Costa Rica´s Wisdom Says: “Mold on You!” (July 3th-July 21st)
It was the last day of June and only a few hours before my departure to Schwechat. I was running late, wasn´t packed at all and just found out that my hiking shoes fell apart after the summer hikes. And I don´t even like hiking. Within few hours I was about to fly to Costa Rica where I went as a volunteer for the organization Justice for Nature. It is a non-profit organization focused on protecting nature, monitoring animals and educating the general public. For over 10 years they have been running programs in Sumatra, Indonesia; for over 4 years in Slovakia and in July this year they´ve just started their first year of volunteering program in Costa Rica. Six people and I joined this tour. We spent three weeks in the rainforest.
An Ordinary Day in The Rainforest
Do you know why is the rainforest called the rainforest? Because it rains there. If you don´t have the gumboots, don´t even go there because another kind of shoes will be useless. The place we stayed at looked like this: one old clay house where was a kitchen that we completely reconstructed; a room that was supposed to be a bathroom and a room with two bunk beds. There also lives one old man called Eladio in his own room that got flooded one day after the rain. He was a nice guy and his favorite activity was to sweep. Our other roommates were two mice: one of them got drowned in the wash-basin and the other one we heard only as we went to sleep. Nearby was another house in the process of construction. On the top of it´s grounding we pitched two tents: in one of them slept Peťa, Maťo and I and in the other one slept Hanka and Janka. Next to our tent lived our friend-spider Herman Jr. and as we would use the bathroom during night, we´d meet Herman Sr. – the very same kind of spider but bigger. And talking about animals, our habit was to toss out our shoes every time we wanted to put them on just in case there´d be something. Once I found Herman in there…
Besides spiders there live also vultures, humming birds, tons of horseflies (you wouldn´t believe how annoying they can be), monkeys, toucans, cicadas (their sound always reminded me the sound of the razor at my grandparents´), opossums, owls, toads, stick-bugs, oropendolas, butterflies, stingless bees and one beautiful ocelot.
Well, we didn´t see the ocelot but during one night as I couldn´t fall asleep, something bigger was poking to our tent, exactly next to my head. Most of the time while we stayed here and mostly during the night when all the light, we got was from ours head lamps, I was very paranoid. Going to the bathroom in the middle of a night was an adventure and I was literally just waiting for something to jump on me. Moreover, during the first nights I thought that the whole floor we slept on will fall apart and we´ll fall down into the mud paradise. And so, no one wanted to believe me when I told them in the morning that there was some kind of animal wandering around our tent. They said it was an opossum. Turned out the “opossum” was probably actually an ocelot as one of our camera traps took a picture of it around.
How I Got Nipples on My Butt
On the twelfth day we decided to discover a lagoon. We sloshed through the rainforest using our machetes and once after a few hours the only interesting things we had found were orchids, we decided to go home. I used to be always at the end of our expedition but as we turned around, suddenly I was at the beginning straight behind our tour director Milan. And then it happened: I crossed a wood log and then I felt a big pain on my butt. And now: do you know how to behave in nature? You have to be silent. So, of course I started screaming my lungs out because of the pain and also because I was scared since I had no idea what just bit me. Our expedition stopped, I had tears in my eyes and Maťo who walked behind me was trying to figure out what had happened to me. Everyone else thought I was bitten by a snake. He thought I was stabbed by the log but then I yelled again. And then he noticed it: the stingless bee. He looked like Danny Trejo and said: “I´ll get it off of you!” He tried to unstick the bee of my butt using his machete. But as our friends heard it, they thought that the “snake” was chocking me. After they found out it was “just” a bee, they freaked out even more because now they thought there´d be a whole hive. And because we were in the middle of the rainforest, the only possible way out was the one I blocked. So, if there was a hive, we´d be screwed up. Fortunately, there was just one bee and luckily for me there was Milan. When he turned to look at me I wasn´t sure if he wanted to calm me down or to slap me at first. But once he saw I was just about to have a breakdown, he decided to soothe me. Inhale, exhale just don´t panic. Because even if it was a poisonous snake, my high heartbeat would make the poison flow across my body even faster and I´d die earlier. If I´m calm, I have approximately 30 minutes to figure out what to do. As you can see this stingless bee wasn´t poisonous nor does sting, but bites. And it´s job was amazing: it bit me literally in the middle of both of my butt sides. As Milan later said: “Lula you have nipples on your butt!”
Wood, Mud, Wood, Mud…
Let´s put all the fun aside and talk about our job over there. You already know we did some expeditions into the jungle and set up camera traps. Our main mission was to help to finish building the house and our “tools” were gloves and machetes. What we did was following: we walked to the woods where were already some chopped wood logs. We used the machetes to decorticate them. Then we created something like a temporary footpath out of these skins to make it easier to carry these logs towards to our new house. It was not perfect but not that bad. Then we carried these few meters long logs to the base where we washed them up to be ready for our two workers to use. Juan Carlos and Erik were great guys but just as we weren´t good at Spanish, they couldn´t speak English. That means our communication was sometimes very funny but I´m proud of me as I taught them how to play Continental Rummy. We also used our hands and machetes to chop weed so our footpaths to the rainforest wouldn´t disappear; planted flowers (then humming birds start flying there!) and sometimes we tried to wash up our clothes that never dried up, and always got frowzy. Maťo and I made some furniture: new shelves and tables to the kitchen, a drier, and our masterpiece: a bar. With Peťa and Barča he made a fence on the first floor and he also created some kind of closet for our laundry. To be honest, we did a pretty good job and it looked cozy. Our tools were a handsaw, hammer, nails and occasionally a drill. That one worked through some kind of a thing (we didn´t have electricity there) where you put a gas to make it work. And it belonged to our workers. Although most of ours daily routines was one and the same: never ending carrying of that f*cking wood.
Final Last Words
These were our three weeks in Costa Rica´s rainforest. We spent this time without electricity or hot water. By the way, have you ever showered in a river? Well, I´ve already even shaved my legs there and it was an amazing experience! Now, let me explain why my title says: “Mold on You!” Since it was very humid over there, almost everything that could got molded: our clothes, backpacks, shoes, cosmetics bags (yes, women need to be pretty even in the nature) … And so, instead of swearing to each other we´d rather threat by mold. And one last advice for the end: if you ever want to set a fire on the wet ground try to use a candle instead of the wood. You won´t spend two hours waiting for your lunch just like I did because someone had this amazing idea to grill in the humid rainforest 😀