January in Costa Rica
After a long five months of anticipation and dealing with New Jersey weather, our return to Costa Rica proved to be a much welcome experience. It was considerably more hectic this time around—we had a week to catch up with our mentors, present our work, and do all the maintenance of the seismic stations—yet it was incredibly fun and rewarding. It felt like we never really left.
We were treated with a small welcome back gift, a trip to Manuel Antonio, on our first day back. Here, we got to finally visit the national park, swim in one of the most beautiful beaches any of us have ever visited, and even see some monkeys before we had to head to San Jose and give our presentations.
Monday was presentation time. We spent the morning scrambling to get in some last minute rehearsals of our talks, and headed over to the School of Geology to meet with our mentors for the first time in five months and actually present our talks. As anxious as we were to present, we definitely ended our presentations with a sense of accomplishment. While I had heard of everyone's projects and what they were doing, it was incredibly informative to see them framed in formal, lengthy presentations that explained the technical aspects, importance, and current stages of each project. I certainly learned what to improve upon for the next time I have to present my work, and I feel considerably more confident going forward. After the presentations, we all got to catch up with the mentors and discuss our progress and future goals for our projects.
While the most stressful part was out of the way, we had yet to determine how we would tackle the maintenance of the seismic stations. In the five months we were gone, RSN had installed 3 more of our sensors, but there was still one more to install. We decided that Jesus and I would handle the Pacific side with Jean Paul, a technician at RSN, and that Jon and Param would handle the Caribbean side with Dr. Levin, Gato, and Dr. Lucke.
Early Tuesday morning, Jesus and I headed out with Jean Paul to our first site, Fila Mora, which had been installed by RSN after we left Costa Rica last August. The next day, we headed to Las Alturas (the second site we installed the day before we left during our last visit). Since we only have access to the Las Alturas station in certain time increments of the day, the three of us went on a short hike around the Las Cruces Research Station, a tropical preserve an hour away from Las Alturas. This was also the day I managed to get a mild sunburn on my right arm from sticking it out the car window for some of the drive. The last day, we visited San Jeronimo, the first station we installed as a group, and Jean Paul configured the station so that it would transmit its data live to RSN. Fieldwork has always been a memorable part of these trips, and I'm incredibly grateful for the experience we had. Although in our case, seismological fieldwork entailed anywhere from 6-8 hours of driving a day to do about 20-45 minutes of work, we always found the experience enjoyable. Installing and maintaining the stations is definitely something I will miss, as it has gotten quite routine over time (and we're all now experts at using military connectors), but I will miss the long scenic drives and all of the small detours/experiences we had along the way. At this point, Jesus and I have been down the Pacific side often enough that we feel very familiar with it.
Upon returning from fieldwork, we had one last day in San Jose to tie up any loose ends and deal with the remains of the seismic equipment. We said our goodbyes to the university, our mentors, and Gran Casa (our home away from home), and headed back to Uvita for one last group beach trip.
It's hard to believe that this is the last time the six of us will be in Costa Rica together, but I am immensely grateful for the experience. The experience I have gained, knowledge I have learned, places that I've seen, people that I've met, and friendships that I've made through this program have influenced my life greatly for the better in the last year, and I look forward to seeing how this program will shape up for the next two cohorts.
Until next time.