Sunday, April 29, 2007

Mudpots, Volcanoes, and Jail

Hey Swatchy! Remember on my last trip to Costa Rica, when I went to the mud pots? Well, we went back with the kids from the Bullis Charter School.

The mud pots are at the Rincon de la Vieja volcano near Liberia. The heat from the volcano boils water underground and the mud bubbles up. Can you see me? I'm trying to keep the kids from crossing over the safety fence.

We had to hike through the forest and over a stream.

And we got up close and personal with some of the wildlife, like this Ctenosaur (that's an iguana to you and me)!

Afterwards, we had lunch at a local hacienda. I drank too much juice.

The next day we set out for Volcano Arenal. We stopped in Canas for pastries, and I led a tour of the town. You can see our bus in the background of this picture.

It was very windy that day, so we had a hard time getting the group photo in front of the church.

And then we saw Arenal. It's one of my favorite places. It was smoking and steaming away. Rocks were falling down the volcano, too, so no place to do a climb.

On the way back, we stopped in Liberia to use the restrooms at the police station. But some of us ended up on the wrong side of the bars:
teacherinjail.jpg driverinjail.jpg studentsinjail.jpg

Even me!!!!

Saturday, April 28, 2007


I was in charge of the hatchery for an afternoon. The hatchery is a restricted place that protects the nests. No one is allowed in, because the nests are under the sand. There are so few Leatherbacks, every egg counts.


Working the hatchery involves sitting in a chair under the hot sun. All the time, you have to watch for predators like raccoons and birds that try to get in the nests.


Every twenty minutes, I had to walk over and check the nests to see if anyone was hatching. That little black thing actually holds a thermometer that monitors the temperature of the nest.


Then it was back over to the chair again. Gabi and Kim kept me company for a little while. It's a tough job, but somebody has to do it.


Gabi said I was an excellent assistant!


Friday, April 27, 2007

Just Beachy

Sun and sand equals time on the beach. See how Kim and I are keeping an eye on the kids? It's hard to keep track of so many of them.

I preferred working on my tan with some of the teachers.

Don't worry, I used plenty of sunblock!

I really needed a nap.

One problem with the beach is that the bigger people tend to kick up a lot of sand. You have to watch out.

The ocean sure looked nice, but I didn't go in. Fear of felting, you know.

Then we got a big surprise. Mr. Leatherback came up on the beach for a visit!

He wanted to see how things on the nesting beach were going. He also checked out the hatchery where we save clutches of eggs that would otherwise be washed away by the tide. We got to talking, and all became great friends.

Make sure you check out Mr. Leatherback's video of his visit to the beach!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Swatchy and iSwatchy

Swatchy and iSwatchy

iSwatchy arrived in Winnipeg last night, a bit tired from his journey. He and Swatchy caught up a bit this morning, and iSwatchy will be going over to my brother's later today.

Swatchy will blog about the crocuses and other spring flowers soon... he's deciding which of the gazillion photos to post. ;)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Nest Checking

A lot of the work at Playa Grande focuses on the leatherback sea turtles and their nesting habits. Leatherbacks come ashore at night and dig deep nests in the sand with their flippers. They lay eggs and then cover the eggs back up with sand. After that, the mommy turtles go back into the ocean, leaving the eggs to develop and hatch on their own.

digging.jpg One of the jobs of researchers is to dig up old nests because a lot can be learned from them. Researchers count how many eggs and eggshells are in the nest. From that, they can figure out how many hatched and what happened to the eggs that did not hatch. Some eggs die shortly after they are laid, and some die shortly before the hatchlings come out. No one knows why yet.

excavatingoldnest.jpgGabi is one of the researchers, and she explained to us all about the nests.

supervising.jpg I had to supervise the digging, but it seemed like they were doing it right.

Then something very exciting happened! We found a hatchling!


Can you see the head?


We saved a baby leatherback sea turtle!!!!


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

CFS Tuesday

Our ongoing series about life with CFS

CFS changes everything. It's a cliche that doesn't really help you grasp how having Chronic Fatigue Syndrome forces a person to see even the smallest activity in a new way.

I've been working with a physical therapist for over a year. This week, we added walking to my home program. Sounds great? It is; I am very excited. But let me put this in perspective. The physical therapist has prescribed four minutes of walking every other day. I have to take my blood pressure (because people with CFS frequently suffer sudden drops in BP) and rate my fatigue/pain before and after the walking. My husband has to walk this four minutes with me to make sure I am able to make it back to the house.

We see this as a tremendous accomplishment.

Do you understand what I'm saying? Walking for a total of four minutes - every other day - is a huge accomplishment.

Perspective? The day before I fell ill in 1994, I was at the gym at 5 am. I walked for almost an hour on a treadmill set at a medium incline. Then I got ready for work, walked to work, and worked all day. And still had energy at the end of the day. Walking used to be my preferred way of getting around the city. Hiking was my favorite sport. Three months before I got sick, I had gone on a camping trip in the Pacific Northwest, and hiked at least 2 miles a day for 10 days.

Don't get me wrong. I am incredibly grateful that I have now progressed to the point of attempting this walking program. But this is what I mean when I say CFS changes everything. The simple act of walking is now a battleground where I fight for every step.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Field Trip

mcswatchy2hikingpals.jpgOne thing you have to understand about Knittah's dad, he loves a field trip. That means going out into the woods, walking around and looking at stuff. So guess what we did with the kids from the Bullis Charter School? Yep! First we hiked through mangrove swamps to look for birds, (my friends had to help me over the lava rocks)

mcswatchy2beachclass.jpgand then we went to the beach to swim, snorkel, and check out the tide pools. Can you see me in the picture to the left? I was explaining about all the animals that live in the tide pools.

tidepool1.jpgtidepool2.jpg There's all kinds of cool animals that live in the tide pools. There's spiny sea urchins and snails, and bryazoans.

I got close up to the barnacles to see what they were doing.mcswatchy2barnacles.jpg

The beach is really beautiful, with coral everywhere.
coralbeach.jpg coralbeach2.jpg

coralbeach3.jpgBut if you look closer, you can see that the corals are dying. See how they are turning white? That means they are sick. It's the hot water from El Nino that is killing the corals. Not good. More global warming means more El Ninos and less corals!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Matapalo School

So on my first day with the students from the Bullis Charter School, we went to visit the local school in Matapalo. The children introduced themselves in Spanish to the sixth grade of Matapalo, and the Matapalo students did the same in English.


We went to play games outside, which was a great way to get all the children talking. Then our escort and bus driver brought out the gift we had brought for the school. It was a big TV/VCR combo so that we can exchange videos and DVDs.


Pretty cool, huh? I like making new friends.

Friday, April 20, 2007

McSwatchy, Globetrotter

Hey Swatchy, I got my wish! I went back to Costa Rica with Knittah's Dad, this time as a chaperone for a student group from the Bullis Charter School in Los Altos, California. I started out with my friends James and Brian in the dark at Philadelphia airport. The banana was just what I needed to start the day.

It's a long trip, you know. As we flew into Costa Rica, I could see the beaches out the window.

The first thing we had to do was give the kids from the Bullis Charter School an orientation to the Leatherback Trust Goldring Marine Biological Station at Playa Grande. Everyone was very excited.
I made friends fast, and the kids seemed glad to have me along as their experienced guide. Wait until you see what we did next!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Introducing iSwatchy

When I heard that Nicoya was interning at Apple this summer, I couldn't resist making the newest member of the Swatchy family:


iSwatchy was knit from Cascade 220 on size 5 dpns. I think he was the easiest Swatchy thus far. Do you see the resemblance between iSwatchy and his new best friend? I hope he's a hit at Apple!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

CFS Tuesday

(our ongoing series about life with CFS)

Yes, it's Wednesday. I just realized that I completely forgot about CFS Tuesday. Let's talk about why, because it is an interesting look at life with CFS.

My brother is on the staff of Virginia Tech. Thankfully, he was not injured in the shootings on Monday. Thankfully, he has a cell phone so my parents and I were able to speak to him very soon after the shootings. However, I spent most of Monday glued to the television. Even though my brother is ok, I am still very upset by these shootings. I am spending a lot time thinking about the VT community. The campus is beautiful, and it is hard to imagine what it is like now.

So Monday was a high stress day. And CFS and stress do not mix. Stress is a guaranteed path to exacerbation of all symptoms. By Monday evening, I was physically and emotionally exhausted. My pain escalated; my sore throat resurfaced. An upper respiratory virus that I thought I had recovered from came back with a vengeance.

Tuesday passed in a blur. I spent the day in bed, only coming downstairs for dinner and a little television. I slept a fair amount, and my throat has become very painful. My tonsils are red and swollen, and my congestion has increased. I'm hitting it with all the OTC drugs I can, and monitoring my temperature for any sign of fever.

Now on Wednesday morning, I'm wondering what happened to the week. I forgot about CFS Tuesday, and maybe half a dozen other things. I lost last week to the respiratory virus, and now I've lost a few more days. This week illustrates one of the challenges of life with CFS. A deviation from the norm, and unexpected stress, has consequences for days afterwards. I can't work a little harder to catch up. I still only get two hours or less a day of functionality. Navigating the uneven waters of life is tricky when it is so difficult to keep yourself on even keel.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Meet Swatchy Mama

I am so pleased to introduce Swatchy Mama:


Swatchys are my proxies in the world. So of course, we need a soccer mom Swatchy. If I were healthy, I have little doubt that I would be a soccer mom myself. This Swatchy was knit on US1 size needles with Patons Grace and Lisa Souza's Violet's Pink Ribbon.

The guardian of Swatchy Mama is my good friend Kathy. We went to law school together, and she has gone on to be not just a lawyer but a soccer mom too. She even drives a minivan. Kathy will be giving us a good taste of normal suburban soccer mom life (although I'm sure she would dispute the normal part).


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

King Tut

Dear Swatchy,

Yo! (that's a Philly-style greeting) Guess where I went with Knittah's mom and dad?


They took me to a museum - The Franklin Institute. There's lots of cool stuff there, including a model of a heart that you can walk through. And I met Ben Franklin, sorta.


We were there to see King Tut. Well, not him. He's dead. We went to see some of his stuff. It was really cool, but no photography was allowed inside. A lady at the start of the exhibit said that if a guard caught someone taking photos, they would "remove" them. Sounded bad, so I stayed tucked away. But I can tell you that there was lots of gold and statues and other cool stuff.

On the way out, we found this cool model of Philadelphia.


It's made of Lego! Cool, huh? A high school student made it for a project, and it's called Legodelphia.

Well, that's it for me! One thing, though. I didn't get a soft pretzel!

Love, McSwatchy