I am a native in this world And think in it as a native thinks

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Astronomy Tuesday

I don't think I've ever seen the Great Lacerta Nebula before. But it is spectacular, and I'm just going to let the image speak for itself.

Image Credit and Copyright: Jarmo Ruuth, Telescope Live

Monday, September 19, 2022

Ruinas de Ujarrás

Another ruined church. This one, dating from the late 17th century, is all that is left of the village of Ujarrás, which was abandoned after a flood in 1833. The land surrounding the ruins is now a park.

Sunday, September 18, 2022


I didn't post a reflection shot yesterday, so here's something appropriate: two chairs in the cafeteria at school.

Teaching yesterday went well, but I was so tired last night I couldn't even read. The overhead projector crapped out in my Level 1 Speaking and Listening class, and I had 50 slides of pictures to use for prompts. (I improvised by turning the computer monitor around and having the students move closer.)

And I sent a text to one of my fellow teachers asking which room she was in. Or I meant to—I dictated the text because I was in a hurry, and somehow What room are you in went through as Wow marihuana.

But the students are lovely and eager to learn.

Sunday bird blogging

A brown jay in Monteverde.

Friday, September 16, 2022

Urban poetry

I love the tropical colors on these buildings on my street in San José.

I'm teaching the first classes in my practicum tomorrow and I'm still cobbling together lesson plans and activities. Last night I dreamed that I tested positive for Covid and couldn't teach. I already knew that I was stressed out; having my brain suggest that coming down with Covid might be a lucky break just confirmed it.

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Astronomy Tuesday

I am always fascinated by images of the sun, all the detail that's hidden by the overwhelming brightness.

This image shows a filament—a formation of hot gas held aloft by the sun's magnetic field—that appeared at the beginning of September. This filament was approximately 350,000 kilometers long; filaments usually last for a few days before collapsing back into the sun.

Image Credit and Copyright: Alan Friedman (Averted Imagination)

Monday, September 12, 2022

Garden break

Here's a pastoral interlude: light on the leaves in my garden in San José.

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Sunday bird blogging

I took this picture of a great kiskadee in Monteverde, but they were also one of the more common birds in San José and throughout the central valley in Costa Rica.

Saturday, September 10, 2022

Saturday reflections

Not the best reflections, but a lovely view all the same: a lake in the Orosi Valley, below the hotel where we had lunch on the last day of the program.

Today I'm administering placement tests to the students who will be taking English classes this semester. I'm really nervous, though I imagine not nearly as nervous as I'm going to be next Saturday when I start teaching them.

Friday, September 9, 2022

Urban poetry

I have no idea what this contraption is—it was on top of a truck driving down the street in my neighborhood in San José. I would have liked to get better pictures of it, but if I hadn't already had my camera in hand, I wouldn't even have gotten this one.

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Orosi Valley

I've been back for a month, and Costa Rica already feels like something that happened years ago. But here's photographic evidence that I was actually there, at an overlook above the Orosi Valley.

Astronomy Tuesday

This beautiful new image from the Webb Telescope's near-infrared camera (NIRCam) shows the Tarantula Nebula in stunning detail.

Image credit and copyright: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Webb ERO Production Team

Monday, September 5, 2022

Y una bicicleta

It's missing the elaborate decorations but the red on this bicycle (at the language school) reminds me of the carretas.


Oxcarts—called carretas in Costa Rica—have been used in rural communities around the world to transport goods, but these distinctive bright orange and red designs are unique to Costa Rica.

The tradition began when a farmer wanted to decorate his carreta so he could use it to take his family on Sunday outings, and he painted it orange because that was the only color paint he had. And then of course everybody wanted one. A highly decorated oxcart became a status symbol because it meant the family was wealthy enough to hire an artist, and different regions developed their own styles of decoration.

This carreta was at the Doka Estate Coffee Plantation in Alajuela.

Sunday, September 4, 2022

Sunday bird blogging

I saw flocks of these large birds hanging out in the trees in Monteverde, but it took me a while to identify them. I thought at first they might be a type of guan, another very large bird common in the area, but all of the guans had distinctive red or blue markings. And except for having feet that were so much bigger than their brains, there was nothing distinctive about these birds at all .

Except, as it turns out, for their name. May I present: the gray-headed chachalaca! Much as I love exotic and amusing bird names, I had somehow never heard of chachalacas before. And now, just knowing that there are birds called cachalacas and that I have actually seen them makes me absurdly happy.

Chachalaca! Chachalaca! Chachalaca! Say that three times really fast.

Fruit p**n

Some more bananas, just because they are so photogenic. And a portrait of the pineapple that I bought at the market. It smelled so divine that I hesitated to cut into it, thinking it couldn't possibly taste as good as it smelled.

But it did.

Saturday, September 3, 2022

Yes, they had no bananas

Some of the vendors. No, they weren't all selling bananas, but it was definitely the most common fruit for sale.

People at the market

This is kind of a crappy picture, but when I wandering through the market I was too mesmerized by the food for sale—and taking pictures of that—to try to take many pictures of the other shoppers. And it was really crowded, so the few pictures I did take were uninspiring.

When my bag was getting too heavy to lug around any more and I still had half an hour before meeting up with the group for our ride back to the school, I went to the food stands along one end of the market and bought an empanada so I could sit down. You couldn't see much of the market from where I was sitting but I was too lazy to walk around any more, and so this is the best I've got.

Farmers' market

The first weekend in San José we went to the Zapote market. It was hot and crowded and I am still dreaming of the beautiful, ridiculously inexpensive fruits and vegetables I bought there: pineapple and watermelon and avocados and mangos and carrots.

Saturday reflections

Downtown San José.

Friday, September 2, 2022

Urban poetry

Tires against a garage wall in downtown San José.

Thursday, September 1, 2022

Butterfly break

For your afternoon respite, a selection of butterflies from Costa Rica.

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Really not a face you want to see coming towards you

Even if it's on the other side of some thick glass. This magnificent jaguar was at the La Paz Waterfall Gardens, and it really was more than a little unnerving when it turned and started walking in my direction.

I have rather a similar feeling at the moment as the new semester gets underway. I won't actually be in a classroom for a couple of weeks yet, but the thinking and planning is a little overwhelming. Like something with claws and big teeth has just noticed me standing there...

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Astronomy Tuesday

This new image from the James Webb Space Telescope shows an even stranger than usual phenomenon.

WR140 is a Wolf-Rayet star, a massive star near the end of its life that is throwing off most of its mass into space. The rays that you see shooting out from the star are just caused by the camera lenses diffracting the starlight, but those wavy rings around the star are not an illusion. WR140 is part of a binary star system, and it's the gravitational interaction with its partner that's creating the strange symmetrical shells from the gas it's shedding. Like the rings in a tree, a new ring is created every time the two stars in the system circle each other, approximately once every eight years.

Image copywright: JWST/MIRI/Judy Schmidt

Tree in the gardens

I don't know what these viny things are—they were hanging off one of the trees in the garden—but I love the way they look against the window.

More Santiago Apóstol

Two looks at the exterior.

Monday, August 29, 2022

Santiago Apóstol

Inside the church walls are these beautiful gardens. They're supposedly haunted by the headless ghost of the murderous priest, but honestly, if they didn't want the priest hanging around forever they should have made the place less appealing.

Downtown Cartago

This is the view from the ruins of Santiago Apóstol in central Cartago.

There have been a series of churches on this site since the sixteenth century, most of them destroyed by earthquakes. The guidebooks point out that the church that's there now isn't technically a ruin because it was never finished. It was to have been the only Romanesque style church in Costa Rica, but after yet another earthquake in 1910 it was abandoned.

There is a legend that two brothers, one a priest, fell in love with the same woman. The priest killed his brother with a knife during Mass, and though he vowed to build a church to atone for his sin, the church was destroyed by an earthquake a year later, as was every subsequent church on the site, which is taken as proof that it is cursed.


Cartago is about an hour southeast of San José. It became the first capital of Costa Rica in 1563, but extensive volcano damage in 1732 led to its being gradually overshadowed, and then replaced, by San José.

It's most famous for La Negrita, the Black Madonna shrine at the basilica. Unfortunately our visit coincided with the annual pilgrimage to the shrine so we couldn't visit the basilica, and though we saw the crowds of pilgrims, some of whom had been walking for days, I couldn't really get any good pictures from the bus.

My idea of a pilgrimage is obviously a couple of centuries out of date, because these pilgrims, with their sneakers and athletic wear and backpacks, looked like any group on an organized long walk. One thing I'd never seen before: there were the usual tables handing out water and snacks to the pilgrims as they passed by, but instead of bottles, the water was in plastic bags knotted at the top. I half-expected to see goldfish.

I don't know if this gentleman was a visitor or lived in Cartago. He was sitting by himself on the main street, watching the crowds go by.

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Sunday bird blogging

Usually I only include birds I see in the wild in Sunday Bird Blogging. But these macaws—a scarlet and a green—at the La Paz Waterfall Gardens were so adorable I'm making an exception.

Saturday, August 27, 2022

Saturday reflections

I love the way the bottom two sections of the sign reflect the neighborhood, as a noirish constrast to the bright colors for the party store.

I took this from the bus on our way out of San José on one of our excursions.

Friday, August 26, 2022

Urban poetry

Classes for my final semester started tonight. Here's a reasonable approximation of my neural wiring at the moment.

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Winged insect break

I'm in the mood for something simple and beautiful tonight, so I wanted to post a picture of one of the many butterflies I saw in Costa Rica. I'm pretty sure that this guy, in my garden in San José, is actually a moth rather than a butterfly, but it will do.

I love that fuzzy blue body. It looks as though it hasn't quite given up on being a caterpillar.

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Mas Mercado Central

The market is labyrinthine, and despite these pictures, was very crowded when we were there, so I was ready to leave about ten minutes after I got there.

Herbal remedies

Mercado Central

I always enjoy visiting the markets wherever I go, however much I have come to loathe shopping in general. In the Mercado Central in downtown San José, you can buy everything from clothes and furniture and housewares to produce and prepared foods and souvenirs.

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