Renee is a second-year Shimer student whose Shimer Internship/Mentorship is at an Ecotourism Bed and Breakfast in Costa Rica this summer. Here beginneth her account of her adventures there.
It is my second day here at the Mariposario in Montezuma, Costa Rica, and so far I have had quite the introduction to the place by the wildlife. In Chicago, it is easy to forget all about nature, as we live in sanitized, insulated boxes with piped in air and greenish artificial lighting. We have lights lining our streets, and ground that isn't paved is manicured, weeded, and sprayed into submission.
Here in Montezuma, it is all but impossible to forget about nature. The first night I was here, I was greeted by purple and neon orange crabs in the bathroom and geckos that hang out on the ceiling and laugh intermittently with timing that is remarkably comedic.
I have also been hazed by hooting Howler Monkeys and hand-sized tarantulas, both of which I have never encountered outside of a zoo or otherwise without the protection of thick glass and/or bars. Here is some footage of me and some garden workers 'talking' to the Howler Monkeys www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZYClgqQVpz8
Apparently, the Howler Monkeys will not only howl at you, but will also throw things at you if you rile them up enough. I have not attempted this yet, but I have three months to go. Hopefully, they will throw a mango at me, as they can reach them and I can't. I'd love a fresh picked mango!
To give you a better idea of what it is like here, I will describe the office in which I work:
Obviously, there is no air conditioning; only a fan to help move the air. The weather is not bad, however; it rains a lot, and though the humidity has turned my hair into a crazy tangle of gravity-defying curls, I find it loads more pleasant than the obnoxious cold I have to deal with anywhere indoors during Chicago's sweltering summers. Something about the drastic change from intense outdoor heat to meat-locker frigidity indoors seems unhealthy. The body adjusts to the temperature outside, and I haven't had any discomfort.
In the room with me is a gecko, a blue wasp, some kind of moth, three yellow flying ants/termites (not sure exactly what they are), and a little purple and orange crab that just scuttled out the door. I also saw a black and orange baby tarantula the size of a quarter hanging out in the corner.
Outside the floor-to-ceiling windows, I can see a plantain tree, a noni bush, a mango tree, a papaya tree, and this strange tree that has large pods that is supposedly related to cacao. There are also palm trees, and other tropical plants and flowers. The magnificent Costa Rican morphos is an iridescent blue butterfly, and can be seen flitting in loopy patterns outside from time to time.
In the distance, I hear the throaty call of the Howler Monkeys every time a car passes (apparently, the cars sound like a howler monkey call, so it sets them off). Right outside the window, two different types of hummingbirds have visited a hibiscus plant.
Over all, being this close to nature is simultaneously awe-inspiring, exhilarating and terrifying. I remember being a kid, playing out in the woods of Tennessee with toads and snakes and daddy-long legs, and thinking nothing of it. I am reminded of that when I see four year old little girls playing with tarantulas with no reservations. I am also reminded of my self at that age, and how living in Chicago for 15 years has made me extremely squeamish and...well, different. I like that I am getting accustomed to living side by side with nature again, as terrifying as that can be (in the case of seeing four hand-sized tarantulas in my living quarters...ack!).
Whatever ends up happening, I know I'm in for an adventure!
Next up, I will be posting a virtual tour of the butterfly garden (also known as Mariposario) here at Montezuma Gardens. Stay tuned!