Saturday, September 24, 2011

A Day in the Life - Wafer Bay Ranger Station, Cocos Island - by William Henriques



It’s the tail end of my tenth day in paradise, and I’m sitting in my six-bed, one-room, eight-by-twelve apartment in the Casa des Voluntarios, the sole occupant of this particular room, contemplating this blog. I’ve been asked to document my time here on the island with daily updates to Sea Save Foundation’s blog, but I’m not much of a blogging expert. I’ve never followed a blog, never commented on one outside of an English class, and certainly never been a contributor to one over an extended period of time. I’m in uncharted waters, as a sailor might say; or, in other words, it truly is my first time around this particular block. The reality of keeping a blog for 36 straight days sank in over my evening meal of rice and beans, but I’ve steeled myself, and I think I’m prepared to tackle this thing. I’ll do my best to keep any and all reading this entertained and well-informed. 

It’s only 9 pm, early by my standard, but I’m beat, absolutely ready to hit the hay. Ben Franklin would be proud. Here on Cocos Island, we embody his oft-quoted words of wisdom, “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” Our days on the island begin with breakfast at 6:30 - rice, beans, and fresh fruit is the standard fare, with an accompanying cup of strong, Costa Rican coffee. By 7:30, the 15-20 people in residence at the Wafer Bay Ranger Station have gathered at the beach-side pavilion for a morning meeting. There are currently five funcionaires, six volunteers, a cook, two graduate students doing research, and three funcionaires from other Costa Rican national parks, here to see how this one works. Esteban, the head ranger here presently, outlines the day to the congregation, then we split into small groups to tackle the morning’s work.


This week, I’ve been working with Guillermo Hernandez, another volunteer from the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. Our task: landscaping and maintenance work around the station. We’ve raked the grounds clean of leaves, hacked up old palm stumps, and cleared the paths of fallen coconuts. We re-organized the scrap-shed, burned everything too small to use, and salvaged several old tools from the cobwebs of the shed’s back corner. Our prize find from this particular operation: A McCloud head, for which Guillermo found an elegant handle from a broken axe in another back corner.

Those of us around the station re-convene at noon for a glass of fresh juice and lunch, the backbone of which is rice and beans. The TV in the salon is usually on, playing the day’s news from the continent. The overhead fans whir, stirring the heavy, humid air ever so slightly, and conversation is slow and muted, no one wishing to disturb the peace of a midday break. But by 1 pm, everyone is hard at work again, until 4:30 pm or so, when there’s time for a brief period of relaxation and a shower before dinner - rice and beans - at 5:30 pm. After dinner, the salon slowly empties out, and by 8:00 pm, there’s not a soul around. The days work catches up with me quickly. One moment I’m full of the after dinner spunk and pep, ready to break out the books and brush up on all the new Spanish vocabulary I learned during the day, and the next moment, the fatigue has settled in to my muscles, my feet drag, and my eyelids are injected with the weight of anticipated sleep. Bed calls, and by 9:30 pm I’m fast asleep.

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