As my rain-delayed plane repeatedly circled around Charlotte, North Carolina, I cast increasingly frequent glances at my watch. The scheduled departure time for my connecting flight to Costa Rica was approaching rapidly.
It had been nine years since I was last in the country, nearly a decade. It’s unfortunate how steadfast attitudes to make plans for imminent returns dissolve over time. An engrossing and life-changing experience reduced to fuzzy memories seldom recalled.
Mexico, North America’s portal to first the tourist havens, then the jungles of Central America, and culminating in the majestic vastness of the Amazon rainforest, is in the United States Southwest. So, it’s natural for an East Coaster like me to abstractly consider Central and South America as far to the west. But, due to the curve of the continent, Costa Rica is actually a near straight shot south from Alabama or the Florida panhandle.
When my plane finally landed in North Carolina, I could count the minutes to my scheduled departure on one hand. I impatiently maneuvered around other passengers lazily removing their stowed baggage while carrying on inane conversations about who cares what and sprinted off the plane. I was hopeful but resigned to the knowledge that I’d probably be missing my flight. I took the chance that my departure gate hadn’t changed as I ran towards the concourse noted on my boarding pass.
Final boarding calls for my flight resonated over the airport’s public address system as I ran, my heart racing and chest burning. Out of shape from months of office work and my bad knee (differentiated from my good knee by a couple more dislocations) protesting, I ran to the counter as fast as I was able to manage. The agent, seeing me huffing and puffing, hurriedly asked me if I was headed to Costa Rica and I couldn’t believe my good fortune when he accepted my pass and told me he was glad I was there.
On the plane, I sunk into my seat, relieved and still out of breath. I had made it. I was safely on my connecting flight and on my way to Costa Rica. I couldn’t say the same for my luggage however, which wouldn’t join me until after I had already begun to settle into the wilds of the Pacific dry forest of Costa Rica.
For the next eight weeks I will be traveling through Costa Rica learning about the varied habitats and the organisms that can be found within them as I participate in a course offered by the Organization for Tropical Studies. At some sites, I will be staying in state of the art research facilities; at others, I’ll be isolated in the jungle and far from the nearest internet connection or cell phone tower. I will try to update this blog as I can, including information about what I’ve been up to, what I’ve learned, and what interesting wildlife species have been revealed.