Adventures in Central America (Part 2)

Note: The following is a reproduction of the field journal I kept from my first summer in Costa Rica in June and July 1996, when I was a student at La Suerte Biological Station. This was the first time I’d ever left the United States for a country other than Canada. I’ve typed out the writing and included photos of the drawings when present.

Part 1 Here

Thursday, June 20, 1996 8:13 PM

I’m sitting on the screened-in back porch of the house I’m staying at in Escazú. This home is absolutely beautiful, with two full baths, four bedrooms, lavish furnishings and appointments, a maid (Luisa), a gardener (Lorenzo), two pot-belly pigs, two mini poodles, and wild-looking tiger cat. The back yard is mostly filled up by a swimming pool, but otherwise the gardens are beautiful and there is a poolside bar.

Yard of the house I stayed in on my first night in Costa Rica. Photo by Marcus C. England.
Yard of the house I stayed in on my first night in Costa Rica. Photo by Marcus C. England.

A short walk this afternoon yielded the following birds (I saw many more, but most were unidentifiable): Blue-gray Tanager (2) on top of someone’s TV antenna; Tropical Kingbird on power lines outside of this house; noisy and beautiful Boat-billed Flycatchers and Great Kiskadees; numerous swifts and swallows (see field notes); the very large Brown Jay; many Clay-colored Robins and Rufous-crowned Sparrows; and many (some sparrow-sized!) hummingbirds, the only identifiable one being a Rufous-tailed Hummingbird which I got good looks at.

Now, to get back to the Guatemalan experience… We finally got on a COPA flight (Panamanian airline) to San José at 2:00 PM. “Migraciones” officials were problematic as they didn’t stamp our passports the night before. We also found out that the excuse that the San José airport was closed was a lie, and that it never rained here. The real problems were mechanical.

We decided to walk to the Guatemalan national museums of archaeology and art (across from each other) which were absolutely beautiful buildings. The art museum was bland, but the other (less than “un Quetzal” for admission; 5 Quetzals = 1 Dollar) was marvelous and revealed Guatemalans have a startling reverence for their great history. The museum was primarily filled with gorgeous pieces from Maya ruins (mostly Tikal).

The flight to San José was beautiful. Saw many active volcanoes. I was even served lunch (the flight was only one hour and ten minutes). The house I’m at is the temporary residence of two ladies on my flight. They were so kind to offer me a place to stay. Tomorrow, we go to the bank at 9 AM to get some colones (205 colones = 1 dollar). It should cost 1000 colones to take a bus to Guapiles and then to Cariari. I will let you know tomorrow.

“San Jose Bus Station Fruit Stand 6/21/96” Sketch in journal by Marcus C. England.

Friday, June 21, 1996 12:07 PM

Fortunately, Luisa was able to help me arrange a cab with a non English speaking driver. The fare was fair (only 506 colones). The driver seemed friendly, though we never spoke a word to each other. The ticket to Cariari was only 390 colones (approximately $2.00) for a three hour ride. The bus leaves at 1:30. I spent a little time talking to some Americans on their way to Sarapiquí for a rafting trip. They just completed Peace Corps training and ultimately are headed for Panama for a two year stint.

I’m glad bus service exists. Driving is a bitch. People don’t stay in their own lanes and constantly cut each other off. Somewhat nightmarish.

[To be continued]

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