Saturday, August 13, 2011 last full day!

So yesterday was my last full day...and a very calm, relaxing day. I spent the morning taking care of some administrative things at Tupper, had breakfast in the cafe..a typical, Panamanian breakfast, and did some damage in the gift shop. Made my way to Tupper and spent the rest of the afternoon updating this blog. Home to relax, shower and join Kathryn, Kaza, Sara, Abby, Maricela, and Kaza's parents for dinner at Mostaza in Casco Viejo. I had filete salsa de mostaza, papa asada y verduras....delicious!
How fitting that my last day revolves around food!! lol...
And here I am right now...I have been up since 6 am, updating this is now time for me to get dressed and wait for our cab to take us to the airport at 12pm.
This has been the most amazing experience for me. I met family, made new friends and had once in a lifetime experiences. I am truly blessed that I was given this opportunity.
Well, the next time I post, I will be at home! The journey continues...we will be assisting with the Rainforest Researchers camp at the Museum of Natural History in DC all next week, so maybe I will update you on what I'm doing there. Until then...ciao!

Going Batty!

And it's Thursday.....and our departure date is fast approaching. My plan was to go into the lab, but I didn't make it. But our evening activity made up for it!! We met with Dr. Rachel Page at 5:15 and she drove us back out to Gamboa. Rachel works with bats!! She has been doing research on how a certain species of bat has adapted to be able  to locate Tungara frogs by their mating call and also to use that call to differentiate between edible and non-edible species of frogs. She dropped us off in the twilight of the evening with her student, Teague. He was in the process of setting up the mist nets, 3 of them...the bats would fly into them and then either get tangled or drop into the pouch. We waited for about 30 minutes for it to get completely dark. Oh, and he had the mating call of the frogs on cd and played that loudly. About 45 minute wait later, with 10 minute intervals of checking all three nets...score! We had caught a bat! Now, let me stop here and explain gets EXTREMELY DARK in the rainforest! I'm talking not being able to see your hand in front of your face dark. And I made it....I survived!!! And we had headlamps too....but anyhoo....Teague freed the bat and let us examine it up close. Pretty awesome! This little bat was in good shape and already had a transponder in it. Her name was Patty and had been caught a year earlier.
 Her wings and fur were very soft...yup, I touched her! Rachel had felt bags specially made for them. See me holding Patty the bat!! lol...

My last week, continued...

It's Wednesday....and the plan was to go to Gamboa to join Dr. Sunshine Van Bael's class. Up at 5:30, taxi to Albrook bus terminal and on the Diablo Rojo at 6:30 pm. What is a Diablo Rojo, you ask? Well, it means Red Devil, and it's Panama's version of the $1 car (if you are from NY, you know what I mean). They are US built school buses, but have been colorfully and creatively transformed! They sometimes have names and I even saw one with my dad's name...Luis Alberto! lol

We make it to Gamboa....not really knowing what to expect from this class, but were used to busting in on classes, lectures, field work, etc. We had to wait for a little bit, but finally Sunshine arrived. She let us into the schoolhouse...and to our surprise, it actually had dorm rooms! And all the students were in there! Sunshine offered us coffee and rubber boots and introduced us to some of the participants...come to find out we already knew 2 of them, Victor and Guillaume. This was a NEO class! (and you won't understand this reference until you read the next post....) We finished our coffee and put on our boots and headed out to Pipeline road.

The goal for the day was to observe leaf cutter ants for a few hours. The students' object was to solely make observations about the behavior of the ants and to write down as many questions as they could think of. They split off into 2's (there were 8 students total) and I attached myself to Victor and.....well, I didn't get his name! But here they are (Victor is on the right):
After a couple of hours tromping around following leaf-cutter ant highways, we were good and sweaty and the mosquitoes were biting me through my clothes. We saw plenty of bugs and spiders along the way...even ran into other researchers...these 2 gentleman were with their adviser catching fish to collect data about parasites....yeah, how often do you run into guys like THIS in the rainforest?? hehehe....

So, back to the lab, and the lecture that followed. I have to admit...I was ready for a nap, but the discussion was centered around many of the questions the students came up with. We also got a tour of Sunshine's lab...she studies leaf-cutter ants, of course!

The afternoon ended and we boarded the Diablo Rojo for was a great day!!

My last week

So I have caught you up to this past Sunday, August 7th. Monday morning I went to the Multiplaza mall in downtown Panama city to get my laptop! (due to an unfortunate accident, I was without it for my entire time here, luckily, there is a MacStore in the mall and they were able to fix it!) Next on the agenda was the NEO symposium at Tupper. This is what this program is all about, straight from the horse's mouth: "The STRI-McGill Neotropical Environment Graduate Program, in collaboration with a STRI-based program and McGill University (based in Montreal, Canada), has created the Neotropical Environment Option (NEO), a research option for PhD students interested in the environmental issues relevant to the Neotropics." A mouthful, huh? But the symposium was an all day event, celebrating the 10th anniversary of this program. Each of the current students gave a talk about the research they have been doing. Let's see if I can remember some of the topics...there was sharks, and beetles, and cattle...and they were also streaming live on the internet! How cool is that?! It was all pretty interesting....and then there was food....a barbeque. But, alas, I did not get any pictures of the day!

But the evening....oh my....I had a taste for some ice cream, and there is this this most excellent French ice cream shop in Casco Viejo: Granclement. We took a leisurely stroll through Avenida Central to get there. Oh myyyyy....I was in heaven!!! This time, I was smart. This was my third trip here, and the previous times I got the same thing: cookie dough. But this time, I got the pan d'epices and vanilla madagascar....and a pint of cookie dough to go! Yup, I'm greedy!! The girls came along...isla frutas for one and rocky road and dulce de leche for the other....yummmm!

 Tuesday was a lab day in Naos....not much going on though. Here is a picture of the building I went to everyday and of the busito driver..the one in the blue shirt and remember the busito, right? Well here's another picture of that, too.

Friday, August 12, 2011

And the adventures continue....

So we get back from Bocas, shower, change, and then I head back out with the girls for Rebecca's birthday. Rebecca works in the lab with us. We were a pub called La Rana Dorada (The Golden Frog). Great food, awesome drinks, and good times!

Friday was a chill day and Saturday was supposed to be much of the same...I had plans of washing clothes, picking up my laptop and doing a little shopping. But the girls had other things in mind...ROAD TRIP!!! We decided to strike out and find our way to La Isla Grande. This was all trial and error...we really had no clue how long it would take to get there...but 2 buses, a water taxi and 4 hours later...we were there! Words can't describe the gorgeousness...the beauty and tranquilty...the FOOD!! lol But here is the pictures.

 Hojaldras, huevos fritos, y cafe con leche...a typical Panamanian breakfast.

 My homage to mi Tia....even though it's not spelled correctly.

And so we make our way home from Bocas....

 And then it was time to soon! I had no intentions on another 9 hour bus ride home, so we decided to book a flight on AirPanama earlier in the week. The airport was right on the island, so convenient, right? So we get to the airport.......
Ummmm....can you see it? All the construction that was going on...half of the place had no walls and the sunlight was just streaming through the sheetrock. Yeeesh! Did I really want to get on this plane??

 The itty bitty plane...we had to walk out to it....and watch your head getting in and turn to the side to walk down the aisle. But get this....we are the last 2 on the plane...and there aren't anymore seats!! Ohhhhh hecks no...I paid for these seats in advance, somebody was gonna have to get up! So I got my seat (it was in the front, but I was facing the entire cabin) but now we had to find a seat for Kathryn. Lucky duck...she got to sit in the cockpit in the emergency seat.....woww!

So off we go....and the view was perfecto!

And I'm still not done...

So much has happened in the past 11 days....I just have been too lazy to update the blog, so I will give you the short and sweet version.....welllllll...maybe not so short! lol....

The rest of our trip to Bocas went very well. We decided to go on a boat tour and it was FANTASTIC!! We went through Dolphin bay and wound our way around to Red Frog Beach...and yes, I saw dolphins and red frogs! And as soon as I figure out how to upload all the dolphin videos, you can see them...but I've got frogssss!
And more frogs......

And yet more frogs...well, actually, these are the SAME 2 frogs, from many different angles...they were just so darn cute! And I can't forget about the mama sloth we saw...toting around her baby!

And of course...the view! The water was beautiful.....the sky clear...just take a look:

And Red Frog Beach was beautiful....besides the red frogs, there was a great view and pretty plants and flowers to look at.