Primera dia

I arrived in Puerto Rico after around 12 hours of traveling. It was fairly easy, besides the fact I slept maybe 3 hours on Tuesday. Leanne (my boss) picked me up at the airport and we went to explore old San Juan. Puerto Rico is a very odd place; it felt like I was flying into Miami (although I have never been to Miami I imagine this is less glamorous version). In Old San Juan, quaint, colorful houses line thin cobblestone alleys. It definitely has a colonial feeling. On the other hand, there are Church’s chicken and Wendy’s everywhere. I even saw an H&R block.  Then there are stores called “Pueblo”. So there is a good mix of feeling like “Hey, I’m in Texas” and “Hey I’m in Mexico”.

After walking around SJ for a few hours, my left eye was having trouble staying open, and my butt was burning, because I sat on a nerve or something during my flight, and I couldn’t bear staying seated for more than 3 seconds (remember we still had a 3 hour drive across the country to go). We meandered back to our car only to find a 75$ parking ticket and a nasty note that started with, “Hello ladies, as you seem to have been raised in a barn…” and ended with “I am sure your parents are proud of you. Thanks for ruining my sons day…pps I have a nice photo of your license plate.”. Basically we had blocked a 5-person garage and made a kid miss his tennis lesson and been huge American/Canadian assholes. First time for Canada! All I can say is whoops. The letter was written in English and they knew we were women, so it seems as though the people who saw us park there were the ones who tattled or wrote the note. I don’t understand why they wouldn’t tell us we can’t park there?! But I digress...

Then it started pouring. So we went to eat at a restaurant called, “Che’s”- overpriced food where I got a half plate of pasta for $10.40 and a local beer for 5$ (muy caro!) The waiters were nice and the old man who served us gave us some free Guayba dessert, which I had been eyeing so that was pretty cool. Afterwards we went to the airport to pick up Bonnie-May (she’s the other Canadian-I am surrounded eh!?) and her flight was 1.5 hours delayed. So we didn’t end up arriving in El Combate until 2 am.

Needless to say it was a long day. But here are some pics I took, apparently I like cats. stray cats. 

Pink sparkles- amazing

The People:

Leanne is a cool girl, she reminds me of my friend Sarah from Cuba. She has lots of tattoos all over- most that I have seen are some sort of nature piece-feathers a crow etc. She also has gauges and lip and tongue piercings. She’s kind of a classic wildlife/hippie person-super nice, laid back, environmentally conscience and really intelligent.

Bonnie-May, also from Winnepeg, is quieter than Leanne or I. She has only flown twice – this was her second time. She also doesn’t have a biology background so it is definitely going to be an experience for her. She has dark hair and fair skin, and muscular thin arms (seems like she would be a frequent rock climber), a great laugh and is a vegan. Leanne is a vegetarian so I will probably be eating some serious vegan/veggie meals (ex. Tonight I had nutritional yeast!)

Jim aka the professor, is an eccentric looking man with a lovely curly mane of white hair and beard to match. He is a really nice guy and also very mellow. I am realizing these Canadians are all really mellow. He made both meals for us on our first day and bought ingredients for the “Silly Ani” rum drinks so that’s pretty cool.  I also found out when he was younger he participated in some sort of protest, involving a blockade, to protect a valley.  He unknowingly ate a corn soup filled with beef (Jim doesn’t eat red meat either) from a group of Indians who had created a sacred tent during the protest and his gut did not agree with the meal. He also definitely smoked pot*. *smokes?

The Fuge:

We spent today on the refuge checking the Ani nests that Leanne and Jim have found. Their eggs are this awesome turquoise blue color. They look like small painted Easter eggs. Their nests however are 6-32 ft up in thorny mesquite trees. We use 3 different ladder lengths to get to the nests. I had to pull the 32-foot ladder up so it fully extended and I was so pathetic, I was hanging on the rope trying to pull the ladder up. It was that awful scratchy-plastic-yellow “rope”. I’ve realized that I am NOT in field shape and think my butt may get kicked for a bit at least.

We also have to follow groups of birds through the dry scrub forest habitat. I’ve learned their terrestrial alarm call but they make these low guttural noises that I just don’t hear at all. When the birds are going to and from roosts (night, morning) we will be observing groups for specific behaviors and more importantly nest building. It will be a lot of independent work, which is a first and good life experience.

The refuge is actually very peaceful and beautiful. As I mentioned, it is a dry scrub forest, with spacious open brush-lands and tamarind and mesquite trees scattered all around. It reminds me a bit of African savannahs, maybe because many of the plants are introduced African species. The brush ranges from being as tall as my waist to above my head. To the east are low lying “mountains” (hills), then there is a farm that borders the north of the refuge and the cattle graze along the barrier, and to the south/east, is the ocean which is so turquoise/blue and beautiful! It is a gorgeous site to see the ocean down there and makes me feel safer. Maybe because I am so water oriented I feel comforted by having the ocean nearby. I cannot wait to explore the beaches and El Combate further.

Notes on the house and other “relevant” things:

1)   Quaint, spacious, wood cabin-esque feel.
2)   My first morning a millipede fell from my ceiling…creepy. 
3)   3 rooms upstairs. One is tiny with low-lying angular exposed wooden beams; the other (mine for now) is a bit more spacious with a double and twin bed touching each other.
4)   The dresser in my room supposedly has termites. I will not be using it.
5)   Jim-the professor’s room is HUGE and has a bunk bed with a double on bottom twin on top? Fancy.
6)   I already have about 12-mosquito bites- DAMN. Mom, this means I will be using my bug jacket and most likely my bug face net while I’m hiding alone in the brush at night.
7)   We only have cold water. This means for dishes and the shower. I realized I have taken hot water for granted. My showers here have been maybe 2 minutes max.
8)   I am always sweaty.
9)   I did not need my “lightweight” fleece.
10)                   I am keeping track of my bird list while I am here and will post this on my blog as well for all you weirdo birders.
11)                  There are definitely some obese Puerto Ricans, like a fair amount. I attribute this to the American influence. YAY!
12)                  I am the best Spanish speaker in the house… which demonstrates the lack of Spanish fluency in our team.
13)                  Everyone in Puerto Rico speaks English.
14)                  We have a baby bird named Eduardo living in a box downstairs. He is naked and “muy feo”.
A view from a high point at Cabo Rojo National Widlife Refuge

All for the sake of field work!

I come in peace- well maybe not to the skeeters

One of our little baby Ani's


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