Friday, August 26, 2011

Return from Narnia

I am now back from Costa Rica!

My field assistants and I sometimes referred to our field site as Narnia, because when you're there, it seems worlds apart, and time seems to flow differently there. After a few days there, you feel like you've been there an eternity, and you start to wonder if your real life really existed, or if you just dreamed it. But then somehow, though the time seems to be slow and endless there, sometimes time flies by, surprisingly enough, and though I never though it would end, here I am, back in the US.

Anyway, I must apologize for being horrible at updating my blog. I intended to update regularly, but I found that when you have limited access to internet, you finally are online, you spend your time wading through an overwhelming full inbox, catch up with friends when you can, and have no time or motivation for anything else. So even though I've had stories I've wanted to share, I have yet to actually get around to writing them... but hopefully now I will.

By the end of my fieldwork, I was pretty sick and frustrated with it. Studying spider monkeys and collecting their fecal samples is difficult, and they gave me quite a challenge. At various time this year, I've wished that I'd picked something a bit easier to do--such as studying foraging behavior and diet instead of social behavior and endocrinology. Or howler monkeys instead of spiders. Or terrestrial monkeys instead of arboreal monkeys. Or better yet, the free-ranging macaques of Cayo, or even better, captive animals. At other times, I've wished that instead of doing a PhD, I'd gone to vet school, so I would not have to spend over a year of life away from my boyfriend, pets, and the comforts of home to chase after monkeys, fall in swamps, collect poo splattered all over vegetation, and get eaten daily by clouds of mosquitoes.

But luckily, my very last day at the station, I got a little reminder of why I chose fieldwork, and why, sometimes I love it. I went out in the forest in the morning of my last day, but didn't find any monkeys. So I spent the rest of the day finishing up packing, and by late afternoon, I had most of my stuff packed away. And while I was on the porch reading at about 5:30 in the afternoon, I heard some whinnies. So I went to investigate, and there was my favorite monkey, Leila, with her daughter Lorelai, and another female, Mindy. And my first thought was, oh no! Everything is packed away! So instead of doing what I always do (do focals and hope for poo to collect), I just spent about a half hour watching them go about their foraging, and enjoying my last moments with them. And it was such a wonderful time, they came low enough for me to observe them easily without binoculars, and I got to see Lorelai take some big flying leaps (this was impressive because in the fall I watched her work up the nerve to attempt them on her own, and I can't believe how much I've gotten to see her grow up in the past year), and I was able to really enjoy them. When you're busy stressing about getting data, sometimes its harder to appreciate the monkeys, and I'm glad that the those females came by on the last day to remind me how much I love them.