Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Ranger Profile: Filander Avila Calderon

Position: Guardaparque - Kitchen Coordinator
Age: 42 Years
Numbers of years as Guardaparque at PNIC (Parque Nacional Isla del Coco): 11 years
Off-Island Residence: Grecia, Alajuela Province, Costa Rica

I’ve already spoken several times to the supreme quality of the food here at the island - in particular, the coffee and morning pinto. But to put a face to the food, I present any and all readers with this exquisite chef, Filander.

I asked him some questions last night as he finished the kitchen cleanup, giving the counters a final wipe down and putting the last of the leftovers away in the refrigerator, and he was more than willing to chat for several minutes. I’ve done my best to paraphrase his responses accurately, and I’ve tried not to take any creative liberties.

As the Kitchen Coordinator, what are your duties?

It’s my duty to provide three quality meals each day to the average 15-18 people who live at the Wafer Station. I get up around 4:30 every morning, and am in the kitchen by 5:00 am, and then my day usually ends around 7:00 pm when I finish the kitchen cleanup. I also keep track of the pantry inventory and sort through the shipments of provisions. As with all the other funcionarios, I have certain maintenance duties too; in my case, I’m responsible for maintaining a clean kitchen and dining area.

Do you have any hobbies?
I love to cook. When I’m here, it’s all I do. When I’m home, I enjoy spending time with my family, and resting. I guess you could say that walking is one of my hobbies, too. I really love walking in the woods around the station whenever I can get a spare moment.

What was your work before becoming a funcionario?

Ah, that’s a complicated answer. When I was really young, around eleven or so, I started working. My first job was working for a cobbler, where I spent several years learning to make shoes out of leather - I specialized in cowboy boots. After that, I worked in my family’s clothing factory. Eventually, my brother and I got sick of that work, and so we took a job at an export warehouse. I was the guy checking each shipment to make sure all the merchandise was accounted for. After that, I landed a job with the Undersea Hunter Group, out of Puntarenas, and I worked on board their various boats for three years as a sous-chef and cabin steward. I made friends with some of the Guardaparques who worked here at Cocos Island, and when a position in the kitchen opened up, they asked me if I wanted the job. I agreed, but first I came here to work as a volunteer in the kitchen for two months. They had to see if I was going to be the right fit with the community of funcionarios and volunteers that lives here, and they wanted to make sure I could handle the daily stress of preparing quality meals for so many people.

What’s your favorite part about living and working here at the island?

I love the forest, all the trees. There’s one tree that I particularly love, called Palo Hierro. It’s endemic to the island, and it’s just beautiful. I also love walking in the forest along the path to Chatham. I think that’s probably my favorite piece of the island, that trail that goes up behind this building and over the ridge to the Chatham Station.





















Filander's favorite tree

What is the most important work you do here?

The most important work that the Guardaparques do as a collective? Our first priority is stopping poaching by the fisherman from Puntarenas within the park’s boundaries. But in order to do that , we need a happy, well-functioning team. That’s where I come in, the most important part of my job. I try to prepare good food to keep the team’s spirits up and their bodies healthy.

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