Sunday, September 5, 2010

I´m becoming habituated . . .

The rainforest is a malleable place. At moments it seems absolutely magical, such as they rare occasion when you hear strange sounds that turn out to be coming from a tapir, or a day of following your monkeys with great visibility as they groom, play, and embrace. At other times, it is truly miserable, such as when you get so stuck in the swamp you have to crawl out, you get bitten by bullet ants, or you brush up again stinging plants that produces burning welts. But most of the time, you get very used to it, and it’s just very mundane—just like your backyard back home, only instead of squirrels in the trees, there are capuchins.

While that might sound anything but mundane, just as the monkeys get habituated to you, you become increasingly habituated to the forest. The creatures that seemed so exotic and exciting your first week start to become just another boring sight that you aren’t all that interested in. You look forward to the rare encounters of creatures you’re dying to see (tapir, jaguarundi, tamandua, and of course the holy grail of them all, jaguar), but fail to get excited at seeing the everyday creatures.

For example, on almost any day, a hike in the forest almost guarantees an encounter with strawberry and green-and-black poison dart frogs, highways of leaf-cutter ants busy at work, Ameiva festiva lizards, various small anoles, and orependulas. In addition there are almost an innumberable amount of insects and spiders (arachnids, not monkeys) that I have little interest in and don’t bother looking closely at (I’m more concerned with trying to keep spider webs, their residents, and their prey off my face—this doesn’t always work).

Yesterday, I had a frustrating day in which I could not find my monkeys. I spent hours hiking through the forest with absolutely no success. In addition to the above creatures, I saw a tarantula as big as my hand, keel-billed toucans, blue morpho butterflies, cat footprints just a bit smaller than the size of my hand (probably jaguarundi or ocelot—jaguarandi have been seen by a few lucky people, I haven’t heard of any sightings of ocelot), tapir tracks, and howler monkeys. Oh and I also saw capuchin monkeys in the backyard, clowning around right outside the kitchen, just after lunch. However, the sad thing was—this was my idea of a really disappointing day. Perhaps the sighting of something slightly more unusual could have made up for the lack of spider monkeys (I still get excited about seeing peccary, river otters, armadillos, coatis, and tayra, as well as unusual birds I don’t see very often) . . . But no spider monkeys means no data, which really stresses me out (especially in a week like this week, in which I have been feeling sick and thus not going out as often, and when I have been heading out, I’ve had really bad luck at finding/following my monkeys). But it nonetheless occurred to me yesterday that I’ve gotten really, really spoiled, and my habituation to the wonders of the forest means that I no longer enjoy or appreciate it as much as I should.

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