What follows will be a multi-entry post of my adventures in Costa Rica as transcribed from both my class journal and my field journal kept while traveling. The name I can’t take credit for – that goes to Ms. Alex Fylypovich who created the corresponding Facebook group for us to stay in touch.
Just last month I was fortunate to be able to spend nearly a month living an experience that seriously changed my life forever, a study-abroad trip to Costa Rica. I took part in the four-week May-mester class focused on tropical ecology for a number of reasons least of which was class credit since it was primarily an undergraduate class and being a graduate student whatever grade I make it will do nada for my GPA. No, I actually took the tropical ecology class because it is a dream of me and my husband’s to live and work in Costa Rica. We have talked about it for years, brainstorming ideas and researching different ways to go about it. A few years ago we got hooked up with a man named Kevin Peterson who founded the Eco-Preservation Society which is primarily based out of Costa Rica. I helped him out with a grant while working for the GADNR and he told me he owed me one. When I left DNR I called in the favor telling him I wanted to work for him and as of now we are still trying to work out a way to make that happen. All I know is that I want to teach and do outreach, do some research and live in the most beautiful and simple country I have ever been too….Costa Rica.
I left right after Mother’s Day on May 14th, 2012 early in the morning. Thanks to a timely lawn mower accident I was back in the dreaded “boot” which really sucked but actually came in handy in the airport since it allowed me to board early and get assistance with my bags!
The flight was pretty long and I admit I slept through most of it. I had a brief layover in Miami and again the “boot” helped me sail through my flight change and again through customs once I landed in San Jose, Costa Rica. Once there though I was on my own and suddenly very aware of how little Spanish I actually knew. I had borrowed my son James’ English-Spanish dictionary but still was suddenly drawing a blank. I took some deep breaths and told myself it was just nerves. It was and as soon as I calmed down I was able to make my way to baggage claim where I looked for the special bright orange/pink and yellow flagging our professor, Scott had insisted we attach to all our bags pre-trip. I was now glad he had done so because my black bag did indeed look like many others that were lazily circling the baggage carousel.
My bags seem to have morphed into leaden weights while airborne. Gone were the tightly compacted duffle and backpack suitcase I had packed within an inch of my life telling myself it was better to be safe than sorry! (Yes I WOULD need those extra four shirts and two pairs of jeans, the packet said they were two of the main things students commented that wished they had more of!) Somehow during the flight my bags had grown completely unwieldy and put on enough weight that my professor took one look at them and then at me with my stupid boot and cane and then back at the ridiculous bags and just shook his head mumbling something about appropriate amounts of gear and being able to carry our own crap…what a humiliating way to start a trip.
After everyone had congregated outside the airport all of us easily identifiable by our colorful flagging, our two instructors, Scott and recent Ph.D. graduate Andrew Mehring directed us to load the bus so we could head over to the hotel for our first night in Costa Rica!
That first night I was assigned to room with one of the only two girls in our program not from UGA. Katie Lutes attends the University of Tennessee. When we first met I was a little worried she would be a typical sorority girl but I needn’t have worried at all, she was actually very sweet and really smart in addition to being a very pretty girl. We split into three groups that night to go out to dinner and I ended up going to a somewhat traditional “Mexican” restaurant of all things with five or so others and Scott. There was another group that went with Andrew and one that went out with Oscar who had been introduced to us as a naturalist from San Luis Montverde who would be accompanying us to La Selva the next day. Dinner was good and filling but I must have been pretty tired from the flight because I admit that I crashed hard pretty early that night.
To be continued….