Stephanie Fong, Zachary Fazio, Landis Masnor, and Renee Meschi are Shimer students participating in the Shimer Summer Internship Program. They regularly post updates about their internship experiences.
This post is from Renee Meschi, who is studying entomology and international business at the Montezuma Bed & Breakfast and Butterfly Garden in Costa Rica.
On May21st, I arrived in Montezuma around 10pm after an entire day of travel via taxi, boat, bus and van from the San Jose airport.
"How are you with bugs?" asked Josh, my internship coordinator.
"Um...mind over matter, really" I answered hesitantly.
"Good." he responded.
Little did I know how much "matter" my mind would have to overcome.
Fast forward an hour. I am standing in the middle of the common area, and around me are three hand-sized tarantulas. They are reacting to my movement, and they have me cornered. There is one stark light bulb hanging above my head. Thunder rumbles in the distance, and it starts to rain. The power dips, and the light flickers. My heart pounds, and my stomach lurches as I break out into a cold sweat.
In the immense darkness, just outside of the circle of light in which I stand, I see another tarantula starting to scale the wall.
I hear a chuckle behind me.
Josh warned me that the geckos here make a sound akin to laughter, and that they have marvelously comedic timing. "I know, I know...." I say to the gecko, painfully aware of my gringa-lack of jungle "street cred."
My sleeping bunk is pressed to a wall and a window with a broken screen. Johan, my roommate, said he's only seen a tarantula in the room once. He, however, goes to bed by 10pm and prefers to sleep in complete, pitch-black darkness. He says he is a deep sleeper, and I wager that even if they were crawling all over him and the walls, he would not be aware of it.
I decided right then and there that I would stay where I was, with all of the tarantulas in view, until day broke. I decided that as soon as the sun came up, I would tell my internship advisor that I simply could not get through this without copious amounts of Xanax, and that I was going to catch the first plane back to the US. I started to imagine how I would deal with the shame of backing out of the internship. I decided I would pay back all of the money I had received, and requesting that it be distributed to the other three Kemper Grant winners. Feeling defeated, I sat there with the spiders.
The treeline started to become visible; morning was coming. One by one, they retreated back into the darkness. Finally, it was just me and the first one I saw. Extremely exhausted after a day of particularly difficult travel, I realized that the spiders did not seem so terrifying after a while. In fact, their movements seems really cautious and gentle. I started to see beauty in them. Finally, I became bored and went back up to my room and went to sleep.
Fast forward two months.
I am sitting in the same common area, enjoying all of the gigantic bug-visitors we get clustered on the ceiling every night. On my shoulder is a praying mantis getting ready to molt. On my computer screen sits a lime green stink bug. On my hand is a jumping spider, peering up at me cuiously with two cartoonlike black orb-eyes. In the distance, just beyond the edges of the light, I see a shadow. It is a large, hand-sized tarantula.
My first instinct is to race over towards it, approaching it from behind so it does not run away. I bring a tupperware container, and coax it inside, gently pushing with the lid. I am astounded at the utter lack of fear I have; it seems all of the fear has been channeled to deep, insatiable curiousity.
I take the spider back into the light, and start a photo session (see the picture at the top of this blog post). I immediately upload the photos online and try to identify the species. My roommate pulls the legs off of a cricket and finds a dead gecko, giving both to the tarantula to eat. We officially have a sort of 'pet.'
This transformation has been amazing, for me. I expected to find cultural divides and gaps and clashing worldviews, but the largest gap I found was not between cultures, but between humans and arthropods. To truly live with nature, be ecologically friendly and over all "walk our talk" where "being green" is concerned, we have to accept the presence of arthropods in our space. Beyond acceptance, we must appreciate them, as well, as they make up the vast majority of life forms on our planet, and are far more necessary than we are to the ecosphere.
Which brings me to my Youtube video, and its caption: "Touch a bug...you won't regret it!" :-D Needless to say, my internship has taken a turn towards biology and namely entomology. Enjoy!