Saturday, April 23, 2011

Spring is not yet here, but my blog finally is...

it has been quite the winter / spring. I am still working for the Cottingham Lab at Dartmouth College, looking at the effects of a really cute cyanobacteria (used to be called blue-green algae) on a local lake in New Hampshire. There is a nice photo of Gloeotrichia echinulata on the Cottingham web page. I spent quite a bit of time in the lab this winter, counting things, and running chemical analyses, but the field season is about to start, and I am happy about that. I will get outside for work more, get to swim and scuba dive in the lake weekly (but not quite yet--the lake is still covered with ice), and then count more and run more chemical analyses.
I continued my snowboard instructing at the Dartmouth Skiway, including working with some kindergarteners--who were on skis--that was interesting. I spent 2 weeks in Panama in February.
It was a great trip with lots of variety, but I think the most surprising thing is that they use US currency. They have their own coins, though they use US coins as well, but they don't have any paper currency--just US money; sure cut down on exchange rate confusion!
The first week included a tour of Barro Colorado Island, which has a tropical research institute on it sponsored by the Smithsonian Institute. It is located in the middle of Lake Gatun which is part of the Panama Canal. It was pretty cool and I got to meet a young man who is working on marine phytoplankton (cyanobacteria are also phytoplankton), so we got along very well.
I then spent a lovely week in Boquete, somewhat near the Costa Rican border and very near the highest (volcanic) peak in Panama--Volcan Baru. The specific goal for being in Boquete was to practice Spanish at a great little school--Habla Ya--I highly recommend it. I am not sure how much my Spanish improved--a week is not really long enough--however, I had a great time!! I stayed with a host family, and wandered around the area, including a few long runs. The elevation is about 4000 feet and the hills rise steeply where there are lots and lots of coffee plantations. They say, in Boquete, that they have the world's best boutique coffee--not being much of a coffee drinker, I can't say, but I did try a cup of de-caffeinated and it was really really really good. It was a lovely place and the weather perfect--in the 70's-80's during the day, dropping into the 60's in the evening. The air was moist as clouds were constantly drifting over the Cordillera from the Caribbean side and then drifting apart and vanishing. I saw a rainbow almost every day I was there.
I spent one morning on a 3 km zipline that had 13 stations: quite fun and exhilarating. I also met one of the premier rock climbers in the country--Cesar--he is working on putting up some new routes. Panama is not exactly the rock climbers paradise--too much overburden as the geologists would say--but there are a few nice areas. I have a photo of a great little crag right in Boquete: lovely basaltic columns that have been bent and rotated. Check out the photo link below.
From Boquete, I traveled to Santa Catalina on the Pacific Ocean. Along the way I meet up with 4 friends from the US, and we headed off for a week of sea kayaking and snorkeling on Isla de Coiba with Fluid Adventures. One of the places to stay in Santa Catalina is Casa Kenia, and another is Rancho Estero. There are certainly others, but I hung out with the folks who run these two places, and I highly recommend them.
We took a boat to Isla de Coiba then kayaked to our camp on the beach, snorkeled in front of our tents, and kayaked to other lovely beaches and reefs. We did some hiking on the island and generally were awed by the beauty, tranquility, and privacy of the place. There is a park headquarters, in the bay next to where we camped, and folks in black with bullet-proof vests and guns, who head out every day to catch poachers and drug traffickers, but where we were was (wow, 4 words that start with 'w" in a row) quite peaceful. It was a great trip and I got to see lots of turtles' heads and even have a photo of a hawksbill turtle swimming by!!  Having the chance to hangout with my friends was an added bonus!
When I returned to Panama City, I spent a morning at the Miraflores Locks and then wandered down the main, local Panamanian, street: Ave Central. I stayed in an inexpensive and quaint--read cheap and needs some remodeling--hostel (Hospedaje Casco Viejo), in the Casco Viejo area. Again, check out the photos on the links that follow.
The day after I returned, I headed to Maine for a week to help some colleagues drill through the ice on a lake then core the sediments. It was quite the contrast from snorkeling in a swim suit at 85 degrees to 20 degrees and walking across a frozen lake or two--see the one photo below.
My next adventure took me to the Dominican Republic with the Yale Alumni Service Corps where we worked with Cambiando Vidas to build a new home for a family in the village of Las Charcas near San Juan. So many folks were interested in participating that, besides building a house, we also ran a health clinic, offered public health training for some of the local women, taught music, dance, art, and computer skills to kids; coached some basketball and soccer, painted murals, and offered expertise in small business practices--I participated in the soccer coaching. We also got to view the Carnival parade from the Viewing Stand and meet the San Juan mayor--a lively character if there ever was one!!  Two trips to the local country club for some poolside lunch and swimming was also very nice.
  There were some 90 folks in the group and thus we spent quite a bit of time on buses, gathering up, and getting to places. However, I was amazed by how well the logistics actually went considering we had such a large group, needed two hotels, and our various projects took place in several locations at once! I have only respect for Jose, our on the ground organizer! I had a great time and look forward to doing another trip. I really enjoyed meeting the folks that I did, and spending time with some old Yalies.
I made the time to spend a day or so in Santo Domingo, the capital, in the Zona Colonial area. It is basically the oldest city in the New World and some of the buildings rival old world buildings for age. It was really cool to see a 16th century church, still in use, though I never did get my timing right to get inside. Christopher Colombus's son's, Diego, house is still standing as well as other structures and sites. I also went to the Botanical Gardens for a few hours--quite a lovely place--and got carried away taking photos of orchids. They have their own photo album.
It was then time to get home and start the final stages of planning my 1/2 century birthday party. It was quite the success, muchly because the band, TheWall-Stiles, did such a great job. Everything really did work out well, and I am so pleased that so many folks from out of town made it to the party. One of my graduate student colleagues, who has returned to California, received the prize for coming the furthest. However, a few folks from the mid-West and Colorado also made the trip. A college friend from DC made it as well as a high school friend from the other side of Vermont. My family came from MA, CT, and PA while most other folks were a bit more local, including from nearly across the street. It was terrific to have some many folks here to help me celebrate, and I appreciated the cards and notes from everyone who could not make it. I guess that wintering over in Antarctic was the most reasonable excuse for not making it, but field work in various US and international locations, including the Philippines and Greenland seems reasonable as well. Living on the other side of the world also seems like a good excuse. Thanks for all the support from everyone!! I really appreciated all the energy and well wishes.
I guess that wraps up my last couple months. The summer field season is about to start so I will be busy with that. There is always the chance for travel--maybe the Sierras to learn about plants, possibly a wedding in Minnesota, who knows. I hope that everyone is doing well and enjoying life as well as they can.
Don't forget to check out the photo links (be sure to click on the caption, not the photo)--Party, Panama, DR, and orchids--just for Lisa.


For those who missed the party, I had a slide show of hundreds of my photos from my various travels and adventures.  The slide show is much too big to link to here, but I will over the course of the next few days add links here to some of my travel photos and some old family photos.  They are large font words after the photo links below.  So, come back and view again if you would like. If the word is in blue (or shows up underlined when you pass the mouse over it) then it is already linked to a photo album--so click away!! 

Orchids from DR link

Panama photo link
B-day party photo link

Lake Coring in Maine in February--no links

Scotland    Antarctica   JoshuaTreeNP    Europe  New Zealand    East Africa    Nepal    SW--USA    Svalbard   Norway-Iceland   Older photos of family and me   

1 comment:

  1. I am so happy you enjoyed your time in Panama. It was a pleasure for all Habla Ya Spanish School and Explora Ya staff to share with you! Hope you can come back to Panama and visit us in the future!
    Your friend ,
    Professor, Araliz.


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