Thursday, October 1, 2009

Turtles, Birds and Fish

Last weekend I made cheese empenadas with my mama and told her I also wanted to make tortillas with her sometime. I am trying to learn as much as I can about all the great food I'm eating! On Sunday the whole family took a taxi (they don't have a car) to the highlands to the family farm. They own around 20 hectares of land, where different crops grow in random places, as the land has never been cleared, actually better for the crops and the birds and insects. They have pineapple trees, banana trees, orange trees, guyaba trees (a long skinny pod with large black seeds inside that are covered in a sweet, white film that you eat), chickens, coffee, roses, pumpkins, papayas, corn, and many other fruits and vegetables. They are also building a house on the land, so they can stay there on the weekends when they come to work. They also grow some coffee, but don't cultivate it; how incredible to see a coffee plant as tall as me with shiny red berries, the humble beginnings of java. 
After a harvest that lasted most of the morning, we rode in the back of a truck (with said harvest) to Porta Chino. It was like stepping into a postcard: fine white sand, clear blue water, pelicans and blue-footed boobies perched on black volcanic rocks and a few sea lions, sprawled out on the shore. I played in the waves for a few hours, while the kids made sand castles and the adults sat in the shade. 
Then they took me to the Galapaguera, the turtle hatchery that opened on the island about five years ago. The older, larger tortises hang out among the trees and shrubs and pools, with winding trails between them. They are from the hatchery in Santa Cruz, since they were mostly around twenty to thirty years old, and they all had a number painted in fingernail polish on their shells. In another section, there are the younger turtles, ranging from one to five years old. They are kept in secure cages and more closely monitored and fed. Dogs, cats, rats, and even ants are the predators to these babies, so they are guarded carefully for five years until they are old enough to survive in the protected area surrounding the hatchery. After that we went to a small open-air restaurant in El Progresso, a small village in the highlands, and ate an enormous almuerzo (lunch).
This week I've been starting my service work. I help out with an English class every Wednesday night here at the university and also meet with three students outside of class, two hours each week to tutor one-on-one. 
My other service work is assisting in environmental education through the National Park for the local kids in the community. October is Bird Month, so this Saturday we'll be stopping cars on the road from El Progresso to tell drivers to slow down. Many birds and iguanas have been killed by cars cruising down from the highlands. Tomorrow I'll help the kids paint posters for the awareness campaign.