, which large white sacks thrown over my shoulder with the items we just bought!

Being great at organization and all things with food, I go through the fridge and freezer, making room and tossing (minimal) items we did not use and/or have gone bad. We are all stocked up and ready to go!

Today just happens to be the halfway mark to my birthday (April 26). It just so also happens to be my day off as well. Yup, that means no patrol for me tonight!

I fill the rest of my afternoon with a siesta and playing in the sand with the mesh sifters I had created yesterday. Interestingly enough, there was as much as small pieces of driftwood as there was small pieces of plastic. More to come on this project later.

Shower. Updates to Visit from Lotti and Eric. They stop over with their daughter Sofie and go for a little swim on the nicely landscaped (clean) beach on front/back of the house. Once they leave we enjoy a meal cooked by the Germans. Tonight they made us Weinerschnitzel. I have always heard about this meal and made fun of this funny sounding dish. Granted this was supposed to be made using steak or pork chops, ground beef would have to do in out situation.

After dinner I catch up a little more on my and discover that my HelpingTurtles HQ staff are hard at work promoting my cause by selling patches at a Halloween party they are attending. I never would have thought in life, I would see a pink  elephant adorned with my HT Badge/Patch. Great work Team. Thanks!

Right before bed I celebrate my half birthday with myself by enjoying a Trits icecream I had been saving for such an occasion. MMM. They never last that long in or freezer.


Lesson: When you save a little, you can spend a little. A smile can go a long way

Food: Wienerschnitzel - usually a breaded deep fried piece of meat, with noodles, potatoes and a gravy of sorts. Today it was prepared using ground beef patties.

Animals: Dogs, Birds, Cows, Bulls, Horses, Cats, Goats

Something I am thankful for: Celebrating with yourself. Sometimes you just have to enjoy a party for one.
Something I don't want to admit:  I went to bed at 10pm on my night off.... It felt so wrong, but a 9 hour SOLID nap had to be sooo right.

Total Nest I have saved: 45
Total Nests Poached on my Patrol:44
Total Turtle Eggs I saved: 5102
Total Baby Turtles I Released: 955
Days of Rain: 77/113

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Day 117 - New Friends to the North

Date: 10/25/12
Location: Costa de Oro, Costa Rica

Word of the day: malla - mesh
Turtle Fact: Male Turtles of most species will never leave the water once they enter it as a youngling.

8am wake up to the sound of heavy rain. Instantly I run to the back of the house to see if our backyard is flooded in case I have to go  save some turtle hatchlings from drowning in their nest hole. Luckily it was not. Interestingly enough Kayla and Courtney had done the same thing when they had woken up, independently - that's how you know your working with a good group of people (great turtle minds think alike).

This morning I make bread-egg-hole. Essentially it's where you cook an egg in the center of a piece of bread.

SideNote: Don't you ever wish that some words were spelled differently.  We had along conversation about the C's sounding like S's. Ohh the crazy things you think about when you mental time to think

Over our morning coffee I teach  the girls about "reversal dumping". A term used in the Maisano household to describe ones actions who selfishly asks to perform a favor, knowing the favoree will do the favor on their own and included the favorer.

HT updates. Help Kayla with Google voice setup (fail). Rain finally stops!

Yesterday evening John (neighbor) stopped by the house and dropped of a series of 4 mesh screens in which we plan on using to sift through sand to find garbage. This kind act was inspired by yesterdays conversation with his wife (Linda) in which we were talking about how much plastic there was on the beach. Such good people they are! So I proceed to cut some wood (used from Johns construction scraps at his house) and make a frame for the screens. Using a leatherman tool, I cut the screen in the the appropriate lengths and fastened the screen to the frame using a staple gun (Thank you Kayla's Dad). Success!

Just as I finish up, we are greeted by Mark, Steve and Eric (Lotti's Husband). Mark (a former Pretoma RA in Caletas) was in Costa Rica with his friends (Steve and others) for a wedding and wanted to see his old stomping grounds. However do to the massive amounts of rain, he had to settle for our project (which I am sure ended up being a far better experience). Dinner

Kayla slaves away in the kitchen preparing a minestrone like soup accompanied by some tastie  bread rolls. Over dinner we learn  that out new guests (for the night) are from Canada and that Mark is  looking to get more involved with Pretoma and it's fisheries side of the house.

Siesta. Patrol. 9:30pm Shantal, Julia, Mark and myself walk to the north. The only thing we come across during our patrol is a dead male turtle. This actually excites Mark as he was explaining earlier of a new possible method of determining a turtles age, biological data and perhaps even a way to fasten an un-invasive GPS tracker. This would would be done by coring out a small piece of turtle shell (while the turtle is still alive) and then filling that whole (like a cork) with a GPS tracker. Great idea. SCIENCE.

Once back at the house we learn that add midnight it's Mark's B-Day. Because we look for any reason to celebrate anything at our house, I make some kettle corn! Sleep.

Lesson: Question the norm.

Food: Soup. Warm, full of veggies, chicken broth and garlic,

Animals: Crabs, Dogs, Birds, Mosquitoes and dead turtle

Something I am thankful for: Random new friends. It's great meeting new people and especially when they are passionate in the same areas in which you are.
Something I don't want to admit: I swear when I cook. I don't mean too. I just seems to be thats when all my frustration builds up, and when something happens to flip out of a pan, or hot oil splatter or something magically burns I tend so speak my mind about how I feel.

Total Nest I have saved: 45
Total Nests Poached on my Patrol:44
Total Turtle Eggs I saved: 5102
Total Baby Turtles I Released: 955
Days of Rain: 76/113

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Day 116 - Luck of the Green Germans

Date: 10/24/12
Location: Costa de Oro, Costa Rica

Word of the day: rastrear - track
Turtle Fact: The baby sea turtles emerge from the eggs and scramble towards the water. They never get to interact with their parents.

Wake up 4am (in my own bed, covered with Courtney's new blanket). I bike the beach heading north and south. I find one nest poached and another was a false crawl. The third track I came upon... I could not find the eggs. I combination with a crazy track path, lots of rain and a high tide, I was unable to use my professional turtle tracking skills to locate them. Lets hope luck and mother nature does them well!

On the south side I also found a large dead Mantaray that was being picked over by turkey vulchers on the beach. Fun.

Back at the hatchery, I run into Linda (our neighbor) and catch up on life and she informs me in a book I should read called Wild (foreshadow). We also dicuss the ungodly amount of plastic that can be found on the beach and how Courtney is currently inspired to make a mosaic for the town of Coyote or the "Eco Fest" Pretoma is sponsoring in the beginning of December. More on this later.

Inside the house I make rice pudding (with apples and dried dates) for breakfast. The rest of my morning is filled with updating HT journals and painting coconuts. Lunch (leftovers)

For dinner we had all talked about making coconut curry noodles. So in preparation I gather big yellow coconuts (which are easily found as I have been gathering this type from our neighbors John and Linda's property as they have been de-nutting their coconut trees) and gather the young meat from coconuts for later that evening. After this I finish painting all the coconuts (finally) I decide to get my sweat on; fill hatchery holes and go for a run.

Dinner. Siesta. Patrol. 11:30pm, Julia, Shantal (Germans) and I head out for patrol. Thinking the rain had subsided for the night (wrong) I leave the house sin rain jacket. We walk north along the beach and about half way down, come across our first track. YES. It actually has been a while since I had been on a patrol where is looked promising that I would find turtle eggs or even a turtle. Usually the morning bike patrols are a backup to ensure we didn't miss anything on the night prior patrol. It was very exciting to get back into the action and NOT spend the night in the hatchery (which Kayla and Courtney would take over for the night).

Going through the process of finding the nest, gathering the eggs and measurements, I coach the newbies on the entire process. Luckily they got lots of practice this night as there was 3 more nests we came across with a total of 370 eggs we brought back to the hatchery. Keeping in mind it had been steadily raining on us for since 20 mins into our patrol, I offer to make them Kettle Corn when we get back to house as source of inspiration to walk fast back to the house as by this point we were on patrol for almost 4 hours!

3am sleep.

Lesson: Nature is random - or at least to us humans

Food: Coconut Asian Noodles. Coconut milk, soy sauce and sauteed veggies along with boiled chicken seasoned noodles.

Animals: Crabs, Dogs, Birds, Mosquitoes, Turtle Eggs

Something I am thankful for: Not melting in the rain
Something I don't want to admit: I forgot the curry. The whole day we had been talking about coconut curry noodles for dinner. Halfway through eating our dinner I noticed I forgot one of the most important ingredients in the recipe, the curry. However, no one said anything until I mentioned it... which I am discounting as just a good meal sin curry

Total Nest I have saved:  45
Total Nests Poached on my Patrol: 44
Total Turtle Eggs I saved: 5102
Total Baby Turtles I Released: 955
Days of Rain: 75/112

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Day 115 - Been There, Felt That

Date: 10/23/12
Location: Costa de Oro, Costa Rica

Word of the day: albóndiga - meatball
Turtle Fact: dead turtle skin is very tough... much more than humans

Wake up 4am. Roll out of the hammock, gather my patrol material, the bike and head out to the beach. While carrying the bike off the back porch and onto the grass, I trip and and somehow magically get the kickstand wedged between by 3rd and 4th toe. At this point in time I am screaming at the top of lungs and no noise is exiting my mouth. The kickstand somehow was able penetrate my close-toed sandals and ended twisted my toes around in such a fashion that I thought I had broken them, or actual punctured them with the kickstand. It hurt that bad. Hopping on one foot, trying to pick up my flash light , I try moving my bike and foot in different combinations in hopes to get my footloose. After almost 3 mins and twice contemplating yelling to the sleeping girls in the house for help, I get myself loose. Taking another couple minutes to recoup, I "man up" check out the toes and go on patrol.

I ride the bike both north and south. Nada. Once back at the house I prepare breakfast (chocolate flavored pancakes) and update HT while I wait for the ladies to awake from their slumber only to start making large turtle shaped pancakes.

Having little sleep the past week and new, washed bed sheets I decide to take this opportunity to take a morning siesta. Napping longer than expected (1pm) I head the kitchen to catch up on life. After consuming a delicious cheesy quesadilla (made from my secret stash of cheese) I decide to take more siesta, but this time on the beach with new blanket! Courtney had surprised both Kayla and I with homemade blankets. Granted these were very thin and; unique in patterns it made an excellent beach blanket.

An hour later I find myself nervously tossing as I fear I am wasting the day away - but it feel so good to nap! So I get my sweat on, filling some hatchery holes and picking up a little in the backyard before the rain set in. By this time, I head in side where the girls are just about to start making dinner. one if the German volunteers had informed us that her father was from Italy and she know how to make meatballs. So we tasked her to make them as Kayla quickly made some french rolls as well. Just as we are about to eat (6:42pm) I feel a small earthquake...

Noticing the small shaking did not stop and the girls in the kitchen continuing preparing the dinner without noticing what was happening ' the shakes became much great and was now felt by all. I start commanding them to get outside ( via the front door) and wee stand in an open area of the lawn. As stand there shaking, I give ether play by okay action of what is to happen next; find your passport, grab your shoes - none sandals, put on some long sleeved clothing, and let's walk tot he bus stop. Knowing what to expect and having the recited thus in my head from our previous experience these directions flow off the tongue.

The shaking only lasted maybe 20 seconds in which I was talking the whole time. In hindsight I wish I would have shut up so I could have enjoyed nature's awesome display of power and really taken in the feeling. Regardless all the girls acted very calmly and did not seem very scarred. Kayla being from Cali,  she seemed the most at ease and like me was pissed we are not eating dinner at the current moment. As for the Germans (Julia and Shantal) they did have a little fear behind their eyes, but once they saw that  we were not panicking, you could tell they became more comfortable with the situation.

We were out of the house in under 5mins. Gathering our belongings, changing into clothing that will defend us from the mosquitos, turning off our kitchen appliances and of course straining the noodles so there were not soggy when we got back, we head out the door. We stop by the neighbors house on the way to make sure they were OK and perhaps join them in their automobile to evacuate the surround coast. However they were not home, so we continued down the road and headed to the bus stop, where previously had been determined to be a safe distance from the beach and meeting place.

Once at the bus stop, we use the cell phone that Courtney left at the house for us (in case of emergencies like this) and try to contact any one we could in hopes to find out how severe this earthquake was and if there was in fact tidal warning, which right now is our only threat other than being eaten alive by mosquitos. About an hour later after exchanging several txt messages and getting hold the appropriate people we learn that all is good; there is no warnings. We walk back to the house and instantly pick up were we left off with preparing our dinner. No matter how this meal actually tasted before the quake, I am sure it will taste SOOO good now. However in all truthfulness it was quite tasty - good job Germans!

We were supposed to patrol and sleep in the hatchery tonight, but under the suggestion of Lotti (boss lady) she advised we all stick together and not patrol - fine by me. MORE SLEEP!

Lesson: Be prepared. (Boy Scouts Moto)

Food: Meatballs. Comparable to the greek meatballs Yiayia makes in Detroit, these have that sweat, savvory and lemony taste off goodness in every bite.

Animals: Crabs, Dogs, Birds, Mosquitoes

Something I am thankful for: Siesta
Something I don't want to admit: I was really excited not to sleep in the hatchery. However saddened that the hatchery was unprotected from stray dogs last night, I put a lit candle in the hatchery. However I am sure the flame did not last long as it rained several hours later. With that said, I was thinking about playing music on my phone and setting it in the hammock over night... however I thought that would not be the best idea.

Total Nest I have saved:  41
Total Nests Poached on my Patrol: 44
Total Turtle Eggs I saved: 4732
Total Baby Turtles I Released: 955
Days of Rain: 74/111

Monday, October 22, 2012

Day 114 - Claim Your Clams

Date: 10/22/12
Location: Costa de Oro, Costa Rica
Word of the day: German - Alemàn
Turtle fact: turtle babies are cute

Wake up at 4am and go on patrol. I bike the entire beach only to find a dead male turtle in the north. This turtle seems to be freshly deceased as the entire body was still intact and only parts of the body was bloated. On the way back home I come up with the idea to collect collect clams (for lunch) so I after dropping off the bike and patrol backpack, I start walking to the south with a plastic bag. For whatever reason I could not find clams for the life of me. OK a little over dramatic as I did find a handful of them, but not certainly as much as I had initially thought.

Back at the house, I rinse the clams, and soak them in fresh water with a couple tablespoons of salt. I continue to make breakfast (oatmeal), which none of the girls end up eating because they did not like it generally (new fact for me) and work on some updates.
A little before lunch Lotti arrives with a set if new German volunteers and a little bit of fresh veggies. While they are getting settled in why catch up on all things Pretoma related and find out we only have a week left of putting babies in the hatchery for this season. This is due tot he fact that we need to have all of the hatchlings out of the hatchery by the time our project closes in Mid December, keeling in mind the eggs take about 8 weeks to hatch.
After Lotti leaves, and introductions have been made with our new guests I continue carving out letters into the costa rican pumpkins (coconuts). Once I start hearing the rumbling in my stomach I head to the kitchen to prepare lunch (salad, leftovers, and a marina sauce made from the clams). Eat. Siesta.

Getting my afternoon sweat on, I rake and pick up piles of driftwood and garbage on the beach, fill hatchery holes with sand and go for a little run. During my run, I notice that there are several divots in the sand denoting where clams would be. Giving myself a second chance at hunting for clams, I found a container to store the clams and a hard piece of plastic to pry them out of the ground. Gotta love beach trash. - so reliable.
Dinner (salad with lentals, potatoes pancakes, steamed clams. I head into the hammock by 9pm. After Courtney's 10pm patrol, she brings me out a cup of hot coco, mmmmm. 10 mins layer u am visited by Kayla and Julia (new German volunteer) with a fresh nest if eggs to protect. By midnight I am knocked out and fast asleep.

Lesson: if you at first don't succeed ...wait and try again.

Food: Potato Pancakes - tasting just like the delic McD's has browns, these little pan fried circular goodness of mashed potato with sauteed onions and garlic

Something I am thankful for: Natural resources at my feet.
Something I don't want to admit: I panicked for a hot minute when I thought I was out of Q-tips. Luckily I remembered little broski bringing some to me when he visited. Perhaps getting a little personal, but I love to stick these wads of cotton in my ears and itch out the wax in a circular motion.

Total Nest I have saved:  41
Total Nests Poached on my Patrol: 44
Total Turtle Eggs I saved: 4732
Total Baby Turtles I Released: 955
Days of Rain: 73/110

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Day 113 - Costa Rican Pumkins

Date: 10/21/12
Location: Costa de Oro, Costa Rica

Word of the day: roto - broken
Turtle Fact: The largest sea turtle every found was close to 1,500 pounds and 28 inches long.

Wake up 3:45am in the hammock, slightly saturated with moisture from the night rain. I head into the house and prepare for patrol. I ride the bike (solo) heading north on the beach. I get about halfway down (sector 11 or about 1k from the house) and I come to a complete halt. Thinking chain popped off the bike (as happened with the old bike - good riddens to bad rubbish) I unmount the bike and discover that the back wheel bolt came unloosed. Unfortunately I did not have any tools on me and had to walk the bike with me the rest of way. What a pain that was. Luckily I fashioned the bike seat to the strap of the turtle patrol backpack so that most the weight of the bike was being supported by the straps on my shoulders - smooth move. I walk the rest of the patrol only to find 2 poached nests, which I am pretty sure was the doing of a motorcycler on the beach this morning that had passed my twice (there and back). FML.

Back at the house I prepare some "normal" pancake batter. Breakfast. updates. Rake beach. Paint Costa De Oro Sign. Lunch. Siesta.

In the spirit of Halloween (after seeing everyones FB posting about how they are going to the apple orchird, or baking pies, etc) I decide to make some all-natural decor for our home. Knowing that we do not have pumpkins as a fertile crop nearby, I use the next best thing - COCONUTS. As I walk amongst to coconut trees in the backyard, Steven (my little, local tico friend) joins me. We sit along side each other and I show him wait I am doing. I get an extra knife and we carve away. Don't judge me for giving a 7 year old a sharp knife. I have seen him wield a machete better than me some days. Plus, I feel that in 3rd world countries you learn early on the consequences for potentially dangerous items you use every days - Darwinism.  We spend the next hour or so putting faces into the sides of all kinds of coconuts. For me, I was trying to see what the best combination of coconut to sculpting technique would work best. I find that scoring the older the coconuts works best for details. Cutting out shapes in younger coconut works best for generic faces (as the coconut shell is soft and undeveloped). Ahhh the scientific method.

Run. Update/Fix hammock. Remove raked piles.

Make Mofungo for dinner. Fix bike (easily done).

8pm I head to the hatchery for hammock patrol (guarding the hatchery from stray, turtle blood quenching dogs). 11:30pm I hear a noise outside the hatchery. By the time I release myself from the cocoon of hammock material, the noise maker was not longer present. 12:30am sleep.

Lesson: One screw/bolt can make all the difference

Food: Chicken Mofungo. Made with a mixture of green plantains and small green bananas, fried and then mushed with some sauteed garlic. Topped off with some shredded chicken and salty chicken rue ... my mouth is water typing this...

Animals: Crabs, Dogs, Birds, Mosquitoes

Something I am thankful for: Noise - things that make noise and being able to hear
Something I don't want to admit: I peed on the hatchery... well not necessarily on the hatchery but around the perimeter. In efforts to show male dominance and territory over the stray dogs in the neighbor hood we have been informed by some knowledgeable and reputable sources that males urinating in certain areas deters animals. This is due to the testosterone.

Total Nest I have saved:  41
Total Nests Poached on my Patrol: 44
Total Turtle Eggs I saved: 4732
Total Baby Turtles I Released: 955
Days of Rain: 72/109

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Day 112 - Halloweenas Buenas

Date: 10/20/12
Location: Costa de Oro, Costa Rica

Word of the day: llenar - Fill
Turtle Fact: The Leatherback Sea Turtle is the only species that doesn't have a backbone that attaches to the inside of their shell.

Wake up 8am. Courtney is up and prepared to make blueberry muffins for breakfast - a nice little treat from her latest care package. As she ready the batter, I make a new supply of "snack" oatmeal. After tooling around the web for a bit I head outside and rake up our beach. These last couple of days have really started to reach some high tides. With that, the ocean throws up its garbage in front o our property and along the rest of the coast. However I do not mind so much as its semi therapeutic.

I head inside to make a watermelon smoothie using the watermelon I had cut up and froze earlier that morning. Yum. I now gather my painting materials and continue working on a couple of signs that will be posted in the community while listening to a little bit of "The marvelous wizard if Oz". Lunch (white rice, garbanzo beans, and ensalada).

I go back to the beach and pick up the piles I raked earlier. There had been talk within the last couple days of having a research coordinator/assistant Halloween party in the near future. So with my mind trying to adjust and remember that it is fall (as I look at the green vegetation and blue water that surrounds me), I begin thinking about how we can spruce up the place with some decor. In absence of pumpkins we have to use the next abundant resource that has similar characteristics (shape, size, color, car able)... COCONUTS. In fact, our neighbors are de-nutting their trees at the moment so there is large yellow and orange coconuts everywhere ! Perfect.

Learning the day before, scoring the coconuts, rather than hollowing out entire coconuts, will be as effective and less time consuming. So the first task I assign myself is carve out multiple coconuts to spell out "Halloweenas Buenas" . Once completed I plan to place these in the entry to our property.

Run. Fix hammock. Exhumations. Shower. Updates. Dinner. I persuaded Courtney to make something with the chicken broth I had mad, from last nights carved chicken. She ended up making a delicious chicken tortilla soup - well done.

After dinner as the girls go in patrol, they come running back inside almost immediately and as for some help. A turtle had just laid eggs in one of our walking paths. Had she walked another 30 ft straight she could have gone right in the hatchery! I dig up the 122 eggs and place them I in the hatchery so that the girls could start their patrol.

10pm I head to the hatchery and get settled into the hammock. After an episode of breaking bad, I get a couple hours if zzzzz as the rain is tapping on the top of my tarp. Sleep.

Lesson: Its all about contrast.

Food: Chicken Enchalada Soup. Having been simmering for hours to ensure all the flavors have been enriched in every single bit, this cocktail of chicken, chicken broth, spices, veggies and fried bits of tortilla topped off with queso

Animals: Crabs, Dogs, Birds, Mosquitoes

Something I am thankful for: Sharp Knives
Something I don't want to admit:  I am having second thoughts about what I want to be for Halloween.

Total Nest I have saved:  41
Total Nests Poached on my Patrol: 42
Total Turtle Eggs I saved: 4732
Total Baby Turtles I Released: 955
Days of Rain: 71/108

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Day 108 - Walking in Circles

Date: 10/16/12
Location: Costa de Oro, Costa Rica

Word of the day: círculo - circle

Wake up at 5am in the hatchery, cradled in my hammock. Its very strange waking up in a setting that not usually accustomed to. There is always those first two seconds where you forget where you are and you have to evaluate what is exactly going on. After realizing the situation, I get up, wrap the hammock onto itself, and bring my items inside. let's get this day started. In hind sight, I really did have a good sleep (granted it was in a couple hours of sleep) in the hammock. And to be honest I think it was the first time I had actually ever done that ... and will certainly not be my last.

I go for a run, get a little sweaty, shower and enjoy breakfast made by our volunteers. They delighted us with a type of coconut scone with butter-lime syrup. So good.

Due to the high tide, and nit finishing my raking jib from the day before, I finish raking and removing the debris piles on the beach. I have just come to realize that raking the sand in the morning is so much easier than the afternoon as the ground is so much harder. This enables the rake to comb through the surface objects, rather than plowing through the dry sand and just moving that from place to place.

Still feeling pretty energized, I finish my walking path I had created nearly over a month ago. It feels so great to accomplish something that you know is going to be used and appreciated (by some). Especially when all you have to do us finish the 5%.

I had back to the house and work on painting some signs as I watch "Ted Talks". These are a series if small lectures on various subject of life. Today I begin with the "mind". These talks are very similar to presentations your professor would provide, but condensed to only the important and interesting facts that actually apply to everyday concepts. Lunch (leftovers). Siesta in a hammock on the beach, during some very windy weather.

When I come inside, I decide to make some bread for dinner, which almost immediately Kayla join in the process - my new bread making apprentice. We end up making roasted garlic bread and garlic jalapeno bread.

As we let the dough rise (much less than time than we should) I prepare my sleeping arrangements in the hatchery for tonight's watch. As I finish up, a local stops by the hatchery to inform me that a turtle was walking up the beach. Hearing this and knowing its first come first serve for turtles on the beach (with regards to poachers and claiming dibs on the eggs) I move right along and jog to the beach. Upon see the young turtle walking up the beach against the sun setting, I see two of the local stray dogs approaching the tortuga as well, with wagging tales. Knowing that in the past, stray dogs have been known to bite off the hind legs of the turtles that come up on the beach, I now make my jog into a run, active,y looking for something in my running path I can easily pick up and toss at them. However, as I approach they flee the scene and the turtle was unharmed (or was at least physically). Turtle safe. Seeing that this turtle was young and was already moving slower than normal, I wait for the Calvary to arrive so I can continue on cooking dinner.

Once back in the kitchen, it was another hour before everyone came back and gave up on the turtle. As it turns out the turtle has semi disability in its rear legs and had issues trying to dig holes as we'll as walking on the beach. After several attempts of making a nest, the team picks up the turtle and returns it to the ocean to make sure the turtle does not over exhausts itself and becomes more susceptible to predictors.

Eat. 9pm I head to the hammock and enjoy another night sleeping above hundreds of eggs, silently sleeping in the sand.

Lesson: There is a reason some movies did not make it to the main stream.

Food: Garlic & Jalapeno bread. You can never go wrong with satisfying hunger with a side of garlic infused bread.

Something I am thankful for: completing projects
Something I don't want to admit: I posted this 16 days after this actual day.

Total Nest I have saved: 40
Total Nests Poached on my Patrol:42
Total Turtle Eggs I saved: 4610
Total Baby Turtles I Released: 955
Days of Rain: 67/104

Monday, October 15, 2012

Day 107 - Hammock Patrol

Date: 10/15/12
Location: Costa de Oro, Costa Rica

Word of the day: vela - candle

3:30 a.m. I wake up and get ready for Patrol. I walk north alone only to find 1 next coach and 1 turtle that layed 126 eggs. Once back at the house I go for a little run, shower, prep breakfast. Today I was making some banana pancakes and I prep everything by mixing all the liquids in the blender which I reserve to do once 80% of the house is awake. I end up making the first round of pancakes in turtle shapes with chocolate accents gracefully donated by Rachel and Molly.

Email. Updates to HT. Siesta. Lunch (leftovers).

Exhumations. We got through 2 nests and show Rachel and Molly process. We make sure go waste no time as it looks like a large storm I'd approaching.

In hopes to finally put an end to the dogs getting into the hatchery almost every night, I set up my synthetic hammock, with bug net and rain flight attachments for tonight's hatchery watch. I ended up securing a large piece of long, solid wood across two of the hatcheries post adjacent from each other. The neighbor John provided me with some nails and scrap pieces of wood to secure the hammock wooden beam in place. Lifted several feet off the ground our watch guard is ready to go.

Inside, I prepare my video camera (with night vision) and infrared flashlight in hopes to catch the predators of night trying to get in our safe house of eggs. Originally I thought my IR flashlight did not work, as I was at least expecting a little glow or something to be seen when turned on. However using common sense I had to turn on the camera in night vision mode, in a dark room to verify. Dinner (all the leftovers from the past week).

Updates to HT. 10pm I relieve Courtney from sitting in the hammock. This will be my first night of many in the hatchery over night. I bring a fully charged tablet, music speakers, nalgine of water, video camera, IR flash light and my journal. I set the hammock pretty high, as the mosquito netting acted as a dry storage compartment hanging underneath where I was laying. I also brought a long stock candle propped in a recycled Spotted Cow glass bottle, lit in the middle of the hatchery in hopes to see any intruder prowling around the outside of the fenced in hatchery. I stay awake until 2:30ish, without a dig insight, other than "momma" - the small sausage like dog that pretends to be a watch dog on various nights for the house. I rest my eyes for the next couple of hours. Sleep.

Lesson: Work smarter not harder. Now only to convince everyone else to follow suit.

Food: Turtle shaped chocolate chip pancakes

Something I am thankful for: Being prepared... for the most part.
Something I don't want to admit:  I started listening to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Upon looking for the next audio book to listen to I came across a little that had the word Oz in it. Slightly remembering that there was multiple books I look into how many there actually are. There is 18 of them! Needless to say I started to download the first couple of books...

Total Nest I have saved: 40
Total Nests Poached on my Patrol:42
Total Turtle Eggs I saved: 4610
Total Baby Turtles I Released: 955
Days of Rain: 67/103

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Day 101 - Dog Gone It

Date: 10/9/12
Location: Costa de Oro, Costa Rica

Word of the day: valla - fence
Turtle Fact: baby turtles naturally know which direction is the water

Today is the first day I am "officially back into the research assistant me mindset - welcome back Vic!

This morning I awake at 5am for a hatchery check and bike ride along the beach to
check what might have come up over night. Upon checking the hatchery I see that another nest has been gotten into. I'm pissed. To get a second set of eyes on this, I awake sleeping beauty (Kayla) and we observe the damage and start the report it process. With 1 nest of hatched turtles and another 14 babies walking around free in the hatchery we gathered them up and place them in a bucket in preparation for releasing them. Luckily this time, the dog did not dig down far enough down to get to the eggs. I would imagine the beast just got to the first layer of turtles that were in the nest, before its thirst of blood and shells was quenched.

I take the baby turtles for a little bike ride and release them some distance to the south. I continue the patrol only to find one nest that had been poached. When I return, I release one more turtle that had came up to the surface.

Breakfast - regular pancakes with papaya sauce.
For this mornings labor I rake out the hatchery, pick up the racked piles I had made on beach, expand I the garden even more and finish planting
the mangrove seedlings.

Lunch - leftovers.

I head out to the front of the property to finally paint the Pretoma sign in front of our house. The wooden sign had been blank for fa too long for my liking. Using my tablet as a reference, I stencil in the copy and paint away, wishing for no precipitation this afternoon.

After I tie up some loose ends with the mileage signs and mount them on the post on the beach. By this time Ingrid has joined our merry band and seems to be with us for an
indefinite period of time. With her, a black getting was dropped of in hopes to add some extra security to the hatchery. As a personal opinion, I doubt this will have much of an effect from deterring the canine killers, but there is only one way tl find out. We use the staple gun Kayla's dad so awesomely donated tot he project from Courtney's latest shipment of goodies her family brought in from the states.

Dinner - Pizza (chicken, cream cheese, tomatoes and onion & chorizo,tico cheese, pepper and onion.

Patrol. 8:30 we head out. I patrol to the south on foot only to find a newly washed up dead turtle.


Lesson: Never trust a hungry dog. Ever.
Food: pizza. Made the dough the night before and gave it night in the fridge for all the flavors and yeast to do their job.
Animals: Crabs, Dogs, Birds, Mosquitoes

Something I am thankful for: Nets. Keeps things out, or in.
Something I don't want to admit: I hope a crocodile finds the dog responsible for breaking into the hatchery and has an appetite the self.

Total Nest I have saved:  36
Total Nests Poached on my Patrol: 35
Total Turtle Eggs I saved: 4179
Total Baby Turtles I Released: 811
Days of Rain: 63/97

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Visa Run Day 8: All Good Things Must Come to an End

DISCLAIMER: Alison here . . .  I’m writing a series of guest blogs covering 9/30-10/7 – the dates where Nick, Minh and I joined Vic on his visa run to Nicaragua and the journey through Costa Rica back to Costa de Oro. 
Date: Sunday 10/7/12

Location: Playa de Costa de Oro, drive through Guanacaste province, San Jose airport, Fort Lauderdale, Chicago (home!)

Word of the day: Patria - home or home country; As in patria is where the heart is. Obviously, casa means house. But the word patria signifies a person's homeland or motherland, which seems about as close as I could come to describing the idea that home is a feeling you get in a place you feel native. Today, I am going back to mine in Chicago while Vic maintains his new dual-patria (well, that one I made up) in Playa Costa de Oro.

 Costa Rica Fact: The San Jose airport is named for Juan Santamaria, a national hero in Costa Rica. Juan’s claim to fame came in 1856 when William Walker, an American from Nashville, TN (not proud), marched into Central America on his own accord hoping to overthrow the entire region all by his lonesome (don't laugh - he came close). Walker's story is quite ridiculous, but he did manage to overthrow Nicaragua, which is when Costa Rica started taking him seriously. That’s when the Costa Rican government formed an army of citizen to opposed Walker. Juan Santamaria is one of the civilians that volunteered and he eventually gave his life to set fire to a hostel which smoked out Walker’s men and helped Costa Rica retain their freedom! 

2AM wake up for last patrol of my trip. It's just Vic and I for this one and when we get back to the house, I have to eat breakfast and hit the road to make my flight out of San Jose in the early afternoon. 

We wake up no problem and get ready to head to the beach. The bugs have been a bit thick lately - so we are wearing pants and bug spray to fend against them. We check the hatchery before heading out and find a few babies! We put them into the bucket and carry them with us on our trek.

We make the first half of the walk without event and come to the end of the beach by the estuary. Here we find tracks! 

We follow them dilligently up the beach and to the area we assume is the nest. We can see, though, that she only stopped here briefly and then continued on to another spot a couple feet up the beach. We check for the nest there as well. Vic pokes with the nest-finding-stick many times but it is clear after many attempts that this was a false crawl. 

These aren't that common, but they happen occasionally when a momma turtle comes up on the beach to lay her nest and is bothered by debris or something else and heads back into the water without laying any eggs. In this case - we think it's the driftwood that is clearly obstructing the path she tried to take. 

We are bummed to find no nest, but comforted as we release the babies in the bucket that we brought from the hatchery. There aren't too many of them, so it doesn't take long for them to get swept out by the currents.

After releasing the turtles, we eat the snack Vic brought for our mid-patrol and take a brief break before heading back down the beach toward the house. We do come across one more poached nest - obvious from the footprints covering the tracks. We are bummed, but it's still the tail end of Saturday night so an increased number of poachers is to be expected.

We get back to the house just as the sun is rising. I'm sad to see patrol come to an end since I know the next part is all the business of hitting the road and getting to San Jose in time. 
But one more bit of fun before it's time to go . . . Vic makes us a breakfast of cereal with granola and honey - delicious!  We make coffee as well and have a bit with our cereal. But as we finish eating, Vic begins to brainstorm possible ways I can take my coffee lleavr so I can drink it in the car (my hero). 

After scoping out the kitchen - he salvages a tin can from the beans we made the other night - perfect to hold the coffee! But then there is an issue of the lid. BINGO - the Trits container fits perfectly and is of a light enough material that Vic can cut a drinking whole in one side with a vent whole on the other. And for the finishing touch - he creates a coffee sleeve from an old egg-bag and a latex glove - voila! 

It worked perfectly for sipping and kept my coffee hot the whole morning! 

I had packed everything up the night before - so my bags were ready to go. We loaded them into the car along with my pre-programmed GPS and cafe llevar and it was time to hit the road. It's of course sad to say goodbye since it was such a fun week and I know I won't see Vic for another few months. Leaving is hard - but the business of the road trip is still an adventure to be had. 

I start out the trip comparing the GPS route with the hand written direction Courtney's father gave me. It's dead on. 
The road is hilariously less hilly and crazy than our previous route and I cruise! I slow down to take some pictures because I know the boys will be incredulous at the bump-free, cow-free and hill-free route we could have taken. 

The scenery is gorgeous despite the lack of hills. It is a cloudy and drizzly morning, but as the sun comes out and rises in the sky, the clouds are burning off and the sunrise light is gorgeous. I make it all the way to the next major town and pull in to fuel up on some gasoline. 

I'm a little nervous since I'm alone, speak no Spanish and have to talk to the pump attendant - but it's no problem! I immediately feel like I can do anything and conquer the world. 

The next section of the trip through Guanacaste is easy and I know what to expect becuase of our multitude of road trips through this route. I pass familiar places and reminisce about the week. I even know where to stop to refill my coffee! 

I grab another cafe con leche just outside of Puntarenas and fill up my homemade to-go cup. Round two and it's still trucking! With all the coffee and the snacks Vic packed for me - I'm golden until San Jose! 

The only road block (ha - forgive the pun) in my trip was that I missed an exit off the highway to the airport near San Jose. But when the GPS rerouted me, it took me the non-highway way which was beautiful and went through a couple small towns. A perfect last look at Costa Rica before I make it to the airport. 

When I get there, I return the car without issue and shuttle back to the airport where I check my bag, pay my exit tax and make my way through security with no issues. 

I settle in for a long flight, a layover in Fort Lauderdale and a final leg to Chicago. My turtle adventures have come to an end, but the trip was more amazing than I could have ever planned for. 

Great company, non-plans that turned into incredible plans, the cutest little turtles and the sense that I really got to see, live and feel these places. In marketing, we always talk about immersive experiences (which is a made up word to serve our own marketing-y purposes). But on this trip, that word came to life for me. It was an amazing experience and I feel so luck to have lived it. I am looking forward to continuing to live it vicariously through Vic and the Helping Turtles blog. 

Signing off! - Alison

  • There is nothing that rivals a long walk on the beach; it trumps all things
  • There's no better friend than the one that understand the importance of to-go coffee on a road trip
  • It's not that scary to road trip it alone! You just have to go for it and not be afraid to speak Spanglish to the gas station attendant
  • Beer on a layover = sleep on a flight
  • Café con leche
  • Cereal with honey & granola
  • Cafe con leche . . . illevar!!
  • Airport food (and here's where the good things must end . . .)
Animals: turtles and lots of drug-sniffing dogs in American customs

Something I am thankful for: good directions! They day before my solo drive to the San Jose airport, Courtney's Dad (who was visiting) gave Vic and I the best directions to get across the Nicoya peninsula without having to go over the crazy mountains. That drive was very fun when we were all together to enjoy the sights - but I wasn't excited about attempting it on my own with a plane to catch. With his directions and the trusty GPS - Vic was able to get way-points in for my drive and it was SMOOTH SAILING all the way across the peninsula and toward the airport. 

Something I don't want to admit: I got really choked up when it was time to hit the road! I'm never so good at endings to things, especially things as amazing as this trip was, but I definitely didn't plan for the out pouring of emotion when I left. I'm sure Vic didn't either . . .

Total Nest I have saved: Two!!
Total Nests Poached on my Patrol:  Zero
Total Turtle Eggs I saved: 204+
Total Baby Turtles I Released: 320+ (I’m not the scientist – so we will be dealing with rounded numbers on my count :)
Days of Rain: 1.5
Miles traveled: 205km (158 miles) by car & 5,450km (3,387 miles) by plane

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Visa Run Day 7: The Dog Days

DISCLAIMER: Alison here . . .  I’m writing a series of guest blogs covering 9/30-10/7 – the dates where Nick, Minh and I joined Vic on his visa run to Nicaragua and the journey through Costa Rica back to Costa de Oro.  

Date: Saturday 10/6/12 

Location: Playa de Costa de Oro 

Word of the day: perro - dog; the dogs on the beach at Playa Costa de Oro are all strays who have their run of the beach. This makes them free to invade the turtle hatchery and not friends of Pretoma! Some locals will feed and house the dogs, but for the most part, they are untrained and have their free reign of the beach

Costa Rica Fact: Halloween crabs - named for their vivid Halloween colors - live on the land all throughout the Nicoya peninsula in Costa Rica and wreak havoc with the baby turtles! According to recent research, these little dudes are everywhere and among the most important factors affecting tropical forest growth along coasts, on islands, and in mangroves. 

2AM wake up call for turtle patrol! As we head out to check the hatchery, A DOG GOT IN. We can see something is awry as we are approaching the hatchery. The sand around the nests is darker. We are confused until we open the door, walk in and see that one nest has clearly been dug up. They are egg shells in the sand  and dirt everywhere. But it’s only one nest. (spoiler alert: we find out later - from Courtney - that most of the babies in that nest were already hatched and released before the dog got in; the dog probably only got one or two stragglers; we were really sad until we found that out so I thought I’d save y'all from the same fate). 

We examine around the hatchery to find where the dog could have gotten in. There’s a small hole under the fence on the Southwest side that only a small dog could have used, but on the Northwest side, the two-part wall of the hatchery is ripped. A bigger dog clearly jumped in between the two pieces. 

We decide to save the cleaning up for our return and head out to do patrol, sans any babies for release. We walk the beach and try to avoid the topic of troublesome dogs on both our minds. We chat and enjoy the patrol. I am still loving the moon and the light it gives off this late at night – it never gets old. Tonight the moon is waning, meaning shrinking away from the previously full moon, but still throws plenty of light for us to see the beach and any possible turtle tracks.

As we are walking down the beach, Vic explains that, because it’s the weekend, there will be more poachers on the beach tonight. Poachers come in from other towns on the weekends to gather eggs and bring them back and sell them in their home towns. The price of a turtle egg increases the farther a town is away from the beach, so they are looking to turn a larger profit by bringing the eggs inland. 

We chat and walk until we come across the first set of turtle tracks. Right away we can tell there are footprints over the top of the tracks; it doesn’t look good for the nest.

Upon further examination, we can tell this nest has been poached. It’s the first poached nest I’ve seen on a patrol so far, and it makes me super sad. The dog invasion and a poached nest in one night – lots of destruction.

The poachers clearly walked up on top of the tracks, dug up the hole and then filled it back in. Part of me thinks they fill it back in just to waste the time of Pretoma volunteers – but Vic has said on more than one occasion that they are not quite that vindictive or crafty. 

We continue on our walk and find no more poached nests. We get to the estuary and stand around for a bit before turning back and heading the other direction in an attempt to let more turtles (hopefully) come up on the beach and lay nests. When we make our walk back, however, we do not find any new nests.

The sun is starting to come up when we get back to the Pretoma house and we can more clearly assess the hatchery damage that the dog(s) have done. The dirt from the dug up nest is sprayed all over the hatchery and the protective cages around the nests are scattered all over the place.

A couple nests have a few straggler babies that have come up – so we gather them in the bucket and walk them down to the beach for release. This time it’s a sunrise release – and a beautiful counter to the sunset release of a few days ago.

After the last little dudes make it out with the current (one with our very explicit help) we head back up to the hatchery. 

We decide to start removing the old-nest dirt before our morning breakfast & siesta – it really looks like a disaster in the hatchery. So we grab some buckets and start digging out all the old dirt and putting it in the bucket to eventually wheel barrow down to the beach. It’s important to remove all the sand that was inside this nest as it is with any old and already hatched nest, because that sand can become contaminated. Especially if that nest had bugs or fungus or anything like that. The Pretoma hatchery just north of Vic’s actually had a problem with that and it affected their hatch rate, so his team is very conscious to remove any old sand.

We spend about 20 minutes clearing out the old sand from the nest and the surrounding areas. Vic wheels the last wheel barrow full of sand down to the water line and dumps it at the beach. Then we reallocate the nest cages around the nests that may soon hatch so that those babies will be protected and easily catch-able when they come up.

It looks much better when we are done. There are still more repairs to do – but first it’s time for desayunos. 

We head inside the house and Vic makes us breakfast using our coconut curried chicken leftovers. He heats these up in two small mounds in a pan, the top of which he covers with a an egg that cooks up in the mix. He serves with rice, beans and more coffee sweetened with horchata. Breakfast is warm, a little spicy and delicious.
 After breakfast and dishes, exhausted from the crazy week, our 2AM patrol and the hatchery clean up, we grab the camping hammocks and head toward the beach to hang them from the coconut trees and take a nap. Nothing will ever rival the nap from the first day on Playa Costa de Oro – but this nap comes close.

We sleep for a few hours and then wake up as the sun begins warming up the day. We break down hammock camp and decide to head back to the hatchery to see what can be done about fixing the dog-damage.

Vic has some string and we decide the first step is “sewing” together the two pieces of mesh that make up the fence. This will at least prevent the dog from getting into the hatchery by breaking in between those two pieces again. 

Kayla comes out to join us in the repairs. We have to sew together the walls surrounding the entire hatchery and fill in the dug-up nest with new sand. Lots to be done. 

The three of us spend the first ten minutes trying to determine the best way to complete the sewing of the mesh wall. It's a little complicated with two of us inside the hatchery and one outside, trying to pass the string back and forth through the square holes in the mesh. After several attempts, we settle on the fact that this is a two-person job best done with a make shift needle that is actually a piece of a palm frawn with the string tied to it. Vic and I take on this part of the job and Kayla starts working on bringing clean sand up from the beach to fill in the dug-up nest.

Vic and I chat and sew for an hour or so as the sun rises in the sky and gets hotter. We have to wear our sandals because the sand is so hot! I can see how the turtle eggs “cook” – i.e. incubate - in the beach sand all day. It’s hot, hard work to be bent over and focusing in the heat, but it’s fun and semi-mindless too. Plus there’s the ever present feeling that the work we are doing means something; it’s making a tangible difference.

We get about halfway around the hatchery and decide we need to cool off . . . in the ocean! We take a quick break to go swimming in the waves. They are much tamer than the first time and no fear of riptides. We swim and chat and play in the waves. Vic finds a bright orange starfish and it’s the first time he has found one on this beach! Fun, exciting, he mimics a mermaid top and then we put the little dude back in the water to live another day.

To be clear – Vic whips him a little ways into the waves and I freak out. When I was in second grade in Sarasota, FL – we learned that you cannot throw lives shells or starfish into the water because as they fly through the air and then sink to the bottom – the trauma and fast moving action can actually kill them by way of a weird type of “drowning.” I react dramatically and Vic feels bad. However, upon further research, it appears this isn’t actually the case. No starfish died and all is well.

While swimming, we can see the sky to the East behind the Pretoma house filled with what looks like a major storm. It’s dark and rolling in quickly but seemingly unthreatening for now. We finish up our swim and walk back up the beach in the yellow-ish light the dark clouds are creating over us.

We walk up to the sand/yard line and pick some coconuts to smash on the tree trunks and drink. Warm and delicious. After our brief repose – we head back to the hatchery with the goal to finish sewing the second half before the storm arrives. More chatting and needle-sewing later and we are done just as the first rain drops are starting to hit! Kayla has finished filling the dug-up nest as well, so we all head inside away from the rain for some lunch. 

Kayla cuts up a papaya and adds some lime juice for us to snack on while Vic prepares some quesadillas with the final leftovers from the curry chicken.
 After lunch, Vic and I decide to take the car down the road to get a bit of gas to get me to the next town in the morning and so he can show me the first Pretoma house and hatchery that he stayed in a couple kilometers North of the current beach. We hop in the car and head north on the dirt roads. 

We stop at a tiny roadside convenience store on our way where we know they sell gas by the liter. The towns on Vic’s side of the peninsula are so remote, that many of the smaller, local stores will drive into the larger towns and get gasoline to bring back that they can sell for a slightly higher price by the liter so that people don’t have to run cross peninsula for their gas. 

We purchase one liter and the woman brings it out to our car in a reusable jug with a funnel and tube to pour it into the car. Vic helps her situate the contraption and we put the liter in the car – plenty to get me to Jicara for the next refill on my morning drive to the airport to head home in the AM.  

We continue our drive over to check out the other Pretoma house. The Pretoma family at that house is just hanging out and they are all very excited to see Vic. 

They introduce themselves and give me the tour of their place. It’s much different than Vic’s current house. Their living area and kitchen are outside with a tin roof and only the bedrooms and bathrooms are truly “inside rooms.” The setup is very beach-y and cool – but leaves little protection for the bugs. 

The show us the hatchery, which has had many improvements since Vic first saw it a few months back. It’s big and full of turtles nests – very promising. We go for a walk on their beach to scope it out and chat a bit. After finishing up our convo, Vic and I hop back in the car and head a bit north to check out the beach just north of the Pretoma house, which is a little more touristy and still very beautiful. We hang for a bit and enjoy the pre-sunset before we have to head back to the house and head out for turtle patrol number one with Kayla. 

We head back to the house and prepare a delicious pasta dinner with homemade marinara sauce, which we will enjoy after we return from the 7:30PM-9:30PM patrol of the evening. 

Kayla, Vic and I chat as Vic prepares the meal. The cute little lizards are in the house, making their chirping noises and eating all the moths and bugs that have snuck inside. They are really a pleasure to share a Costa Rican beach house with - never thought lizards would be such a welcome roommate!

As 7:30 approaches, we get ready to head out on the first patrol. 

This is my first time heading out on the early patrol and I’m shocked how dark it is before the moon rises! We really need the flashlights on this first patrol, much more than on the 2AM patrols when the moon is up. But again, once we are on the beach, I am surprised by how quickly our eyes adjust and how well we can see the water and any potential turtle tracks. 

Our first trip to the hatchery revelas a few hatched babies to release, which we put in the bucket to carry with us and release further down the beach. We also find an unwelcome resident in the hatchery - a crab!

These little dudes - though cute and composed of really cool colors - eat baby turtles! They are the enemy. I get to see Vic take care of the infestation first hand. It looked a lot like this: 
We walk and chat and enjoy some patrol-snacks Vic has brought along as a pre-dinner, mid-patrol appetizer. 

Unfortunately, there are no turtles and we head back to the Pretoma house from the walk empty handed. 
Fortunately, when we arrive, there is a warm and delicious dinner waiting for us. 

We eat and chat a bit and then head to bed to rest before the 2AM turtle patrol and my 5AM trip back to San Jose for my flight out the following day. Sleep is good! 

  • Post-breakfast naps rule all
  • Any kind of work is worth it if you can take a break to swim in the ocean
  • Coconut chicken curry makes the world's most versatile leftovers
  • The starfish is AOK
  • Crabs are the enemy - show no mercy


  • Café con leche
  • Curry chicken with egg, rice & beans
  • Curry chicken quesadilla
  • Spaghetti with homemade tomato sauce and sautéed vegetables
  • Rice pudding

Animals: turtles (and dogs – boo) 

Something I am thankful for: the conversation and innovation behind fixing up the hatchery. We spent a lot of time on the front end of the project coming up with the best way to effectively sew the hatchery shut using all our resources - and the time paid for itself time ten once we discovered the two-person-needle-method

Something I don't want to admit: I was a little sad to see the crab go. But it's either him or the baby turtles and I have developed quite the affinity for those little guys

Total Nest I have saved: two

Total Nests Poached on my Patrol: one - boo.
Total Turtle Eggs I saved: 204+
Total Baby Turtles I Released: 300+
Days of Rain: 1.5 - the rain forest and the semi-rain over lunch today; still not so bad
Miles traveled: None! We stayed local again today - very nice