Now I don’t mean to go on and on and on about the status of my bowels, but this is serious business and consumes much of my life down here. Being sick is miserable and can dictate every aspect of one’s day. This is precisely why I feel it is necessary to clue you in on the very personal status of my colon. My therapist says that admitting the problem is the first step to recovery so here goes…I have now been sick for 8 days…. I have developed an unhealthy dependence on Imodium and begun experimenting with a witch’s brew of antibiotics and ameba slayers….I want help...I want to get better…I want to break these chains and free myself from the confines of the BATHROOM! And now that my personal demons are out in the open for all to see, let’s move on….I’ve got a lot of shit to take care of…HA! Okay, I promise, not another comment about my bodily functions for at least another paragraph.
After spending the weekend at sea level, it was time to move up in elevation and trade sandy toes for muddy boots. The Tormentor had arranged for us (The Butcher, Mel, Shea (more to come there for sure!), myself and the rest of The Eaton Clan* to spend 4 days in the cloud forests of Monteverde sampling for the very prestigious Tropical Science Center with the Center’s Director, Olivier. Our transportation was the Costa Rican equivalent to the Griswald’s wood paneled station wagon of National Lampoon fame….a giant white bus that screamed TOURISTS!...no really, it had a sign on the side which read TOURISTS!!!!
*It just occurred to me that I have skipped over some important information that is necessary for a full account of the excursion at hand. I promise to go into greater depth regarding each individual, but for now a brief introduction will have to do. Shea, by profession is a river rafting guide on the Elwha River in Washington. He was recruited at the same time as Melanie to join The Costa Rican Microbiology Team at La Selva. He refers to me as ‘Dragon Lady’ and I not so secretly LOVE it! The Eaton Clan is the Tormentor’s family who is staying the summer down here and includes head matriarch Michelle, Grandpa Ken, and the two boys Bobby and Liam ages 10 and 9.
Sampling in Monteverde was actually a pretty big deal as we would be the very first people to conduct a microbial diversity study in the very same forests that the now extinct golden toad once lived. Needless to say, Bill (renamed Clark Griswald for the duration of the trip) was elated as were the rest of the Griswalds who were just happy to get out of La Selva and see a different part of the country. After an incredibly painful and teary goodbye to my two new besties Ryan and Dennis, I found my seat at the very back of the bus, threw in my iPod ear buds and silently vowed to not have a good time. Emily and Melanie quickly followed suit and together we joined grumpy forces and became Audrey Griswald. Shea immediately filled the role of Rusty Griswald with his uncanny ability to irritate me with every single word that came out of his mouth…no wonder he calls me Dragon Lady but in my own defense, I was still totally ill with dysentery (before you get testy, there is definitely a paragraph between my promise to not say anything with a fecal reference and this comment…look for yourself) and my patience was incredibly short. Grandpa Ken called shot-gun for fear that we would treat him like Aunt Edna and tie him into the rocking chair strapped to the top of the bus and Michelle (Ellen Griswald) settled the boys in for the 6 hour trip to the mystic mountains of Monteverde.
Let this be a warning to anyone planning on traveling the back country dirt roads to Monteverde, especially if you are sitting over the rear axle and have a cup size larger than a C….wear at least 3 bras for this journey. It is necessary if you don’t want to spend the rest of your youthful years with a chest that resembles my great Aunt Magda’s.
Monteverde is by far one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. The air is cool and damp with moisture and the misty clouds move swiftly through the trees, along the roads, and down the green valleys as they make their way up and over the continental divide. Due to the elevation and severe winds in the upper reaches, the forests are dwarfed and you fully expect to find elves frolicking in the thick moss covered understory.
On the second day (I missed the first sampling day because The Tormentor kicked me off of the research team due to my intestinal discomforts) after taking antibiotics and feeling rather sparky, I eagerly donned my beloved jungle gear and hiking boots and set out with the research team. We hiked up and up and up through the cloud forest, stopping only briefly to shake hands with Peter at the Gates, and then continuing on up to the famed Continental Divide where you could take a leak on the ridge and place bets as to which ocean it would run down to. The view was rather socked in with clouds but still stunningly beautiful none-the-less. So…where do we sample?...oh not here?...then where?...DOWN THERE?!....
And down is exactly where we went. Making sure to give the machete wielding Tico man a clear enough area for his backswing, we wound down the mountain ridge cutting through vines, ducking under logs, crossing over gurgling streams, and straight through some of the thickest underbrush I have ever seen. All I could think was thank god it was too cold for snakes up here. After almost an hour of sliding on our asses straight down the muddy slip-n-slide referred to by our machete wielding guide as ‘the trail’ we arrived at sampling plot # 1, Piedres Blanco, to retrieve our bounty….32 soil cores full of dirt. A slight sense of accomplishment began to creep in as we pulled the last core, but the realization that we now had to march back up the side of the mountain using the mud ‘trail’ and sample in 2 additional plots quickly snapped us back into our state of misery.
Finally at a quarter to four our research team plodded back into the station through the pouring rain with packs bursting at the seams full of 96 hard earned cores from 3 different study plots. The Tormentor and I agreed that it had without doubt, been the hardest day of sampling either of us had ever conducted. Although physically exhausted, I felt better than I had in over a week. The fresh mountain air combined with a slew of drugs had done me wonders and I actually felt like eating something! To celebrate, Olivier treated each of us to the biggest, moistest, full of gooey goodness looking chocolate cake in all the land and a fresh cup of espresso with which to wash it all down…..I’m actually still drooling.
The next day, we said our farewells to Olivier and the guides and loaded back up into the Griswald wagon (sans Rusty who flew back to the States for a weekend of debauchery no doubt), for the long journey down the bumpy mountain road back to Wally World. Grandpa up front, Clark and Ellen with the boys, and the powerfully moody super-force conglomerate of Audrey, wearing a total of 7 braziers, happily (for the time being) in the front row nowhere near the rear axle.