Archive for April 2011

We’re from the country and we like it that way   Leave a comment

I’m sitting here in my hammock on the eve of my departure from Finmac and Pueblo Nuevo, and I’m realizing that I don’t want to leave yet. I’m not ready to leave yet. There will be some good things/ advantages of going back to San Jose, but I feel like I was just starting to really get to know the people and the way of life out here. It has mostly been due to the fact that as my research project wound down I have had more time and energy to spend doing other things. It also helped that there was an event – I would call it a sort of fair – in the town this weekend, that got me off the farm and meeting more people of the town more than I had before. I’ll give a quick recap of some of the highlights of my last week and a half:

As you’ve probably gathered, there are many different types of work carried out on this one farm: there’s the work with the cacao harvesting and processing, “other fruit/crops” harvesting, the chocolate-making Amazilias, the sloth searching research – I think the only thing left is the cattle ranching. Hugo’s land includes about 100 acres of pasture on which they raise cattle – both for milk for people living on the farm and town, and for meat to be sold. One day I finally expressed my desire to go horseback riding, and so the next day that I didn’t have a lot of my own work to do, I got to go along with tico-cowboy Roy (;D) to see what his work was like. After a little fright at the beginning – when my horse starting galloping away and me not being able to stop it (I told Roy I had gone horseback riding before, but I soon realized that it was going to be quite different than my girl-scout adventure of the past because I actually had to control the horse…), my horse Jimmy and I had a great time following Roy and Paloma (his horse) around the pastures to check on the herds of cattle. We ended up having to move some of them, so got to be a “real cowgirl” and help round up cattle and move them to different pastures. The only downer was that it was a rainy morning, so I couldn’t take out my camera much to take pictures (and I was worried about keeping control of my horse).

 Roy’s Horse, Paloma
My Horse, Jimmy

My “cowgirl”/ country girl experience continued into the weekend, as the fair was mainly comprised of events that most of us in the US would call a rodeo. In addition to selling special-event foods (like tamales – a food reserved mainly for Christmas time or festivals such as this), Saturday there was a “corrido de torros” – bull riding and a few other rodeo events – and Sunday there were soccer games with all the local teams and then una “carerra de caballos” – an event where people rode horses at a gallop and tried to hook a ring (about the size of a quarter) which was hanging from a rope using a stick just a little bit bigger than a pencil. I went to the bull-riding rodeo with my neighbor Geovanny and the other ACM student who lives in Pueblo Nuevo, and we got “the best seats” (according to Geovanny). We didn’t sit in the bleachers that are meant for the audience, we sat on the fence that makes the bullring, so we could be right up close and personal with the bulls running around the ring. Throughout these events I got great chances to meet and talk with other people from the town, on top of just enjoying all the cowboys and how much I loved the “countryness” of it all.


A Grandson of Doña Norma - he was quite the little cowboy

This guy was good: he won the most prizes and the grand prize

The last experience that I have to share is the trip I took today. Many times when I’ve talked with people about living in Pueblo Nuevo or at Finmac, they would ask me if I’d been to “the towers” yet. The towers refers to the radio towers that are on top of the mini-mountain just to the north of the farm; near the towers there is a lookout area from which you can see in all directions – even the ocean and Canals of Tortuguero to the northeast on a clear morning. Well, I finally got my chance to go today: some high school girls that live on the farm and a few of their classmates were going to walk to the lookout, and invited me to come with (this happened on a day when I was letting them use my computer/internet to help them with some homework). I was really looking forward to going with them: It would give me an opportunity to talk more, and with girls (kinda) close to my age. I realized that if you take away meal times with Doña Lucia or her sister-in-law, I spent about 98% of my time with guys, just due to the nature of my work and living arrangements. Well, lets just say this trip reminded me of why I usually spend more time with guys…

Instead of hearing “mae” every other word (Costa Rica’s word, which roughly translates to “dude”), every other sentence began or ended with “guilas” (a word used to call a group of girls (or guilos for guys)).  There was quite a bit more complaining from this group of friends than my others. I have noticed that walking/running for enjoyment or exercise is seen as strange by many people here, but this group was somewhat extreme. We had walked no more than a kilometer, with only a slight hill included, and they were already talking about how tired of walking they were, and we needed to stop and rest. Then, each time we stopped somewhere, it would usually at least 6 times of different people saying “okay, lets go” in order to get everyone in agreement of where we were going and if we were ready to leave. This was one particular that really got under my skin, because I wasn’t expecting on spending the whole day on this trip (It can easily be done in 3-4 hours, and we left at 6am) – I still had to finish work when I got back. I was reminded that the Costa Rican custom of saying “yes, in a little bit” doesn’t really necessarily mean a short while. Don’t get me wrong, I did really enjoy the day – it was great to talk with the girls and I’m sad that we waited until the last day to do this because I would have liked to spend more time with them getting to know a different side of Costa Rican culture, and the relationship that we formed in such a short time will be very hard to continue after today.

A view on the way up to the Mirador

A few of las guilas that went on the hike

I do have to admit that Kaylene and Evelyn did impress me with their machete-weilding skills...

So, all in all, I am going to be very sad to leave Finmac tomorrow. I have adjusted to rural life, and I am enjoying it quite a bit. I’ve met a lot more people than I thought I would after spending my first three weeks in near solitude, and I wish I could continue meeting more or getting to know better the people that I just recently had the chance to meet. It will be great to reunite with friends from ACM and San Jose soon, but I will definitely miss the fresh air and incredibly fresh food and kind people that have made this part of my experience so great.


Posted April 26, 2011 by rwieme in Uncategorized

Chocolate: From Tree to Treat   Leave a comment

[A post about the process of harvesting and processing chocolate with lots of pictures will be coming soon…]

Posted April 26, 2011 by rwieme in Uncategorized

Sloth Adventures   1 comment

So I’ve joked a little bit in earlier posts about starting other side projects in addition to my research that I’m doing with herbicides here at Finmac, but this week that idea suddenly become reality. Although it’s not a chocolate-testing project like I imagined, it’s still an experience unique to Costa Rica: I have started helping my neighbor and his assistant with the sloth research that they are conducting. It all started the day I returned to Finmac after our midterm report in San José; that day Geovanny and Adiel found a baby sloth that had been separated from its mother, so they brought it home for the day/night (so it wouldn’t be in danger). I, of course, was more than willing to help care for it. Our attempt the next night to reunite it with is mother was not successful – for some reason she has abandoned her baby. Therefore, we have become its surrogate family. We give him goat’s milk (cow’s milk would be fatal to a sloth) and leaves to eat. He’s almost old enough to feed himself, but he still loves milk. We’ve also started “tree training” him: when we first had him he spent most of his time in a box with a little “nest” and t-shirt to cling to, but he’s getting more and more active by the night (like the night he stayed with me when Geovanny was gone and pulled himself out of the box). However, when he’s put in a tree by himself, he cries (I would call it a “yip”) quite a bit and moves around too much, so it might be dangerous for him to spend a night outside. The solution: a makeshift tree (a big branch) placed above his box/nest in Geovanny’s house, so he gets used to spending time there and finding his food when he’s awake at night. It has been a really neat experience: yes, he’s adorable and it’s fun to have a “pet”, but also once we realized we weren’t able to reunite him with his mom it became Geovanny’s goal to get him ready to survive on his own in the wild, so we’re doing what we can not to coddle him (too much).

The next sloth-related adventure that I got to have was when I went with Geovanny at night to go sloth hunting (sloth-searching): he didn’t really believe me when I said I saw two sloths together at a certain part of the farm and so he wanted to go see them at night, and additionally thought that the female there might be a possible surrogate mother for our orphan because she had recently separated from her own pup. It was so neat – I really really really should have brought my camera with me. We saw 5 sloths – I was close enough to touch 4 of them. We also crossed paths with a bunch of other animals: about 6 armadillos, we got to watch the caiman as it caught and ate fish, got to approach a bascaliscus (Jesus Christ lizard – which are really hard to get close to during the day). We left our little sloth with the female that we found: she seemed okay with it at the time and our little guy was happy.

The next day, however, she had abandoned him, and he had some wounds from some sort of fight (he was also about 800 m from where we left him – we were lucky to have found him!). Poor guy had a stressful night; he’ll be staying with us a while longer. The rest of the day I spent walking around with Geovanny and Adiel as they located sloths and took information about their location, as well as captured a few to take samples for genetic information. I thought last night was amazing to see five sloths – today I saw at least 10, and held 2 more (besides carrying around the re-rescued orphan all day).

I’ll use pictures to help describe the experience:

One morning I helped take samples from this guy – he was pretty fiesty:

The process actually begins by using a radio antenna to locate the area that the sloth is in:

Then, you have to search the surrounding trees to find the little dark spot. The next step usually involves Adiel climbing a tree, and having a nice little struggle with the sloth to get it down:

We took samples from this little guy, and gave him a microchip in return. He was happy to go back with him mom when we were done.

And there were many others that we saw, including these two drug addicts (they were eating form a plant that has hallucinogenic effects): 

They sleep in such funny positions:

Posted April 1, 2011 by rwieme in Uncategorized