Sunday, September 30, 2012

Tie- Dye

hen Kayla came down to Costa Rica, she didn't just bring me a computer.  But two whole suitcases from my parents, which were loaded with tons of activities to do with the local kids, including tie- dye.

Kayla with Naduyi and Colita
We decided to make tie -dying the reward for a beach clean. So this morning at 8:30AM, I was awoken by the sounds of children outside my window. I raced out of bed to greet them give them trash bags. We started the pick up in front of the PRETOMA house and slip into 2 groups, one going north and one going south. I was excited to see other members of the community, like Tim and Wendy, join in as well and all the enthusiasm the kids had in helping.  After just one short hour, we had filled 5 jumbo trash bags and were all ready from a break from the heat.  So I told the kids to go home and cool off and come back after they were finished with lunch. This gave me enough time to get the dye ready and put the kids names on their shirts.

Kiara and Maria Fernanda with a bucket of trash

They promptly returned, excited to learn what tie- dye was. Ingrid, Kayla and I had the kids spread out and then I gave them a quick demonstration on how to make a swirl design or the basic crumple into a ball design.

Once all the kids had wrapped their shirts in rubber bands, we headed outside to start dying. My mom and I decided yellow and blue would be perfect because it would make green when it mixed and it would look like the ocean.  Two at a time the children dyed their shirts. Once they were all finished, I explained that they would have to wait until tomorrow afternoon to see their finished products. They seem excited and a little impatient, but I think it will be well worth the wait.

Tree frog hanging out on my window.

Colita with his sand turtle.

On anther note, Ingrid returned to the office, so Kayla and I are back to being just the two of us. We are still having a lot of hatching babies, which keeps us up a lot of the night and are busy exhuming the nests during the day. It is this time of the season I like the best, when we get to see babies and there are still new turtles nesting.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Playing Vet

Yesterday Victor had to leave for his visa run, so Kayla and I are going to get a little girl time! The only thing is we have a hatchery full of babies ready to hatch and hopefully a lot of nesting turtles, which means we might not be getting much sleep this week.

However last night we managed just fine. We patrolled 9-11 and then we took turns waking every hour from 3- 7 to check the hatchery. We had 2 nesting turtles and released almost 200 babies. It was a great night!!!

One thing I love in Costa Rica almost as much as I love working with turtles is the local dogs. The dogs around town are always so happy, they enjoy life. Spend their lives' free, swimming in the ocean, chasing crabs and coming by our house for 10 minutes of attention. We have made a habit to give all the local dog names that we find fitting. Some include Mama, S.Y.D.(She's Your Dog), las tres hermanas, and poo face.

Dogs pictured include SYD, Mama, and las tres hermanas

Cut on Natilla's, one of the 3 sisters, leg.
So naturally I was thrilled to see las tres hermanas this afternoon. Only Kayla and I noticed something wasn't right. One of them was limping and had a cut in her leg deep enough you could see the bone. Not sure what to do, I ran down to Alvaro's house and dramatically explained that she was hurt and if we didn't do something NOW, she would for sure die. So he grabbed medications and gauze wraps and we headed back to find her.

When we got there, she was sitting with Kayla, just waiting for us. I ran to the house and grabbed 2 tortillas; one for the injured one and the other for the other two pups. Kayla feed the two dogs, while I held the injured dog so Alvaro could clean and put Neosporin on the injury. We were all amazed at the willingness of the dog to let us near her injury. It was obvious that she knew we could help. We decided for the next four days we will be giving her antibiotics to help fight infection and see how it goes from there, but don’t worry I will keep you posted on her healing.

Kayla distributing the tortilla
Alvaro trying to care for Natilla,
but Nonita wanted the attention.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Community Involvement

Around 4:40 Victor, Kayla, Ingrid and I carried the 2 buckets full of baby turtles out to the beach. We looked around and saw a couple guys from the construction site next door walking towards us. But other than that the beach was empty. I took a quick peak a my watch and see we are 10 minutes late and none of the children or town's people had come to see the babies. Feeling a little disappointed with the turnout, I explain to the construction workers that these turtles were in nests that had hatched the night before, but couldn't crawl out of the hole by themselves. I then handed each  guy a glove and told them that the babies needed to be placed about 5 meters from the water's edge so the could walk.

As the men are placing each baby on the sand, I see all the children running towards us and their parents right behind them. The kids quickly jump into the fun and each put a glove on and help release the babies. As I watched the babies make their way to the ocean, the locals watched with big smiles on their faces and a bit of pride in their eyes. I went around and answered questions and explained sea turtle biology to the observers. I was surprised to hear one of the local men, probably in his 40's tell me this was the first time he had ever seen a baby turtle. Seeing the pride in the locals, my faith was restored and I hoped it would be less likely that we would be seeing them on the beach.

Another day with the locals

Kayla teaching Caristine about the babies

Since the first night, I am pleased to report that the locals and tourists come every night at 5 PM to see the baby turtles. Hopefully, raising awareness to a whole new generation.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

We Have Babies!

I felt bad for Mama getting stuck in the rain,
so I gave her a roof to her house.
Thanks Mom and Dad for the Pencil boxes.
Now our patrol data will stay nicer and dryer!

7PM, Kayla and I head out to start the nightly patrol. We make a quick pass to the north and don't see anything. So we head back to the house to catch a couple hours of sleep before our next patrol at 11. This time, Kayla, Victor and Ever (one of our Costa Rican Volunteers) go north, while Ingrid and I go south. After another 2 hours of patrolling, we still don't have a nesting turtle. So Ingrid and I head back to the house to check on the hatchery. Only to be in for a pleasant surprise. Our first nest had begun hatching. We counted 35/100 babies with still more looking like they were about to surface.

We take the babies in a bucket towards the north hoping to run into the other group so that everyone can partake in the momentous occasion. As we make our way up the beach, we are met by a nesting turtle. We wait with the turtle and collect her eggs as we see the others approaching us. After our turtle is finished, we all head further north to release the babies in the same sector their mom had put them in the first place. It was beautiful! I had really missed seeing those little guys make the determined walk towards the ocean. 20 minutes passes and the only sign the little one had been on the beach were their tiny little tracks in the sand heading towards the waves.
By this time we were all tired an ready to hit the hay, but before we could do that we had to put our nest into the hatchery. When we got there, we saw the next nest in line had also hatched (76 babies/ 84  eggs). So once again, we head back to the beach to release the latest nest.

We finally are able to return to the house at 3:00 AM. After a quick snack, I head to bed. Only to be awaken by my alarm at 4:30AM telling me it was time for another hatchery check. No more babies this morning.

Once everyone is awake, we headed out to the hatchery to exhume both nests and are happy to find another 30 babies in the first nest alive and ready to go. After everyone is confident in the exhumation process. I head down the street to invite the local families to help release the 30 babies at sunset when it is much cooler. I am excited to see what the turn out will be.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Catching Turtles

At 7:30 in the morning Kayla, Victor and I are picked up by the PRETOMA truck and are taken to the Coyote Estuary where the PRETOMA boat is waiting for us. We were all excited because we were getting to partake in a new task with the sea turtles.

In Costa Rica it is very rare for  a Hawksbill turtle to nest, but there are a few locations where juvenile populations live; one of which is Punto Coyote. These turtles are critically endangered due to their beautiful shells that are used to make jewelry among other things.
The Captain and Erik untangling the net.

The plan for the day was to set a fishing net with very large holes out on the point and hopefully catch a couple Hawksbills, so we could tag, measure and place a GPS device on her. However, as the net was being placed, Erik explained the last time the net had been used there was a large storm and it was gathered quickly and might be quite tangled.

Turtle caught in the net.
Sure enough, it was a mess. As soon as the net was placed, we all put on our snorkeling gear and hopped in the water. We were instructed to be careful while untangling the net not to get ourselves caught in it, which is actually harder than it sounds due to wearing fins and  the visibility was pretty bad.

A half hour later the net was a good as it was going to get and we were back in the boat. While waiting to catch a turtle, we drove over to check on Caletas camp. We stalled around for 30 minutes before returning to the net to check if we caught anything, only to be left disappointed.  So we once again decided to wait another 20- 30 minutes before returning to the net again to find nothing.
By 10:45, we still hadn't caught a turtle and the tide was changing, so we decided to collect our net a come out again another day. However just a we were getting back to the net, we watched a turtle swim into the net. I couldn't believe it, after all this time I was finally going to get the to see a Hawksbill turtle!

Erik and Victor grabbed the net and started pulling the turtle towards the boat. Only as we got close to it could we see it wasn't a hawksbill, but an Olive Ridley, the same species I see everyday on patrol. Even though we were all disappointed it wasn't a Hawksbill, we still brought her onto the boat and tagged and measured her. After we all got a quick picture with the turtle, Erik and Victor helped lower her gently into the water and we all hoped to see her again soon on one of our nesting projects.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Photos Photos Photos

Just to get caught to the fun stuff, I am going to just post a whole lot of photos. So check them out, they include pictures of lots of sunsets, whale watching, a local soccer game, food and of course dogs!

You will have to wait until tomorrow's post for the pictures of the turtles!

Follow this link to get to the photo album!

Here's a little preview...

Hatchery 1/2 full on Sept 13th
Now we are filling in the holes.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

I Feel the Earth Move Under My Feet...

I feel the earth move under my feet,
I feel the sky come tumblin' down.
- Carole King

Where I sat during the earthquake
At 8:40 AM, Matt , Victor and I had just finished eating Victor's famous turtle pancakes and I was just washing the dishes when the earth started shaking. Being from California, I had felt earthquakes, but this morning it just keep shaking.

I ran for the door jam, like I had been taught growing up and Victor ran outside. About 30 seconds into the shaking, Matt yelled that I needed to go outside, that the door jam of the Costa Rican built house was swaying too much for it to be safe. As I exited the door and tried to run with the ground still shaking below me, I covered my head in fear one of the coconuts from our numerous trees might hit me. Once in the back yard, I saw Matt and Victor, I felt my best option was to stay sitting on part of the foundation on the house. While Matt and Victor were right next to me in the grass.

The ground was still shaking when it occurred to me that there might be a tsunami and that we were dangerously close to the ocean. We began making our plan of action while we waited for the earth to stop moving. The earthquake in total lasted over a minute and a half, so we had a long time to plan.

I decided it was best to walk to our neighbor, Wendy's, house  who had a car, but before we could do that Victor reminded us to go inside and get our passports, real shoes and whatever ever else we might need.  Within 3 minutes, we were out of the house and on our way. We had made it just over 1/2 way when we found Wendy in the road walking to us. At this point, we hopped in the truck to headed to Laguna Mar. I figured, it was close enough that we could make it there quickly, if we needed to head for higher ground the road continued up a mountain and finally we all could use a beer.

However, when we made it to the exit of the town, there was a huge group of locals standing there. Wendy tried to ask them in Spanish if they knew anything about a big wave. However, since everyone was so shaken up, they only heard "There is a big wave" and all started to panic! We told them we were leaving and that they could hop in the back of the truck if they wanted.

At this point, we had about 10 people in the back of the truck, then one of the lady looks at us with tears in her eyes and asks, "Please, can we get my daughter, she is pregnant and couldn't leave the house. I can't leave her!" So of course, we drive towards where she tells she lives, only its almost a mile away from where we are. We tell her frantically, that she needs to hurry because if there is a tsunami, we don’t have time to be waiting.

However, I think our urgency was lost on her and they were moving so slow. When the pregnant lady finally came out (she looked like she was due any day now). She climbed into the car and looks down and at her feet and told us she needed different shoes. We couldn't believe it!

After another 5 minutes, we were flying down the road. As we passed the bus stop on the main road, we saw a local family who said it was far enough from the water. So all the people in our car unloaded and we continued towards Laguna Mar.

When we got there to the hotel it was oddly quiet, but before long people started showing up. Drew wasn't there, but those who were there started pouring beers from the bottles that hadn't broke. We were amazed at how little damage had occurred structurally, but recognized that a lot of alcohol bottles and dishes hadn't been so lucky.

We waited there for about an hour before the tsunami warning was lifted and then we returned to the beach to  get back to the real world, well kind of…

Fissures in the sand in front of the house

With the quake the power went out and the power company wasn't sure they could get it back on for 5 days. Since our house only has electric appliances and we were still nervous that we might still have to run for higher ground, we felt it was best to all stay at Wendy's house for the night.

Walking back to Wendy's after grabbing supplies

We spent the day recuperating and by the pool, but everyone was still very tense, especially since the aftershocks were pretty strong.  Lotti came into bring us candles and recommended that we not patrol that night and just get some sleep.

Hanging out by the pool

Bed moved over a foot
away from the wall.

In the morning we all discussed the different aftershocks that had us ready to run.  Around 2 PM, we returned home to clean up the broken dishes and spilled milk (it was stinky). I walked around the house to take pictures of the damages for the owner, but was amazed to find only a few broken roof times, derailed door and one small, nonstructural crack.
Rainbow after the earthquake

The next 3 days, we had no turtles nest at any of PRETOMA's projects and we were really worried for the effects the shaking would cause to our hatchery. Since we still have a month before our first babies should be hatching, we will have to just wait and see what happens.

In true Costa Rica Fashion,
we had the most beautiful sunset after such a terrifying day.

More on the earthquake:
  • Earthquake was a 7.6 on the Richter Scale at 8:40 AM
  • The epicenter was only 20 km away from us and was 25 km below the surface.
  • The tsunami warning was repealed once it was determined that the epicenter was under the mountains, not off the coast.
  • Costa Rica had been waiting for an earthquake this size for over 50 years and not all the pressure was released with this one quake
  • Within 48 hours of the initial quake we had over 500 aftershocks.
  • There is talk that the whole Nicoya Peninsula has risen over a meter out of the ocean.
  • Almost 1 month later and we are still feeling the earth move.