Wednesday, July 12, 2006

El Paraiso here we come...

Day 2, Wednesday, July 12 I somehow thought there would only be a small group of people waiting for pickup this morning, but when I came downstairs for breakfast it was people mayhem, buzzing around, looking all beige and raised on granola. The breakfast buffet had been ransacked, only bits of fruit and breads remained in the cold section and most of the food in the hot section didn’t appeal to me. But they did have fried plantains, so I ate plenty of those. I was told I was to go to El Paraiso by school bus. Tamir arrived, with wild hair by choice, and bright green CROC sandals. My first impression was that he looked eclectic and interesting, the sort of fellow that people like to hang around and watch to see what he might do next. I found out Tamir is from Israel, and speaks with a British/Israeli mixed accent. I knew from talking to him on the phone that he loves to dive, and is a marine biologist by training, but is interested in bats. He was in the Israeli army, and is independent and has strong opinions. I napped along the way from the Copantl hotel to El Paraiso, lulled by the moving bus. The Honduras countryside was lovely, not unlike Nicaragua or Costa Rica. But I am only seeing a fraction and won’t have a true impression of Honduras even after spending a month here. We arrived at El Paraiso, less than two hours ride I think. I was shown the room where female staff were to stay (most everyone had arrived two weeks before). There were two bunks as well as three single beds for the seven of us. After settling in, Tamir and I talk about the scope of the bat netting effort. But I am put off by Tamir, he has an abrasive style that I don’t care for. He is sarcastic. He refers to the rest of the bat team as his slaves. He may have a kind side deep down, but it seems quite buried under his thorny nature. There was a time in my life when I would have worked to get along with him, wondered if he’d had a bad childhood, and overlooked the things about him that made me uncomfortable. But at 38 (his age as well), I’ve decided that I have better things to do with my time than to figure people like him out.
Of my roommates, one is from the US. Sarah from California is here to trap small mammals. She is young and just out of school, looking for experience to add to her resume. She seems to be having an uneasy time, has been sick with stomach problems and diarrhea and perhaps is overwhelmed by the length of time that lays ahead, the heat and humidity, the number of times it rains in a day, and the hiking. Judy is asian, but lives in England, and she is here to do habitat surveys. Sharon is an entomologist who works in England at the equivalent of our Department of Agriculture. Alice is also doing habitat surveys. Tanya is a young immature medic. Bianca is pretty and has just quit her job in England as an events coordinator. She is spending a few weeks here helping with camp management and administration and will be looking for a different sort of job when she returns to the UK. Upon arriving at El Paraiso, I discover that OpWall really operates by selling this trip to school students. I have arrived with a girls school group, about 20 girls between the ages of 16 and 19, along with their three chaperones. They will be assisting the habitat surveyors, as well as other scientists like myself this week. For most, the second week is spent diving off the coast of northern Honduras, on an island called Cayos Cachinos. Most everyone is from somewhere in the UK and this is their first trip to Central America. Phil is the camp manager. He’s young and doesn’t appear to have enough life experience to manage a dynamic multi-language camp. He cannot speak Spanish which is imperative since most of camp management involves ensuring that the local guides (who speak only spanish in most cases) are organized and always accompany students and staff into the jungle. The camp orientation consists of Phil reading some rules off a folded sheet of paper and then Tanya going through various medical scenarios like heat exhaustion and snake bite. There are nice benches to sit at and a nice view of the Caribbean. I’m not really listening to what is being said, but love listening to their accents. Phil from Liverpool and Tanya from some other area speak very differently. I will come to realize over the next few weeks just how variable all these English accents are. And how comical the linguistic criticisms could be among neighboring regions in the United Kingdom.

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