Friday, October 30, 2009

Soap and Sheep

Well, this has been an interesting week! Two of my Argentinian roommates left, but one of them (Noe) is still here. We had an Argentinian asado the night before they left, which was also Noe's birthday. It was a fun party - we grilled meat and toasted bread and drank a lot of wine :) Since then, things have been all over the place. I had to work in the laundry for a couple of days to try to figure out what was wrong up there - there have been a lot of problems with clothes not getting clean and taking too long, so I followed around the laundry girls and wrote a little report. Then I went back to the garden (yay!) and learned how to make soap out of used kitchen oil. How interesting! It was a little chemistry lesson, and it was really cool to mix. Noe wants to start a new project to experiment with making different types of soap. I want to learn how to use glycerine, but we haven't done that yet. Mosco says the soap you can make with glycerine is better, but usually it's kind of expensive. Pop, he thinks you could be selling yours if you're not using it :)

Yesterday, Noe and I had to herd sheep! That was the most hilarious job I have done so far. I mean, I was laughing all day. We had to take the sheep out of their pen and move them to another field because there was no grass left in the one they were in. We were supposed to watch them/move them around for a few hours, clean their pen, and then move them to the dairy so they could be treated for some various illnesses. It took us a good 15 minutes to get them out of the pen and moving down the road. Noe was running back and forth across the pen, and they just kept galloping in circles. I was standing outside in the road laughing. We finally got them out to the field, lost them a few times, and then ran them back to the pen by accident. It took us a while, but overall we thought we were doing pretty well. However, that changed after lunch. After lunch, Mosco asked us to go get the sheep and take them to the dairy. We went back down to the pen, ran them out, and starting moving down the road. About 50 yards down the road, they veered under a fence and took off across a small field. I was closer, so I ducked under the fence and took off after them. Unfortunately, we were wearing flip-flops at this point, because for some reason, we thought this part would be easy! Did I mention that these sheep are very scared of people? I chased them through a couple of fields, to another road, and halfway up towards the mountain. Then I decided I had to head them off, so I crossed into some more fields and starting traversing, ducking under fence after fence, until I got ahead of them. I ran them all the way back down towards Noe, back to the other road, and they ran right around her and directly back to their pen! I was laughing so hard that I thought I was going to pee in my pants! We starting out screaming "Good sheep, good sheep" and within 5 minutes we were screaming "Puta madre! Ovejas estupidas!" We had to start all over, but the second time I crossed into the fields from the beginning and followed alongside the road, crawling under fences as we went. When we got almost there, they tried to run down another road, and I ended up running all around the stinkin' farm, for about a half a mile to head them off, yelling at the garden guys to please help us with the fucking sheep! They just looked at me like I was nuts. Anyway, we finally got them into the barn. By the time I got back from my run two guys had come to help Noe, and they were just getting them inside. I will never forget that experience, for sure!

Last night we went to the closest small town to a hotel bar with a few friends. One of the guys is leaving tomorrow, so we went to have a little party. Today, Noe and I had the day off, so we ate breakfast late, talked a lot and drank a lot of coffee, and took a nap. She's really cool, and I'm enjoying getting to know her. I think we might go to El Castillo (a small pueblo near here) for dinner with one of the other volunteers, a guy from Florida, tonight. We'll see.

Mosco (my supervisor/friend) asked me yesterday if I would consider staying for another month to help him develop an education program he's working on. He wants some help writing the English materials and putting the information on the webpage. I have to think about that a lot because I really like Mosco and I like working with him, but I'm not sure I want to stay that long. I was planning on leaving after I go to Earth University with him on Wednesday. Hmmmm...

Let's see, only one other piece of news. I heard from the job in the Galapagos, and they wanted to know if I could come earlier than the time period I applied for. They sent the email to 5 people, and I replied yesterday saying I could come at the earlier time, so I'm waiting to hear back whether or not that means that I got the job. I hope so! If so, that will mean I need to be in Ecuador at the end of January.

Well, I hope everyone is well. Post and let me know if you're keeping up with the blog, and how you are!


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Day Off

Hello! Sorry for the delay, but things have been really busy around here. I ended up working a few shifts in the bar and restaurant because they were short-staffed, so I pulled two 13 hour shifts back to back this week. Thankfully, after that I went back to compost! I spent the past couple of days learning how to make bocashi, a fermented fertilizer, learning how to make natural insect repellent, and planting seeds. It's been a little rainy and dreary here, but otherwise good.

I'm getting pretty close to the guys I work with every day, so that is nice. I'm kind of seeing one of the garden guys. We've been spending a lot of time together, and he's really sweet and considerate. Nothing serious though :) I had an interpersonal conflict with a coworker last week, which was pretty unpleasant (because I hate conflict!), but everything's all right now. The volunteer coordinator helped me figure everything out. He's a good guy - calm, understanding, and helpful. He just started leading a daily meditation practice that I went to yesterday. It was very relaxing, so I think I'll keep going. Maybe I'll alternate days of that with days of yoga, since they're at the same time. Anyway, the vibe at the fieldhouse is changing. I got three new roommates and the old ones left. The new girls are from Argentina, and they're great. Really nice and friendly and affectionate. I'm enjoying having them around. I spent the last couple of nights hanging out on a balcony with the garden guys, listening to my friend/supervisor Mosco play the guitar and singing, drinking wine. Tonight I think we might have a girl party at my room. It's been really nice.

Today I have a day off, and I might also take tomorrow off. I get one extra day this week because of my extra hours. One day, we're going to go up on the mountain to collect microorganisms, so if that is happening tomorrow then I'm going to work tomorrow. If not, I'll take it off and maybe go for a horseback ride. I wanted to ride today, but it was kind of dreary weather and I couldn't find anyone to go with anyway. I just slept in and then laid around reading all day... It was relaxing. I can't believe that I've already been here for 3 weeks! One more week until I'm supposed to leave, but I'm going to stay at least until November 3rd, because then I'm leaving with Mosco to go to Earth University for a few days. We'll see after that. There's so much still to learn, but I want to travel too. Well, I'm going to run...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Let´s see if this works... I made it to Fortuna today and spent an hour uploading and editing photos...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Well, there's not much new here, but I figured it was about time for an update. I've been working in the compost, with a couple of breaks to work on the website for the ranch. Check out the photo gallery on Thursday - I've been updating it and the new stuff will probably go up on Thursday or Friday. Tomorrow is my day off, so I'm chilling with a beer right now. I was thinking about going to Fortuna tonight, but it's a bit of a pain, so I might just hang out here. Tomorrow, I'm going to chill, maybe go horseback riding, and watch Costa Rica play the US in soccer. I'm excited to sleep in and order breakfast off the menu!

I definitely need more clothes than I brought! Mine are getting filthy and wet, so I'm not sure what I'm going to do about that. I did a really good job of paring down my clothing before I left, and now I wish I had brought a few more things. It's been raining a lot, but it's kind of like New Mexico. It will rain for 2 hours, then be sunny and hot, the rain again...and so on.

I'm extremely happy! I really like it here - I like the people and the work, and I'm really content. I've got a good rhythm going on. My Spanish is getting quite good too. I think I'm going to leave at the end of the month, but I think I'm going to come back here, probably after I go up towards Guatemala and back. So, if anyone is interested in checking this place out, I think I'll be back here, either in December or January for a couple more weeks. I need to talk to the boss and see if that's okay. I'll try to narrow it down a little more soon :)

Hope everyone is well!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Unexpected Bed Guest...

Well, no pictures. Sorry! The trips to town are really short, so I don't think you guys are going to get pictures until I leave for good or for a few days. I don't want to spend my one day off a week in La Fortuna - it's kind of touristy. Anyway, things are going really well here otherwise. On my day off, I did laundry, hiked to a small waterfall, and then in the afternoon I took a couple of horses out and rode to the Mirador overlook with another volunteer. It was amazing. The weather got bright and sunny for us, and you could see the lake, the volcano, the farm - everything. We took our time and cantered all the way home. It totally made my day. Afterwards, I rode to La Fortuna to pick up some supplies, which was a long bumpy trip for just a half hour in town. I think I'll avoid that run in the future. I went to bed kind of early because I did so much during the day!

Yesterday, I worked in the garden for a while and then helped out with some website issues in the afternoon, which was nice. Then I hung out with some of the garden guys after dinner for a while, and tried to practice listening to very fast Spanish speaking. I had a really good night last night, actually, talking with one of the guys for while about life, etc . When I went to bed, I thought I heard something moving above my head, like an animal or something, but I looked around and listened for a while and didn't hear any more, so I went to bed. About 4 this morning, I felt something beside my head, and I jumped out of bed and scrambled for a light. When I got it on (I was still half asleep), all I could see was a little black blob. It was some kind of animal that had webbing between it's front legs and it's body, little pointy ears, and no hair. I had no clue what it was, but I was scared it might be dangerous! I took a picture of it, at which point it started running all over my bed in big, crazy circles! Every time it would get to the edge, it would turn around, so a deduced that it couldn't jump or fly. When it finally stopped, I threw a towel over it, carried it onto the balcony, ran back inside, and shut the door! I couldn't really sleep after that - I was afraid there might be more of them! Well, it turns out it was a baby bat. I thought it might be a bat, but it was small, hairless, and didn't fly, so I wasn't sure. My roommates were freaking out at first when I described it, because they thought it might have been a rat. Everyone got a good laugh out of it at breakfast, and about 3 people have been calling me a vampire all day. It was pretty ridiculous. The thing was kind of cute, actually :)

I'm still having various guy problems, but I think this is a bit of a public forum for airing all of those details! I have to have another 'talk' tonight, I think. Geez. Everything else is good. Did I mention yet that we have rice and beans at every meal? I'm learning to like rice and beans :) We usually have a few other things with them, salad and meat at lunch and dinner, so it's okay. It's pretty good for working actually, because it's filling, but it's a little hard to eat at breakfast. Rice, beans, cheese, and bread is a typical breakfast. We have granola every now and then. Interesting diet...but it's no big deal. I'm usually so hungry that I could eat anything. Maybe I'll lose a few pounds ;)

Hope everyone is doing well! I'll try to Skype one night from here...


Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Got the time wrong - I subtracted instead of adding two hours. I should be online about 7:30 EST...


Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Well, yesterday I moved back to compost, and I wasn't shoveling shit (smartass). I spent the morning finishing my lesson on compost chemistry and compost management, and the rest of the day taking temperature samples, recording the data, and "watering" the compost to increase the temperature. They actually use the heat generated by the compost to heat their water here. It's an impressive system. Then, I got put in charge of compost management for the next week or so. I'm kind of excited. I think you have to earn your respect around here, so I'm trying really hard. Anyway...I'm supposed to increase the water temperature. I'll let you know how that goes. The rock jacuzzi was pretty nice and warm tonight :) I fell down four times yesterday. Three times in the compost, and once down a few slippery stairs. I was covered in compost by the end of the day. I think I'm going to have to work on not being so clumsy. It's not a good quality to have in a place with so many machetes!

Today, I did spend the whole day shoveling shit. Literally. I spent about 7 hours moving one pile of compost to the other side of a big shed, because it had been sitting for too long and the temperature was too high (about 160 degrees F) inside the pile. This is no good because the nitrogen starts to it has to be mixed up. I was shoveling with a pitchfork for about 6 or 7 hours. Whew. I was feeling pretty good in the morning. By about 3, I thought I was going to fall over. At 4 when I got off, I stumbled to the shower and bed. I managed to make it up for dinner and then had a couple beers and visited the hot tub with the other female volunteers. Now, I'm feeling pretty good. Tomorrow is my day off, so I'm going to sleep in, do some laundry, and take a horseback ride to the overlook to see the volcano! I'm pretty excited about that.

That's about it for now...I'm studying Spanish when I have to energy and trying to memorize the verb conjugations that I've forgotten. I'm catching more of the fast conversations around me, and I think it's only going to get better. Hope everyone is well! If I make it into Fortuna tomorrow afternoon (around 3:30 EST), I'll post some pictures and try a Skype call home, if you guys are around, padres. Otherwise, I'll go another day this week after work. Pura vida!


Sunday, October 4, 2009

La Paciencia

Well well well... I re-learned a good lesson this week - remember to be patient! Thanks for the support and advice everyone. Everything is much better now. Let's see...I moved to a different bed, and I can sleep again! Yay! I have a bunch of 'friends,' I think. The night before last, there were a lot of people in the bar after dinner, and I played a guitar and sang with a couple of other people for a while. It was a lot of fun! I spent yesterday landscaping again. I'll have to post pictures, or you guys won't really understand. I was basically chopping with a machete all morning, and then carrying huge loads of branches and tropical plants on my head across a field to the tractor. It was insane. I was pouring sweat, but it felt good. Anna, you're my inspiration, I swear. I've been singing a lot :) I learned how to drive the tractor, from my friend Francisco. He drilled me with Spanish all day. I really like him; he's a nice guy. I met his wife and son, and we had a long conversation about relationships and interactions with people from other cultures. In fact, I've had some pretty complex Spanish conversations the last couple of days!

Then, I had to refuse a couple of propositions and have 'the talk' with one nice guy :) I'm determined to stay single while I'm here. Later, I got invited to a fiesta in the closest town, and I went there last night with the other gardener. It was cool - I watched the local children to a typical Costa Rican dance in costume and had a few beers. Today, I was learning about the biochemistry of compost when I got called away to the stables. They needed help, so I got to spend today over there. It was was a relaxing break from what I've been doing, and I got to ride. We changed the horses out for some others from the field, so we did some herding. It was great. I learned a few other things and got to practice my Spanish a lot. It's getting a lot better and everyone is being really patient. I'm starting to get to know the employees better, and even my roommate is starting to open up. I think maybe they were scared of me! Anyway, one of them has geometry homework that she's having trouble with, so I told her I'd be glad to help. I went to the hot tub after work today, and I'm feeling really relaxed. I'm about to conjugate some verbs and talk with some turists in the bar, and then try to get to bed early.

I'll do pictures and maybe Skype calls on my day off on Tuesday or Wednesday. I can't use facebook usually here, so sorry for the lack of communication there. Miss you guys and talk soon!


Friday, October 2, 2009

Hola otra vez

Well, I didn't have much time to write last night, so I'll try to get caught up today. I'm currently at Rancho Margot, in Costa Rica, and I'm planning on staying here for a month. I'm doing a work exchange - I work 48 hours a week, and they provide room, board, and use of their ranch. Today was my second day, and I am working my ass off. Yesterday I pulled weeds for 8 hours. Today I basically did lanscaping work - pruning, weeding, and cutting things down. I learned how to use a machete - carefully! Then we had to haul off all of the brush that we cut. It was rather grueling and very hot. I feel good overall, and strong, but very tired. Today at least, I was working with another guy, so I had someone to talk to. He was really nice, and he only spoke Spanish, so I had a good chance to practice. I'm doing the same thing tomorrow, and moving on to something else the next day. Supposedly, we will rotate areas of work every week, so I should get to do some other things - work with horses, learn how to make cheese or soap, milk cows, etc. That will be good, because I don't know if I could keep this pace for a month. We'll see.

I've managed to make a few friends, and there are a few tourists staying here right now, so there are people to hang out with in the evenings. I'm trying to get to bed early every night, though, so that I can get up on time. I have a little bit of a housing dilemma. They put me in the farmhouse, which is where many of the employees stay. I don't know if any of the people there are volunteers, other than me. The other volunteers (all English speaking) are staying in the bunkhouses, which are somewhat nicer and in a different area. I can't decide how I feel about the whole thing. My main problem with the farmhouse is that there is no hot water, and the beds kind of suck. I didn't get ANY sleep last night, but I figured out this morning that my bunk was missing a bunch of slats, so the mattress kept falling through. I moved today, so I'll try out the new bed. Also, my roommates don't seem to really care to have me invading their privacy (the 18-year old girls), so I feel a little uncomfortable. I think I could probably ask to move the the bunkhouses, but I don't want to seem like a spoiled wimp, especially not to the employees. I'd like to get to know them, so I don't want to just move because I "can't take" not having hot water, for example. I also think it's really good because I can speak Spanish more. However, I'm feeling a little isolated out there...I'm not sure what the best course of action is. Any advice?

For now, I think I'll just ride out the next few days and see how they go. As long as I can sleep, I think I'll be okay - I nearly lost it last night when I woke up for the 5th time and couldn't go back to sleep. I don't know if I mentioned it already, but it is absolutely beautiful here. The ranch is amazing - so beautiful it's surreal. Juan (the owner) really has a lot of cool projects going on, and I'm excited for my first day off so that I can go riding or hike to the viewpoint to see the volcano. So far, I've seen a spider monkey, several species of hummingbirds, some beautiful butterflies, and a lot of amazing plants. It doesn't look like I'm going to be able to upload pictures from this computer, so I might have to wait until I go to La Fortuna on my day off. Hope everyone is well!


Thursday, October 1, 2009

Hola de la finca

Well, I has my first full day of work today, and I feel for all you farm people! I weeded sweet potatoes (estuve desearbando camotes) all day, for about 8 hours. After that, my back and my legs were killing me. However, yoga in the afternoon made it a lot better :) My Spanish is getting better, and I'm feeling pretty good. It seems like the people who don't speak Spanish here kind of tend to gather together to speak English, so I'm tryin to avoid doing that. I want to practice speaking Spanish! My two roommates only speak Spanish, and they're about 18, and they're always sitting together giggling and talking muy rapido, so it's a little difficult. However, there are a lot of guys who are nice here, and they usually speak slowly so that I can keep up. Yesterday I had a tour of the farm, almost entirely in Spanish, and I understood almost all of it! My listening comprehension is getting much better already. Now I just have to work on my speaking skills and my vocabulary. Anyway...I'm tired, so I think I'm going to head to bed. I have to get up at 6:15 every morning, so I'm still getting used to the schedule. More soon...