Thursday, July 28, 2011

Mono Titi

Mono Titi
I had the privilege last Friday and Saturday to visit the Central Pacific coast for a visit to El Silencio and to Playa el Rey where my parents, wife, 4-year old daughter and 15-year old niece all participated in a reforestation project that aims to save the mono titi's (titi, or squirrel monkey) of Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio.

I've been working with a couple of very interesting green/eco clients of ours at 3rd Planet PR for some months now who have teamed up to make the world a better place for everyone - including the mono titi.

Carlton Solle is the President and CEO of  Zero Impact Beverages, headquartered here in Costa Rica. His +Space brand of "Zero Impact Beverages" aims to revolutionize the consumer beverage industry - "The first beverage container you don't throw in the trash". Not only is the packaging revolutionary, but +Space will plant a tree for every case sold and permanently preserve 1,000 m2 of land for every 10 cases sold. The company will launch it's first + Space beverage in the U.S. in the fourth quarter of 2011. You can register for their VIP release here. "Like" their Facebook page and they'll plant a tree for every like!

Kevin Peterson is CEO for The Eco Preservation Society. Mission? "Eco Preservation Society is actively engaged in sustainably focused programming for the purpose of wildlife conservation and reforestation. Our mission is to promote research, travel and education programs that advance environmental consciousness and facilitate public awareness with a call to action."

Carlton and Kevin are straightforward, focused, dedicated, and extremely energetic people who have teamed up on two EPS projects: the Playa el Rey Habitat Rehabilitation project and the Savegre River Rainforest Rehabilitation project. The former aims to save the mono titi and benefit many other plants and animals by creating a biological corridor between the Rio Naranjo and the Rio Savegre along Playa el Rey to join two separate mono titi habitats.

+Space and EPS hosted my family and me last weekend and we - all three generations of us - were able to participate with about 50 volunteers in planting 2,000 trees at Playa el Rey and see for ourselves some of the progress that has been made with reforestation along the Rio Savegre corridor. It was an incredibly beautiful and satisfying experience.

Playa Hermosa to the Rio
Savegre bridge.
We made the 5 hour trip from northern Guanacaste south to the Savegre River bridge, then north 6 kms. to the El Silencio Eco Lodge run by Coopesilencio - a farming coop of 45 families that run about 1,000 hectares of African palm plantation. The coop even has its own currency, the UDIS. Eco Preservation Society also runs the small El Silencio Wildlife & Rehabilitation Center there, a bonus for my 4-year old!

El Silencio Eco Lodge
The Lodge is sited on a volcanic hill that rises up from the flat coastal plain, affording spectacular views out over the palm plantation and surrounding hillsides. It consists about 10 well maintained cabinas and a beautiful rancho with bar/restaurant that serves guests and volunteers and that doubles as the social hub and watering hole for the locals on the weekends.

Coopesilencio plantation
After a restful night at El Silencio Lodge, Kevin took us to see the EPS nursery where young trees to be planted are acclimated and warehoused prior to planting. In all, EPS maintains about 18 native varieties of trees for its reforestation initiatives. Carlton's videographer flew into action and shot video and still images for +Space marketing and public relations campaign collateral.

A lesson in reforestation and land
management on the banks of
the Rio Savegre
As the sun began to heat up, we left the nursery to visit a reforestation site along the Rio Savegre that had been planted in May. Kevin explained the problem of land erosion caused by the cutting of native species along the Rio Savegre's banks to make room for African palm.

An area of reforestation beyond the
eroded bank of the Rio Savegre with
African palm beyond.
The roots of native tree species protect the soil along the river's edge from erosion when the river rises and its velocity increases. Palms that have been planted up to the river's edge have little root system and simply fall into the river as the edge erodes, resulting in lost production, land and income. EPS is planting trees to prevent future erosion, to provide animal habitat and to preserve plantation land. In order to get buy-in from the locals on EPS projects, there has to be an economic benefit for people as well as an ecological benefit for flora and fauna. By providing both, the success of projects and initiatives is increased significantly.

Playa el Rey with Manuel Antonio
National Park beyond
From the Savegre we drove to the reforestation site where we would plant 2,000 trees at Playa el Rey. Playa el Rey is a very secluded 12 km. stretch of beach that touches the border of Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio to the northwest at the Rio Naranjo and the Rio Savegre to the southeast. Past inhabitants (now evicted) cut the native forest and planted coconut palms. Coconuts are an invasive, non-native tree species in this region of Costa Rica and in many other parts of the world. The idea is to reforest the area with native tree species and remove the coconut palms, deep rooted grasses and almond trees that have invaded the area. This will create a corridor from Manuel Antonio to the Rio Savegre and join two mono titi habitats.

No doubt, it will not happen overnight. But it IS happening thanks to +Space and EPS! And I and my family were pleased and satisfied to take part in the effort to improve this  place and, in turn, save the mono titi from extinction. I hope it will happen in my lifetime. If not, I wish for the day my 4-year old returns to Playa el Rey to enjoy the shade provided by the trees we planted there, and to see the mono titi frolicking in the canopy above her head.

¡Pura vida!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Beer System of Measurement

I was giving directions to one of my countrywomen the other day and did the inevitable "stub my toe" while quoting her distances in kilometers instead of miles. You see, the only people in the world who can't comprehend what a kilometer is live in the United States.¹

I always hit a dead end when giving directions to gringos, so I've switched to a new system that just about anyone who isn't a Mormon, Jehovah's witness, devout Muslim or Baptist (Islam's "sister religion") or just plain teetotaler (a.k.a. boring fucking dolt) can identify with.² It's the Beer Measurement System!

Like beer, it's quite simple. For example: I live in Playa Hermosa. Next beach down is Playas del Coco. That's a beer away! Next beach up is Playa Panama. That's a half-a-beer away (it's a little closer, chug the rest when you get there)! Get it? Woo hoo!!

You gotta go through Coco to get to Playa Ocotal. And then there's San Martín pueblo in between the two with all it's oblivious pedestrians, bike riders and just plain idiots who can't even fucking park on that narrow, curvaceous road, let alone drive on it. That makes Ocotal two beers and a plethora of expletives away.³

From Playa Hermosa to Liberia centro, we're talking 3 beers away. Can be 4 if you're like me and don't like driving with A/C in 90 degree heat (I LOVE THE HEAT! Chugalug!). Daniel O. Oduber Int'l Airport in Liberia (LIR) is a solid deuce away. But it's 3 beers coming back. It's some sort of inexplicable "Bermuda Triangle" thing, and I've learned to just accept it.

Sardinal is a beer away, unless you're stopping for gas. Then it's two.

Tamarindo is a six-pack away. It may take an hour. It may take more. It may take less. But it's always a six-pack away. Nicoya? Same. Santa Cruz? That's where you stop to pick up more beer on your way to Nicoya. Add one extra beer and some chicharritos.

Peñas Blancas - the CR-Nicaragüa border, a.k.a. "La Frontera" - is a six-pack away if you don't stop to pee. If you stop to pee, add a beer or two and enjoy the altitude and pleasant and refreshing temperature drop.

A trip to San Jose - the mother of all trips - used to be from 8 to 24 beers away, depending on truck traffic, accidents and earthquakes. But now it's about 6 or 7 beers away, thanks to the new Ruta del Sol highway from Puerto Caldera. That is UNLESS... there's a rock slide or the Platina bridge is out. Add one beer for every boulder on the highway measuring over one meter in diameter. Drink all you got if the Platina Bridge is out.

So next time you ask me for directions, I will happily oblige you with my own Beer System of Measurement. The best part of the system is that it's empirical. For you idiots reading this who don't know what that word means, the word empirical denotes information gained by means of observation or experiments. That means you can make up your own measurements based on your road trips and always be accurate. How freakin' great is that?

¡Pura birra! Buckle up and drive safely!

¹Ironic: The Imperial Measurement System, an archaic hangover induced by "Imperialist" England - the country against which the U.S. fought, and narrowly defeated to gain it's independence - may outlast the U.S. Dollar. What's the irony? The irony is that the only country on the face of the planet that still clings to the Imperial Measurement System is the United States. Even the Emerald Isle has forsaken its wickedness!

²Notice Irish Catholics, Italians, recovering alcoholics and their "still in the gutter brethren" are NOT included here.

³Try to get to the fucking airport on a Friday night from Ocotal during high-season! 6-pack (and some Valium)!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Laugh and Learn

I found this posted on the Tico Times Facebook page today and had to take a look. The link was captioned with "Laugh and Learn" and, I must say, the caption is dead on. The video is actually titled, "Vigilance".

The U.S. Consluate did a great job making this video funny and informative. Here are some top examples of what not to do - in Costa Rica or anywhere else in the world you may live or travel. It just takes a little bit of vigilance!

Pura vida!

Monday, July 11, 2011


Atardecer, Playa Hermosa, Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Playa Hermosa, Gte.
In Spanish "late afternoon". But the way the word is used here at the beach in Costa Rica, it means "sunset". It's July, my and my daughter's birthday month and the month I have proclaimed "El Mes de la Atardecer", "The Month of the Sunset".

Playa Hermosa, Gte.
My world has been one filled with sociopaths of late and it's been bumming me out while making me angry at the same time. Alas, even Paradise has its allotment of users and liars. But I've recently found that for every liar and user out there, there's a sunset whose shear beauty and wonder pales their existence and rejuvenates my mind, body and soul - and my faith in God and humanity. And I have my wife to thank for it.

Playa Hermosa, Gte.
I've been so engrossed in trying to survive financially lately that I haven't really been paying attention to the two people in my life for whom I'm busting my ass in the first place - my wife and child. Ironic, no? So my wife finally laid down the law and told me a boatload of stuff I really didn't want to hear. It was called "the truth". And it made me feel uncomfortable and ashamed.

Laila, Playa Hermosa, Gte.
You see, I work out of our home, and even though I'm there, I'm not really "there". So we decided on a calendar where I would make myself available without any business interruptions. It consists of one hour breaks for breakfast and lunch, and no work at all after 4PM - when we all pile on La Chula and go to the beach for the evening's sunset. A simple way to save a marriage.

Laila, Playa Hermosa, Gte.
I look forward to sunset every day now. In fact it's 8:30AM and I'm already looking forward to sitting on a beach log next to Carla with a cold Pilsen while Laila leaps and bounces in the tranquil surf of Playa Hermosa. We'll collect hermit crabs for her terrarium, catch up with friends who are walking the beach, watch the baby mantas play in the waves and the cormorants dive for fish, slather ourselves in Off! to combat the chitras and zancudos and breathe in the fresh, Pacific Ocean air in the presence of no one else but each other.

Laila, Carla and Me, Playa Hermosa, Gte.
Because in the end, the only thing we have is each other, and the sunset en el Mes de la Atardecer! ¡Pura vida!

Saturday, July 2, 2011


In English, "bot fly". Last week I noticed my dog, Madona, licking the base of her tail. I thought to myself, "Damn flea collars don't last for crap." But when I went to check her out and put some flea and tick spray on her until I could get to the veterinaria in Liberia for another collar, I noticed a couple of holes in her skin and some soupy ooze coming out of them. Looked like she had been clawed by a cat, though I thought the location unusual - dogs usually get clawed on the head, not the butt.

So I got out my pop veterinary kit and injected an antibiotic cream into the holes as I've done so many times in the past. I've had some experience putting my dogs back together again after fights and what not. My dog, Garcia, had a fight with an anteater one time and I had to Superglue the drooping skin from the razor sharp claw cuts on his head back together so he could see out of his eyes. His whole scalp was falling off his skull (Don't worry, he made a full recovery).

The next day I examined Madona again and noticed more holes near her rear groin. That's when I got a bit panicky and decided to bring her to the vet. My wife said it looked like "gusanos", or worms. The word is used here to describe any type of internal, creepy-crawly parasite.

After a quick shave around the openings for a better look, the vet discounted parasites and said the holes were from "un animal salvaje" - a wild animal! She said it looked like Madona had been attacked from behind by a skunk, pizote (coati) or mapache (racoon) and gave me some anitbiotic pills and spray to treat her with for a week.

A couple of days later things weren't getting any better and I started thinking about the gusanos again. I gave the skin around one of the holes a squeeze and noticed something just under the surface inside the hole. I gave it a big squeeze and was able to get my finger nails clamped around something shiny, whiteish-transluscent but very tough in texture. I gave it a good, steady pull and was amazed at what came out of the hole. It was a creepy-crawly parasite alright! Right out of The X-Files. I counted the holes. There were eight. 1 down, 7 more torsalos to go!

Long story short, I decided to treat Madona myself. Torsalos are pretty common here. I've seen them removed from people a few times. There's a sensational video of a British tourist who gets a torsalo in Costa Rica and has it removed by a doctor in London click here. But I had never seen any torsalo larvae this freakin' big! And I had never removed one myself. It's an interesting "sensation", to say the least. I kinda like it, in a weird way.

So I borrowed some Larvacida (a purple spray commonly used on livestock for such parasites, that either kills them or makes them want to leave their host, while keeping any wounds free of infection) and started spraying into the holes and around them twice a day. Madona has been responding well to the treatment and is down to one torsalo - though she looks pretty freaky with a purple hiny!

How to remove a torsalo

I did some research on the internet on bot flies and found this informative video from Animal Planet click here that explains their whole life cycle. Everyone had told me that the fly lays its eggs on the skin of its host, the eggs hatch and the larvae burrow under the skin and live there until they're ready to leave. NOT ENTIRELY TRUE! And this is why I am curiously drawn to these creepy things...

...The bot fly lays its eggs on the belly of a mosquito! It's the mosquito, not the fly, that then lands on the host. The eggs drop off the mosquito's belly upon encountering body heat. They then hatch and the larvae burrow in and live under the host's skin for 6 weeks. Then they leave the host, fall to the ground, burrow into the dirt and emerge as a fly 4 days later! That has to be one of THE MOST AMAZING LIFECYCLES in all of Nature! I can't believe it even works! And how did it evolve?! Mind blower!

Every time I think I've seen it all, I get thrown a curve ball. Though torsalos are more like a "slider". ¡Pura vida!