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

Sunday, July 31, 2022

Sunday bird blogging

Flocks of crimson-fronted parakeets are a common sight—and sound—in San José, but they're usually perched on top of buildings or zipping by overhead, so aren't easy to photograph.

But I was lucky enough to find this one in my garden on Wednesday. I heard him before I saw him, and he somehow managed to keep shrieking even while eating.

Saturday reflections

This building is near one of the roundabouts that make traveling by foot through San José take so much longer than Google Maps leads you to expect.

The program is over and I'm leaving San José in the morning. I wish I had a few more days here, much as I'm looking forward to seeing a different part of Costa Rica.

Friday, July 29, 2022

Urban poetry

This has been my home in San José for the past two weeks. I had dinner in Barrio Escalante tonight with some people from the program; it's a very chic neighborhood full of interesting cafés and small parks, and I think if I ever come back to San José I would stay there.

My neighborhood is strictly residential and adjoins a highway; the only restaurants are fast food and I buy my groceries at, I kid you not, Walmart.

But behind an unremarkable wall on my ordinary street is this oasis, a two-story glass house surrounded by garden. I love the way the front door seems to float there on its own; that's actually the living room to the right, looking through two sets of glass doors to the garden in the back. My bedroom is on the second floor behind the tree.

The Uber coming home from the restaurant took five minutes and cost two dollars, so I can easily hang out in the cool neighborhood without having to sleep there.

Mariposa bonita

I've spent the evening working on my final video project for this class. It's not due for another week, but I'm spending several days up in the mountains after the program ends on Sunday and I do not want to be doing homework while I'm there.

So I'm too tired to say anything interesting. Fortunately this blue morpho butterfly requires no commentary.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Astronomy Tuesday

I wouldn't have thought it was possible to have too much detail in one of these images, but this look at spiral galaxy M74 from the Webb Telescope may change my mind.

Wow. Just wow.

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI; Processing Copyright: Robert Eder

Tuesday, July 26, 2022


Sadly, I do not have a picture of Felicia—she was hiding behind some plants in her cage, and all I could see was a vague spotty shadow. But even without a picture her story is worth telling.

Felicia is an ocelot, and was brought to the Toucan Rescue Ranch when the drug dealer who was keeping her as a pet was arrested, and the police found her sitting on the couch in his apartment. Because she was still very young, it was hoped she could be rehabilitated and returned to the wild.

The first problem they noticed was that she wasn't going to the bathroom. She had been trained to use a litter box, and refused to go without one. So they put a litter box in her cage and she used it happily.

The most important skill for living in the wild is obviously being able to feed yourself, and so next they put a chicken in her cage to see if she would hunt it. The first day she was scared of the chicken and hid, but by the third day she had made friends with it. 

So Felicia will also be spending the rest of her life at the ranch, using a litter box and refusing to kill her dinner.

Monday, July 25, 2022

Snack time

This sloth is named Latte, and she investigated this potential snack very very slooooowly, before deciding that it met with her approval.

Let sleeping sloths lie

Who knew sloths were so adorable? I certainly didn't, and I have actually seen sloths in the wild, in Panama. Those were basically big brown motionless furballs way up in the trees, and not at all cute, as opposed to this little guy, Milo, and his friends at the Toucan Rescue Ranch outside San José.

Yesterday was our only unscheduled day, and several of us went to the ranch for a tour. We got to see toucans, monkeys, and other wildlife in addition to the sloths. Some of them had been pets; some were injured by cars or power lines. Because the goal is to return as many of the animals to the wild as possible, human contact needs to be limited, and you can only see the animals who for one reason or another can't be rehabilitated. (One poor spider monkey for example was kept as a pet by an owner who cut off her prehensile tail to keep her from grabbing things with it.) 

It takes two years to teach a sloth to live in the wild, and those, like Milo, who fail to graduate will continue to live at the ranch with yummy snacks and blankets to keep them warm for naps.

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Sunday bird blogging

A white-winged dove in the trees by ILISA.

This is one of the common birds in San José, and unlike the noisy green parrots that are also everywhere, they're not what you'd expect in the tropics.

But that is another thing I like about the tico culture. In a country with hundreds of species of birds, including spectacular specimens like quetzals and scarlet macaws and violet sabrewings, the national bird of Costa Rica is: the clay-colored thrush, which is basically a brown robin.

San José

Three random pictures of San José: the one on the right is the view from ILISA in the San Pedro district, and the other two are of downtown streets.

It's not a particularly lovely city. It's old and a little gritty and more than a little shabby. You can see why there aren't a lot of tourists here—this isn't the Costa Rica people imagine visiting. But I like the liveliness and the energy and the cityness of it. I'm enjoying taking buses or Ubers, buying groceries, and navigating restaurants and food stands in my mediocre Spanish.

I'm going to spend a few nights up in the mountains when this program is over and see more of the Costa Rica on all the travel brochures, but I'm glad I got to spend this time in San José first.

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Saturday reflections

Trees and the welcome and all too rare blue sky, in the windows of the ILISA language school that is our home base in San José.

I opted out of today's excursion to the beach. It would have required getting on a bus at 5am for a two hour ride, followed by another hour on a boat, and then after spending a few hours trying not to expose my Irish skin to too much sun, doing the whole thing in reverse and maybe getting back to San José by 7pm.

Our days are so full here, with lectures and presentations on the education system, visits to museums and markets, and Spanish classes every afternoon, that I'm thrilled to have an unscheduled day. There's a cemetery across the highway that I've been wanting to take a look at, and I may meet up with a friend to visit one of the markets.

And of course I do have plenty of homework. There is always homework.

Friday, July 22, 2022

Urban poetry

As an East Coaster, power lines above ground immediately make me think of snow, and power outages. It doesn't snow in Costa Rica, but I'm sure they get hurricanes, and I wouldn't want to be around any of these power lines after a big storm of any kind.

But I love the patterns they make.

Thursday, July 21, 2022


The food has been very good here—I bought mangos and a pineapple at the farmers market on Sunday and they were heavenly—but these tacos from a uninspiring food court on Avenida Central are on an entirely different level of deliciousness. Eleven on a scale of ten.

I could eat them every day, and I may.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Póas volcano

First, a word about the Costa Rican weather. It is variable in a way that London would envy; it rains every day, but fortunately not all day every day. Instead it drizzles for half an hour, then the sun comes out for an hour, then it pours, then it's cloudy for a few hours, then the sun comes out again. It is however extremely humid all the time—I don't think my hair has been completely dry since I left New York, and I had to do laundry yesterday after only five days because two showers a day really depleted my supply of clean underwear.

This means we were really lucky to actually see the crater during our excursion to Póas on Saturday. The professor directing our program had been there several times before but it had always been hidden by the mists. And as you can see in the pictures, although it was sunny when we arrived the fog was rolling in by the time we left.

Póas is an active volcano, so visits are limited to twenty minutes and there are concrete shelters on the viewing platforms in case of an unexpected eruption. You also have to wear hard hats; each tour group got hats in a different color, so the trail from the visitors center to the volcano was a sea of reds and yellows and whites bobbing along through the trees. The last major eruption was in 2017, which closed the park for eighteen months, and some of the trails are still closed. In the picture on the right, you can see the effect of the acid rain from the gases that are still being emitted.

Monday, July 18, 2022

Pura Vida

Pura Vida is the all-purpose expression here. It can be used to say thank you or nice to meet you or great, or any time you want to express that you're good, life is good, the world is good.

I was tired when I took this picture of the view from the La Paz Waterfalls Nature Park on Saturday after a long day of excursions. And the altitude had given me a headache, but this panorama did more to make me feel better than the Advil I took. What a beautiful country.

¡Pura vida!

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Sunday bird blogging

Ok, I guess I really am in Costa Rica. I left my bird guide back in New York because my suitcase was already too heavy, so I will probably not be able to identify many of the birds I see here until I get home.

This hummingbird outside the wildlife sanctuary we visited yesterday turned out to be easy, however. I just Googled large purple hummingbird Costa Rica and there it was: the violet sabrewing.

Saturday, July 16, 2022

Saturday reflections

It was a fourteen hour day today and I'm too tired to say anything intelligent or even list today's many activities. But here's a reflection from downtown San José yesterday.

Friday, July 15, 2022

La mañana en San José

I made it. Estoy en Costa Rica.

My AirBnb is gorgeous—all glass windows and doors set in a garden behind high walls so it's completely private. The neighboorhood is uninspiring, to put it mildly, with a highway at the end of the street, but I think it's worth it to have this oasis. (And I decide it's not, I'll move to a hotel in a more charming location.)

I'll take better pictures later but in the meantime, here's the view from my bed taken with my phone. I've already seen a hummingbird in the flowers.

Now I have to get dressed and try to navigate the insanely convoluted San José streets and find the language school that's going to be our home base.

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Astronomy Tuesday

Of course, I was going to post this one: the first image released from the new James Webb Space Telescope. I always love deep space images and this one, of the galactic cluster SMACS 0723, is spectacular. They will be releasing more images today and I can't wait to see them.

I've seen the image on the right, taken by the Hubble, used to compare the level of detail captured by the two telescopes. Although I have seen many stunning deep space images taken by the Hubble, the Webb is able to capture light from much farther away—and therefore from farther back in the past. I saw someone call the Webb image “the first photograph” because it's the oldest light ever captured by a human camera.

I'm also fascinated by the way the nearby stars are different in the two images. Stars in Hubble images have four points; the Webb images have six points, because of the hexagonal mirrors on the telescope.

Image credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Sunday bird blogging

Grackles always look as though they're really pissed off about something, but I can't help but love them for those colors.

If all goes according to plan—I don't have any reason to think it won't, but history and that pesky ongoing pandemic are making me cautious—next week I'll be in Costa Rica learning some new bird names.

Saturday, July 9, 2022

Saturday reflection

A road in Woodstock. I know the mirror is there for safety, but I prefer to think of it as an art installation.

Friday, July 8, 2022

Saugerties Lighthouse

The Saugerties Lighthouse.

The current lighthouse was built in 1869, and there were lightkeepers living there until the 1950's. The top floor is now a bed and breakfast, and I thought I would love to spend a night or two there, until I found out it was $525 a night, and there are no vacancies until next January.

I love that kid who ignored the big, beautiful river and claimed the muddy puddle instead.

Summertime and the livin' is easy

The trail to the Saugerties Lighthouse, on the Hudson in Ulster County.

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Astronomy Tuesday

Sunset on Mars.

Lately it feels as though the news every week somehow manages to be worse than the week before. I do find some comfort in knowing that horrible as so many humans manage to be, we are also capable of endless curiosity and innovation, giving us the technology to see sights like this.

Image credit: NASA


Two of the lovely houses I saw on my trip. The house on the left is in Woodstock; the one on the right is in Rhinebeck, across the Hudson from where I was staying.

Sunday, July 3, 2022

Sunday bird blogging

Another souvenir from my trip upstate: a young barred owl. Mama was hovering back in the trees, but unfortunately I didn't get a picture of her.

Saturday, July 2, 2022

Saturday reflections

A very summery reflection in Woodstock, where I spent several days this weeks catching up with some old friends and (mostly) staying off the Internet.

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