I arrived to Costa Rica last Friday. I stayed the night in Alajuela (where the airport is located). Since it's only a half hour drive from San Ramon (where I studied abroad before), my friend came and visited me. It was great to see one of my Costa Rican friends again! The map above shows where I am now (the pink starfish) compared to where I was last year (the orange starfish). It's a little more than a 5 hour bus ride. The following day, another volunteer Katie and I met our boss Stacy in San Jose for the bus ride down to Playa Chiquita in Puerto Viejo. I will be staying at a pretty simple eco-lodge (a lodge that tries to be as eco-friendly as possible) for the next 7 months. It is located in the rainforest right across the road from the beach. There is a sloth who lives in the tree next to my kitchen and we had a troop of white-faced capuchins (a species of monkey) in the trees in the backyard! I'm really starting to like the place the more I get used to it. However, I do not like all the rain! It has been raining almost continuously since I've been here, except for today but it is very cloudy. I have barely seen the sun!
For work, I study the monkeys in the area and gather other kinds of data. There are three species of primates in the area: the mantled howler monkey (my favorite species!), white-faced capuchins, and the black-handed spider monkey (which I have yet to see). A typical day consists of waking up between 5am and 6am (when the howler monkeys wake up and begin their morning chorus), rain or shine. I walk along the road, surveying the area for monkeys. When I find a troop, I collect data on how many there are, general behavior (resting, eating, traveling, etc), and the sex and age of each individual. I also write down when I see sloths or other mammals and when I see dead animals in the road. The data collected will go towards calculating population estimates of monkeys in the area and to determine where bridges may be most useful to animals. Sloths, squirrels, and even a boa constrictor have been documented using the monkey bridges. The project also uses camera traps to document bridge use. I will be working with the other volunteer Katie for the next few weeks, and then two days a week I will also be working with a local 17-year old Pablo.
In my free time, I can go to beach or catch a bus into Puerto Viejo where there are lots of shops and touristy places. The tides are unusually high right now, so there isn't much beach and not really many places to lay down in the sun (if it were to be sunny!). Hopefully water levels will go down so I can lay on the beach! Yesterday and today, we walked along the water for a couple kilometers. It's such a beautiful place, even though it's been cloudy and rainy. The waves are also huge! My pictures don't do it justice.
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