Who needs tryptophan in times like these?

Written: November 27, 2008

Dear Friends/Family,

I am stiff, sore, sleep deprived, and exhausted... but I am alive. And tan. On this early morning of Thanksgiving, I am watching our walking trash compactors (a.k.a. hermit crabs and jackolantern crabs) move about in herds across the sandy terrain of the kitchen/common area. Though, by the time I type this, I will have made the two hour/9K trek into town to pound some keys at the Coyote internet cafe. I am thankful today to think of all of you, and how you will be spending this evening together in each other´s company.

I am still patiently waiting to have more positive things to say about this experience, but we are shorthanded, and I am far too tired to think much farther beyond my airline pillow, and my mosquito net covered bed. Yesterday was my first full night´s sleep. It felt amazing. The common trend, so far, has been 2-3 hours at strange intervals of the day. I am almost always awake by 7:30am, regardless of how many hours I was asleep before. But this particular morning I was up at 2:45am to do my 3 hour beach patrol from 3-6am. This is typical, and I´d only say that I am lucky because I didn´t have to do double, or even triple shifts. This week I will have walked 74K. Last week was still fresh and was a 56K, though one of those days I did 22K, alone. My muscles are getting used to the long, sandy treks, but it is taking its toll on my knee and I have begun to sometimes walk with a walking stick. I also hope that on any given night, I am not carrying 400-500 turtle eggs on my back, though it is likely destined to happen. There is a great reward in all of this, though, and it comes daily when we release the hundreds of hatchlings into foamy Costa Rican tides.

A typical day consists of breakfast at 10am by the two people scheduled to have kitchen duty that day. Those two people cook all of the meals, and check the hatchery every hour from 10am-9pm (the rest of us check the hatchery every hour from 10pm-9am). If there are babies then they must be counted, recorded, and loaded into buckets to be lugged down to the sector where the eggs were originally laid. The beach is broken into North and South, and marked every 100m. North patrol is 8K, and South patrol is 6K.

Most of us spend the day on the beach, sleeping (but it is entirely too hot to sleep), laying in the hammock, reading. Some days we venture into town if we have the energy, like today, to use the internet or get suplies at the super market. Every Wednesday at least two of us venture to the bar to haul fresh vegetables back for a weeks worth of cooking. The trek is 6K, one way, down the sandy, then dirt road, over the fence, through the cornfields, and then through the jungle to Playa Coyote. We heard howler monkeys yesterday and drank virgin piña coladas. It was my first time back into civilization since I arrived here.

At about 4pm, we have lunch. Afterwards, is nest exhumations, which occurs 2-3 days after the first hatchings appear. Some of us sit and watch the sunset around 5pm, before heading to bed for those who have early patrols or doubles. Patrol times are based on the cycle of the moon and how it effects the tide. First patrol may be as early as 5pm, or as late as 12am. Second patrol is anywhere from 12-3am, and if the tides call for an ocassional third patrol, then they generally begin about 4am. Dinner is always between first and second patrol.

Six nests have been my most in one patrol, and I have had the opportunity to tag numerous laying females. Two nights ago we had our first leatherback, the ¨dinosaurs of the sea.¨ The two people on patrol said that it looked like a tractor had driven up on the beach. She was already burying her eggs, and they only had time to measure her. We are not trained to tag her yet, and was unable to recover the nest. Most of our turtles have been olive ridleys, but we are hoping to have an infulx of leatherbacks, since December is the beginning of their season. To put their scare population into perspective, we are told that we will likely never have to tag a leatherback, because there are so few remaining in the Eastern Pacific (and in the world), that nearly every one has already been tagged. We get olive ridleys daily, and every single one we have come across so far has not been tagged. At this point we have yet to have a hawksbill, or a green, but I really hope to witness all species in sight and touch before my time is done here.

Aside from all of the hard labor we have going on here, from our many daily kilometer walks, to the numerous buckets of water hauled up from the well, and from the beach, and the heavy buckets of sand that we must lug to and from hatchery exhumations, I´m doing all right. I´m tan, fed, quenched, and lean. I fall asleep to the sounds of the tide every night. I wake up to the sparkling ocean, or witness the sunrise if I am out on early patrol. The night sky is impecable, and I get to see and live with animal life that I never dreamed and/or expeceted to come across. I live a simple life here, that revolves entirely around its natural elements of wood, metal, water, wind, earth, and fire. Most importantly, I get to share this with 6 other amazing individuals. We get to be here on the number one nesting site in Costa Rica, on the only undeveloped strip of coast that is left. And on the second most important leatherback nesting site in all of the Eastern Pacific. It´s great. It´s wonderful. It´s an honor to be here. And I am extrememly glad to be a part of it all.


er!ca said…
This makes me smile...yet at the same time it brings tears to my eyes. It hurts to know you're hurting, tired, secluded. But, I find comfort in knowing you're fed, safe, and chasing your dreams. I love you and miss you more than words can express.

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