My name is Paul…

My name is Paul Tupper, and I’m at the front-end of a 6-month term as a Resident Naturalist at UGA’s Costa Rica campus. I graduated last December from UGA from the Warnell School of Forestry with a degree in Natural Resources and Tourism. After floating around the Seattle area trying to decide what to do for my life, I returned to Atlanta to sling shoes at REI. During the summer, I decided I’d better get my life in gear and do something cool – so I applied to this program, and on November 28th, I was here on UGA’s study abroad campus, located in San Luis de Monteverde, Costa Rica!
Looking back towards UGA-CR from the school in San Luis
I began my adventure to Costa Rica by taking a 7:00 AM Spirit Airlines flight from Atlanta, sitting in a miniature terminal in Ft. Lauderdale on layover, and getting to San Jose about 1:30 PM. Of course, Spirit has a checked bag limit of 40 pounds instead of 50 pounds, despite the fact that I had already paid $35 for it. In my effort to cut weight, I ended up looking like some sort of sociopath wearing knee-high rubber boots and a jacket on the flight down to Costa Rica. They “randomly” patted me down in the airport.
Once in San Jose, I hung out for a few hours near the airport, waiting for a bus to take me to Monteverde, at which point I was taken by taxi to UGA’s Costa Rica campus in San Luis. I ate dinner, and then watched a little bit of basketball (via a website that’s going to allow my love of sports to occur unhindered) with some of the interns whose terms were expiring within the first week of my arrival. The fact that they were leaving so soon was certainly a bit of a bummer, as I’m arriving at a slow time of year and company, particularly at night, is somewhat hard to come by. I was greeted in my casita (my abode, consisting of a bed, a desk, some shelves, and some hot-boxes that keep things dry) by some insects of unusual size (see below). I “took care” of one, and sent the other one packing with the news. None have returned, so I assume that one giant cricket did a good job telling the rest of them of the potential consequences.
One huge cricket
Since that first day, I have spent the last couple of weeks training under the helpful direction of Lindsay (my boss), Arturo (a full-time naturalist), and Alexa (another naturalist). I’ve gotten to explore some amazing activities in the short-time I’ve been here. I’ve gone swimming at a HUGE waterfall, lived with a local Costa Rican family for 10 days, gone ziplining, been on several coffee tours, seen amazing wildlife, learned how to make tortillas (mine was the only one that got complimented), tried and

In the Monteverde Reserve, with typical cloud presence

have thus far failed to learn to dance merengue, improved my very dusty spanish skills (much work to be done), had my first experience at Bar Amigos in Santa Elena, milked some cows, explored the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve up on the continental divide, and so much more! If there was video of me dancing, I wouldn’t include it.

I’m definitely missing my usual Christmas traditions with my family back in Atlanta (love you mom and dad and brothers!); however, I made plans here to make it special anyhow! I have visited my host family to witness the preparation of tamales, a traditional holiday food. Then, I traveled with some new friends and spent Christmas on the Caribbean side, in Puerto Viejo. Unforgettable!
Within the last week, I’ve started actually leading some activities. I lead my first group hike on the Camino Real trail, and I think it went swimmingly. I hope the students that I was guiding thought the same. On my first night hike, I got momentarily turned around, but I quickly found the trail again. I didn’t want my guests getting bored!
More details about wildlife, culture, and parties are sure to come. Feliz Navidad!
Farms and forests in patches on the Pacific Slope

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