Learning At Cirenas


Written By Alma & Maggie

Sunday was our first full day at Cirenas. We awoke to the briny ocean breeze and the hilly permaculture campus, littered with tree debris disguised as biomass. Haunted by a clan of walking skeletons, also known as a group of stray dogs, and a friendly cat whose name is still highly contested, scholars do not agree (we are scholars thank you) we had a lovely breakfast. We took a morning stroll accompanied by the scorching sun and the omniscient Caelynn. We eagerly grabbed various alien fruits from what could have been zone 1 or zone 6 (just permaculture jokes) of this pristine permaculture farm. Both disgruntled and delighted faces glowed after every sampling. Veronica, our resident produce lover, had a huge grin. However, don’t be fooled by the miraculously juicy nature of the cashew fruit— hideously pronounced by Rachael as cah-shoo— our uncultured American palates were left desiccated by the astringent properties of a once enticing fruit.

We soon dove in to our project, a primary requisite being physical exertion. Our sprightly bodies cut banana stalks, retrieved kitchen scraps, and delicately sprinkled horse manure like an aged parmesan over compost, best described as a TV-dinner lasagna. Your beloved children wielded machetes trying to channel the once popular game, fruit ninja, only to invoke images not dissimilar to the flailing swords of medieval reenactors at a Renaissance fair. In the trees above our composting endeavors, we witnessed a revealing yet thrilling dance from our primate kin, howler monkeys (Alouatta caraya). Again proving our so very human limitations, as some of us attempted to imitate the sophisticated vocal cry of our simian forefathers.

Like our good friend Niki Minaj once said, “Let’s go to the beach…beach…let’s go get away” and that we did, for our first oceanic outing of many. The Cirenas beach is a large swath of unobstructed sandy, salty, umami delight. Also serving as the roadway for Costa Rica’s elite class of ex-pats, their loud motor vehicles, and salt water crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus).

Cirenas Beach.

Maggie and Rachael engaged in a game coined “Fight Back”, embodying the western propensity to conquer our dearest beloved, Mother Nature. This took the form of gleefully galloping towards ten-foot waves, willfully ignorant of their own mortality. This is what the youth would call getting absolutely decked by gnarly waves, a tradition that would continue for the remainder of the week leaving both individuals with the lingering sensation of a four car collision.

After a long afternoon at the beach, a remaining overzealous and drained group of students pondered the treacherous fifteen minute walk home over mountainous terrain and the cabins of nature’s first assaulters, turtle egg poachers. Adam fearlessly, blinded by the comfort of his Chacos, stomped his odious foot a mere inch from the maw of a notorious, as seen on Discovery channel, Boa Constrictor (Boa constrictor Linnaeus).

All safely arrived home, unsheathed of our formidable sand coating, we showered and changed group roles for a relaxed social gathering of the Ages. Your beloved, newly assigned bards were joyous at the possibility to jest only to be interrupted by an enormous grasshopper, candidly evaluated as the size of a “regular rodent”, launching itself into Maggie’s hair. The loudest scream was expelled from our own Tyler, an avid amateur chiropractor and a sufferer of hyperhidrosis, as he fled from the scene. The true heroine of this saga was our statuesque Veronica, who leapt to fling the calamity causing chaos critter from Maggie’s locks (except it was no critter, only a monster from the depths of the jungle). This event prompted the start of our new insectoid odysseys, which we ignorantly hoped had come to a crunchy end when we left Mastatal.

Miramella alpina.

Bug Checklist Day 1: Dive-bombing cicadas (which accompanied a hot bowl of chicken soup in the days prior, after a forceful drowning from Tyler). A demonic crab, the Usain Bolt of decapods.

On Monday, we began with what were told was a hike of the surrounding jungle only to embark on a three hour long nature slog. Goddess Caelynn, the omniscient, led us through the sacred practice of ethereal tree identification including Guanacastes, Cebas, and Mangroves. We stopped for a leisurely snack break feasting on a nest of termites described as “woody and crunchy”, a reliable snack for exclusively those lost or on guided nature slogs. Our feet and mouths crunched and munched through what was confusingly addressed as both forest, jungle, and permaculture guilds. A spirited and spiritual conversation about spirit animals commenced.

Spirit Animal Consensus listed below
Cole- Moose, Alma- Anteater, CeCe- Red Fox, Adam- Falcon (or a gadfly if question posed to Maggie), Veronica- Mountain Goat, Hank- Wombat, Tyler- Red Kangaroo, Rachael- River Otter, Maggie- Undeclared, Sasha- Snow Leopard, Macy- Swan, Balkhiis- Elephant, Mia- African Wildcat, Audrey- Blue footed Booby

Much to Rachael’s subsequent chagrin, she was too entrenched in the spiritual discussion to see a premier viewing of our ex-pat sympathizing friend, the salt water crocodile (Crocodylus porosus).

As we continued on our walk, in classic anteater fashion, Alma indulgently licked her fingers of Taki dust causing an inability to carry her most prized possession, the Pickle Rick bucket hat. Valiant and heroic friend, Hank, from Evanston, Illinois, donned the cap and bore the shame, as seen below.

The start of a bucket hat battle royale between Maggie and Hank.

After an arduous walk and a bewildering spiritual dialogue, we returned to find our encampment shared by an unexpected group of Brits. We decided to head to the beach and this excursion featured more aquatic foolishness from the likes of Maggie and Rachael and the discovery of a weakness in our own valiant, heroic, Evanstonian, Hank. Despite passing the comprehensive and challenging two minute swim test, he was unable to swim amongst the giants without swallowing one million cubic tonnes of brackish, acidified salt water. A campaign to resolve this shortcoming ensued only to be met with our first loss of the evening.

Refreshed by a good smacking from the sea and for some of us a hearty pint of ocean, the party returned to the stronghold only to find out that the power had been stripped from the people and kidnapped by the crown. This meant dinner in the classroom for your fearless crew.

Despite our explicit intentions to maintain distance from the Brits, our fearless leaders Sasha and Balkhiis, were consternated and flustered upon our group’s timely arrival at the nightly turtle brigade where we found our unfortunate British compadres. Luckily the unsavory taste previously left in our mouths vanished at the sight of our dear Tybalt. Tybalt, a ninety year old beauty and birther of hundred and ten, not to be confused with her leatherback counterparts, was splayed in a shallow, sandy cavity only minutes away from the turtle hatchery. Nearly blinding her with our humanistic hubris, the most disgusting of traits, and strapped with our six-hundred lumen headlamps we stumbled across her three-foot long shell, speckled with barnacle growth and wisened by her near century in the ocean. Tybalt (Lepidochelys olivacea), despite her Shakespearean namesake, only revealed herself to us, the bumbling, foolish, bald-eagle emblazoned statesmen. Intruding on this intimate moment, only shrouded from her awareness by a supposed birthing trance, we gazed as her eggs plunked into the nest she had dug with her long, matronly flippers (see picture below).

Lepidochelys olivacea.

Tybalt only realized our presence after the creation of a decoy nest, a mere stone’s breadth away from where her young lay. We escorted Tybalt on her arduous journey to shore with its many reprieves, on the effervescent, tide-washed, moonlight-dappled beach, interrupted by the strobing of Adam’s obnoxiously promiscuous red headlamp. Storm clouds brewing above us, the red lights of the British approaching, our legs began to tire after a forty minute birthing exhibition. As the rain began to pour we quickened our pace to the fortress sporting the only appropriate source of amusement, British accents.

Bug Checklist Day 2: Hermit crabs porting fancy hats made of shell that Alma is envious of. Nightmarish gnats that search for facial cavities and phone screens in the dark of the night.

Your authors took extensive notage on the week’s events, however there is a glaring hole in the records for Tuesday. These were replaced by a gracefully written rampage detailing the perpetuators of turtle extinction, which we will spare you of.

On what must have been a lovely, breezy morning that we have no written recollection of, we voyaged once more to the hatchery. We were expected to continue our precedent of manual labor, much to the exceeding joy and vigor of Veronica, Maggie, and many more. Unlike the Brits’ adopted post-Industrial era child labor practices, our full team of legal adults set to work replacing the termite infested drift wood, the walls of the hatchery. When asked to define drift wood our ingenious colleague, Tyler, responded with “wood that drifts”, and indeed the wood did drift when forcefully ripped from its long standing home. This altruistic process, the beginnings of our week long sunburn saga, was immediately devalued by the creation of micro-plastic from cutting plastic containers into the shapes of amorphous, unrecognizable chelonians. The aforementioned sunburn saga was put on full display when Alma donned Athenian robes, also known as dirty bedsheets, to dinner (see pictures below).

Bug checklist Day 3: Though we were not in Area 51, the homeland of our dear Maggie, we were greeted by wriggling fleshy alien lifeforms. These five inch long, mucous secreting, lilac hued, meaty caterpillar adjacent beings writhed in the sand beneath our feet.

On Wednesday, we took a siesta from our dear friend Emmanuel Labor for a relaxing cooking class bombarded by green plantains, pronunciation unclear. We unfurled plastic gloves onto our phalanges to shuck the durable rind of the starchy fruits. Our own self-fancied intellectual, Cecelia, reminds us daily of the great American hero, Henry Ford, who once taught us of his prolific invention, the assembly line, the most efficient of practices. And much to our intellectual’s dismay salsa dancing commenced, not the most efficient of practices. Wet and sticky with plantain juice, Audrey, Maggie, Adam, Anita, and Latricia joined socially distanced hands in a culturally appropriate dance.

A bout of homesickness washed over our American mouths, as the taste of fry oil from the empanadas and plantain fritters reminded us of the mainland and a diet we consumerists cherish and adore. Languoring from the fete of fried food and a late lunch, Audrey, Macy, and your authors loitered in the trenches peacefully socializing when we were accosted by an unfamiliar face asking, “Do you grow food here?”. We were confused by both the wording of this proposition, its jabbing tone, and the late-20s short man who accompanied it having found our hidden oasis in an ex-pat filled jungle. We soon found out that Maggie’s primal amygdala or lizard-brain was correct in its suspicions of an insidious chap. He returned to the trenches after conversing with the Brits finally making his intentions clear; he was “looking for finger limes” a plant native to Australia and a favorite of our dear theatre loving Macy. Maggie’s lizard brain, prompted by this man’s acute lack of knowledge of the fruit she was so superficially familiar with, scowled, “You might be in the wrong country.” This deeply upsetting encounter began to bridge the gap between us and our parliamentarian brothers and sisters. As human tendency would have it, we had found a new common enemy, the Other.

Bug Checklist Day 4: Freakishly fluttering and omnipresent sky rodents, also known as bats, terrorized our heads, and to no one’s surprise—intrusive cicadas.

Despite our hefty note-taking from Thursday, nothing of note really happened. In two words: dirt, beans.

Bug Checklist Day 5: Kamikaze battle, torpedoing towards fan. Birds, that is.

It is Friday, and our shovels hit the infertile bedrock, like a rubber mallet to a mountain. Goddess Caelynn has returned with biblically vague instructions on how deep to dig our tree trenches, the original sin preventing us from doing a satisfactory job. The assembly line could not save us. Many calamities occurred including wasps, swarming ants, and a squealing clan of wild horses gallivanting through our fresh plantings, which invoke the likes of the gardens of Versailles. In a last hurrah of British aristocracy, the departing British traipsed through our proletariat tree planting and waved their ever sincere goodbyes.

Cecelia in the proletariat planting camp.

In honor of our recently departed British compadres, we took a holiday from manual labor and Hank took artistic liberty to paint the Jamaican flag on macro-plastic formerly known as waste. However, the idea of waste is a human construct.

After an uneventful afternoon at the beach, featuring Audrey’s frolicking in the sand and some rather intensely primitive mud-fighting instigated by mentor, overseer, and law enforcer Rachael and consented to by Maggie, we were enlightened to our evening activity, salsa dancing. In preparation, we ate a carbohydrate and triglyceride heavy meal of deconstructed chili.
Our chili dinner and subsequent Zumba class in Turrialba flashed into our minds, a collective memory of gargantuan gaseous gastrointestinal problems. Nevertheless, dancing commenced. Assaulting the eyes of many, Mia and Maggie flailed with purposeful entropy enveloping the very serious yet somehow lackluster rendition of salsa performed by Adam and Rachael.

Bug Checklist Day 6: Meet Enemy Bird, no scientific name needed. You should take this very seriously. This is a WARNING. Enemy bird begins his nightly squawking just in time for your head to hit the pillow. Wherever you are he is right outside your window… waiting.

We were well-nerved of our Saturday activity by the time it rolled around. Beach cleanup day, bring water. A game that may have sounded like a treasure hunt, but the market-value of the treasure was rapidly devalued by its ubiquitous nature. Cole struck gold, as his Appalachian ancestors once did, when he found the Costa Rican cinderella’s slipper, a pair of ratty Crocs (functional only with duck tape), in a sandy cove awaiting their prince charming. He was initiated anon into Maggie’s club of one, the Croc Gang.

Lost without an assembly line, we persisted. Walking what should have been a twenty minute stretch of shoreline over the next two hours and returning to the hatchery with eight full bags of garbage, leaving many pieces of trash strewn behind. Our booty plundered for and acquiesced, we posed for an awkward photo.

Our movie night suffered blow, when the supposedly trouble-shooted projector refused to project our Subsequent Movie Film.

Bug Checklist Day 7: With the velocity of 10 m/s at an angle of 60 degrees above the horizontal, Macy tossed a massive stick bug into Maggie’s face. If the bug crumpled into Maggie’s face 8 seconds later, how far away was Macy standing?
Answer: 40m

Saturday rolled over into Sunday. We mumbled along the beach for an hour-long trek, fraternizing intermittently and slowly parching ourselves on the salty ocean air. Eventually we arrived at the fabled snorkeling destination.

One could say we embarked on the best snorkeling experience any of us have ever had, grasping at a glimpse of every species of fish the Pacific has to offer, leatherback turtles (Gucci vulgaris) and bull sharks (Bullus sharkus), healthy reefs and happy ocean life. Scenery reminiscent of Nemo’s reunion with his father in the esteemed film Finding Nemo. Reality disappointed us more than it could possibly disappoint you. We caught sight of maybe three water vertebrates, a smattering of dead coral, and exited the water no better versed in the local sea fauna or lack thereof, knees lacerated by sawtoothed, metamorphic rock.
Additionally, our sunburn saga followed us here too, and largely took the form of Markion (our uniquely-named covolunteer at Cirenas) and his ruby red back, though honorable mentions would include Cole, Macy, Veronica, and our very own dermatologist’s daughter and assembly line enthusiast, Cecelia (sorry, Meg).

Lunch was a much awaited, pleasant interlude, as we ensembled to the beachfront restaurant and enjoyed tacos, casados, ceviches, nachos, coca colas, fantas and virgin margaritas.

As our magnificent beach day and reign as the authors of this blog, drew to a close, we wound down with a delicious meal cooked by the beloved kitchen staff.

A note from your authors..
I hope we have made this an undulating viewing experience. It was an honor to serve you.
Sponsored by the Merriam Webster Thesaurus App, which unfortunately does not yet exist.

Turtle Hatchery.
Dining area at Cirenas.
View from Cirenas mirador.
Howler Monkeys.
Hodor, Alice, Luna, Blanca, or Horador.