Monday, March 8, 2010

Crocs and Sushi

photo by Julia Aron

After yesterday’s chill day in Herradura, today is going to be a busy one. Each week, the school organizes a trip for the students – last week was the Butterfly Farm – today, is a Crocodile Tour. I’ve never seen a crocodile live. We also have t be ready by 7:30am. Who knows if I’ll even be awake enough to see anything? Despite our bitching about the hour, we manage to get up.

Ricardo, one of the surf instructors is taking us to the boat in one of the vans. I’m still getting to know our fellow students but it’s way too early to engage in conversation and I’m grateful that they seem to understand, leaving me to my morning haze.

We arrive to the tour site, a small setup, with two canopied boats – the long ones, with plastic seats, two to a row. I’m glad the boat’s covered, because as usual, the sun’s strength feels like it should be noon as opposed to 8am!

Once on the boat, our guide, whose name escapes me, explains that we will be seeing many crocodiles most of which have names like, “George Bush” and “Monica Lewinsky”. The river is typical with murky waters and muddy shores. I like being in the boat, though. It’s soothing.

One of the amazing things about the climate in Costa Rica is the birds. At the beach yesterday, we saw hawks and the most colorful birds I’ve ever seen. Julia’s way more into that stuff and as much I make fun of her always excitedly pointing them out, I can’t help but take an interest. Here on the river, it’s no different. In fact a couple of birds, sparrows (thanks Julia!), join our group, sitting at the bow of the boat, keeping us company.

Our first crocodile sighting is a baby. It’s amazing how small it is! Not more than two feet, perhaps. I almost don’t see it as it blends into the mud on the shore so well. Next up is a larger bunch. I learn that the way to tell the difference between male and female crocodiles is by the head. The female has a longer, more pointed head, and it’s pretty cool to see them together to make the distinction.

We eventually run into “Osama Bin Laden” – the biggest of the bunch. Osama’s about 20 feet long. He’s 80 years old and as we approach him, he is still, with everything but his large head submerged in the water. His eyes are slightly open, watching us. We edge closer to him and the driver of the boat jumps onto shore, with a piece of raw chicken in his hand. I’m a little worried because from what we were told, crocodiles are territorial and this croc is on the move. What if he gulps that chicken and the instructor down in full swoop?

I remind myself that this guy’s a professional, however I can’t resist leaning into the guide, who’s now driving. “Has he ever been bitten?” The guide laughs, “Not Jet!” My eyes go back to the guide as he swings the chicken in front Osama’s face, goading him to come closer. Everyone on the boat is up and taking pictures. I’m just praying – something I don’t do much of, but have been doing a lot of since my arrival – thank you surfing!

After Osama’s breakfast, we head back to shore and then back to school. We’ve got a full day ahead of us, with Spanish and Photography class starting right when we get back. I like Spanish a lot, though it’s definitely challenging. When LAOra calls on me in class, my nerves take over and I automatically revert to French, the other language I know best answering, “Oui! I mean si!”

I also like the people in my class. Kim, 27, works on a private yacht based in St. Maarten. She’s from Australia and I’ve immediately taken to her. (In our skit, she and I were “the lovers”) Sami is really sweet and very young – 22 – but she’s got a maturity about her. Mike, whom I’ve mentioned before, continuously cracks me up. His imitation of the late Crocodile Hunter on the boat was hysterical – his accent sounding semi-Australian with a hint of mid-western in it.

I won’t see Julia until after surfing, because I go straight to it after Spanish class. My neck is a bit better today, so I will make another attempt at catching a few waves and not hurting myself further. Tonight, there is an “All you can Eat Sushi” party at some bar in Hermosa, the next town over. Most everyone is going, though Julia and I are still undecided.

The idea, of all you can eat Sushi is just scary. It’s pretty much a cardinal rule to never mix the two. All you can eat usually means, all we couldn’t sell – put sushi into that mix and well, you get the picture. Another reason we’re still on the fence about tonight is the whole joining-in factor. We’re both not really feeling the communal vibe, though I will say that I’m warming up to the dynamic a little more each day.

There’s definitely the “in” group which has no appeal to me, but I know that vibe when I see it. I noticed it on the first day of surfing. One girl in particular seems to try really hard to always be the center of attention. She continuously inserts herself into every conversation and it’s definitely a turn-off – being aware of someone competing with you when you don’t even want to be in the game.

We’ll play the sushi thing by ear.

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