Little People, Big Things

“Unstuck”. The quotation marks in this post below are all too familiar. They stemmed from well-worded conversations that traveled across the 16,894 kilometers between Kochi, India, and Costa Rica. Between me and Crist Inman. About “getting back in”. Going back and forth on happiness and redefining it. On dreaming. Together.

And, I remembered this bouncing, hugging ball of happiness that owned me by the beach at Xandari Pearl in Kerala. Little person, but home of good things.

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Splashing Festivities

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In the past month, a wave of newcomers has joined the Xandari team, and to my delight, it means I´m no longer “the new girl.” This has been my first opportunity to welcome new members and receive them as warmly as I was greeted when I arrived in July. Our new coworkers at the front desk are the ones I’ve had the chance to help with any questions about billing or assisting with guest needs, and this new responsibility is the one I enjoy the most. Even though in certain circumstances I still have to refer to my other, more experienced, coworkers to help resolve the matter, I still get to learn how to take care of obstacles that I have not encountered before. Additionally, questions or doubts that the new employees have are helpful for identifying the details in the front desk duties and training process that could be made clearer.

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Insect Behavior at Xandari

Over the last month or so, I’ve been recording videos of animal behavior at Xandari, and I finally have enough to share a small compilation of insects doing their thing on property. Sometime during the next week, I’ll also upload a video of new bird behavior observed here.

In the video above, you’ll see a small colony of leaf-cutter ants Continue reading

October eBirding at Xandari

A Mottled Owl seen on Halloween, 2015

This past month at Xandari was a good one for the resort’s eBird hotspot, since it saw the beginning of the migratory bird season in earnest (some species start migrating from North America in September or even late August). Not only were 91 distinct species seen throughout the month, but 15 of these species were newly observed on property (including three new representatives each of both raptors and warblers; four new swallows; and even a new hummingbird that was probably fleeing the rain-induced cooler temperatures at its higher elevation habitat). These fresh observations have bumped the hotspot’s species count up to 137, putting Xandari in a tie for 54th place by species count within the entire province of Alajuela, which as the third-largest province of Costa Rica includes some of the stronger birding sites in the country, like Arenal and Poás volcanoes and Caño Negro National Park (not to mention all the private reserves––like Xandari’s––that get lots of bird-watchers every year).

Last night, fittingly for Halloween, Jocelyn and I saw a Mottled Owl (not the first time at Xandari, but the first time filmed that I know of):

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The Barred Antshrike

Last weekend, a former minister of the environment for Costa Rica was staying at Xandari with his wife. Avid birders with life lists, they noticed a binder on the lobby’s coffee table with the cover image pictured above. The binder was the product of work James and I did last summer, highlighting forty interesting species of resident birds on Xandari’s property. After the table of contents, the first featured bird — the Barred Antshrike — was a surprise to the visiting couple. They’d been birding the Central Valley for years, but they’d never seen the species, and they simply didn’t believe that it could be found in such an accessible location.

Politely, the couple smiled at the binder-creators’ mistake and set out Continue reading

Xandari’s Latest Dozen+ Pysanky

As my on-site time with Xandari wound down for the year early this week, I worked to make as many pysanky for the gift shop as possible, since an ornithological expedition in Jamaica will be taking up the first couple months of the new year. In the photo on the right, you can see that I finally got to one of the patterns I’d brainstormed when first starting this project, as well as a repetition of the Alajuelan soccer team insignia egg. Since the little tree for hanging the eggs in the gift shop is pretty full at sixteen eggs already, most of these eggs will stay in the office until an egg is sold or eggs are rotated.

Two adaptations of earlier patterns I developed and another soccer-themed egg, this time for Heredia’s team.

I’m hoping all these eggs, some of which directly reference Xandari and others Continue reading

New Mammal Spotted at Xandari

About a week ago, while walking the forest trails at Xandari, several resort employees and I had a great wildlife spotting. The trail we were taking leads to a seven-foot waterfall that flows into a large pool and continues as a small river with several other waterfalls in it, one of which is about a seventy-foot drop. As we were rounding a bend in the path, a member of the group looked across the river to the opposite bank and noticed an animal down by the water.

It had either been drinking or perhaps hunting for some aquatic prey, but when it heard our voices (we were a group of about six or seven) it scampered up the hill and in among the trees, where we lost sight of it. My first impression was that it was a black house cat, but it quickly became clear that it was in fact almost double the size and its tail was quite large – not bushy, but as if the bone and flesh themselves were a good deal thicker than a normal cat’s.

White-nosed Coatis foraging warily on the grounds of Bosque del Cabo, a nature lodge on the Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica.

The staff member who first spotted the animal voiced the hypothesis that it was a pizote, or White-nosed Coati, a member of the raccoon family that many visitors to Costa Rica have probably seen in their travels here. But as the black-furred animal briefly turned its head back to check that we were not pursuing it, I could see despite the shadows cast by the forest that its face was not pointed into a long nose but rather a normal cat’s face, and there was no hint of white there either. Continue reading

From the Flora-Files, Part 4

This little gem can be found along the path to the art studio.

And so the flora-files march on (see past posts, starting from the most recent here). Continuing these posts has become a way for me to reflect on the wonderful opportunities I had at Xandari and around Costa Rica to come into contact with a lot of fascinating and beautiful flora and fauna. As I peruse my photo catalogs and look for pictures to post, I feel like I’m back there, even briefly. Continue reading

Butterflies from the Butter-files

As I mentioned in the “flora-file” series (see posts #1 and #2, more are forthcoming), I’m posting a number of photos I collected during my time at Xandari Resort & Spa this summer. Some of these photos aren’t of plants, so I’ve got to think of another punny name for this post featuring butterflies: what about the “butter-files”? It’ll have to work for now! Continue reading

From the Flora-Files, Part 1

Right of the reception

Although, as I detailed in my last post, my internship at Xandari is over, I still have a great backlog of images that I never had a chance to upload while there. (My computer broke.) I’d like to share the better of those photos with everyone here. I’ve named this post “flora-files” because I think the title sort of punny: “files” in the sense of records on Xandari’s flora; and “file” in the sense of the Greek φίλoς (philos), “love,” the same one that shows up in “Philadelphia” or “audiophile.” Look out for more from the flora-files… I’ll detail where I find these flowers around Xandari in the caption, so that if you’re lucky enough to be here while they’re in bloom, you can go seek them out.

Garden paths

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Reflecting on the Summer at Xandari

The familiar sight of a path between villas snaking through Xandari’s gardened grounds

My internship in Costa Rica has officially come to an end. I was incredibly fortunate to spend eight weeks at Xandari, an environmentally-focused resort in Costa Rica’s Valle Central. As I sit back at home in the US, a world away (or a short 3 1/2 hours on an airplane, take your pick…), and try to assimilate the different experiences at Xandari, I am struck by some thoughts. Without being too verbose, I’d like to offer a few reflections on my time there this summer.

When I arrived June 10th, I’m not sure what I was expecting. As is probably the case for many tourists visiting Costa Rica, spectacular images of wildlife populated my imagination: monkeys, sloths, toucans, and macaws, meandering trails of army and leaf-cutter ants, poison dart frogs, and the infamous Fer-de-lance pit viper, to name a few. Never having visited a subtropical country or walked through a rainforest, the teeming jungles of Costa Rica stood for me as a kind of fabled land-before-time, a place where Continue reading

Doka Coffee In-Depth: o, Una Tarde de Café

Tarde de Café con Doka Estate (An Afternoon of Coffee with Doka)

As mentioned in a recent post, Xandari was joined last week by one of Doka Estate’s coffee experts, Natalia Vargas, who gave a presentation on the estate’s process of growing, harvesting, and preparing coffee. The presentation also involved a coffee-tasting session so that we could see… er… taste the fruits of Doka’s hard work. This latter part of the presentation is what I’ll be mostly focusing on in this post. I don’t want to give too much away, in case I spoil the fun of visiting the Doka Estate for yourself when you’re next staying at Xandari, but seeing as it was a very informative and enjoyable a presentation (at least for a coffee lover), and that Xandari should soon be in a position to capitalize on the knowledge in its own coffee endeavors (most recent post here), I thought I’d spill just a few of the beans here, no pun intended.

Coffee table set-up

Natalia first walked us through the actual growing, selection, and harvesting process. All the beans at Doka originate from plants alread Continue reading

Bird Fun (…and Aristotle?) around Tacacorí

Papier-mâché penguins and other birds from the fourth grade class

In his recent post on our work at the local school in Tacacorí, Seth outlined our papier-mâché and painting ambitions with the third and fourth grades there. The second half of the week, Seth and I were split up because of the kids’ conflicting class schedules. I took fourth grade on the last few days, and he worked with third grade.

In his Poetics, Aristotle elaborates an aesthetic theory partly on the basis of μίμησις (mimēsis), or “imitation.” According to Aristotle, humans are “mimetic” beings, that is, disposed to imitate nature and other human beings. Art’s basis is precisely in Continue reading

Peaberry Coffee

Mostly standard coffee beans (some Peaberry beans may have snuck in!)

A friend from the Doka Estate (on Doka see our most recent post on coffee) visited Xandari yesterday to tell us more about the process of growing and preparing coffee from seedling to cup. We’ll go into what we learned in more detail in another post, but for now I wanted to share something interesting I learned about different types of coffee–specifically about the type of coffee called “Peaberry” (or caracoli). Continue reading

The Seasonality of Flowers

These flowers are called “fósforos” in Spanish, meaning “matches.” (Guess why!) They’re much beloved by Steely-vented Hummingbirds.

Xandari’s guests often remark on how difficult it is not to take dozens, even hundreds, of photos around the resort–one reason for that is the abundant flora. Even though I know I probably shouldn’t do another post on flowers (see my others here and here), I will use a similar excuse and say that I have a very hard time walking by the amazing blooms and not pulling out my camera to snap a quick picture. Flowers only bloom for a short time before dropping their petals and waiting in repose for the next season–this small window of loveliness is one of the reasons why they are so compelling. Continue reading

Xandari’s Rivers and Waterfalls

At waterfall #4, with morning sun coming through. (Photo credit: S. E. Inman)

Seth recently posted about Xandari’s forest trails, so I thought I would follow up with another post on one of the forest’s best features, the river running through it. The small river that winds along the edge of Xandari—indeed, forms the resort’s southern boundary—is home to five waterfalls. Although they are no Niagara Falls, they are still well worth the trip down to see them, especially the Gran Catarata (“Grand Waterfall”). There, the water is funneled through a narrow channel before falling over fifty feet into a small pool. Because the water flows west, the sun always rises from behind the waterfalls (east); the result is some pretty spectacular displays of light as the sunbeams form a kind of a halo around Continue reading

Lepidoptera Diversity in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is home to some 1200 butterflies and another 8000 species of moths (both diurnal and nocturnal varieties). This astounding diversity is no surprise, given the country’s neotropical climate and its position as a land bridge between North and South America, each home to a plethora of diverse ecosystems. The tremendous number of butterflies that can be seen goes hand-in-hand with the fact that Costa Rica is home to about 4% of the world’s total biodiversity! Of the butterfly species, some of the most famous include Continue reading

Plant-a-Tree at Xandari

The stake in front that holds the planter’s name says (quite humorously, to my mind): 3 CANADIENSES!

Plant-a-tree programs are real winners: educational, fun, and productive. Next time you visit Xandari (or another sustainable or eco-friendly hotel), be sure to ask about the opportunity about the opportunity to plant a sapling. At Xandari, plantings are usually done in the orchard or in one of the old coffee plots. Everybody who plants a tree has a small wooden stake erected near the spot, commemorating the event and recognizing the effort to make the world a little bit greener. Continue reading