As promised, I’m going to hash out the first meeting I had with a sloth yesterday. It’s the closest I’ve ever physically been to one; about a foot away. There are 26 sloths at the center, all with various handicaps or medical conditions that sadly prohibit them from being released into the wild. Two of the sloths are named Cozi and Marie, and they are the cutest damn creatures I’ve ever seen. So the vet tech brings Cozi out first, and she is clutching her stuffed teddy bear for dear life. She’s not interested in actually climbing any trees, and kind of flails her arms around as she stares at us. She’s about the size of a beanie baby, and it’s quite difficult for me to contain myself as she makes eye contact with me. Because she’s so small and weak, Cozi isn’t allowed to be touched or picked up by anyone but the veterinarians. Then there’s Marie. She’s a little larger than Cozi, and much more active. That’s an understatement actually; she’s a show off.
I’ve always thought sloths were unimaginably slow, but when they want to move, they move quickly. And Marie was clearly having a high-energy day because the girl was swinging through the tree branches like a regular Tarzan. I’m not allowed to have contact with any of the animals until Tuesday, because it’s essential that you learn how to feed, clean, and care for them your first few days before you start the hands on stuff. That rule doesn’t apply to Rosie the (extremely fat and adorable) pig or Fran the goat and her two newborns Marshmallow and Carmen; you can give them as much love as you want at any time, and trust me, I do. So as of now, I’ve yet to actually have my first real one-on-one sloth experience, but come Tuesday, my dreams will have come true.
So a little bit about my first full day here: I slept okay last night; the beds are squeaky but you’re tired enough at the end of the day that it doesn’t matter. I passed out around 9pm and was sound asleep until close to 4am when one of the roosters decided it was time to get up. Breakfast was crêpes and pineapple, and then the entire center gathers for a meeting before we start the day’s duties. Sarita, the center’s most passionate employee, is the sweetest lady I’ve ever met. She’s always decked out in head-to-toe sloth gear, so I obviously admire her. She even had homemade sloth earrings… my type of lady. She gave myself and the two other new volunteers the “grand” tour, although we had been walked through the day prior. Sarita knows EVERYTHING about the animals, and has no problem sharing their history in great detail. It was wonderfully entertaining, especially when she was searching for the right English word to get her point across. After the tour, we ate lunch, which was white rice with a chili based sauce and hot dog-like sausage mixed in; it was strange. Then a few of us decided it was probably necessary to do a market run, considering the meals are a bit iffy sometimes and it’d be best to have a backup, just in case.
We walked the mile to the village market, and got to experience the quaint, residential parts of Alajuela. The homes are very cute and colorful, and all of them have metal gates or barbed wire around their entire perimeter. A safety precaution I’m assuming? At the market, I got some butter cookies, simply because I saw the word ‘mantequilla’ and immediately knew they’d be amazing, and they sure are. I also got some granola bars and a bottled water, which had been refrigerated and was ice-cold, which you take advantage of in the States. They don’t even refrigerate their milk or eggs here, so I felt quite blessed to have cold water. I’ve met quite a few people so far, and they’re all so eclectic and cool in their own ways. There’s a young couple from Toronto who sold their entire lives (cars, clothes, homes) so they could travel the world together for a year, a girl who just got done studying sea turtles in the Caribbean, a mermaid model, and even another Minnesotan! It seems like all of these people live their lives quite freely; not necessarily bounded by the stress of a 9-5 job or a car payment. Many of them do volunteer projects and missions for the majority of the year; and only return home for a few months. It gives me….ideas. This afternoon I finally was able to start the work routine with my team. I watched as my Swedish teammate Rikard cleaned the inside of the peacock enclosure, and then proceeded to watch as the bird tried attacking him as he attempted to rake. Then we fed the goats, and I met Oscar, who is a very misunderstood billy goat with an personal agenda to buck anything that comes near him. Let’s see, what other interesting things happened today. I was stalked by a macaw, literally, the bird would not leave me alone. It kept flying into me and squawking, “HAHA HOLA HAHA”, which was equally creepy as it was cool. I also was greeted by a kinkajou, which is the fluffiest, most adorable little animal. They love belly rubs and smell like waffles. Tomorrow is my 24th birthday, and I’m not lying when I say that I am so elated I’ll be petting pigs and feeding marmosets in dirty socks instead of wearing fake eyelashes and a push-up bra to a bar I’ve been to 100 times. It’s definitely going to be the most physical birthday I’ve ever had; volunteering strength is no joke!
P.s. The mama hen and her 5 chicks went missing around nightfall and have yet to be found. I’ll give an update on their whereabouts as soon as I can!