Sarah Spring08

It’s hard to believe, but the semester is halfway over! Today was our last day of midterm exams, and tomorrow we all leave to go on spring break! Last week was pretty busy, I went turtle monitoring in Los Cuervos one of the nights and caught an 115 lbs. female green turtle who we named Aretha. I also did an osprey behavioral observation for 7 hours with Libby and Stacy the intern. I did a group presentation about Rodolfo Montiel Flores who was a Goldman prize winner in Mexico for his activism against logging in the 90s. We also went to Consti again and helped teach English to teenagers and adults at the institution there. The highlight of the week was getting to see….a GRAY WHALE PLACENTA! We got a call at the center on Monday morning saying that a placenta had washed up on the beach in Lopez Mateos, so a bunch of us went for the day to check it out. It was very large and it jiggled when i poked it. It smelled a lot too. It was pretty interesting considering it’s late in the season for calves to be born, however there were reports of a small calf sighting in the same area that week.

Tomorrow (Weds.) I will be getting on a bus at 7:30 AM bound for La Paz, and from there I am traveling with 8 others to Todos Santos, which is about 1.5 hours north of Cabo San Lucas. We are camping on Los Cerritos beach for the night and a couple of us are going to try to take surfing lessons the next day. On Thursday, Mom, Dad, and Jake are coming to Todos Santos to spend the day, and then they are going to take me back with them to Cabo. My plan is to sleep either in their hotel room, or in one of the varios rooms where other friends will be staying. I am hoping to do a Discovery SCUBA dive and spend some time sailing! No matter what I end up doing, it will be nice to take a little break from “the compound.”

Last weekend was the annual Whale Festival in Puerto San Carlos. I was shocked at how large the festival was, considering how small and uneventful the town usually is. Some of the students (including me) went to check out the festival on Friday night. There were numerous fair rides including a merry-go-round, small roller coaster, and a bungee jumping ride. There were many booths set up with vendors selling jewelry, crafts, and FOOD! There were so many different places to buy churros that I was convinced I needed to at least taste them. Fried dough and sugar have never tasted so good! I also got to taste a cooked plantain with sugar and sauces, as well as corn on the cob with a variety of toppings. I finished off the night by going on one of the roller coasters with two of my friends Norah and Emma before having to run home to make the 10:30 curfew.
On Saturday, our day was spent preparing our booth for the festival. Some of us also got to meet our host families who we would be spending the day with on Sunday. Unfortunately, I found out that my original host “father” had had a heart attack earlier in the week, and I would be unable to stay with their family.

After dinner, Norah, Emma and I walked into town to do our shift at the SFS booth. I painted faces for almost an hour! One little boy ended up with star fish, whales, dolphins, and soccer balls covering almost every available spot on his skin. After taking some pictures with people dressed up as turtles, whales, and clowns, we spent the rest of the night eating, drinking, going on rides, buying crafts, playing games, and watching dancers and singers perform on the stage in the center of the plaza. I was one of the crazy people who decided to go on the bungee “ride,” where I was strapped into a harness attached to rubber bands. One of the “bungee boys” who was running the ride grabbed onto my harness and started bouncing me up and down, until he finally let go and I sling-shotted into the air and flipped around for awhile up there. At midnight, the Whale Queen was crowned and there were fireworks. We were all pretty tired, but we had gotten an extension on our curfew so we were determined to stay out until 1!
Sunday was our homestay day. Most of us were paired up with another student and sent off to spend the day with a local family. Brady, the student affairs manager, had asked one of her friends in town to take me and Monica since both of our families had cancelled. Around noon, Luis who is 26 and his brother Adan who is 29 picked us up from the school. It was a little bit awkward at first since none of us really knew what we were supposed to be doing. We drove to the festival and looked at the old car show that was going on. We got back into their car and started to “dar vueltas” (drive around at 5 miles an hour) when they decided to take us to Ciudad Constitucion for lunch, which is about 1 hour away. We talked (all in Spanish) about music, our classes, the professors, and learned some new Spanish vocabulary. We had lunch at a restaurant in Consti, and our waitress ended up being Adan’s ex-girlfriend who he hadn’t spoken to in 5 years!  Monica and I had lots of fun hearing about Luis’s and Adan’s lives. They were both born in Puerto San Carlos and now work as illegal fisherman in Magdalena Bay. Luis had gone to the University in La Paz to study Marine Biology, but after 2 years of school he nearly died in a car accident. He had to be in the hospital for about a year, and after his recovery he could not afford to go back to school. He had worked at SFS as a panguero for several years, but because he had a relationship with the previous student adviser at the school, he had to leave his job and become a fisherman. Both Adan and Luis are members of the Megdalena Bay Vigilantes, which means they get paid to do turtle monitoring trips like the ones we do to collect data and tag turtles. They brought us into the Vigilantes office and showed us pictures from some of their monitoring trips. They also let us dress up in their turtle costumes that they had been wearing at the festival the night before! After hanging out for awhile and talking on one of the local beaches, we went to another restaurant for dinner in San Carlos, called La Concha. We met up with a bunch of their friends and ate shrimp and scallops. At 8, we went back to the festival to watch one of our mutual friends Nicole belly dance on stage.  We hung out at the festival for the rest of the night until curfew.

The rest of the week was pretty busy since we had a project and a paper due.  On monday, we did behavioral observations of ospreys, and on tuesday we took a day trip to a date farm and the oasis Pulisimas which was about 2.5 hours away.  We stopped for dinner in Consti on the way home and got to eat PIZZZAAA for the first time!  Wednesday we had a field exercise collected sea grass samples, and on thursday we drove to Lopez Mateos to do more osprey mapping.  Friday we had our presentations on keystone species (Liz G, Emma, Norah and I made a BBC-like “mockumentary” about the Giant Kangaroo Rat) and on Saturday our papers were due about the scallop data we had collected.  Today is the first day I have had free in 2 weeks!  I am planning on putting it to good use: reading, laundry, napping in a hammock, and catching up with people from home.

Some highlights from the week:

“Future” themed party

Rebekka’s Sustainable Development class in town in the gazeebo

Limpiamos Puerto San Carlos – a morning of picking up trash around town with the whole community in preparation for the Whale Festival

Pancake dinner cooked by some of the students

Whale watching – we saw whales mating!  also, a group of about 20 dolphins swam with our boats for about a half an hour, some sea lions joined in too

Directed Research – took data on the location of osprey nests around puerto san carlos

Turtle Monitoring/camping on Thursday night at San Buto – our tent leaked, but we played some charades around the campfire and had dinner with the pangueros. we caught 4 turtles, 2 had not been tagged before (we named them Dwight and Danger)

Snorkeling to take data on scallop distribution, we collected a bunch of scallops and then Miguel (one of the pangueros) taught us how to open them and clean them.  We had to open about 150 scallops and 150 chocolates (clams) and take data on the weight of the muscle versus the size of the shell.

Volleyball tournament against some teams from town!

The Whale Festival!


I am about to go to stay with one of the local families for my “homestay”, then probably going back to the whale festival again tonight.  I was supposed to stay with a family that owns the best sandwhich store in town called Tortas Llores, but the father is in the hospital, so now I am going with my friend Monica to stay with Louis, who is an illegal fisherman.  We are going to his sister’s house for lunch and meeting his parents there.�

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