Monkeys and toucans and sloths...oh my!

Trip Start Jun 03, 2008
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed

Flag of Costa Rica  ,
Tuesday, June 17, 2008

I finally made it to Hacienda Barú, my home away from home for the next 2 months or so. THIS is the Costa Rica I have been waiting for- warm weather, moist air, lush green rolling hills. It is absolutely beautiful.

A little about Baru. It is located on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, just north of the surfer town Dominical. Back in the early 1970s it was a working cattle and rice farm, having been previously cleard in the 1960s of its natural forest. Primary forest remained in the highlands to protect the water source, and two patches of forest remained near the coast. While building living fence posts to corral the cattle, owner Jack Ewing noticed something unusual- once the trees got tall enough monkeys started using them as corridors between the lowland and highland forests. Over the next few years more monkey corridors were built and more land allowed to naturally convert back into secondary forest. With this conversion, numerous flora and fauna that were once abundant have begun returning. Just over 35 years later it is a nationally recognized Wildlife Animal Refuge covering 815 acres. Classified as a wet forest, it ranges from wetlands, swamplands, coastal regions, secondary forest primarily in the lowlands, primary forests in the highlands, and more. It has self guided trails all around, as well as guided tours for bird watching, a zip line canopy tour, and over night tours on the beach or far into the jungle. It also has 6 cabins on site to rent. Besides reviving and preserving its natural state, one of Barus major goals is to teach its visitors about the local wildlife and the importance of protecting it.

Yes, this is where I get to live and work...not bad huh!?! While it is beautiful, living here is...well, different. Yes, different is a good way of putting in. I live in whats called La Cosana, its the original buildings back when it was used as farmland.
It is located about a mile and a half south of the lodge. Its two stories, constructed out of single planked wood- no drywall, no insulation- and concrete floors. Quite minimal with no TV, no radio, no computer, no microwave, one shower, hardly any furniture, and one tinsy tiny mirror downstairs. Living in the house is myself, three local Ticos who work as tour guides at the Hacienda, another Tico who is researching for his Yale doctorate, the house cat, and we are expecting a male volunteer from France any day now. 1 me, 1 cat, 5 guys. Now, for many women this would be hell. But lets look at the situation logically. They keep the place really clean because if you dont hundreds of ants or other crazy jungle insects will instantly move in, they cook dinner every night (as the jungle doesn{t have many restaurants!), they checked my room for little hiding friends before letting me move in, and they take care of any scary bugs, telling me which to avoid and which just look scary. Now really, who could ask for more!

My daily day goes something like this:

Wake up at 6:00am to moist air, bright sun, and the sound of insects buzzing and exotic bird singing. Head out by 6:30 for my 30 minute commute-on-foot through the jungle. The jungle is amazing in the morning, with the light filtering through the different layers of canopy. Vines are hanging all around off the exotic trees, butterflies and birds flutter about, pizote rustle in the bushes as I walk pass, and usually monkeys are playing overhead. I honestly expect Tarzan to come swinging by at any moment! I get to work by 7:00 where I spend the day working the reception, helping hotel guests and day guests who are signed up for tours. Im finished by 3:00pm and usually leave right after as thats the time the rain normally hits. There has been a day where it started earlier, unfortunately, and my path home suddenly had new rivers and lakes on it. Thankfully it was only ankle deep so all it caused were drowned sneakers and a drenched but laughing Dana. Gotta do whatcha gotta do! A cold shower is the top priority when I get home, not because I have a choice but simply because Im dirty and there is no hot water. From there I might study up on my Spanish, sometimes with some help from my Tico neighbor Christian, hang out with the boys, watch them play soccer in the living room, eat dinner, maybe head into Dominical if one of the guys is going, or read some of the Dickins Ive decided to undertake. Its usually lights out by 10:00pm or 11:00pm because of this whole waking up early thing.

Yes, Im not in California anymore thats for sure. But Im adjusting. Its interesting when you are placed outside of your comfort zone to see how you react. What you like, what you dont. Why you like it or not. Its a lot of time in your head, too, with no TV or radio to distract you. And not being able to communicate as easily or freely with those around you is challenging. It brings to attention your reactions to events, something I dont think people are normally aware of. It places you in situations where you stop, and think in your head, "Okay, I have two ways to react to this. Which one am I going to choose?"

I must say, while learning about the jungle is fascinating, even more so is learning about myself.
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