Deet Poisoning and the Great Outdoors

Trip Start Jan 21, 2013
Trip End May 07, 2013

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Where I stayed
Las Altruas Biological Field Station

Flag of Costa Rica  , Puntarenas,
Monday, February 25, 2013

Today we arrived at a real field station.  Far from human contact and without electricity or hot water, it was exactly what I had expected of all biological field stations.  Shortly after arriving it began to pour and I was relieved to finally see rain during the dry season.  I also enjoyed my first nap since coming here.  Knowing we were completely cut off from the world, I enjoyed the sound of rain on the tin roof throughout the afternoon.  However, this calm quickly disappeared when I realized what an issue the bugs were going to be.  Since we were without electricity, I was using my headlamp to read in bed.  Sharing the same room with 11 other people proved to be problematic when we were trying to get ready for bed in a cramped space illuminated by various headlamps.  Somehow we managed to spot a mouse running across our window sill and several bugs in beds and elsewhere.  Needless to say some of us, including me, were freaking out.  Naturally, I had already put on my deet bug spray but these discoveries had pretty bad timing.  I double checked my bed before tucking myself in so that no invaders could infiltrate my boundaries of bedding.  I managed to fall asleep eventually.
The next day we spent the morning learning about plants from the experts Miguel and Frederico, botanists who work at Las Cruces.  They took us out to the woods to show us how to identify various plant families.  Yes, the day had finally come for me to put my snake boots to use. Of course my friends and I had a jungle gear photo shoot beforehand.  Decked out in snake boots, zip-off field pants, flannel, bandannas, and deet bug spray we were ready to go.  They took us out to the woods to show us how to identify various plant families.  I learned a lot and had a lot of fun.  It reminded me how much I missed my field botany class.  I enjoyed La Amistad National Park, but wished we could have walked far enough to reach the Panamanian border.  
After lunch, we conducted interviews in town for Caja.  Each year an agent goes door-to-door to update people's medical information.  Since Las Alturas is harder to reach, it made sense that we could help gather personal and medical information of some residents.  The first interview was pretty rough because we were nervous and unfamiliar with some terminology and the forms.  However, my partners and I had improved a great deal by the end.  I remember being amazed that people were happy to tell strangers their ID number, medical history, living conditions, and vaccination history.  In America, you can't go door-to-door for anything.  There's no way I would've given up my social security number to some random person at my door.
That night it was my turn for dishes.  Arlin and I enjoyed getting to know our two chefs who are responsible for the plethora of delicious foods.  Before bed, I enjoyed card games with the group.  That night it was a little easier to sleep but I took the same extreme precautionary measures.  I found myself missing Las Cruces were bugs aren't a big concern.
On the last full day it was my group's turn at the medical clinic.  Since the EBAIS is further than convenient, once a month this "pink house" is accessible by the people.  We worked in shifts so I started out with my friend observing our professor care for patients.  I got to take the temperature of a little girl and see common ailments of more rural populations.  There were cases of scabies and diarrhea and I noticed my professor had all people take a pill for worms before leaving.  It was nice to see that people of any income level could get the care they need.  Afterwards, I worked in the nurse's room to prepare people to see the doctor.  I was really happy that I learned how to take blood pressure during my EMT training.  We took people's blood pressure, weight, and height.  We also took the height and weight of a kindergarten class.  Finally, we finished our time playing with the local school children as they waited their turn.  They liked coloring with us and were beyond fascinated with my watch.  It was interesting to see what a hot commodity soap is.  Apparently one boy was smart enough to come to the clinic each time we rotated to ask for soap.  I gave him about 10 bars and he was overjoyed.  When we drove off in the safari, our friend Sergio ran after us.  The morning confirmed that I would like to work in medicine in the future.  It was so nice to interact with and help people.
After lunch we did a group hike in the National Park.  I had not anticipated it to be so rigorous.  It was basically 5K of straight incline so it took about two hours to reach the top.  The walk down was much easier.  After dinner I led a discussion on intellectual property and traditional medicine for journal club.  Some interesting points were made.  We were all exhausted and ready for bed but our professors had a surprise campfire waiting for us!  It was really fun sitting around making smores and playing games.  It felt exactly like summer camp and it was great.  
The next morning it was time to depart for the Boruca territory and I found myself wishing we could stay longer despite the bug problem, lack of electricity, and ice cold showers.  

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