Cartago y Caribe: Student Exchange, Typical Day, and Sea Turtles
Student Exchange at UCR
Today, we visited the University of Costa Rica for a student exchange that was arranged with our pen pals. They had a table full of snacks and treats for us to enjoy, outside of course, and we got to enjoy Costa Rican snacks while practicing our Spanish. We first began with a short exercise/game where we would have to solve problems while working with our Spanish-speaking pen pals. They are learning English, while we are learning Spanish, so we had to help each other find words to use in our answers. We then finished off by having a face-to-face conversation with our pen pals, where we learned about their everyday lives in Turrialba, Costa Rica.
A Typical Day in Parismina
What a day. The 18th of July in Parismina was an eventful day filled with thrills. We started off the day as usual making our way to Donna Olga’s restaurant and having some pancakes and eggs, a much-needed source of protein and carbohydrates that helped fueled us to the next part of our day, a beach cleanup! The cleanup was filled with us running around looking for microplastics and styrofoam to clean up that dirtied the amazing Parismina Black Sand Beach. As we continued our way down the beach line, we sadly met a passed-away, baby, leatherback turtle. A group decision was made to do a burial for the little one as we paid our respects. We soon finished up quickly after making sure to get a last quick burst of plastic and styrofoam cleanup, and got back to our hub where we dropped off our 5 bags of beach clean-up. After a tiring, but fun cleanup, we found our way to Doña Olga’s again for lunch where we had some scrumdiddlyumptious lunch to refuel the energy that we needed to complete our next event of the day, a dance class with Maya. Maya, a local in the Parismina community, graciously invited us into her house to have an amazing dance class.
For three nights, we get to go on beach patrol walks of about 4 km to look out for turtle poachers and provide the necessary support for the sea turtles that are laying their eggs. The night walks can be difficult with the requirements of not being able to use a light source as a guide through the thick, trippy sand. However, last night’s walk was lighter; my eyes were able to adjust to the darkness. As the night went on, I was able to realize something: You never know what the night has ready for you. For instance, the first night experience was long and challenging, whereas the second night was worth the sweat. During the night beach patrol, we were alerted of an incident with a sea turtle that involved an unknown poacher. The story is that a female sea turtle made its way to shore to scoop up a hole to lay her eggs. There was evidence of her trail heading to her hole in progress but no show of her making her way back to the ocean. The staff looked around and found her eggs gone in addition. The theory is that she was snatched up in the process of giving birth. Snatched up by a poacher! The moment can be tense with the fact that there is an unknown threat or person, a thief almost, around but out of your complete sight and control. The only calming or relieving feeling about that fright is that you are with your ‘amigos’, together. Anyways, there was nothing we could do but hope to just be there for the next ones and be there in time. And so we did. We continued to walk along the bumpy sand next to the ocean waves until we stopped for the second time. We had run into another mother sea turtle in the making, just this time we were on time. The privilege to be present to witness such natural technique as the large sea turtle finds her way up the ledge of the shore to then begin to dig. Watching how she used her senses to feel through the sand to make sure to make a hollow enough opening into the ground to secure her eggs in. To stand in quiet watching over her, gaining that new or better understanding or idea of such nature. Truly lovely as you get to follow behind her as she goes after the flashing white streaks in the waves. As she drags her way back in the water, watching the waves crash over her as she disappears in the dark ocean.
Baby Turtles Hatching
On Sunday, we saw and released baby sea turtles. Before we did that we learned how to measure a turtle and we also learned the difference between a leatherback turtle and a green turtle. We had to learn that lesson just in case we ran into a turtle while it was laying eggs so that we could have the exact information about the turtle and what species it was and other things like that. After the biologist showed us how to do it, we went to the beach to learn how to safely get eggs from a turtle nest so that we could save the turtle eggs from poachers that come at night. Then, the teacher showed us how we can cover up the nest but also mark it and measure the distance of how far it is from the closet tree and how close it is to the tree line. For the next step, the teacher brought us over to the nursery where they had the turtle eggs that they had found and put in there so that they could keep an eye on them. After he explained what it was for he went over to a patch of sand and asked for a volunteer to help him with something. When he asked the question all of us were confused but he brought one of the students over and started to dig in the sand then that is when he started to pull up baby sea turtles. When he started to pull up the baby sea turtles all of us got excited and then he started to explain why the baby turtles were not moving as much when he pulled them up (they had not yet woken up completely, having just emerged from their eggs). Then we carried them to the beach near the water and we set them free into the ocean.