Notes from Windward: #67


Lindsay checks in again from Costa Rica

Hello Windward!

     I am writing to you from my "cabina" (Costa Rican word for hotel room, but simple rooms with a bed and a fan and enough room to turn around in off of somebody's home is a better description than what might come to mind when you hear "hotel room") in a town called Santa Cruz.

     I am happily and thankfully listening to the music you gave me at Windward, which I downloaded to my computer. And a few days ago, I was delighted to remember that it was on my computer, as it is quite calming and a welcomed change from the regeton (a type of latin rap) that is played most frequently and most loudly here.

     I have about 2 weeks left here in Costa Rica before heading back to MA and starting classes in Providence only a few short days after checking through customs. The last two and half weeks of this trip are dedicated once again to the research work, after spending the holidays recovering and rejuvenating myself. The water sampling is what brings me to the town of Santa Cruz, which awkwardly serves as both a resupply town for the surrounding cattle ranches and a necessary base for tourists headed towards the surfing beaches that line the pacific coast about 20kms from here.

     On these days when I am sampling, once the sun goes down, I am pretty quick to retire to my oh so homey cabina, to rest before starting it all again in the morning. Since the sun rises here around 6am, and my body rises with the sun, my days start pretty early. Strangely enough, I have found that I am quite frequently getting up earlier than the sun, which occurred sometimes at Windward as well, but rarely anywhere else.

     Today, when coming into town to place a recently collected sample in the freezer of the lovely woman who owns the cabinas where I am staying, I saw two men standing with shovels in the street, one of whom was also spraying water on a pile of rocks and sand on the side of the road. I realized they were making concrete-something I wouldn't have realized had I not spent those September afternoons mixing concrete with you for the base of octangle.

     I've noticed that these types of scenes, which are all so frequent in Latin America, make much more sense to me now, as I actually know what they are doing, and can respect their efforts, as opposed to just passing them by and having them be absorbed into the entirety of the moment and whatever thoughts of appreciation or disgust (or anything in between) I am having at the moment for the place where I am.

     It makes me wonder about all the misunderstandings I may have about the people and places in Costa Rica due to the fact I simply dont know what people are doing, or how it fits into their routine, whether they are performing a daily task so something that will "push the mission forward." Or even the ingenious use of materials or technology that I may be passing by because I cannot distinguish it from the rest of the scenery I am taking in at that particular moment.

     Similar to the town of Santa Cruz, Costa Rica on a whole puts on many different faces, or rather has many different layers at many different depths and one can experience whichever she chooses. The country caters to a very high paying, luxury tourist, who seeks exotic natural beauty accompanied by comfort and familiarity.

     With its many beaches and peaceful politics, it has also attracted many a drug-loving, surfer-dude(ette), some of whom have been here for decades and created gringo versions of Costa Rican paradise. Young backpackers on shoestring budgets traveling through central and south america also stop through costa rica, but often dont stay long since the costs are considerably higher than surrounding countries such as Nicaraugua and Guatemala.

     And of course there are the flocks of scientists and students who come to do research as costa rica has figured out it can make as much money off these "intellecutals" as they can from regular tourists by offering the infrastructure necessary for such research/study.

      And then there is the Costa Rica whose bathroom stalls and concrete walls and telephone poles are filled with graffiti denouncing the "TLC" which stands for Tratamiento de Libre Comercio (aka CAFTA) which was recently passed in october (though there is a referendum currently gaining speed to oppose it once again), and the hectares upon hectares of sugarcane monoculture that is growing, where once cattle grazed and more recently where rice grew, much of it being used to create ethanol.

      And the hillside farmers that plant their crops to within 2 feet of their one room homes, on 45% slopes with volcanic rocks the size of small wheelbarrows between every plant, or the tomato farmers that cover their fields with plastic because its too wet to grow tomatoes, and then spend christmas eve day walking down the rows, under the plastic, spraying pesticides on the plants which they administer from a canister which they carry as a backpack.

     When i send the email, i will attach a few pics taken from around costa rica, which you are welcome to use for the notes, if you choose. Here is a brief description of the pics:


Turrialbacrater: a view down into the crater of one of CR's active volcanoes, i climbed up this volcano new year's day. Staring into the earth i thought would be a good way to start the new year!


Croc: a friendly crocodile who makes his home on the tempisque river, near one of my sampling sites. Thankfully i was in a boat for this picture.


Continentaldivide: this is the view from the continental divide down to the pacific coast.


Sunset: taken from the palo verde national park biological station, which i am using as my base for the field work. The park serves as a nesting/feeding ground for many migratory and endemic bird species.


Rice_sugarcane: a typical scene in the lowlands of northwestern costa rica where i am doing the water sampling. In the foreground is rice, and in the background you can see the sugarcane stalks.


Orchid: these bright orchids grow in the grassy areas adjacent to not so frequently travelled dirt roads/paths.

     I hope you are well, and send my regards to all those at windward. Lindsay
Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 67