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

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.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Astronomy Tuesday

New infrared images of Jupiter from the Webb space telescope. You can see Jupiter's faint rings and two of the smaller moons.

Image credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, Jupiter ERS Team; image processing by Ricardo Hueso (UPV/EHU) and Judy Schmidt.

Monday, August 22, 2022

Public transportation

Waiting at a bus stop on Avenida 31, and one of the buses that finally arrived.

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Sunday bird blogging

I'd seen rufous-collared sparrows before, in Chile, but in San José they were everywhere—in flocks on the sidewalks, in pairs on powerlines, flying through the streets and backyards. They seemed to fill the niche usually taken by house sparrows in much of the world now.

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Saturday reflections

I never had time to explore the neighborhood on the other side of the highway as much as I would have liked. It was still mostly residential, but more working class.

Los hits que estabas esperando

The only restaurants in the neighborhood were fast food—a real disadvantage when I wanted actual food, but I do always find the different versions of American fast food restaurants entertaining. Apparently in San José, the hits that you have been waiting for from Pizza Hut include cheese casserole and tomato soup.


This cemetery was on the other side of the highway. I never did find a way to get inside, so only took pictures through the fence.

Urban poetry

One of the insane roundabouts of San José.

These are the main reason that walking anywhere took longer than expected. For example, there was a Walmart near my house where I bought staples like milk and bread and coffee. I could see it as soon as I walked to the corner, and if I could have walked there directly it would have taken me less than five minutes.

Instead it took at least three times that long because it was on the other side of a roundabout, and there were no crosswalks or lights on the circle for crossing the streets that converged there. Crossing the busiest streets safely required walking two or three blocks until there was a crosswalk with a light, then walking back to the roundabout. There were no stoplights on the highway by the Walmart, only crosswalks. There you just had to wait for a break in the traffic and then run.

Friday, August 19, 2022

Highway 39

At the other end of my street was this lovely highway—this was the first half of my walk to the language school every morning.

But hey, at least there was a Taco Bell!

Casas de Calle 37

A better look at a few of the houses on my street.

Calle 37

This is the street where my AirBnB was located, a pleasant residential block, and the scene of one of my more amusing introductions to Tico culture.

I woke up one day with a mild case of the sniffles, and though the Covid test was negative, I stayed home to be on the safe side. I didn't have any food in the house, so I decided to try Uber Eats.

We'd all been using Uber a lot—it was easy and cheap. (For example, it was a thirty-five minute walk to the language school from my house. Ubers generally arrived in a couple of minutes; the ride took not much more than that, and cost around three dollars.) Although San José has both a convoluted street grid and a really peculiar system of identifying addresses, where you don't really give a house number, you give directions in reference to the nearest landmark (“It's next to the church on the corner” “It's across the street from the San Pedro Mall”) the Uber drivers never had a problem finding me.

The Uber Eats system turned out to be a little different. After I placed the order, I got a message that my food would arrive around 12:15, but they didn't provide minute by minute updates the way the ride app does, and they didn't show me a map of my location. I happened to glance at my phone shortly after noon, and saw a message that my delivery was outside, the driver couldn't find me, and the order would be cancelled in seven minutes if I didn't go get it.

I ran outside, but the street was empty. I was frantically typing a message to the driver when a man approached me. He asked me if I was Kathleen and if I had ordered food. When I said yes, he let out a piercing whistle, and yelled “Aqui! Aqui!” Another man at the bottom of the hill also started shouting “Aqui!” and a woman who was standing in front of the green house started waving her arms over her head and ran down the road out of my sight. After a minute, a motorbike appeared around the corner and climbed the hill and the driver gave me my lunch. And all of the neighbors disappeared back into their houses, having solved the mystery of Kathleen y su comida.

Thursday, August 18, 2022


One of the things I loved about San José was the mountains surrounding the city. They were often draped in cloud, but provided a beautiful backdrop to even mundane city views.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

The road back to San José

There are some more tree pictures to post from Monteverde, along with several birds, but I'm going to circle back to San José, and our various excursions in the vicinity, first.

I took this picture driving back to San José: cows on their way to auction.

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Astronomy Tuesday

It may not be as flashy as the images we're now used to from our space telescopes and planetary probes, but the history makes it even more impressive. This is a composite of photos taken by Neil Armstrong through the window of the Eagle shortly after landing on the moon in 1969. The pictures were taken before the first moon walk to make sure the landing site was memorialized in case they needed to make an emergency departure; the frame on the left is the first picture taken by a human on another world.

Image credit: Neil Armstrong, Apollo 11, NASA

Monday, August 15, 2022

More adventures in bird photography

This isn't bad, exactly, just noisy and cropped from a much larger picture. I wasn't even trying to take a picture of a hummingbird, but basically in Monteverde any time you pointed a camera at something there was an excellent chance of finding a hummer in the frame. And I actually managed, however inadvertently, to capture its wings. In flight.

Unfortunately I can't tell you what kind of hummingbird this is—there are sixty species of hummingbird in Costa Rica, and “green” isn't dispositive.

Adventures in bird photography

The fails, I mean.

This is the bird I most hoped to see in Monteverde: the resplendent quetzal. And I did see four of them on the birding hike, three males and a female. The males were immature, so none of them had grown the famous tail feathers yet, and this female was the only one I managed to get a clear shot of.

...of her back. Still, I saw quetzals!

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Sunday bird blogging

This picture of a blue-crowned motmot isn't high quality, but you can still see the colors on this amazing bird. And it was taken on the hotel grounds, so I didn't even have to go traipsing around in the forest to find him.

I took this picture of (probably) a different motmot a few days later. Also not great quality, but you can really get a good look at that amazing tail—that alone was worth going to Costa Rica for!

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Saturday reflections

Another pond in the Cloud Forest.

Really, there were just so many beautiful trees

Some middle-range shots: not closeups, not full views.

In fact, this was a little like trying to photograph birds—partial views through thick greenery.

And still more trees

Some more standard tree views, taken with the shorter lens.

Friday, August 12, 2022

And trees

These are from the birdwatching tour in the Curi-Cancha reserve.

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