Tuesday, June 8, 2010

There is, and it seems there always will be, something
about the way life happens in places like these that will
forever appeal to the more illogical divisions of my heart.
Yet, more and more every day that I have been here, that
sense of the illogical is becoming a larger part of my
serious contemplations.
Every iota of smell, color, sound and thought--if they
could speak, they would rapidly learn to how to scream and
tell me "you belong here!" And at some moments, it's
almost like they already can. They whisper subliminal
messages to my senses to get me to stay.
I can still remember my first taste of the platanos here!
It was like a rookie angel tripped in heaven and
consequently fell into my mouth, and his surprise only
exponentially increased the bubbles of heaven-dust that fell
from his robes onto my waiting tongue. Yes. Yes, they were
that good.
In fact, every day I have been here I have fallen in love
with something new. And now, on our last day, all I can
think about are the little things that I took for granted
here and won't see again back in NY. I love watching the
businessmen in crisp white shirts paired with neatly pressed
slacks as they rode to work straddling speeding motos. I
love seeing the uniformed schoolchildren walking towards the
brightly-colored homes that shade them from the sun but give
lizards the opportunity to bask in it. I love the
devil-may-care attitude of the sprawling fauna that
furiously and deliberately encompass these homes in spindly
arms of neon-tinted comfort. I love the borrachos (so
infamously known for their jauntily perched fedoras and
wrinkled button-downs) that take frequent breaks from
warming their seats at the bar to spy on a bunch of
unsuspecting gringos. I love the colors that remember to
vehemently shove the city-induced grays from the events of
my mind. I love how the thunderstorms here force the world
to wake up from what is, more often than not, a food coma.
Most of all, I love how you never had to walk far to find
a spot where something beautiful could begin—whether it
was at a bug-filled hostel that revealed surprises when the
clouds cleared, in the middle of a pitch-black jungle
where, despite the fact that you couldn't see your hand in
front of your face, you could still see the bravery in
someone's heart, or on a slippery log in the middle of the
beach where you get bitten alive, but also where ghost crabs
danced underfoot and waves kissed your toes and you realize
you've stumbled into a waking dream.
We lived, we learned, and now we leave. But we'll be
I remember now the first thought that graced my mind upon
its initial intake of the world here. It was, "I'm

--Amanda Ramcharran

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Tuesday 6/1


Today we spent another 5 hours on the bus, but this time we
were on the smaller bus and it was no where as near as
comfortable as that humongous bus. But as soon as everyone
saw the water, our eyes lite up and our spirits lifted
making everything seem okay again. The water was so blue it
was the same color as the sky so all the boats looked like
the were floating in mid-air. Then once we checked in, we
went to the beach and just sat around for a long time. And
the water felt like bath water it was so warm. Then we went
around shopping at all the local shops and got a bunch of
presents! After we all went out to eat as a group and I
think that was the best quesadilla I ever had. Then we
walked along the beach and all just chilled. It is so
beautiful and warm here I wish I could stay longer.

Mallory D.

You know you've been to Costa Rica on a Tropical Ecology
course when...
Your toasts at dinner always consist of something along the
Your beloved Professor opts for going a tad fruity in order
to protect the virtue of his female students by proceeding
to blow kisses at the offending tikos.
Your flash light and headlamp have simultaneously attached
themselves to your body like bog flies.
You refer to the cheese that locals make as "squeaky
You have lengthy arguments over made-up words while playing
You take communal showers with several different species of
moth every night, so much so that you start talking to them
while you're washing your hair.
Every time you see a brown and yellow bird you scream
"BANANNAQUIT!" Even when it isn't one.
You utilize Howler monkeys as an alarm in thew morning.
Eau de Bug Spray becomes your newest and most cherished
You exponentially acquire a new set of bruises and scratches
every day, and you've quickly stop questioning where they've
came from.
You're willing to walk for half a mile in the middle of the
night just to get to the nearest bar, sprinting all the
while and contemplating who will get eaten first. You make
sure to tell everyone not to look back. They do. You all
trip over each other trying to walk even faster.

You've met at least one Fernando, Felix, or Oscar.
You've thought about keeping the Imperial label that so
neatly came off in your hand for a scrap book.
You've overused the phrase "so good" at mealtimes.
You've completed at least one hike that, in the middle of,
you seriously wondered if you were going to die.
You rocked a pair of giant, clunky, black rubber boots and
kind of fell in love with them.
Some bird or insect has violated you by stealing a kiss in
the middle of the jungle.
You've learned skills comparable to that of a ballerina
while trying to be quiet and spot animals on a hike while
wearing hiking boots.
You've pontificated upon whether or not leaf cutter ants
could steal keys.
You kind of want to be bitten by a Bala. Just to see if you
can handle it.
You've peed in the jungle and felt a sense of accomplishment
as you buried your tissue and marked your small piece of
You love Susan and Dennis like family. And then you make up
alter egos for them at night.
You sit in the grass taking in breathtaking views while
talking about life and going off on random tangents that
range from demon children to Disney movies.

--Amanda Ramcharran

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Day one
Waking up at 6:30AM was not really my cup of tea but it's
weird how my body adapted to it so quickly. Maybe because
everyone is up and starting their days. The first morning we
were here we had rice and beans for breakfast with squeaky
cheese and fried yuca with cheese inside, which was
definitely different compare to pancakes or bagels i'm use
to having for breakfast. We stayed in San Jose the first
night but then took about a 5 hour drive to Guanacaste ! As
I was on the bus, I realized how much CR is becoming
Americanized. There were billboards written in English, pay
tolls on the highway, many cars that are in the US and so
many other things. The food here is delicious especially in
restaurants. It is so humid outside but when it started to
pour, it's just so refreshing! The air to me is just so
clean and pure, except when trucks ride by and the dirt gets
in your eyes and mouth. I definitely miss the internet and
my phone because there is no type of communication to the
outer world here. But i realize I can live without it.


Monday, May 31, 2010

Arriving at La Selva

I wake up to a glorious breakfast consisting of squishy
cheese, gallo pinto(of course), and eggs. I wash it down
with a superior cup of Costa Rican coffee while gazing out
into the cloudy abyss that is Monteverde. Today is the day
we embark to La Selva, the heart of our journey. We all
load onto the bus for our four hour ride. This included
some motion sickness and well as some spectacular sites. A
stop at Arenal Volcano eased everyones sprits and I enjoyed
this site by drinking a coconut. Finally we arrive at L
Selva biological station and begin with a intro tour. It
sounded like it would be a simple talk, merely an
informational walk around. This couldnt have been farther
from the truth. Are tour guide immediatly took us acrosss
the bridge and we emmerge in the rainforrest. With supreme
confidence and intelligence this man pointed out species
ranging from small tree frogs to monkeys. Being in the
rainforrest is an experience that bombards all of your
senses, affectivly forcing you too adapt.

The conclusion of my night included seeing a sloth at the

Douglass Steele Lamy IV

Douglass Steele Lamy IV

oh Mc Alex had a farm ee I ee I ohhhh :-)

So today was a very fun day in our many adventures here in
Costa Rica we went to a farm today where we did some
voluntary work with an old friend of Susan and Wasko. Not
only did we help with planting but we also got to spend time
with her lovely and fabulous animals of cows, bulls and
horses and of course the stars of the day her lovely dogs,
monkey, pearl, and Whiskey aka Rat aka princess :-)I really
enjoyed the farm because she has so much land and she has a
good heart and really wants to help the rain forest. I'm not
even gonna lie the little hike we did i was not really
feeling; not because it was long or anything because it
wasn't, i just wasn't in the mood to go in mud and dealing
with pesky bugs, and going through the mood that there is a
chance that i might fall.But the cookies and banana bread
made that all better. Getting to hold a real snake was also
cool the muscles are amazing and the scales feel cool. Over
all good day

Ashley Ray

Sunday, May 30, 2010

wow what a day

So today was free day and what a day it was. Went into town
today and had some of the best chicken ever. I know that
sounds really fat but oh well. Went to the river area and
had the best time, the water felt amazing and the mud fight
was nice as well. even though i couldn't get the hang of the
swing. I've seen so many cool animals so far in my trip and
i found a snake in the grass eating some tadpoles which was
like the best thing, Not only was it was one snake but it
was like 4 which was cool. Beside for snakes we found a lot
of cool mammals which are just the cutest things i just want
to take them home with me.

Ok battery is dying but gotta post tomorrow :-)

Ashley Ray

Day Three

I woke up in a lovely cabin in Guanacaste. We started
driving toward the volcano, but we had bad luck because
there was a stuck truck in the muddy road. Seeing that we
could not pass it, we ended up turning around drove to Santa
Rosa. Seeing the place where the Costa Rican civil war
started was pretty interesting. There, I saw my first black
iguana of the trip. This four foot long black reptile who
looked like it should spit fire, saw our group staring and
taking pictures, and vanished underneath a log. We also
spotted our first monkeys, and kuwatte (sp). Although we did
not intend on originally going to Santa Rosa, it ended up
being a great detour on our way to the Monte Verde cloud
forest. When we arrived in Monte Verde, we hiked down the
mountain side in the rain, and got our clothes dirty wet and
muddy for the first time. This whole trip has been great.
Everyone is getting along great, and the culture and food is
amazing. Great place to practice my Spanish and karate.


FUNday Friday

I think friday was definately a day I will never forget.
Monteverde is an amazing place. I did the tree top walkway
up in the canopy. OMG it was amazing to be up that high.
beatiful waterfalls and clear skies. Walking on the bridge
up in the canopy was scary but also exhilarating. At one
point, I saw the perfect tree, a tree that seemed to jump
right out of the Tarzan movie. I had the urge to build a
tree house and swing on vines. After, I did something I
thought I wouldn't do...I zipplined!! I almost chickened
out but I did it! It was exhilarating to say the least!
There were eleven lines going down the canopy. The longest
one was 700 meters! I started to chicken out, but the
employees wouldn't let me nor would anyone else. What I
really didn't want to do was jump off a 300-400 foot
platform and have someone at the bottom stop me from
swinging and get me down. Again, the employee wouldn't let
me chicken out, he would have pushed me if I didn't jump
after the count of five. I jumped! After, we checked out
this place that had women who made jewelry to help their
families. Then to end the day, there was a diary shop that
had cows in the back and also had ice cream. Yum!

A Stroll Through Town

Waking up knowing that we didn't have to wear field pants
was a cherry on top of a delicious cake lol, just knowing
that there wasn't going to be any hiking up mountains or
gasping for air was such a treat. So instead the plan was to
go into town and mingle with the locals; the stares wasn't
exactly what i was expecting but hey i felt like a movie for
a couple hours and the guys on the streets weren't holding
back either. Today was also the first time i tasted Costa
Rican Cola which was mind blowing knowing that instead of
using corn syrup they use sugar cane, which is amazing! okay
guess that's all for the chill day bye.

---Derika Tucker May 30, 2010

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Jungle experience

Today was an interesting day to say the least. When we were
leaving Monteverde, we saw a volcano. I do not mean just
out in the distance...well we did see it out in the
distance. But we were so close that you were able to see
the ridges and groves. We were also able to see where lava
just flowed and steam coming out from the top. The trip to
La Selva was cool...seeing the mountain range was so
beautiful. When I did get to La Selva it was hot!!!!! We
went on a tour and saw some interesting things. Little dart
frogs that were red...spider monkeys, a cute little green
vine snake, a walking tree, and a cute little peckuree...(i
think I spelled it wrong)...a real live bala ant as well.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

First of the 10 days

Wow, a word that characterizes Costa Rica in the simplest
form. I can honestly say that i am blessed to have the
opportunity to see such beauty and hospitality from a
country so small. Just viewing the sight from the plane was
incredible. Then we arrive to a beautiful hotel just wow!
lol and i will leave it there.

First Day

The flight was too long for my taste, but we eventually got
here. It is definitely something else, kind of a culture
shock when you first see Costa Rica. The hotel was not
something I expected...it was alot more nicer. I have a
room with a kitchen, which includes an oven and
referigator...which might be obvious to some but...it is
absolutely beautiful. One of the windows has a perfect view
of the pool in the gardens with a makeshift waterfall. The
food here is also interesting...so far i like everything!
Well tomorrow we have to wake up and be out of the room by
7am, so i am going to go to bed and get as much sleep as
possible. Im definately excited...I get to go on a 4-6 hour
horse ride apparently...around the park.

What a day

hmmmmm ok this keyboard is definitely different then what i
am used to but i will do my best. today was a tiring but
amazing day didn't get much sleep and i was cold for most of
it but over all it was a good day. the people seem friendly
and i am looking forward to go exploring. the food is
amazing and thats always a plus and the juice is definitely
going to be missed when we return to US soil. Im about to go
to bed now somehow i have to find the energy and ability to
wake up before 7 am. God help me!!

On our way!

Hey everyone!
Today feels like it's going on forever.. With that crazy bus
driver, arguing with the new York airport, and waiting for
this layover! I don't believe I have gotten more than an
hour sleep at one time. I'm just getting really anxious and
I just want to be in costa rica already! Plus this airport
in north carolina is so cold i want the warm weather and
bright sun asap! I can't wait to see what it's like in costa
rica with all the natural beauty, the animals, and being in

Only one hour left till we board our plane!

A whole new world

As you may know i took the title from one of my favorite
Disney movies Aladdin because i kinda feel like him at this
moment in time. Going out into the world, experiencing new
things, getting into different adventures that only some
people can dream about. My mom told me over the weekend that
when my church had an opportunity to go to Africa or Costa
Rica to do missionary work i was the one out of very few
that really wanted to go to Costa Rica. Unfortunately
because there wasn't a lot of takers from other members of
the church we ended up going no where but i guess God wanted
me to go to Costa Rica cause look at me now.
So many different emotions are running through my head right
now anxious, nervousness and of course excited. I love going
to different places and experiencing new cultures and of
course new food, i wanna be the next Andrew Zimmerman from
bizarre food...(i mean who can say they have eaten worms for
breakfast or bugs living in dung or something like that but
you get my point) Beside for food this is a growing and
learning experience; not just for me but for everybody going
on this trip and i really want to get the best out of what
Costa Rica has to offer.
Not only being cut off from the world is one big concern for
me ( because i can admit to I am one of those girls who
always has her phone and you can always reach me) but I also
am afraid of spiders I have a HUGE FEAR of spiders
especially big ones and things that can pose a threat to me
or cause me pain. I don't like flying bugs im not a fan of
those either so that basically eliminates all bugs; and i
know i will encounter some type of spider or some type of
bug that will cause me pain and i am not a fan AT ALL!!! but
hey i'll live its only 10 days and you only live once. I
really hope i don't break a nail because then all hell will
break loose ;-) jk i'm not that much of a priss i know i'm
rambling now so i'm going to stop but Derika was right i do
feel better after writing this. .....well it's 12:07 now so
i will see all of you in like 30 min xoxox <3
Ashley Ray

Monday, May 24, 2010

Excitement for the trip

There is only about 4 hours left until we get on the bus and
leave for the airport!! I'm extremely excited for this
trip. I can't wait for all these new experiences in Costa
Bridget Gromek

Sunday, May 23, 2010

another notch in the belt...

There truly is nothing that I love more then living out of a
backpack in a place that I can not call home. The
adventurous feeling of not knowing what comes next is
exactly what I live for. At age 16, my band and I packed
into a van after months of planning, and completed our first
east coast tour. Just old enough to drive, and too young to
buy a pack of smokes, I learned to love the feeling of
waking up, traveling, exploring, sleeping, and waking up and
doing the same thing the next day. Age 17 my band traveled
from cape cod, to florida, up to michigan, and back to the
nutmeg state of Connecticut. Age 18 I did similar types of
tours on school vacations, as well as train hopped to South
Carolina and back. By the time I was 19, I discovered that
you can drive 5 hours north, and be in a place where they
speak an entirely different language. Montreal became my new
favorite destination for spontaneous weekend adventures. Age
20, I flew to California and rode a bicycle 650 miles to San
Diego, sleeping in a tent for 12 days. Through all these
adventures, I learned to truly love traveling. Costa Rica
awaits, and I could not be more excited. Being exposed to
tropic weather, animals, and culture is going to be a great
learning experience. Since some scientists estimate that
there are roughly 200 million insects for every human on the
planet, I am looking forward to studying the insects of CR.

Pura Vida!

--Michael Rivkees

Hello everyone

Hello everyone,

Looking into the next ten days, I foresee learning
experiences beyond my current conceptions. Experiencing
life in the tropics is both a refreshing and exciting change
from Connecticut's humid continental climate. Prior to
today, many friends and family have shared with me their
Costa Rican experiences. They have praised the purity of
life, the atheistic appeal of nearly every inch, and my
personal favorite the superiority of Costa Rica's COFFEE.
However enticing their influence is on my expectations, I
reserve the right to make this experience completely unique.
I look forward to understanding the ecological perspectives
and worldviews of everyone I come across. I am already
humbled by the nature Ive yet to experience.

In essence, I'm excited for the unbridled expansion of my
world view that will develop through my exploration of the
vast unknown.

Pura Vida

---Douglass Steele Lamy IV

Douglass Steele Lamy IV

Saturday, May 22, 2010

How i feel So far About the Trip

Hey Everyone,

Well there's two more days left until we set for lift off
and there's two words two express how I feel; enthusiastic
and a bit scared out of my pants lol (thanks to those
stinking Bot flies). I would have to say I'm looking forward
to everything, well at first the idea of being anywhere near
active volcanoes wasn't exactly my forte lol but going on
snake hunts overpowered that fear. Although being cut off
for a couple days from our families seemed like a great idea
for some people in the class; i had a totally didn't
perspective on that. During the trip that will be the
hardest for me, there has never been a time where i couldn't
speak with my family. When i came to Connecticut from
Maryland to go to school i knew that i wouldn't be able to
see my family hardly as often but, i also knew that when i
needed them they were only a phone call away. This trip may
only be 10 days but not being able to stay in contact with
my family will seem like eternity. Being said that i feel
that there is much that i will gain from this experience. I
have no doubt that i will enjoy myself and I'm an adventure
person so ill be set and ready for anything that may lurking
behind any tree lol.

--Derika Tucker 05/22/2010

Friday, May 21, 2010

Late Night

Ah. I feel like Jake Sully.

So I’m sitting here, in another borrowed bed, surrounded by as much organized dissonance as my slight OCD will permit. It’s the third time in two weeks that I have had to either pack crap, move crap, and/or shove said crap into garbage bags, laundry bags, and into the arms of family, contrary to their persistent complaints. The physical remnants of my life are dispersed between too many places and, quite frankly, I’m starting to feel like an orphan. Or on a less philosophical note, a bag lady. All joking aside, living out of bags is not so difficult. All that I really miss is that “home” feeling…not the place necessarily, but the type of love that it incites. But if I’ve learned anything at college (and I’ve learned more than 18-year-old me could have possibly fathomed),
it’s that that sort of love comes with you wherever you go.

And its followed me to A-comp! Besides the baseball team and their dip/sunflower seed-coated shenanigans, I can honestly say that I love the perfectly imperfect, individual quirks that fit together to form where we live. As for class, I don’t think I could be going on midnight snake quests and giving my mother mini-heart attacks with a better group of people.

-- Amanda Ramcharran

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Welcome to the official weblog for Hillyer's Tropical Ecology 2010! This is our inaugural year - we have 8 students and myself heading for a 10-day excursion across Costa Rica, leaving May 25. I'm incredibly excited about sharing some of my experiences and adventures in the Neotropics with a new group of students, and I'm sure everyone else is looking forward to a great course as well.

Stay tuned to this site for our anecdotes, adventures, pictures, and other updates.

--Dennis Wasko, 5/18/10