Thoughts on the First 10 Days

I am starting this blog because Facebook kicked me out. Apparently something seemed “suspicious” (couldn’t have been the VPN I was using..) and locked me out of my account. To unlock the account all I had to do was “get the unlock code texted to your mobile!” and all would be well. That’s great!- except for the fact that I’ve already begun my stint as a field assistant for the next year in Costa Rica, far far away from my current mobile plan in the USA. Hoping and praying I said “yes, send me the unlock code!”, maybe FB HQ can text via wifi? I waited and waited, but, alas, no code. So I did what any 25 year old professional who planned on keeping contact with loved ones back home via Facebook would do- I Facetimed my family and cried. But before you get all judgy, let me explain myself.

In December, I was hired as a field assistant with the Santa Rosa Capuchin Project here in beautiful Santa Rosa National Park in the Guanacaste Province of Costa Rica. For the next 10-12 months I will be assisting a research team in collecting behavioral data on white-faced capuchin monkeys. If you don’t know what those are, they look like this:

marcel                                                                    To be clear, it is not Ross- although that would be cool, and Ross would probably be way easier to track through the jungle. (Source)

And here is an actual picture of an actual capuchin from the field site taken by yours truly:

img_6051This is Abu! She is one of the (many) monkeys I have to be able to identify over the next few months. Her identifying features include her clean face and dots on the right side of her nose. Think you could pick out those features? Great! Now do that while she’s 30ft in the air. Yeah.

So, of course, who wouldn’t want to spend the better part of 2017 staring at these cute little faces all day? This, along with the “I-have-no-idea-what-I-want-to-do-with-my-life-and-need-an-adventure!” thoughts propelled me to say yes to this truly wild and unique opportunity.

But how could such a “cool”, “amazing”, “once-in-a-lifetime”, “totally-adventurous” calling result in crying like an overly sensitive child on the first day of kindergarten?

The short version is I was uncomfortable. First, I was uncomfortable with figuring out how to fit an entire year’s worth of stuff into a single suitcase. Then I was uncomfortable that I couldn’t find my ride at the Liberia airport (don’t worry I did, eventually). Then I was uncomfortable that I didn’t know how the exchange rate worked. I was uncomfortable that I could hardly speak the language and that I didn’t know a single soul. That there was a tarantula in the bathroom and I saw a boa constrictor on the first day in the field. That I was chased by wasps and overwhelmed by the daunting task of identifying all the monkeys. That I almost stepped on a pit viper while trudging through the jungle with only a headlamp to light the way. That I had to run home through a wind storm, stopping only to avoid falling trees that could easily crush me. That my daily life now consists of constantly adjusting my mosquito net before bed, trying not to itch all the bug bites, checking clothes for scorpions before I put them on, applying a million layers of sunscreen, sleeping on a top bunk, and being very very far away from anything remotely close to what I’d call home.

This is simply a small sampling of some of my more uncomfortable moments felt in the last 10 days (I tried to stay away from the ‘1st world problems’ such as “I can’t find coconut oil at the store” and “they don’t sell chia seeds here” and “Parks and Rec isn’t on Costa Rican netflix”). So you can imagine when my one comfort outlet betrayed my trust (the internet! Facebook!), well, I experienced a moment of what we like to call “the straw that broke the camel’s back”.

So yes, despite being on this “cool”, “wild”, “once-in-a-lifetime”, “unique”, “adventure!”, I am admitting to you all that I had a sob session that would have rivaled even the most homesick of homesick campers from my camp counselor days.

So, anyway, after Facetiming my family (read, sobbing) I realized I could not let my friends and family down who were counting on hearing about my adventures via the social media platform. I mean, my status update on the position had roughly 110 likes –  a lot of people are invested in this! (that’s how FB likes work right?) And that is when I had the idea to start this blog – security passcodes be damned, I’d update the world on my terms! Thus was born “Field Notes”.

And as I reflected on how to properly begin this blog and how to best sum up my first 10 days here, I realized I really hadn’t had a great first 10 days. Sure, I’ve had some good moments: hiking up to La Casona and watching the sunset, game nights with my housemates, meeting and having coffee with fellow park staff, and moments of successfully identifying individual monkeys. But, if I were to sum up my first days here, I would say it has been hard and I have been uncomfortable multiple times, and that’s ok. What is more important is how I adjust to the unforeseen situations, just as this blog is an adjustment to my means of communicating with loved ones back home. This stuff, the tough stuff, is what makes the “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunities an adventure, but truly, the way you choose to conquer the tough stuff is what turns ordinary, run-of-the-mill adventures into great ones.

So, welcome to Field Notes- where I will be periodically recording my time here in Costa Rica (and maybe even beyond) and the many (uncomfortable) adventures I will undoubtedly face. Follow me while I do my best to make this adventure a great one!

*Update* Shortly after I wrote this post, I logged onto Facebook from my laptop instead of my mobile, and they sent me a passcode via email. In short, everything is fine. So here’s to being so over dramatic about a social media hiccup that I actually blogged about it. #classicmillinial


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