Mutually Assured Humiliation

I would like to talk a little about the Spanish language.

As I’ve mentioned before, I consider it an obligation to make at least some effort to learn the local language of whatever country you are in, especially if you plan to stay there awhile and do some sort of work. But that doesn’t mean just looking up words in a dictionary or running through some levels in Duolingo. It pays to pay attention to dialect, and understand the nuances and variation of any language. I know it’s hard, but it’s important.

I started studying Spanish in middle school and continued into high school, but the “classroom” Spanish we learned didn’t do much good during my travels in Central America. Part of it was that we were obnoxious teenagers who retained information the way a raincoat retains water. But part of it was that what were taught was traditional formal Spanish that eschewed any sort of slang or idioms that most people use to communicate. And another part was that our teacher, text books, and curriculum were all based on Mexican Spanish exclusively.

That would have been extremely nice to know! Not that there is anything wrong with Mexican Spanish, and it makes sense to teach that to American students, but it is severely limiting to not know that the language you are learning is not as universal as you think! Imagine learning American English and then traveling to Scotland. Or New Zealand.

I used to live in New Zealand. I’m still not sure they speak English.

One embarrassing moment comes to mind: I helped facilitate a tour of a Costa Rican coffee farm to a bunch of Mexican schoolkids. The farmer demonstrated a tool they use, a kind of cut-off machete they call a “chinga.” However, chinga, in Mexico, is the equivalent of the expletive “fuck.” The teacher was mortified. The kids were delighted. “You must use the chinga with both hands,” the farmer told them, unaware. “And push–it–down–deep, like so.”

That was a language discrepancy between two Spanish speakers! And now you can can see the issue when it comes to learning the language altogether. So I can understand the hesitation and reticence to even make the attempt.

Learning and practicing a new language inevitably involves a stage of embarrassment and humiliation. Or several stages. You will sound like an imbecile. You will literally speak like a child. And as your frustrated adult mind struggles to enunciate with limited vocabulary, you will at some point make a mistake and say something nonsensical. Or offensive. Or hilarious.

Another story: One trip, one of the girls was getting a lot of unwanted attention from local men. We tried to teach her to say, “Dejame en paz” or “leave me alone” (literally, “leave me in peace”). To the next guy, she said, “dejame un pez” or “leave me a fish” (literally, “leave me a fish”). However, the guy was so confused that he left, so I guess it worked after all.

“Yes, and leave it right now!”

Every second language learner has these stories. It is a universally understood process, painful but necessary. All we can do is empathize and laugh about it later. So in the interest of comradery and comedy, I hereby offer my Most Embarrassing Spanish Story, which I partly blame on differences between Spanish dialects and use of slang.

In Puerto Rico, I lived in a field station for a while with a bunch of forestry researchers from various backgrounds. At one dinner, not long after I’d just arrived, a cockroach ran up my leg. I jumped up and said, “I have a bicho in my pants!” using the Costa Rican term “bicho” which is the equivalent of “bug.”

Es bicho.

However, in Puerto Rico the word “bicho” is a fairly vulgar term for “penis.” It’s pretty profane, and normally just used as an expletive. Which means I had just announced to a table full of strangers that I had a dick in my pants, thrust one hand down there, and stomped off to the bathroom muttering something about having to deal with it. I didn’t learn about this until days later, when some coworkers explained the difference. I was mortified. They were delighted.

Bicho es!

Not a Day Goes by Here Either

Since I started this blog (in–wait, let me check…2015!? Seriously?), I’ve been able to generate enough Costa Rica-related content to keep it going. With the end of the pandemic in sight, and the possibility of international travel more than just a distant fantasy, I’ve been going over my old posts drumming up inspiration and ideas for a return trip.

Apparently, during my early days, I wrote about all the things I learned about Costa Rica–the nature, the seasons, the animals,–without even leaving my room. How it was impossible not to learn something each and every day.

The following are lessons I’ve had to learn–or rather, re-learn–since moving back to Washington from Costa Rica just in time for Winter:

  1. There is no such thing as “being cold” in Washington. There is only “being underdressed.”
  2. Beer here is much stronger than the stuff I’ve gotten used to. And it actually tastes like beer.
  3. Bananas are awful. Apples are delicious. This is the opposite of CR.
  4. You can exercise for a little bit without getting really sweaty. This means you don’t have to plan your entire day around a workout and a long shower.
  5. I am still unable to get away from ants. I really am under a curse, this is not a joke, I’m actually serious. Forget Raid, I need an exorcism.
  6. Slippers are not just a thing, they are the greatest thing. Related: cold toes suck.
  7. You drink coffee to stay warm, not just to stay awake.
  8. The day does not end just because the sun goes down. And now it starts before the sun comes up too.
  9. Some (some!) of the wild mushrooms here will not kill you horribly and are, in fact, quite tasty. More importantly: there are few enough species of fungus to tell the edible ones from the toxic ones with enough certainty.
  10. A single lone mosquito in a room is unacceptable. As in, Code Red DEFCON 2 Battle stations all-hands-on-deck kill-it-with-fire levels of response. Same goes for large spiders.
  11. Your local physician, therapist, or nurse will think you’re either a loon or fucking with them when you mention “previous sloth-related injuries.”

How About That Weather We’re Having

It’s October now and the weather sucks.

Sorry–that’s just the truth of it. The factual, objective truth. There is nothing pleasant about what’s going on outside. On-and-off wind and rain. Just enough sun to make wearing a heavy coat uncomfortable. Nobody likes this. If you do, you’re either lying, or you subconsciously associate the season with pumpkin spice. Get help.

So why am I writing this? Why am I bitching about Washington weather on a blog about Costa Rica? Am I missing it? Am I worried about online traffic? Did I run out of stories to tell?

Answer: Yes, no, never.

The real answer is right there: I’m bitching about Washington weather. Me! I’m from here! I used to live here! I grew up dealing with this about 8 months of the year, and did I whine then? Yet I caught myself grumbling the other day, as I was watching the rain fall on all my outdoor plans.

Because yes, this weather is uncomfortable. But you know what? So was the Tropics. I spent my first months and even years in South America adapting to the heat, humidity, and storms. Yes, it took time. Yes, it was kinda scary at times. But after a while, I just dealt with it, and then spent the next few years dealing with other newcomers complain and adapt too.

So the other day, what did I do? I went for a walk. Just pulled on layer after layer of warm clothes and rain gear, slipped on my big ol’ jungle boots, and went outside. Just felt the wind on my face and the rain seep under my collar. Nearly lost my hat. Definitely got soaked down to my socks. Might have splashed in some puddles.

Found salamanders, too. Yes, even in the cold, wind, and pouring rain, I can still find herps.

Sometimes the best way to adapt is to just go for it. Jump into the cold pool. Run headlong into discomfort. It worked for me in the jungle. It worked for me again back in Washington. And it’s my go-to self-prescribed response to whining. Especially about the weather.

Unemployed, in a Green Land

The reason I’ve been so quiet on this blog is that over the past few weeks I’ve been too busy living in an isolated off-the-grid spot in the rainforest, killing ants, taking pictures of animals, trying to stay dry, and stuffing my face with delicious fruit. But the surprise twist? I’m not in Costa Rica.

I’m in Washington.

Yes, after a long series of flights and layovers, I was finally able to return home and peel off a mask that had gotten pretty funky by that point. Luckily, I was able to settle into a place tucked away in the forest for quarantine, which also made culture shock transition a little easier. And the weather was pretty good too–nothing like the Pacific Northwest in Summer. So I thought I was in a place where I could begin a new chapter in life, try to track down a new career, and close the book on Costa Rica for now. And enjoy all the things I had been missing.

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No toucans, but we’ve got bald eagles.

And enjoy them I did. I think my first meal back was bread. Just bread. I had plans to make a sandwich, but once I had my hands on a loaf of real chewy gluten with some sort of French name I took a bite right out of it and didn’t stop until I was down to crumbs. This time of year is also blackberry season, which is about the one kind of fruit that really doesn’t grow well in the Tropics. First chance I got, I reenacted my childhood and picked until my hands were stained purple. And then the beer. My god, the beer. Costa Rica, I love you, but I’ll be willing to commit when you have a dedicated microbrew scene.

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See? Bald eagle.

Yet on my first morning I went outside with a cup of coffee and watched some deer nibble the grass. White-tailed deer, no less, the exact same species we had back in Manuel Antonio. I munched on fresh fruit that had been picked in the backyard (raspberries, not mangoes, but still). It was surprisingly hot and sunny, although lush. Most of this environment is rainforest, after all. Temperate rainforest. So I joked to myself about never leaving at all.

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I wasn’t kidding when I said I literally have to chase these things out of my driveway. Crazy to think this is the national animal of Costa Rica.

But then the ants began.

Apparently, the place I’m staying has had an ant problem. That is, previous tenants have complained about a few ants in the kitchen and bathroom. But now I was here. With my vendetta. My nemesis. They got inside my bags. My clothes. The second night I woke up covered with them. Now it’s war.

Perhaps the jungle is a place of mind. You can never leave. Maybe I really am cursed. Maybe this won’t be quite the respite I was hoping for. Maybe I’m not ready for a break after all.

Regardless, I’ll most likely be blogging less but may chime in with an update or flashback story when I have good photos. For now, I’ve got to go bring down some jungle justice on a bunch of pansy-abdomen Washingtonian ants. At least this time there are no monkeys.

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Also I’m almost out of data on my free WordPress account. I really do have too many pictures of frogs.

Return of the Roofsnake

I was just sitting down to lunch when the call came: “Snake!”

In the juvenile fantasy in my head where I have my own TV show, this is how each episode would start. I swear, it’s my call to action. My “Your mission, should you choose to accept it…” Here I am, settling down to my rice and beans when an old lady comes running up yelling about snakes. Then I grab my hat and the theme song kicks in.

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Intro credits over training montage.

Yesterday’s episode began as a rerun, with the same poor old long-suffering lady who runs housekeeping on the volunteer dormitory, which has since been turned into onsite staff housing since the shutdown. She’s usually the one to bring me the news, partly because she never stops working but mostly because she is deathly afraid of snakes. Either way, I’m always happy to help, and this time she led me to the outer balcony of the third floor. Up, in the rafters of the awning, was a good sized tree boa.

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“Hola.”

Now, our building—like many in Costa Rica—has a vaulted roof of corrugated metal. It helps with air flow. However, since the material is corrugated, it doesn’t sit completely flush with the tops of the walls. There are little gaps, gaps just the right size for snakes. Snakes that tend to climb to high places and look for small spaces to sleep in. I’m surprised this doesn’t happen more often. In fact, it was almost exactly a year ago when a parrot snake dropped from the ceiling right onto a ceiling fan, whirled around several times, and was then flung across the room. Oh, and the room was full of volunteers. I was summoned by the screaming.

Anyway, since that time we put up a thin sheet of insulation beneath the corrugated metal, which keeps the animals out of the room but provides even better housing. This snake, as you can see from the photo, was just peeking his head and most of his body outside, probably waiting for the sun to go down to go hunting for small rodents and sleeping birds. Or waiting to ambush bats. Neither of which was relevant to the lady, who refused to sleep beneath a roof infested with snakes.

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You’re saying you don’t want to fall asleep to this image?

But the location was complicated. The balcony didn’t go around that side of the building. There was nowhere for me to stand, and no way to grab the snake with any leverage. I could try to monkey-bar from the balcony over to the snake, but then how to grab the snake and climb back with only two hands? Grabbing it with a hook at this distance could injure it, and any way I had already packed my capture kit.

I eventually worked out my strategy: I would tie myself to the balcony with a short length of rope, vault over the rail, then wall-run up to the snake, parkour-style. At the height of my run, I would grab the snake with both hands and then just drop. After stuffing the snake into my shirt, I could then climb the rope back with both hands. Sure, it would be a little risky, but the physics checked out I had done worse.

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Friends, family–if you’ve ever wondered what goes through my head, it is this. This, all the time.
I already had my belt off and was wrapping it into a makeshift harness when I was struck by something that rarely comes to me: Common sense.

What the fuck was I doing?

I had four days to go until I left Costa Rica. Four. Everything was in place. I was packed and ready to get on a plane. All I had to do was survive until then. The last thing I wanted to do was risk an injury that would take me to the hospital right before an international flight. Also, y’know, death.

Forget TV shows—I’ve seen this movie! The one with veteran cop who gets shot “three days before retirement.” Or the one with the cocky daredevil who gets his comeuppance in the worst way, at the worst time. There’s playing the odds, and then there’s tempting fate. If I had had no travel plans, or fewer commitments, or better health insurance…but no.

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There may come a day where I kill or horribly maim myself catching a snake, but it is not this day!

So I gritted my teeth and swallowed my pride and did the thing I dread: told everyone I couldn’t do it. Tried and failed to catch the snake with a long stick and watched as it retreated further into the roof. Had to endure the scorn and disappointment of a old lady who will be bunking with her daughter’s family for a few nights.  That upper floor is going to be unoccupied for some time.

But at least I’m alive. My survival instinct outweighed my pride. And I can still go home.

What I Will Not Miss

With only a few weeks left here, my days are mostly consumed with packing, handing off my work to others, and soaking in as much of this place as I can. It’s bittersweet. If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that goodbyes aren’t final, but I’m afraid it will be quite a while until I can return.

I’m going to keep on blogging when I can and probably a little into my return to the States, spreading out the various topics and photos I have on backlog. But today something came to me when I while I was chatting with someone from back home. We were discussing travel plans and things I was looking forward to, and I realized that nothing I was saying made any sense. That is, the concerns I was voicing were an utter world apart from what they dealt with, and it was a good illustration of my mental state from living in this place so long.

So I’ve compiled here a brief list of ways in which my mind has been changed from jungle life.

  1. I See Snakes Everywhere

Everywhere. On the sides of roads. In corners. Under furniture. Even if I don’t see them, I know they’re there. Except they’re usually not. But my senses have become so fine-tuned to stay vigilant for snakes that I’ve become hyperaware. Or maybe paranoid. I don’t like to sit on a couch with my feet dangling out because I will convince myself that there is a snake underneath, ready to bite my ankles. Toilets are even worse. The other day I looked up and knew, knew, there was a snake in the rafters, and even ID’ed it to a Bothriechis palm viper, possibly a rare subspecies not usually found in this area, and I was practically writing the account in my head when I realized it was just a knotted rope.

Sometimes it’s a pattern. Certain tiled floors, for example, set me off. Or braided fabrics. It’s like a new version of trypophobia. The last time I was allowed in town I was standing in line at a store and the woman in front of me had sandals on with snakeskin pattern straps. I practically jumped a mile. They must have thought I was a freak. But maybe because I was staring at her feet for a while afterward.

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I still maintained a proper social distance, though.

 

  1. I Don’t Sip Cold Drinks Anymore

I guzzle them. Why? Because cold drinks don’t last. Your smoothie will become juice and your beer will skunk within minutes. You gotta enjoy them while they last. Speaking of beer, I’m going to have to pace myself when I get back to a place where beer is darker and has more than a trace of alcohol.

  1. My Anxiety Dreams Are Bonkers

So most people have that recurring dream where they’re at school without clothes? I have dreams where I’m in the jungle without shoes. And I’m usually standing in ants. Then I wake up in a cold sweat screaming about vile insects. Oh, I also usually wake up in ants, too. I’m really not going to miss ants. I think that goes without saying.

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Can you see the ants? Neither can I, but I can sure as hell feel them.

  1. My Basic Survival Instinct is Not to Stay Warm, But to Stay Dry

This is reflected in everything. I grew up in Washington. It doesn’t get too cold there, but enough that homes are built and clothes are worn with the intention of maintaining heat. You generally wear shoes indoors. Keep a furnace running, or a wood stove. “Room temperature” generally means significantly colder than you are.

Here, it is different. The first thing I do when I get home is take off my shoes and socks and dry my feet. Get down in there between the toes. Foot rot strikes quickly, even when it isn’t raining. My entire life is based around air flow, from the storage of my clothes to the arrangement of my furniture. My ultimate luxury is a big, wide bed where I can spread out like a starfish. I require a fan. And speaking of clothes…

  1. I Shop with Very Specific Specs in Mind

My clothes have to be light, but not too light or mold eats right through them. My rain gear has to be long, but not heavy. I don’t count on electronics to last. I like high-end laptops, but if I get a custom build I usually end up on the phone with someone about which model does best in humidity. It’s not exactly a spec that’s listed in the manual. And I buy cheap phones because they just don’t last that long. I’ve gone through two in less than two years. The point is, I represent a very niche market, and it’s hard to find things that are functional and durable for this climate. REI doesn’t exactly have a Tropical market yet.

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Yet.

And the list goes on. I will forever shake out my shoes on reflex before putting them on because you never know with wayward scorpions. Keep my knives sharp and oiled and close at hand because there is always vegetation to cut back and rust will ruin a good blade. Store electronics in a bag with silica gel to get another month or two of use out of them. Just shrug when I see a spider in the room, because of course there’s a spider in the room.

I’ll go on a few more hikes and night walks to get in some good content before I leave. I may have been here so long it’s driven me near insane, but I don’t want to take this place for granted.

Expatriate

So I quit my job and I’m moving back to the US.

Not because I have ants in my bed or wasps in my office. I mean, I do. I have those things in those places. Right now, in fact. Which is why I’m writing this in the kitchen. But no, the true causes are more complicated than that.

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I work here. At least, I try to. When it’s not full of wasps.

It’s not a bad thing, either. I’m not leaving this place like I left my last job. It’s an unfortunate but necessary step. You see, even under the best of circumstances wildlife rescue is a terribly underfunded charity, and it’s not a great way to make a living. Tack on a pandemic, global shutdown, economic recession, and resulting work furlough and well, I that’s my cue to make my exit.

But I’m not here to talk about work. The real reason I’m writing this is because of what so many people said to me after I broke the news to them. From friends and family, variations of, “Are you sure you want to do this? The job market in the US is terrible, there’s a disease, the political situation is a nightmare, and there’s been all this violence with the police.”

To which I answer with a laugh.

Not a happy laugh. Not, “funny, ha ha,” but a kind of desperate, maniacal, insane laugh. The kind of laugh you do to stop from crying.

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The kind of laugh you make while retreating back inside your shell, never to emerge.

I’m going to try to explain why.

Years and years ago, when I first began my career in Latin America, I had all kinds of feedback from people. Most of it negative. “Central America? It’s too unstable. Too corrupt. Unsafe. Unsanitary.” “Don’t drink the water and don’t trust the cops.” “Watch out for malaria and Dengue.” Granted, I was just a college student and, true, some of the places I was going in Guatemala and Peru were pretty rough. I’m not denying any of that.

But does no one else see this? The irony? The symmetry? Can anyone help me frame this paradigm of people warning me from returning home for the very same reasons they warned me not to leave?

And yes, I know, it’s not completely the same. Differences of scale. And I’m not getting into a political angle here on a blog about snakes and ants and monkeys. Nor am I trying to make any of these issues about me. And I’m certainly not enjoying this, as if this were some sort of cruel comeuppance on a segment of complacent privileged America. I didn’t want any of this to happen. Not to anyone.

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I don’t want this to happen to anyone either.

But I still can’t stop from laughing.

So what I guess I’m trying to say is: watch what you say, because it could happen to you. Don’t take anything for granted. Don’t see countries as monoliths with discrete borders. They are tapestries, stained and rent and woven together.  The people who live there are people too.

The most I gained from my travels was perspective. It’s the one thing I can say I truly earned on my own. I saw dead bodies in the street and never shook that image. I saw people withering away from preventable diseases in overcrowded hospitals. I looked to armed police and soldiers and didn’t know if they were friend or enemy. Or if it mattered. And I saw people live alongside all of that and still somehow go about their lives, returning home to their families to put food on the table.

I lived in fear ever since that it would happen again, happen close to home. And now it has. So I’m going back home, to the country that raised me, to try to forge a life there that Costa Rica isn’t able to do right now.

Happy Fourth of July.

 

Wunderbaer

The first word I learned in the German language was the word for coati: nasenbaer. Part of the reason it stuck with me is that it means, literally, “nose bear.” How great is that?

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Side note: there are no coatis in Germany, and no bears in Costa Rica. How’s that for weird?

Apparently many German animal names work this way. The kinkajou is the “honey bear.” A sloth is a “lazy bear.” Delightful. It’s almost genius in its simplicity. Name = adjective or notable trait + bear. But this has led me to an odd thought.

I have never been to Germany, but seeing that they apparently use the bear as their sole reference for new animals, I have to conclude that the country is populated exclusively by bears. Bears everywhere. Just bears. And when Germans travel abroad, they can only interpret foreign wildlife through the lens of the only animal they know, that is: the bear.

So as a service to any potential German travelers out there, I would like to offer this helpful Costa Rican bestiary, which I hope to publish one day under the title A Field Guide to Costa Rican Bears (German Edition).

Willkommen to Costa Rica!

Costa Rica is a beautiful and lush tropical country known for its proud history of conservation, and for its wide variety of native bears. This guide will provide a brief description of the many bears you may see during your visit.

Some of the most striking and most popular are the feathery wing bears, many of which are endemic to the country. Because of its geography, Costa Rica hosts a great number of bear species as they migrate across the isthmus, and many bearwatchers are drawn here to add to their lifer bear lists.

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With some experience, you may be able to identify a bear by its song.

Of course, at night, the little flappy wing bears come out in spectacular diversity, with Costa Rica supporting several dozen species. Here, you may find wing bears that have specialized to eat fruit, nectar, insects, fish, and even a few blood-drinking vampire bears. Don’t worry—they very rarely feed on humans.

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It’s a well-known fact that these bears sleep upside-down. Some, even under leaves.

Look up in the trees of the rainforest for nasty tail bears. Always iconic of the tropical forest, they are amusing and fascinating to watch as they socialize and forage. However, for your safety, please do not ever feed the bears.

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For their safety as well as yours. Some human diseases can spread to Tropical bears.

While you may be concerned about long scaly deadly bears, most of these are shy and rarely encountered. But be sure to keep your eyes out! Most of the ones you will see are only long and squeezy.

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Some very long, and very squeezy.

Around the rainy season you will see and hear plenty of slimy jumping bears, which come out to sing and breed when conditions are wet. Make sure to look and not touch, as many of these bears are toxic.

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Green-and-back poison dart bear.

It’s my duty as a guide and naturalist to accommodate all peoples and as many languages as I can. If you are German, I hope this has been helpful. I hope that you will keep Costa Rica in mind when COVID is over and you can leave Germany, where you are currently isolating, no doubt surrounded by bears.

Naturalist Dudes’ Night Out: When Herp Nerds Bro Down

While this blog is supposed to be anonymous, you’ve probably picked up by now that I am male, outdoorsy, and rather eccentric. To put it mildly. I generally prefer the company of animas to people, nature to civilization. I don’t do well in large groups. Or small groups for that matter. And I never properly mastered the technique that is known in our society as “male bonding.”

But in the rare occasions that I find myself in like company, my inner bro emerges. And if conditions are right, the shenanigans increase exponentially. Think the Hangover, only with more monkeys and everyone is Zach Galifianakis. Adventure ensues. Legends are born. All of it acceptably macho, emotional but no too emotional, and also extraordinarily exaggerated with each retelling.

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See: this entire blog.

Last night was, by comparison, relatively tame. But a proper case study nonetheless. It began with four of us, some of the last sanctuary staff stuck isolated on the campus, throwing back beers and just chewing the fat well into the late hours (read: past 9pm). Then someone brought up snakes.

We started swapping stories about the great ones we’d caught and the ones we’d lost. Pics were demanded and phones whipped out. We creeped on each others’ Facebook and iNaturalist accounts, trying not to act jealous or competitive. More beers were had. Every sentence ended with “dude” or “mae.”

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“It’s always the best ones that get away, mae.”
At that point, a night walk was inevitable. There was no way any of us could say no, even if we’d wanted. So we grabbed boots and flashlights, grading and recommending the specs on each others’ gear and strode off into the jungle, strutting a perfect line four abreast.

The night did not disappoint. Within the first 15 minutes we found a coral snake crossing the path, and I recounted in grisly detail the effects of its venom. One guy edged closer for a photo, but we held him back. He told us he “totally had this” but we kept him away. Convinced him it wasn’t worth it, man.

Later, we came upon several cat-eyed snakes, a horde of litter frogs, and even a rare casque-headed lizard. We rattled off common names in English and Spanish, and even a few scientific names when we could to impress each other. Near a creek we found a turtle, and then this toad that I’m ashamed to say I could not identify. It’s probably a Giant Toad, Rhinella horriblis, but with that head crest and bright orange color? Help me out here.

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Seriously, help me out here. An Amphibian I don’t know? This will keep me up at night.

The night was crowned by our true unspoken goal, the one thing that is always on a young herpetologist man’s mind: large deadly snake. As one guy joked out loud, “fer-de-lance, where are you?” one appeared right in front of us, as if by magic, curled in the middle of the trail. Further attempts to likewise summon a jaguar were unsuccessful.

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This is the only time a selfie stick isn’t just appropriate, but recommended.

Who knows how long we would have remained out there, stomping past frogs and terrorizing night life, but we heard thunder moments before it started to pour and we decided to call it a night. Because, like, we didn’t want our boots wet for work tomorrow. Not because we were scared or tired or anything.

So the night ended well, and didn’t escalate into a caiman hunt or a trip to the hospital. No one climbed a tree. And all of us enjoyed proper male camaraderie in the presence of scaly or slimy creatures. A tremendous success. Probably because we stuck to beer and didn’t get into the real jungle hooch. Either way, that’s enough socialization to last me another year or so.

Missed Connections

You: the couple of tourists feeding the monkeys the other day

Me: the guy who asked you repeatedly to stop feeding the monkeys.

Hi there!

Remember me? No doubt you do—I spoke to you several times, trying to be as polite and professional as I could to explain why it was unsafe, illegal, and irresponsible to give food to wild monkeys. You tried your best to blow me off, but I’m sure I made an impression. It’s just that I had a tour group to attend to, so as I was walking off and saw you giving the monkeys Cheetos I never got a chance to tell you what horrible human beings you are.

You see, I wanted to give you the benefit of the doubt. I know a lot of people don’t have monkeys at home, and really don’t like to use their brains in the slightest, and can’t imagine the consequences of giving them junk food handouts. But that excuse just doesn’t fly since I gave you that flier called “11 Reasons Not to Feed Wildlife.” Although, wait—maybe you can’t read? Did you need me to spell it out in pictures? Pictures like the ones that accompanied the flier? Well, shoot, maybe I should’ve used smaller words.

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YOU. NOT. FEED THIS.

No, the issue here has nothing to do with communication. I made every attempt to be civil, and accommodate for your ignorance. You did something bad, you knew it was bad, and you did it anyway. That makes you a bad person. A stupid person. And for the benefit of everyone else reading this, I’m going to explain just how bad and stupid a thing you did.

First, it was dangerous. Monkeys are aggressive, and common knowledge will tell you this. Also me. I told you this. You or your children could have been bitten. You could have lost a finger. You could have caught a disease. Did you know that monkeys often carry diseases they can pass to humans, including skin parasites, giardia, and the fucking herpes simplex virus? Of course you know because I told you that too, you—oh my god, was this all part of your plan to come up with an excuse to your spouse why you have herpes? Or some perverse weight-loss diet? Are you after a Giardia body?

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“Honey, I swear I got this herpes from a monkey! Wait…”

Second, by feeding the wild animals, you teach them to expect food from all humans, something the rest of us have to deal with long after you’ve crammed your Cheetos-smelling bodies into your crappy rental car and left. Thanks to people like you, this community is now dealing with emboldened, habituated monkeys who regularly shake down or outright rob park visitors, tearing open bags and breaking into houses. The locals call them “la Mafia” now. But I doubt you care about other people. You certainly didn’t care about the volume and behavior of your kids. Although it just occurs to me that this all might have been a misunderstanding because you confused the monkeys for your own ugly children.

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Yeah, I’m seeing it now.

Third, you could make the monkeys sick. Local troops are showing signs of diabetes, tooth decay, sugar addiction, and mouth ulcers from eating too much human food. You might be content to shovel junk into your bodies like grunting swine, but please spare the wildlife. They don’t know any better. You do. Or at least, you should.

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“Leave me out of this.”

I could go on, but since you may as well have used that flyer to wipe Cheeto dust off your monkey-feeding fingers, I won’t waste my time. But the worst part about this isn’t so much that you did it, it’s that you did it in front of your children. You got them involved. You gave them Cheetos to give to monkeys, and told them that was okay. You had them ignore my advice, and deprived them of a chance to learn to be better than you. You arrogant pieces of shit. Do you also tell your kids to ignore their doctor and not wash their hands? To not wear seatbelts? If you want to be such bad parents, why don’t you just give them forks and tell them to tickle electrical sockets? Or go play on train tracks?

Oh, I get it—you don’t like to be disturbed on your vacation. You don’t like to be told what to do. You thought I was bothering your fun. Fuck you. I was trying to help you. You chose to be assholes. Do you also go to Niagara Falls and piss over the edge? Go to Paris and grope the Venus de Milo? Being on vacation doesn’t give you that right. People live here. You just visit.

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Seriously, what is wrong with you?

So leave. Get back on your crappy rental and get out of here. For your next trip, you can go to Alaska and cuddle the bears. Or go to Australia and tease the sharks. I don’t care. Just don’t come back.

Also talk to your doctor, you might have herpes.