the blue butterfly

In continuation of last night’s prattling:

Ah, quiet. Monday night means Rob’s departure. This also means the departure of his two very cute sons who are also, incidentally, six and seven years old and inclined to do little boy things, such as make noise constantly and cry occasionally. So, it’s quieter here. The group of Austin-ers are compensating on the noise front, however, but bring a happy development to my life. I’ve been trying to plan a trip for myself out of this Brio/Gigante forest community, to see some more of the country and, let’s be honest, find a city large enough to have a store that sells chocolate. This group is going to the Isla de Ometepe on Thursday. And now—I’m going with them! Horray. Not only does it take away the hassle of having to plan a trip, but more so, the hassle of having to plan a trip alone (not to mention that the 100 dollar taxi out of super remote Gigante is cheaper when you get to split it 8 ways). On Friday, we shall attempt to climb the volcano Concepcion. ‘Hiking Concepcion’ entails a 10-hour hike up a 1,600 meter active volcano, so it shall be an adventure if nothing else. I’m quite excited to get out of this little village and tackle some more of the country. I plan to read my guidebook thoroughly before embarking, so I shall write more of this interesting isla later.   

I had a fairly busy weekend (keep in mind that busy is very relative term in this context). Saturday was the last night of a funny Frenchman who had been living here for a month, so the group threw him a little party. ‘Round midnight, I departed the party in exhaustion, grabbed my pj’s from atop my bed, and walked into the bathroom to change. I closed the bathroom door with my left hand, my right hand clutching the bundle of clothes to my chest. A scorpion walked out of the shirt and waddled across my collarbone. I shrieked like a girl and managed to throw the thing off of me, where it landed with a thud on the floor. It’d call it four inches, from head to twisty tail that just barely avoided my chest. Call me squirmy—fine, girly—but I can still feel it’s little feet pattering across my skin. Like, ew. Earlier that evening, while returning from a sunset run along the beach (I know, my life) I saw not one but two little snakes squirm across the road in front of me. It’s only a matter of time, I tell ya, until something gets me. Until then, I continue to live in alternative glee at the fact I can run along a deserted pacific beach at sunset and terror at the creatures that await me upon my return. This terror is misplaced at creatures who, I must remind myself again and again, are more scared of me than I of them; it is also a gross overreaction in this land of poverty, but there you have it. I will be the first to admit that I am a spoiled first-worlder attempting to find my bearings and my priorities in the third world. It ain’t easy. 

Sunday, I went with Rob, the kids, and the young couple to wander around Zacátan, Rob’s ecological reserve. The reserve is a dense chunk of the forest that is everywhere anyway, and a sign telling us so. There are limited paths through the tens of acres that Rob has designated as ‘reserve’; mostly we just hiked in the currently dry creek-bed. I like Rob’s plans for the place—to build an extensive series of trails throughout, to facilitate hikers and nature-folk that are interested in exploring a forest that in other places is fairly impenetrable. I consider myself a bit of both of these, so I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to peek into the dense forest world, to see the inside of what from a road-side view just looks like a wall of green. It was a varied experience: howler monkeys screeching overhead, tall roped trees unique to this region and this region only, colorful spiders in picture-perfect webs, big beefy leaves all around, fire ants swarming on the plants brushing up against me. (Yes, I got bit, and yes, one bite from an ant swells up to the size of a quarter on my arm. Why must my skin be so darn sensitive to the elements.) It was also pretty singular—this kind of flora and fauna is reproduced nowhere else in the world. I only realized after the fact how unique the reserve is: it is a live, bustling Central American rainforest, one that I wandered around without a second thought. Neato. I keep forgetting, don’t ask me how, that I am living in the middle of a rainforest, and it’s neat (or terrifying) to get small reminders among seemingly normal day-to-day business (the scorpion and snake being reminders of the scary kind). I went for a run today and saw about five or six more of the blue butterfly I saw for the first time with Rob in the reserve. They just frolicked on the side of the road, next to the smelly cows, and then fluttered off into the green yonder of the rainforest that lines the road.

Yes, you’ve got that right: I’ve now seen upwards of ten blue butterflies, know also as the Blue Morpho. I know what you’re thinking. ‘You couldn’t possibly have. Didn’t they make a movie about a little boy, terminally ill with cancer, who goes off in search of the elusive blue butterfly in the jungles of Costa Rica? And then finds the butterfly and is cured of his strand of incurable leukemia. This same blue butterfly? This very same one?’ Yes. Blue Morphos are a brilliant, flashing neon blue variety of butterfly, quite arresting to look at, and apparently the only blue butterfly in the world. They are also quite a mystified animal. The blue butterfly elicits such excitement from botanists and butterfly-science-people as, well, gold does to people who like money. My excitement with seeing this elusive species comes from a slightly less intelligent bent. En route to Miami on my first Latin adventure (Argentina), I saw a movie entitled nothing less than The Blue Butterfly. It remains one of the worst movies I have ever seen. Let me offer a quote from the produce of the movie:

“A few years ago, a friend and colleague was attending an Imax conference in Barcelona,” says producer Francine Allaire of Montreal-based Galafilm. “There he met a world-famous entomologist from Montreal who told him an incredible story. One day he was asked by a boy, who was terminally ill with brain cancer, to help him fulfill his last wish: to catch the most beautiful butterfly on earth, the Blue Morpho. This magnificent creature can only be found in the jungles of Central and South America. The entomologist decided to take him to the rainforest. And, after their journey, the kid came back walking. Today, he is 20 years old.”

Original source, which you should certainly read if you don’t believe me that such a movie as I have outlined exists, or if you seek a good scoff:

All sarcasm aside, all twitching thoughts in the back of my head that go something like this: ‘butterflies can’t cure cancer.’ This is a darn famous butterfly. The blue morpho, huh. And now I live among them. What ailment shall I pray they cure me of?

(Oh, wow. I never should have googled this movie. It gets 1.9 million responses. There are about three thousand non-profits named after the blue butterfly, committed to helping kids with cancer. There are bookstores and bed and breakfasts named after the butterfly. The movie even gets many a positive review. New York Times readers give it 3.5 stars out of 5. Wow. Sorry.)

After frolicking with the mystical butterflies, this same group hopped aboard a panga—little boat—and headed south for about 15 minutes along the coast. The snorkeling was okay but it was spectacular to be out and about on the water and to see the Nicaraguan coastline zooming past. A Costa Rican peninsula loomed from the south. The water, wonderful green and aqua, warm, rocking along with the boat. They say only in California can you swim and ski in the same day. Well, only in Nicaragua can you see a blue butterfly in a buzzing green rainforest and then swim among the fishies in warm, sandy green water, all in one day.

Today I did laundry for the first time since I’ve left home. Brio has a washing machine and a drier, and I jumped for joy when I saw them. I’m quite proud of myself that I lasted two and a half weeks sans laundry. I was also astonished when I dumped basically my entire wardrobe for this grand adventure into the washer and saw that it filled up half a load. The doing of laundry was a lovely afternoon activity. As per my last post, I enjoyed the fact that the power stayed on all day long, and thus could feed wonderful electricity to these wonder-machines. A washer and a drier are certainly luxury items in this distant land in which I now find myself. I also enjoyed the luxury of clean, fresh, folded clothes—the whole of what I brought with me, my backpack companions. 


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