Original “la buena vida” blog from my experience can be viewed here
All text is un-edited and primarily written in context from the floor, counter, or where ever I was able to catch some internet while at the Station. 
This is a page dedicated to my experience in summer 2012  living in the Galapagos Islands and working with the Charles Darwin Research Station. I kept an active journal/blog about the summer which illustrates both the highs and lows of living there.

8/11/2012 – Salute Galapagos

It’s about that time to call the Galapagos yet another adventure in the books. I’ve taken a flight a couple days early to get home soon than expected. But at the same time I feel I came and conquered what needed to be done. I helped with as much GIS stuff as possible and locked in the Google workshop in Sept. It was a great experience and quite different from the norm. Between living/working in a forgein country and I admit there was quite the mental game of being constrained to an island, I have learned alot.

On top of that I was able to complete my Open Water Diver (OWD) certification that due to ear issues was up in the air. The doc helped out with that one but it was a great experience overall. It’s an extremely odd feeling being somewhere that humans aren’t supposed to be. On that note I’m going to describe my first and second dive…although three and four were 100% better than the first two.

My ears due to the pressure felt like someone first slapped by ears at the same time as a cruel joke then left their hands there and continued to push on my head…All the while my eyes feel like their getting sucked out of my head because of mask pressure that I should of been releasing more often…For that I burst the blood vessels above my eyes like I was out till 4am puking…This is on the way down by the way. So I’m down and now suddenly everything is fine, no pain, nothing just awesome stuff to see. But of course air doesn’t last forever so we make our ascent and all of the above start to replay. I get to the surface and my nose is bleeding for the first time in my life…I can’t hear anything including myself talk and the pain in my ears is accompanied by a hissing air sound shooting out of my hear at a pace that feels similar to a jet engine. This is what defined to me that the ocean is not a human environment and why we probably crawled out of it in the first place some 2 million years ago.

Dive three and four to Daphne and North Seymour Islands were great. Since I’ve never dove before my ears have never been through the hell of that much pressure before. But once was enough and my ears sharply adjusted. Diving is oddly awesome and you get to see soooo many things, maybe it was because I’m in the Galapagos but to see a variation throughout the world wouldn’t be a bad thing to do.

After diving I wrapped up what needed to be done at work and started to do my last of things. I got my last seco de pollo at the place that knows thats all I order. I went and got my last empanada at the municipal market then went and got my final dessert at my favorite bakery.

As of now I’m sitting in Quito staring out my window at a massive mountain capped in white towers that this message is being sent through. I arrived here at about 3pm, got my room at the hotel, and quickly headed out on the town. I found an open art market with super sweet paintings that I’d love to hang up in my future house. I then wandered around eating street fruit and chocolate buns : ) but then headed to an artisian market. They sell literally the exsact same things as every shop in Santa Cruz does but about $10-15 dollars cheaper.

The plan now is to sleep get up at the crack of dawn for my Miami flight at 8:40am then off to Minneapolis after a massive layover. I CANNOT wait to see rach and eventually the roomies and fam.

I am singing OUTTTTTTTTTTTTT, salute Galapagos

8/7/2012- Tick Tock

Internets wide open today at the station…I’m not sure whats going on…but it’s a GREAT day.

8/6/2012 – Your My Philosophy

I went for my scuba certification this weekend to try and wrap up my trip here. Started with book work on Friday which prepared me for the two open water dives on Saturday. I woke up at the crack of dawn (4:30am) in order to get on the boat by 5:30am. We were headed to the island of Floreana, about two hours by boat almost directly south of Santa Cruz.

The water was the choppiest I’ve ever seen, and we were in a smaller boat that I’ve been on as well. It was soo bad that out of the 8 people on the boat we would fly off the crest of a wave, 4 of us would get about 4 feet of air (close to a simulated weightlessness in a plane but cheaper) and then SLAM back down no longer perched on our seats. Much like a tangle of Barrel of Monkeys we slowly moved back to our seats just to have it all happen again next swell. While that was bundles of fun we watched the sunset come up as we pull into our dive sit at 8am. Named Punta Comorant dive site one was right off the northeastern tip of Floreana to the East of Devils Crown. Curious sea lions are greeting our boat as the water is clear enough to see the 10 meters to the bottom.

Our dive was to start in the shallow 8 meter area while slowly descending to a maximum depth of 14 meters for the first dive. I’m suiting up ready to get all Navy Seal on the world and enter the water commando style dropping in backwards off the boat. I think pictures would sum up the rest of the day better than me rambling…so enjoy.

Overall it was a pretty crazy experience because breathing underwater is quite the feeling seeing that your in a place that humans shouldn’t be. You have to be calm while not freaking out so you use up all your air. On top of just crusing around the bottom I was being tested/skills checked for doing things like taking my mask off underwater and putting it back on, or taking out my respirator n just blowing bubbles. We ended up diving twice which were awesome spots to see some wildlife. I just took my exam and passed with flying colors. My ears took a toll however, on the way down the pressure is redicoulous but once you equalize them your content for quite some time. But then on the way back up I felt like someone was ripping the inside of my ear out with a tweezers. Not the most pleasant feeling and it was bad enough that I couldn’t hear very well when I got back after the two hour boat ride. As I type this now, I still feel like I’m living in my head…So on that note I didn’t dive on Sunday and plan to dive again on Wednesday instead…hopefully my sinuses cooperate because I would really love to take a break and head out of the office on Wednesday. Times winding down and I’m looking forward to getting home seeing and squeezin the people who I miss most.

8//2012 – Google Workshop

The first of the month is always a great day : ) but today on top of the first I had an epic email in my inbox.

Daniel has heard back from Google and after deliberation they have offered two spots for their Geo for Good Workshop. GUESS WHAT THAT MEANS!!! I’m invited to represent the Charles Darwin Foundation at their workshop being offered in September out in Mountain View, California. Although funds aren’t provided for the both us, I’m currently trying to find funding through the University while encouraging them that this will benefit not only myself but the University as well as the collaboration between the Geography Department and the CDF.

The workshop presents Google’s mapping tools and their application to non-profit organizations. By spatially enabling non-profit’s decision making the power of data backed solutions sky rockets. Whether it be conservation efforts in Uganda or showing the impacts of genocide in Darfur, Google is proving to organizations that their tools can create positive change by taking on a geographic perspective to issues. Currently focusing on Africa, Google wants to expand their outreach to South America and what better than to start with the biologically complex Galapagos Archipelago. Their goal is to help and implement their toolsets to create a larger awareness of this sensitive ecosystem. By increasing awareness and data management it should empower better conservation management practices.

Super neat stuff, can’t wait to see what comes of all of it but you have to start somewhere and this isn’t a bad place to begin!

7/30/2012 – My oh My

As the weekend comes to a close I’ve got to say it was one of the most relaxing places all summer.

This weekend the whole group decided to head south to a large island called Isabela. It’s the one that looks like an L in the Archipelago. Taking off early on Friday our ferry left at 2 to blue skies and the sun on our backs. This boat, much like the one I took to San Cristobal has about 15 people on it getting pulled around by a 3, 200hp engines. I’m enjoying the huge swells of the open ocean, as this German guy looking white in the face insisted on coming to the back of the boat. Two minutes later he was throwing up and a half hour later I have this man on the right dry heaving over the side while Joe is now to my left is regretting eating lunch an hour ago. As I pretend not to smell the grossness surrounding me, were cruising by these massive volcanic cones sticking out of the open ocean. To get a sense of size…imagine a football stadium about a mile long and equally wide sliced open like a pie, delicately coated in a layer of bird shit. Huge features that puts into perspective this island chain and whats going on.

We cruise into the port of Villamil, the only town on the entire island. Mind you this town is only about 2 miles long almost entirely on the coast. But as we pull into the harbor penguins curiously greet the boat at the same time looking at a massive beach with palm trees waving in the wind. I already feel far removed from Santa Cruz which is great. We eagerly get picked up by some guy who says his hostel is the best! Doubtful, but we went anyways which brought us to the outskirts of town to this small hostel with about 5 rooms. Joe and I got our own rooms, had a kitchen, bathroom, shower, wifi, the Olympics on tv, and hammocks strung on anything that would support the weight of a person. Not bad for $10 dollars a night. Still antsy with light in the day Joe and I set out to look around. This town is strictly centered on the people who come for the weekend. Bars, hostels, hotels, and restaurants…that’s about it. Were walking down the main strip and stumble upon this bright pink surf hostel that has the best atmosphere in the entire Galapagos. We quickly put our names down for Saturday and Sunday and planned to move in the next morning.

I wake up on Saturday to pouring rain…the most we’ve seen the entire trip down here. But we were eager to go and took a taxi to Casa Rosala our new place. Our room was basic, two beds, no bath, or shower. The lobby I would say is more like the ultimate living area. It had a living area with leather couch’s, a huge kitchen with island in the middle, dinner table, a bathroom that looks more like a giant roman washroom. As instrumental hip hop is bumping at the perfect level I sank into the comfort of a real couch and read as many Dr. Seuss books as I could. As the rain lightened up I walked into town for some break fast…This town by the way has roads made of sandy gravel, so I haven’t worn shoes all weekend…again the best town ever. As alot of people were discouraged by the weather, I put on my yogo attitude on (You Only Galapagos Once) and went snorkeling at a small cove about a two mile walk. Not much to see but it was great cruising around in the chilly water. From there the weather turned from rainy to cloudy…which was enough for the rest of the day to walk around and check out the beach. I also somehow taught myself to slackline on the line rigged up by the outdoor bar.

By the time the night rolls around our room is soaked flooded and smells like clean laundry…something broke in the room next door and creeped into our room. Lucky for us we got upgraded to a pad on the second floor with a balcony overlooking the ocean. BOOM. However, a rat ran in our room as we were quietly watching a movie…not cool it scared the hell out of us. So now we have the ladder of our bunked bed conveniently blocking the space under the door.

Today we woke up slow to a cloudy yet not rainy sky. I slacked in the morning jamming to some tunes as the tide was coming in. From there we were headed up to a place called the “Wall of Tears.” Back in Isabela’s history the Ecuadorian government tried setting up a penal colony for prisoners. Using an old US Military base, operating as a radar station during the construction of the Panama Canal, they constructed a prison to house 300 inmates and 30 guards. The man in charge was an odd fella and decided to have his prisoners build a wall, yet with no reason why. Just a wall, that still stands, about 25 feet high and 50 yards long. They were to built it, disassemble it, then build it again. Aimless work to further torture the sanity of the prisoners. Hiking a pretty unmaintained trail past the wall we were able to get on top of one of many old parasitic cones littering the coast of Isabela. With a view spanning over the entire, now dwarfed city, we had a surprisingly picturesque view of how uninhabited as well as large this island actually is.

Cruising back down the hill on the way back we were flying by giant land tortoises, probably could of went over some of them but that’s probably highly frowned upon. Beat from hiking, and biking, I slacked some more and to a point where I can now walk backwards. But as I tried not to nap I quickly fell asleep in the hammock. This island paradise has more hammocks than it does people.

Between the beach, hammocks, bakery, food, supa good Internet, slackline, hostel bar, one of the coolest places I’ve showered, best place I’ve went to the bathroom, palm trees, atmosphere, and more Isabela is thee coolest island ever.

7/26/2012 – Hootie is the perfect thing sometimes

Updates from the work side of things have been quite significant over the past few days. The station has had communication with Google and they have an effort to start becoming involved in non-profit organizations. They basically have developed a series of geospatial tools that help organize, store, import, and visualize geospatial information. In order to promote these tools to non-profits they have organized a workshop at their Google headquarters in California. “Geo for Good” is a workshop that is designed to not only show their products but help representatives from non-profits learn the basics in order to determine their potential with the organization. Google has personally invited one and maybe two representatives from the Charles Darwin Foundation to attend in September. 

For the past week or so I’ve been putting together ideas that help identify the problems within the current CDF database system. On top of asking people to attend their conference Google wants to establish a presence in South America because their efforts are currently focused in Africa. This brainstorming of problems has been composed into a comprehensive proposal that is going to help in showing Google how their mapping tools could be implemented here at the Station. They plan to get involved much more in 2013…Which is conveniently right when I want to start graduate school…Good thing? Yup.

Adding to this we recently had a meeting to discuss how UWEC can get involved. I was asked to put together a power point and present my proposal to the growing GIS crew at the CDF. I’m currently acting as a mediator between the Station the University and what we now discussed as being Google. IF Google has enough spots for us to send two people I’m currently in line to be that second guy. Daniel, my boss and Director of the Social Sciences is obviously number one. I’m giddy with excitement and can’t wait for Google to get back to us… We’ll let fate determine that one but it would definitely be great to get involved with….

Another thing that has been on my mind is that the Stations database system which is currently being displayed as the Datazone on the Foundations website, is a great way to start serving this information to the public and conservation managers but still isn’t what it could be…Small world but I found out today through some research that the small GIS firm (Applied Data Consultants) outside of Eau Claire that actually hires people from our Department, is highly involved in this same matter. They are implementing the same exact software and logistical path that we are trying to put together which means were on the right track. They however, have created large systems for 4 states now and called it NatureMapping. It’s a system that citizens can upload data, view it, and become more aware of the issues in their own backyards. Let’s just say that I’ve become quite attached to the issues here…and can see what they could be as well as what the solution could do for the Galapagos as a whole…They only thing missing…is a solution…

7/24/2012 – Staying idle isn’t my thing

I signed up for my PADI open water scuba certification last night…It was on a whim that a Good Earth tea quote inspired. It’s a 3 day course with an introductory dive, then 4 dives on two different islands. I start not this weekend but the following weekend, going Friday, Saturday, Sunday. Early birthday present to myself and I CANNOT WAIT!!!!!!!!

7/19/2012 – The goldfish grows to the size of the bowl in which you put it in

The other day I met with Henri to discuss some more work he wanted tackled. This time it consisted of converting over 5000 points of collected ant specimens. The conversion that he wants is to convert a point that is in degrees, minutes, seconds (DMS or 0°24’35”S) to decimal degrees

(-.40972, -90.708) a format more conducive to mapping in ESRI and Quantum. This is usually done manually with a formula that looks a like this.

D + M/60 + S/3600

Manually works great when only doing a few points, but we are tasked with over 5000 which would not only take a large amount of our time, would be painfully mind numbing work. I believe this would be quite a simple task if given the extension licenses in ArcGIS by calculating normalized fields. But we are going the route of doing it within Excel first hand then adding our file to ArcMap to map it. Our excel sheet by the way is of course highly disorganized… The person who entered the information randomly chose to use super case zeros in combination with the (°) symbol

as well as using double apostrophes instead of quotation marks (i.e ” ” <—look very much the same huh?) So we first used find and replace to change all of the values to the same format. As I was working a code to write a formula in Excel Chema goes Rocky double fist pose in the air and says “I got it!” The guy knows his stuff because he worked out a solution in open office by writing a formula that identifies the location of the number then divides where it needs to and does that for each part of the DMS format.

It took me awhile for him to explain what it was and what it was doing but it’s a great way to learn new solutions to old problems. The actual formula is below and saved so in case we need to do this again.

This scenario is also a great example of bringing new solutions to old problems can get things done highly efficiently. Henri thought this would take up to a week or more which would of consumed all of our time in the process. It was done in little under 3 hours…NEXT task.

Yesterday we also set out on expedition two to go find the tracking device that we looked for last week. The errors of all the points were made into ellipses then overlapped to find a more accurate location of where this thing could be. We set out at 8am with a smaller boat, and more people. It took about an hour to chug around the southern portion of the island but we made it to another cove that was coated in marine iguanas and large sea turtles that look like moving rocks beneath our boat. We searched the coast for about 5 hours including climbing through the jungle gym of mangroves, and wading around the inner coves further cut off my mangroves. Nothing but trash, and a huge quantity of perfectly round kettle stones that have scoured equally perfect holes into the basalt. Due to wave/tidal action rocks stuck within other rocks then get blasted around in circles acting as a drill bit and over how every many hundred years have created 5 foot holes with all but a ball at the bottom. Overall, we didn’t find the device but it was a beautiful day to hike around in a spot were no one has ever probably hiked before.

I’ve also recently watched the movie Big Fish. Great movie, check it out.

The greatest part of large challenges is that they tend to reap the greatest rewards

7/13/2012 -Maybe I’m Amazed

Today started out great, except the fact we woke up without running water. However, I finished up with the basic Quantum workshop. Frank had mentioned that Google was offering a developer grant which after looking into doesn’t apply to Ecuador for some reason. He did however mention that the station has direct contact to Google and could possibly take that route for help. He rattled off a bunch of goals that he felt should be addressed and I added in some geospatial aspects to those problems that could ultimately create a better system for the station overall. This however is going to be quite the task because we are going to start meeting in order to create a proposal to Google stating our objectives and ways about efficiently dealing with those tasks. The underlying goal is to get them excited to get involved. It’s cool to see that whether it be myself personally writing this or our group of GIS people collectively that people are more than willing to help as long as you can state your intentions.

That took up most of my morning all while Chema was chatting with a granted over marine biologist. I asked them what they had been doing all morning and she explained they had lost a $3500 tracking device that they had placed on what I think she said was Oahu? At any rate, there not cheap. It sends out a highly inaccurate GPS point when it believes it has a clear signal. The last point sent out was at 7am this morning on the south western side of this island, past Tortuga Bay to the north. Their plan was to go and try to find it…I said Chema, you have to get me on that boat with you. So by 2:00 I was on that boat. We rallied 7 people including two National Park people, and 5 of us from the station all huddled in this dinky fiberglass hull, half inflatable, zodiac with a 50hp motor. What seems like small swells from shore were no longer small swells in a 12 foot boat. We were bouncing around, getting that flight or fight reflex as we try not to be the one to go overboard. As we near the GPS location, which did happen to be in the water this morning, we realize that this is going to be extremely challenging. The device is about the size and also looks like a car cell phone charger which is conveniently colored blackish grey…the same color as every rock on this island. It also, if floating, doesn’t float upright so it will also be half submerged. We park our zodiac in this small cove while dozens of the largest marine iguanas I’ve seen to date here, stare at us like we’ve just arrived on another planet. We start our search and continue our search until 4:30pm where we assume we’ve had enough for the day. Although we couldn’t find the device, it was pretty neat to sift through the piles of debris that get washed up during high tides. Of the how ever many tourists come here, it looked as though about half have lost just one of their flip flops which have now taken residence in this very spot for the next million years.

Back to the boat, back to the dock, and off to the fish market to get dinner. I stopped and got two pounds of fresh Oahu fillets to cook Chema, and Joe. Then of course since I was in town I stopped by the bakery, this time getting what look like strawberry buns mhmmm I am excited for those. The fish we cooked up looked 5 star restaurant material….here me out…We sauteed a sauce of aja pepper seasoning, yellow pepper, onion, and garlic until it was caramelized. Then dropped in the fillets turning them accordingly. While cooking rice with squeezed orange juice and pepper. The fillets were complemented by a yellow pepper/green pepper salad with oregano. Rachel, all of this I’m making for youu when I get home by the way. We had it all made and eaten in less than 45 min. From there Deb came back with our care packages from home. Thanks family I now have more candy than I can possibly eat! Other than that I am now off to skype it up with Rach and go to bed.

7/12/2012 – MAPHEAD

I’ve started an interesting new book called “Maphead” by Ken Jennings. I can finally get reading again after finishing The History of Everything : ) and also Kurt Vonneguts book “Galapagos” (extremely strange by the way). Maphead is a book about the culture of geography and how geography shapes our every experiences. I already recommend it for anyone interested in maps as well as those those intrigued by the artistic trance of cartography.

To start out he addresses that maps don’t always have to depict data or have to show the route of a physical world. He highlights allegorical maps that illustrate things like emotions or in the example below the idea of success.

Later on he also poses an interesting question…

For a long time I blamed writers like John Bunyon and Dante for this allegorical form of cartacaoethes. Desperate to extract a storyline from a possibly dreary and didactic subject –  the struggle to a life worthy of heaven – they seized on a quest narrative, a “pilgrim’s process,” and mapmakers were quick to follow suit. I wonder: how would history be different if Bunyan or Dante had chosen to represent life not as a linear journey through a geographic territory but as something a little more holistic – a library, say? or a buffet? What would Western civilization be like in that alternate universe? Would we value different things, set different goals for ourselves, if the governing geographic metaphor of our culture were replaced by something else – recipes instead of maps, cookbooks instead of atlases? Would shallow celebrities still tell interviewers they were “in a good place right now”? Or Would they say things like “I’m at the waffle bar right now, Oprah”?

*copied from chapter two

7/8/2012 – Gahhhhh

Today I woke up pretty slow from the night before but I made it to the market by 9am to grab a bunch of fresh vegetables. I found a papaya the size of a watermelon that was calling my name as well as a mini pineapple. Love fresh fruit. Other than that I got the bare essentials including peppers, onions, and pears as well as a bunch of cheese empanadas. Afterwards we summoned enough energy to head over to Las Greitas for the rest of the day.  It was much different than when we were there last time because of the tides going on right now. It was about 6 feet lower than normal and clear as day or as Joe put it “I can see clearer underwater than above water.” On top of being crystal clear you can see down the 45 some feet just as clearly. We swam around then did some climbs. If you climb up 20 feet in this one section then another 15 from that it comes to a cave that then goes back until you can’t see the light of day anymore. From here there’s no other way to get down but to jump back into the water. Same place as one of the earlier videos I posted.

A woman we work with and lives over in the German section of town was hanging out at the beach we passed on the way back. She was more than eager to show us her house so we went to check it out. Right off of the beach we passed through this picturesque blue gate that opened to a small winding path around salt water tide pools. It then led to this blanketing path of picture perfect, spongy, overgrown, grass that swerved to the porch of the main building. The main building is no longer occupied and was sold by the owners to a local hotel…Should probably mention that this is the childhood home of Tui De Roy. For those of you who don’t know who Tui De Roy is (because I couldn’t put a face to the name either) she is one of the world’s greatest photographers with prints in nearly every National Geographic and plenty more publications globally. Her parents who built this house were one of the first 100 people who came from Germany back in the early 1900’s and built this very house. Built from local materials it has a semi thatch roof, indoor garden, naturally lighted displays, cactus infused windows (gives it a stained glass look) and a porch overlooking the beach we were just at. Currently in the process of moving out, her mother sold it, built a 4 story house in Bellavista and now 84 years old she wanted money to travel the world for the rest of her life. In her youth and knowing nothing of sailboat design they constructed a handmade sailboat from materials they found on the island. Another fun fact, living on an island gives you plenty of access to sea shells. The family’s collection holds some of the rarest shells and was sold for more than any normal person would want to pay for shells. Quite the life. Now, you can understand when given this as your backyard in your childhood you could start out a photography career in the most photogenic archipelago. Tui now spends her time in both, the house of her own behind this one, and a home she made in New Zealand.

As we were on the porch hundreds of finches lined the trees, table, and ground looking for a rice handout that they know will come. As we leave the house there are exotic and definitely not native species of plants growing in and around everything. If you look close enough there are is a species of finch here called woodpecker finches. They are one of two species of birds in the world that use a tool to find food. We watched this little guy for quite some time, first find a thorn of his choosing, then start jamming the thorn in holes throughout this branch hoping to stab whatever he can, whether that be ants or worms.

Behind this place is a special tree that grows graviola. It is a fruit that is what I deemed nature’s version of yogurt. The inside is a gooy-white substance with fairly large seeds. Although looking much like the inside of a coconut it tastes like a mixed fruit yogurt container. Adding a delicious fruit tree to this little ocean oasis it almost felt like we were back at Bellavista in the Andes. Put that tree on my list of things to grow in my future garden : )

Pretty beat from our day I was able to skype Rachel and get stoked for our upcoming road trip which is about to aweeesome : ) Watched a bunch of community and was out by 10. 

7/2/2012 – Orange Sky

This weekend turned out good although we didn’t attempt to do too much. Deb’s class is still down here from the University and they were going up to a place called El Clato. It’s a bit like a National Park, where large land tortoises can roam around with minor disturbances from people. It’s located really close to Santa Rosa up past Bellavista in the western highlands.It is a huge place with freshwater lagoons that sit stagnat with bogs. All of us guys decided to get up and go to the market Saturday morning which took a bit longer than expected so we missed a free ride with Deb and her class. But we were able to get fifty cent cheese empanada’s and fresh fruit for the week so not to much of a loss there. We have another rack of 50 or so bananas which are now riponing faster than we can eat them…

We grabbed a cab ourselves and Marcel our driver had a lead foot to get there. We didn’t think Deb’s group had even came because there was no one in sight along the 3 mile dirt road we were crusing along. Before allowing our day turn into another Los Gemelos day, we asked him to wait but instead of being a bum in the car he wanted to come with for a hike. He later proved the fact you can hike in mud with dress up loafers on…This place was like some Garden of Eden place with passion fruit growing along the trail as well as invasive, yet yummy orange/limes. We didn’t expect to see much because the forest was extremely thick. Now I can see how the Chiliean guy got lost for 6 days about a two weeks ago. As the trails opened up we started stumbling upon massive tortoises. These had to of weighed over 450 pounds. As we pass by them at a respectable distance they were not to fond of our visit. As they compress their lungs to fit in their heaping shells they make this extremely distinct noise that I swear producers mimicked for the role of Darth Vader. They sound like their about to chase you and rip your head off but 450 pounds of intimidation is all talk. We ended up hiking through the thick of it past tortoises, through giant mud holes, over bogs, and the whole works. Not quite what we expected but thats the fun part.

Afterwards Marcel had no problem with us sitting in the back of his truck. So as we are driving through this grown over tree tunnel as were picking limes from over hanging trees…epic moment. Then we came upon some random lady who was picking oranges, she insisted we each pay three dollars for looking at the tortoises…Definitely a scam but we didn’t argue to cause an issue and she ended up giving us 15 oranges which was probably worth the money anyways.

Didn’t do too much else except watch community for a few hours to feel normal again. Then went over to kioskos to grab some grub.

Sunday funday consisted of a whole lot of relaxation. It was heavily based on episodes of community and eating chocolate buns. Our internet and electricity have been shotty lately…not sure why but the whole towns electricity went out on Saturday mid-convo with Rach. Not cool. and then both the stations and what im now calling internet cafe #1 didn’t work either…so again this place has a case of the hiccups. But Sunday night turned out good it was great chatting with Rachel. big day. I’ll leave it with that. Sadly, I was sleeping by the time a man in his 70’s should be in bed…

Back at work here I am anticipating some things from Henry tomorrow. He said he has alot of maps to be made which would be great. On top of that Chema and myself were asked to create a workshop for other people at the station on the freeware GIS program QuantumGIS.

6/28/2012 – Carpe Diem

big goals, big ideas a churnin’. get at life my friends…

 6/27/2012 – Plan for tomorrow, live for today

Yesterday and today has been back to the grind of sewing together the nessessary threads to the database we’re creating. By a random chance of events and ideas we got Geonetwork to connect to their host server which then allows us to eventually distribute our information to the web. We have also been siphoning through a bunch of satellite images and trying to find out how to upload them to postGIS because it doesn’t support rasters standing alone…I’ve found two extentions that are downloading which (with my fingers crossed) will allow us to upload them to our server. Henry, the man we made maps for is such a great guy. He geninually cares what people are doing and if their having fun doing it. He is generous enough as well to name drop me in his paper for contributing maps. get some. Jordan also mentioned that he may have me creating more since he knows what I like to do, and tasks over here in this building are moving slower than the tortoises on a hot day. Short and sweet from the work end of things.

While things are downloading I’ve also been real in tune to a bunch of geography blogs I found. Basically their getting me amped to want to go to grad school. University of Oregon would be quite perfect if things went to plan. I may even try to put together my letter of intent while I’m down here with the ocean for inspiration. The gre is also lurking in my headlights…not to excited for that when I get home but what better time to start studying than the uneventful dark nights here.

On top of that I checked out internships with National Geographic. Their pretty impressive since they have interns creating, editing, and designing publishable atlases as well as drafts for the magazine…The only thing is they sound quite exclusive but take applications in October…But I’m not sure when their positions are for throughout the year. I want to take a water taxi out the National Geographic cruise boat thats bobbing around in the harbor and be like SIGN ME UPPP. That would be a dream come true.

One thing at a time…

…yesterday after work I high tailed it to our bungalow to snag the only good bike we have left. I took mr un-reliable to town in order to catch a taxi up to Bellavista. It’s a small town up in the highlands about a 25 min uphill car ride inland. It was a cool little trip that I’ve thinking about doing ever since we had our brutal hike there earlier. Taxi man dropped me off and I spotted a bakery. Should probably mention I’ve had this thing for bakeries lately. They are extremely cheap, super tasty, homemade, warm, and again hard to pass up. They all have basically the same things but different sizes shapes etc. The deal is. I get something different every time. Today the palette was feeling yellow sugar cookies. 15 cents a piece…again hard to pass up. The whole plan was to get a ride here then cruise the whole way back downhill. It was quite relaxing flying by small coffee and banana plantations swirving for dogs and speed bumps. There was a woman selling chicken kabobs half way down along the road which I could smell a half a mile away…With seasoning like that, there was no question whether or not I would be stopping. From there on out it was pretty steep not hitting the brakes until I got to Puerto Ayora a solid 30 min ride away. I stopped at a small market to pick up some kiwis which alludes to a secret I should probably fill you in on. I like to call it “kiwis and beer are phenomenal together.”

Other than that I cooked up some rice and fish again then biked into town to hear from Rach and concluded my night with a movie and a batido to go that I’d been saving.

6/24/2012 – All of my days…

Today went surprisingly well. Chema went to go help with a Coca-Cola commercial they were filming so I had the whole office to myself jamming in the zone and continuing to make some maps which is a relief. They are for a research paper that the entomologist Henry is publishing soon. The maps themselves are quite simple however the processes behind them are not. A new quote on our whiteboard is “we love and have to love free software.” These maps are made entirely with free software including QuantumGIS, their map creation extension, our postGIS database server we created to host the files, and Inkscape (a freeware off-shoot of Adobe).

Coming soon…to a scientific paper on large headed ant infestation near you…

I swam another couple laps at lunch and it was the lowest I’ve seen the beach so far. It was by far 15 feet lower than normal…I normally can’t touch the bottom at the right pole and tread water to catch my breath…today I was standing and it was at my chest…new/full moon coming soon? I think soo.

There was this ray hanging out just below some sand as I swam over the top of him…he didn’t like that I was so close, and truthfully neither did I because I didn’t know he was there. Couldn’t help but think of a worst case Steve Irwin scenario. not cool : )

After work I decided to start I needed to eat more. I’ve lost a lot of weight since I got here so I headed to the grocery store and was in the zone to cook dinner. I stopped and got bread crumbs, returned 12 bottles for 50 cents a piece, went to the super market, and then picked up a pound of fresh tuna for dinner.

I turned on some jams then started to fry up some tuna and cooked oregano in with a cup of rice. Squeezed a fresh lime on top and dinner was delicious. I also had an idea that I was thinking about for a while. I made some dough, kneaded in a packet of apple cinnamon oatmeal, diced up some cheese, and fried up some apple cinnamon cheese empanadas. Those are for lunch tomorrow and man they are tasssty. I swear I could make a killing selling 50 cent empanadas to hammered people on water street back in Eau Claire. Which would be alot more fun than actually getting hammered…

Now that our maps are done tomorrow may be back to the grind of organizing and devising a strategy for organization within our database. Making maps was a great break from tedious things that slow down my computer because not only do I like to do it, but I know how, and now with a whole new set of software.

Thanks for the maple flavored coffee mom and pa

it is thee perfect thing in the morning.

6/24/2012 – It little profits that an idle king

The plan for this weekend started with trying to get off of Santa Cruz. Feeling a little island fever I decided to head to an island Southeast of here called San Cristobal. The boat was to leave at 2 on Friday so I worked through lunch and Daniel had no problem with me leaving. I’m glad Rob decided to come after double thinking the rough water from the recent weather. Josh also decided last minute to tag along. The boat we took was a fiberglass ferry boat that held about 12 people. Despite the relatively large swells this boat was getting pulled by 600 horses equipped with 3 poorly mounted 200hp engines. So yes, we were flying there, going up massive waves and then losing the swell beneath us as the boat literally caught air. I bruised my butt from going 5 inches airborne in my seat then slamming back on to the fiberglass seat I was sitting on. It was such a riot, at one point I could of went home the next day and been completely satisfied. But we got there in two hours passing Santa Fe on the way and arriving in Baquerizo Morneo a port town on the southern part of San Cristobal. Our first goal was to find somewhere to sleep which turned out to be the Albatross Hostal where we only paid ten dollars a night for a triple room and bath.

Met a guy from our boat named Andy who is from Germany. He followed us to our hostel and we chatted enough that we decided to head to dinner and chat some more. He was on his way to check something off his bucket list as well. He was going on a 7 day cruise to head up to Islands Darwin and Wolf to hopefully swim with whale sharks. He is down here with his family two kids 12 and 15 and wife. His story is quite epic and again alludes to my new bucket list check box. He worked for a sales company that sold protective equipment for hospitals; unfortunately he worked too much. realized it and didn’t think it was fair for his children. Since he has been backpacking his whole life with his wife as well as when the kids were little he offered them a trip of a lifetime. He quit his job as did his wife (Highschool geography teacher) to set out on the world for one year and see and do as much as they could. Hesitant at first the kids started to love it. The 15 year old kid was left with a host family for 3 months in Peru to learn Spanish while the family moved on to later meet him in Buenos Aires. They have been through Asia, Australia, Africa, South America, Islands in-between, Central America and their final destination in the coming weeks is a week in New York. Felt like I was listening to a movie.

We relaxed, I read a book on the balcony and sure enough the guy I met day one in Santa Cruz, Tato, was strolling around. I felt I had to grab a beer with him because he leaves in a week and I haven’t had the chance to do much more than see him walking around barefoot all the time. We meet up at a bar called the Iguana for a bit then I headed to the hostel…Unfortunatly the woman who runs it didn’t tell me that there was a curfew for the front door….I pounded on the door a few times, no answer, then stepped back and started to figure out how I would get to the 3rdfloor balcony of this hostel.

This was the game plan: 

  • Balcony two shops away is easy to get on, check.
  • From there I could go left, two balconies over to our hostel.
  • Next, I could get on a 2.5 story balcony one shop to the far left of our hostel.
  • Then from there to the 3rd story of where our room was…easy enough.
  • Turns out, I only had to get onto balcony two of our place and found an open stairwell door…

Quite the process…felt like I was Jason Borne sneaking around town

The plan on Saturday was to head to the variety of beaches located past the San Francisco Partnership college on the West side of town. On the way there are sea lions everywhere. Literally everywhere you looked, walked, and for the most part could smell and hear as well. They smell worse than a dirty dog, and sound like people leaving the Pickle on at 2am on a Saturday night in Eau Claire. We passed a bunch of “beaches”that were again occupied by more sea lions than people. But there was a great path that lead to this epic snorkeling cove called Las Tijeretas. Crystal clear water that was as cold as a bottle of water from the fridge. 

Taking loops to snorkel and then warm up, snorkel and warm up we met a couple from Switzerland who were taking a year break from work to tour the globe. They had been to a slew of islands in the Philippines, through Indonesia, and north through South America. Add that to my bucket list…one year around the world. They chatted and showed us where they saw this sea turtle hanging out which is what the included video is of.

Pretty sure my waterproof camera didn’t like the salt water and is now currently resting in a bag of rice on the porch…I hope it comes back to life…or else add that to the issue list…BUT we headed back from the beaches and over to a surf hangout called La Loberia on the opposite side of town. No one particularily surfing but we watched the sunset. There was also a baby sea lion trying to locate its mom. Even if its mom had been there she wouldn’t of known because according to the park guy someone had touched the poor pup and as a result of their greasy hands…similar to birds and their chicks, would no longer care for their baby because of scent. Nature in the Galapagos.

Came back and cleaned up. Which I found out a new pet peeve of mine. Cramped bathrooms are not cool man. But I wandered the streets with the guys in search of a cheese empanada and found one at a place where we could watch the all-star soccer match tour happening throughout Europe right now. 

Passed out mighty quick and woke up to be on the boat by 7am. It was a quicker ride than on the way there and we were back by 10am with a whole day of relaxation ahead. Got a chance to talk to Matty B which was great to hear how AFRICA went. Jeeze that’s awesome. Bryant, I know you’re getting at life regardless and probably don’t have service. But ONE of these days I willlll get ahold of you in the Montana wilderness. I got to talk to Rachel hear what shes been up to, which was great and THEN did a few laps at the station beach. Supa tired.


HORRIBLE NEWS FOR THE STATION….Lonesome George…The one and only Pinta Tortoise left anywhere in the world, one of the most famous endangered species and individual animal, on pretty much every sign, every t-shirt, lives right down our gravel road…DIED THIS MORNING…by 8 am his caretaker found him warm yet unresponsive and not breathing and he was taken away to be examined. It was most likely old age seeing the old guy was 100 years old…but we’ll see tomorrow at work how that has affected not only the station but the town, which plays off his historical cause for tourism…Crazy time for us to be here when we are now as close as we are to the most recent animal extinction in the world right now…

Overall, great to relax for the weekend, get off of Santa Cruz, explore something new, meet some great new people, and add something epic to my bucket list. I’m off to watch Finding Nemo and fall asleep.

btw, Bings homepage today was quite epic as well.

6/21/2012 – It’s Been Raining

“No matter how one may think himself accomplished,

when he sets out to learn a  new language, science,

or the bicycle, he has entered a new realm as

truly as if  he were a child newly born into the world.”

Frances Willard

I’ve really been lagging on whats going on but I’ve slowly slipped into the routine of work. Not so much work itself but the issues associated with work…I believe it took a solid grasp of the fact that we as students in the United States are extremely fortunate when it comes to the latest and greatest. When you are educated with the best software and resources you become accustomed to a stress free working environment where everything works, everyday, every time of the day. Real life however is not a perfectly funded university.

The rest of the world looks up to technologically driven nations because of the usefulness and power that data driven analysis can provide. They strive to the same levels, instead using improvisation, ingenuity, and creativity due to their lack of resources.

From a ritzy university (what Frank calls our school) with everything, to bare bones including the infrastructure it constantly slaps me in the face. Constantly reminding me that it will take years for places such as this to catch up. The processes involved and decisions that need to be made are well out of my reach to create a system that could even get close to the same as what I’m used to.

It took a while : ) but the only way to deal with this difference is to smile, accept it, and slowly fix what needs to be fixed in order move one. oh a virus…oke dokie…oh riiight the computer crashed…zen with Chema….ha ohhh so Ecuador’s geospatial standards changed in 2001? grreat…I’m getting a snickers…ohh google your google earth coordinates for the Galapagos are wrong?? ha of course…I’m going swimming…

Going to work everyday and getting slapped with compounding issues, logistics, and technology is highly exhausting. When my ambition is yielded to things out of my control I must take it elsewhere for the mean time.

Which is why Joe and I make dinners like our place is a 5 star restaurant lately. On I believe it wasss, Monday, we busted out the flour and decided to make tortilla shells for chicken burritos. 1 bag of flour, 1 egg, a man-measurement of water, and some salt? 25 minutes later we have a consistency that looks like dough. Realizing we need to flatten the dough we turned to our trusty nalgene bottles to roll out over 25 burrito shells, taco shells, and empanada bread. From there we needed to cook them which as simple as it is you just heat them up in a skillet. Wallah, homemade shells. Threw together some rice complemented with lemon juice, green peppers, and cilantro and we were well on our way to making a homemade burracho burrito. Rob sliced and diced some chicken, seasoned it like a boss and we were eating like kings in about 2 hours.

We also experimented with the fresh fish available in town and Tuesday, decided to pan sear our tuna steaks with a homemade blend of spices we picked up at the market. Putting tuna steaks sided with floured/spiced egg plant fries and pasta, I swear we could subsidise some costs by opening a meal stand at the Saturday market.

Swimming at lunch has been a hoot, I’m up to 4/5 (depending on the tide) what we think are 85m laps in 25 minutes.

The whole intern crew had Deb’s biology class and family over for dinner last night. It was about 24 people and we threw together our classic fried fish, an avacado salad, and yogurt parfeits for them all. Props to everyone for putting that together.

Since island fever seems to be setting in, Rob and myself are trying to find a boat to San Cristobal, an island to the South East for the weekend. Haven’t had much luck but they tend to offer last minute deals if the boats aren’t full. That is our goal for lunch. Then I’m off to hopefully skype with Rachel, then buy some flour for tortilla shells again : )


“Whenever you are asked if you can do a job, tell ’em. ‘Certainly I can!’ Then get busy and find out how to do it.”

 Theodore Roosevelt

6/15/2012 – Adaptability…

The financial situation is not just a nation wide issue within the United States. Chema has been filling me in on his issues within Spain lately and the recent past. Himself along with alot of citizens are even at risk of losing their life savings as of last weekend…He then gave me the low down that started in Ireland, then to Greece, then Spain, and now Italy is under pressure.

It’s interesting to see what is happening at a global level with global organizations which I’m sure extends beyond our own. Clearly seeing objectives that need to be reached without the resources to do so. The situation here involves a history that extends beyond an economic perspective but it goes without saying that they are currently under a global economic bind.

Whether it be positive quotes on our whiteboard, sayings from Good Earth tea packets : ), or our Zen exercises we are making due with what resources we have and I have no doubt in my mind that we will come up with something great in the end.

Enough on that topic…

This week I’ve also started swimming on a daily basis during lunch. We have an hour and a half lunch which gives me time to walk to our station beach do some laps, make an omelet, and lay down for a bit watching geckos cruise around the ceiling.

Last night Joe and myself joined Rob and Josh who found out last week there is ultimate frisbee down by the docks in town on Wednesday nights. Not expecting to much it was alot more fun than I anticipated and involved alot more running than I thought. I also met some guys who play soccer and I told them to join us tomorrow for our weekly soccer match at the park. Last week there was a helicopter that BBC was using on our field so we couldn’t play but pretty sure we have enough people this time to make a stand so onward to Friday night soccer matches.

Deb also returns with a biology class in a few days, with her she’s bringing care packages from HOME! Super stoked for what Rachel sent as well as what my parents put together : )

6/10/2012 – Sun Dried and Fried

This weekend started off with a run to the market Saturday morning bright and early at 8am. We ended up getting the usual and then some. We also treated ourselves to a fresh coconut and managed to get a whole tree of bananas for four bucks. It probably has about 50-60 bananas, although not ripe yet we hung it outside on our back porch. Afterwards we went to fix our bikes again because 4/5 of them have flats…not cool but it’s a way of life around here. Then we were all off to our work party which was held at the marine lab. They have the best view to work with…and a ping pong table. We had plenty of food, beer, and a good time that I was beat by 7. Regardless I wanted to chat with Rach so I headed into town to hit up an internet café : ) Then Joe and I just walked around town to the pier where we saw what we think was a shark, a sea lion bobbing around, and a massive ray. The town’s main pier has fluorescent blue and green lights that allow you to see into the water at night. There are all sorts of things swimming around at night. Pretty exhausted, I was in bed by 10pm.

The plan on Sunday was to head to a place called Los Gemelos which are huge volcanic craters up in the highlands by the town of Santa Rosa. We were going to ride bikes but conveniently one lost air overnight…again bikes here are highly un-reliant. The cab right instead was interesting because we didn’t end up where we wanted to go but instead he took us to a tortoise farm…which we had no ambition of seeing. After a while of trying to talk to him he brought us to a lava tunnel. For some reason we had the notion that Los Gemelos was nearby and that we would walk to it from the tunnel then walk back to Puerto Ayora. He insisted he’d wait which turned out to be great because it was nowhere near where we wanted to get to. But this lava tunnel was HUGE. Ceilings ranging from 25ft tall to small enough you had to squeeze through on your belly. It was very old with visible collapses that blocked the path. It was also electrically lighted but who knows the source. After walking about ¾ of a mile we came to another opening that was the end and our driver was peering in haha good thing he waited…He then took us to up Los Gemelos and we parted ways with all the ambition to hike back to Puerto Ayora. Los Gemelos although a rather short hike was to a crater about 100×100 meters large with a depth well over 50 m deep. That was the first, and the other was a combination of two equal sized craters that had been joined in the middle at one point. Maybe as the roof collapsed thousands of years ago, it caused a chain reaction for the second to simultaneously go down as well. Joe, Rob, Josh, Joel, and myself were only there for a solid hour and started to hike back towards Puerto Ayora.

Literally this is where our day got interesting. What we thought was a reasonable hike started to become one of the most grueling walks ever…We were in the highlands past the town of Santa Rosa on the westward side of the island headed towards Bellevista, another small town that meets up with the only highway spanning the island from Baltra to Puerto Ayora. So we started this hike jazzed and kidding about not going the entire way with the whole “dude, we got this” attitude. On the way we passed over 200 dead birds with the majority yellow warblers. The taxi’s drive too fast and either smoke the birds out of the air or hit them drinking out of the divots in the road which is another reason locals have large issues with the taxi service. However, were hiking this endless road that is extremely swervy, and hilly none the less. We have plenty of water still pumped, laughing about aimless things. Then we all shut up for about an hour, in the zone as we get baked in the sun. Every corner we’re like yeah it’s totally around the next one only to continue walking corner after corner after corner. As we’ve been walking for over 2 hours now were going crazy right, thinking we made a wrong turn, hungry, all of our feet are blistered. We go on and I just crack up laughing to myself…”to be honest this is acccctually a pretty entertaining time” and we continue walking. We finally make it to Bellavista at 2:30 which means we’ve been walking the highway for over 3 hours. Grabbed some much needed grub like there was a white beam shining down on the restaurant. It would have been another 2 hours to walk from Bellavista to Puerto Ayora and our feet/bodies couldn’t handle it and snagged a $2 cab instead. Our day consisted of 1 hour crater hikes and a majority enjoying the highland landscape by foot from the highway. Brutal, yet a great work out..?! Interested, I looked up on Google Earth how far it actually was when I got back…9.5 miles from Los Gemelos to Bellavista.

As I lay out on our porch watching cruise lines bob up and down I slam water like it’s going out of style and pass out to the ocean crashing the shore. dreaming of   : )

6/8/2012 – Keep it loose, Keep it tight

Well today’s Friday already and we’re finishing up organizing and naming the files that we chose were of significance. I was going through some digital elevation models that they have and came across one that was super detailed of percent slope so I schnazzied it up and it looks really neat up close. Next week is looking like we’ll be creating our geodatabase in physical form and learning hopefully the freeware called Post-GIS then putting in a bunch of GPS tracked marine data.

Yesterday the man himself, David Attenborough, showed up at the station to do a behind the scenes portion of his up coming film. For those who don’t know he’s like the bee’s knee’s for biologists, the god like British voice for shows like Life, and in real life he’s 86 still livin’ it up. The station being what it is plays an important role in producting information that government and the National Park can then use to create rules to promote sustainability as well as an economically productive province. Through their film which we now know is going to be in 3D they want to put a background story together that helps illustrate the connectivness of each organization as well as views towards those organizations. So David was here doing a meet and greet with us which was pretty interesting he talked for quite a while, shook hands, took pictures, that sort of thing. The whole time they were filming, and I happened to be in the front so he straight up goes “What do YOU do here?” flustered I put together something. Doubtful it’ll make the cut but it’s pretty cool seeing what will be in the film and where they’ve been filming.

I biked to the fish market after work yesterday and in under 15 min was back home making fresh off the boat. LOVE IT. We fried it again but this time we took an eggplant, sliced it up and mixed it with onion and garlic. Then soaked those in egg and mixed in bread crumbs. We on the spot created fried eggplant fries, and oh man they were tasty.

Afterwards we headed to town because we solved the surfboard incident by just ordering a new fin for cheap to the United States that Deb can bring back when she comes. I had the chance to skype Rach which I didn’t think would happen so that was great : ) The group then got together to play a mad game of bananagrams at our bungaloo.

Soccer has turned into a weekly event so we’ll be playing again right after work over in the National Park. They weren’t to happy with us using their electricity for lights so we can’t play after dark. bummer but w/e. Tomorrow there’s a work grill out by the marine building.  It was only 10 dollars but from what I hear their getting alot because 30 some people signed up.There’s going to be alot of people, alot of food, and alot of cervezas. Thats at noon so we’ll have the rest of the day to soak up some rays.

Today it’s rained all morning, the first time its legitamently rained since we’ve gotten here. Makes it a little cooler, enough that we don’t sweat just sitting around.

Coffee breaks over…back to the grind.

6/6/2012 – How dull it is to pause, to make an end, to rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use

The last couple days at work have been grueling because we’re literally only organizing files on the computer. But thats what it’ll take to move on so we get jazzed on coffee and push on. Slowly we got done organizing it and now we’re on to something even better…naming all of them. Coded names in order to shorten but at the same time give meaning to the files.

This is all part of a tedious process that we learned about in advanced GIS called creating a geodatabase. Although it felt like a quick process when we hurriedly wrote it on our exam it is actually a process and a half to do in real life…We already went over what they are looking for or their aim for this geodatabase and the information they want within it. But the 80gb of information they want to include is like I stated earlier extremely unorganized…We are in the phase of siphoning out what to keep such as the Galapagos province as a whole shapefile and what to not keep….random points without any attribute information attached to them.

But at the moment I’m going through all these ocean charts that are interesting. They are close ups of sea depth along with a lot of the smaller islands in the Archipelago. I’m slowly learning the names of most of the islands, the locations, and towns they might have on them.

Recently we have gotten screwed by the person we rented surfboards from…We let a Canadian family try them out for a half hour and their son had snapped off a fin…He gave us 25 dollars in order to fix it but we assured him it would be more because we signed a contract. The man, in front of family, also agreed to meet us at the fish market to come with and return them in case it was more. Unfortunately he wasn’t trustworthy and didn’t meet us and we are now stuck paying the other $75 dollars that their charging us…not cool man your retired, loaded, and lied in front of your kids.

This is a really spacey message but it’s been a few days.

I also started my day after the incident with a trip to the laundry place which is the only way to do laundry. It’s a dollar a kilo so it ended up being $5.50 for my stuff. After that I went to a bakery to get some fresh bread. They also randomly had bread crumbs which we could use for our fish later. Because after the bakery I hit up the fish market that sells fresh yellow fin tuna off the boats for $2/lb. I then headed to work at 8 to an awesome email : ) I’ve been able to get the Internet quite consistently which is SUPER nice and have figured out that I can get to town on a bike in sometimes 5 min depending on what I’m going for or 20 walking.

As I sit here working BBC is standing next to me doing an interview with the English guys office next to mine…Steve something who tracks tortoises with GPS’s to try and determine their migration routes. They’ve been here for about a week now filming random things like a giant centipede last week, to land lizards today, to interviews of important people, to color changing moss. All of this is part of a new segment their filming which none of us know when it is to air but it highlights the Galapagos in detail…The word on David Attenbourgh (sp?) is that he’s coming shortly and supposedly there’s going to be a meet and greet here at the station for people who work here…we’ll see if that actually happens.

I’m getting shushed because we’re making to much noise so now I’m taking our first routinely scheduled coffee break…

While I wait for BBC to get done with their interview…I’m looking up road trip ideas around the Great Lakes or other places. I don’t start school until the 4th I believe so Rach and I were thinking. rooad trrip. If you have any suggestions drop a line.

Recent Recipe:

Joe and I ended up soaking our fresh tuna in egg, dabbing it in crumbs, then frying it on our stove. Cut up a red pepper, minced garlic, and an onion, sauteed it with a lime and then mixed the left over egg to put on top of rice. It ended up being a great meal, but had quite the food


Lets just say…surfing is a work in progress…

6/1/2012 – Almost the Weekend

Today started off pretty slow because the data that were organizing needs to be on both our computers now that the server is down. Transferring 80gb of random stuff on slow computers took our entire morning…So I chowed on candy and finished reading Bill Bryson’s, The History of Everything. Joe works in the office right above mine so as lunch rolled around we both look at each other in dire need to relieve some energy. Off to the beach for some lunch break snorkeling. However it was high tide, which here means silty/murky water and maybe 15 feet deeper than normal…Didn’t see much but it was a great mini work out before going back to work.

Then as we were getting back to it, Joel came running in and said we are now official….our uniforms were ready. So we bolted over to the office to rock our new work tees. Ended up being able to get a fair amount of things done in the after noon. Although I was constantly refreshing my email to stay entertained 🙂

After work we had a futbol match set up with Chema, people who work at the station, and some other guys that work at the National Park. Not expecting to much we ended up playing on this picture perfect South American street ball field complete with mini goals and a tortoise painted in the middle. A great game of 4v4 grew into an awesome match of 7v7. As it got dark they even had lights…Oddly enough it was tucked away as their employee parking lot for the Galapagos National Park.

We ended up playing for 2 hours so by then I biked into town and chatted it up with Rachel for a bit was was super nice. Quick took a shower back at the bungalo and wandered off to town to find Joe and Rob who were wandering as aimlessly as I was. We grabbed some beer and ended up watching the Argentina Ecuador match over by the dinner street. Not realizing what time it was we stayed up the latest since we’ve got here…midnight…haha don’t judge, sweating all day takes the wind out of you.

5/30/2012 – Moving Along

Today I met with Frank who introduced me to the social science coordinator Daniel who is also working with a volunteer named Chema from Spain. The social science division is fairly new here and is working towards becoming highly GIS focused. Our meeting was to lay out their goals and visions which are a great step in the right direction. Basically they want a standardized way for field workers to collect data with field methods like GPS’s and for them to be able to download their own information into an open source geospatial program. From there they want another set of decently trained individuals to be able to produce quick maps of that data. Then the final tier is to have a core group of GIS professionals to manage, analyze, and implement solutions with advanced functions.

However, their information is highly scattered throughout multiple data sets and saved in different formats. Their goal is to bring this all into a geodatabase with a clear emphasis on organization. Since this is all new to them they don’t have a database designed yet to handle the mass amount of information that they have. So between Chema, myself, and Danial we are going to design a geodatabase that will categorize the information. This is going to take some time and their chaotic nature here doesn’t have workflows so day to day we are going to do what we can…They use ArcGIS like we do at the University but they want to get away from it and onto an open source program called Post-GIS. Since they don’t have the money for expensive ESRI licensing they want for their field staff to be able to use the open source as a collection database and then determine what extensions they could implement using the more expensive ESRI software.

They also have two projects going on that are within the social science division and that is a simple locational project to show were eco-tourism is occuring on the various islands. They want to show, describe, and give information about the places to get a sense of what each place is offering. They also have a GIS fracking project going on but Daniel didn’t go to far into that one with Frank there.

Chema is the volunteer from Spain who is here for one year. He doesn’t speak very good English and I don’t speak very good Spanish and we’ll be working with each other on GIS stuff. Shall be an interesting experience for the summer. But after our meeting we biked into town and ate lunch. Figured if were going to need to chat all summer might as well start now. They serve lunch meals to many of the employees on the island so the place we ate for dinner the other night serves lunch for $4.50 which includes soup, rice, and meat (chicken or fish). Found out he wants to learn to surf as well and he mentioned that Sam the programmer guy is willing to teach us. SCORE.

For now though we’ll be sifting through 80gb of geospatial information that is again highly disorganized. I’m also in the process of downloaded Arc 10 on my computer in order to see what they actually have sitting around in these folders. However we started transferring files at 1…and its now 3 with only little over half to go…

I’ve been checkin my email like crazy 🙂 for some entertainment as well as writing this up. I also have a shotty office which im jazzed about and soon to get keys to the building…get some. Back to organizing files in ArcCatalog.

We’ve been getting pretty creative with food with everything from squeezed lime-orange juice topped vegetable salad to chocolate barbeque sauced chicken. Joe heard of a great dessert that he put together. Try it out, simple and quite delicious. Light the rum on fire within the pan it makes it look 100 times fancier.

5/29/2012 – Bike Repair Day

Today I didn’t work because the main GIS guy wanted to meet on Wednesday. He hopes the internet will be better by then in order to actually accomplish something. I forgot his name but tomorrow I have a meeting with him at 11am to go over what all they want to try and do. Hopefully I get started on something but the station as a whole is a little chaotic because their internet is going haywire. When everyone needs it to operate it works even slower than it already is. 

With the day off I woke up early and headed to the market in town with Deb. We took bikes, got a little lost but ended up finding it fairly close to where were staying. I ended up spending 5 dollars and got more fresh food than 5 dollars could ever get you at a store in Wisconsin. It was also a great way to practice my Spanish that is highly lagging…They had everything from fresh noodles to fish to spices and lighters. It was based on a covered concrete soccer field which although not especially hopping at 7am was supposed to get busier by the noon hour. On our way home we stopped and treated ourselves to fresh fruit smoothies by the harbor.

After the market I filled my day with repairing all the bikes we have. Deb and I stopped at the bike shop on the way back from the market in order to get her some brakes on her bike because it’s really hilly in the residential area and white taxi trucks tend to have the right away. While we were there she bought us another bike that I named young grasshopper. Leaving one there to get repaired we headed home. I walked the flat bike through town to the shop and picked up the fixed one and repeated this process until we had all 5 bikes in ship shape. However, the red bikes tire just exploded and freaked out the station because it sounded like a gun shot. 

Since snorkeling is fairly close and Rob was done with work we headed to the beach to troll around for marine life. Yesterday we saw three giant sea turtles, a ray, and a sea lion circled us a few times but today was less lively except for the sprawled out marine iguanas soaking up some rays.

But again hopefully tomorrow gives me some work as for now I’m off to town to chat it up and probably grab a bite to eat J

5/28/2012 – Living at the Station

I haven’t wrote in three days but we’ve made it to the Galapagos after a short flight to Guyaguill. They served us really good pepper chicken salad and I jammed while reading “The Short History of Everything” by Bill Bryson. We landed on Baltra Isle which is an old military airport that they bombed back in the day to create a flat landing surface. Stepping off the plane was brutally humid and we quickly scurried through customs, and security. Baltra Isle is about 200 meters away from Santa Cruz Isle so we had to take a ferry boat across this beautiful blue canal. I met a guy named Tato who was carrying a surfboard and turns out his parents live in Puerto Ayora. We chatted and found out his uncle rides pro for some bottled water company. After the water taxi we snagged two white pick-up truck taxis to haul us over to the southern town of Puerto Ayora. It was a longer drive than I thought but also through a lot more vegetation that I expected. Huge craters were along the road, larger than those I’ve seen in Hawaii which was pretty cool. After a 35 min drive from the northern lowlands to the highlands and back down to the southern lowlands we dropped Tato off at his house and got his email for surf lessons in the coming weeks. We were planning on staying at the station until we found out if we could in fact live here for the summer. So Joe who speaks a solid amount of Spanish and myself got lost at the station which is fairly spread out and were panicking about the room situation. Eventually the driver figured it out and we roll up to this condo looking place on stilts. We were assigned #18 and #19 which turn out to be these kick-ass condos with kitchens, bathrooms, dining room area, closets and porches! Although we got lost, we made out with our own place in #19. Without hesitation and plenty of time to unpack later we headed to the beach which is about a blocks length away to go snorkeling. It had plenty of fish and we spotted a giant puffer fish the size of two footballs. Then all of a sudden I’m off on my own and this big brown object swoops in front of my face. I obviously freak out because it scared the hell out of me but it was a sea lion cruising around for some chow. We met back up at the bungalow, which is what I like to call our place, and take the best cool down showers. Get ready for dinner and hike into town which is only about ¾ of a miles away. Ended up eating at this ocean front, open, restaurant which served really good smoothies made from fresh fruit. I ordered a chicken dish that was massive. It was chicken topped in peppers, topped in fried eggs, with a bunch of rice and plantain fries. We went a little further n got a bunch of groceries for the week. Egg sandwiches, spaghetti, and teriyaki chicken! Pooped from extremely long day it wasn’t that bad going to bed at 9:30. 

Our second day here we planned on going to this place called Las Grieatas. I had looked it up before I got here and it looked wicked sweet. Happily getting up at 6am we headed to this place by 7 and after a relatively long hike over lava rocks we were there by 8:30. We walked up to this massive fissure in the ground that is filled with sea water but as blue as a perfect swimming pool. Massive cliffs on each side it was a cliff jumping paradise. We snorkeled around checking out some big fish that had gotten trapped when high tides roll in. But this rock was literally perfect for some rock climbing. From what Travis, Rachel, Allison, and the rest of the UWEC climbing crew describe this would be a climber’s heaven. No rope just water to catch your fall.  Beautiful place to hang out on slow days or maybe weekends. 

There’s a small German community that took up roots back in WWII when things started to get hairy in Germany. It’s not private, public, and a touristy place that we walked through on the way. It’s a short hop and a skip on a boat taxi for 60 cents across the harbor. We stopped at their beach which is small but a great way to get cool in the water. I strapped on my fins and hit the water with Rob. As we moved into deeper water I see this massive sea turtle the size of a kitchen table eating away at some algae. I’m freaking out to Rob to get his attention and just as he gets a glimpse it speeds off in hesitation. But then as I’m snorkeling around on my own I come across another massive sea turtle slowly gliding along. This one doesn’t mind my company and I cruised with him for about 5 minutes. They are awesome creatures, glass marble eyes, huge fins acting as wings, and a huge but slimy shell. This too was on my contour camera that decided not to unexpectedly not work all day…grrrr. We sat around in the sun and headed back to our bungalows around 11am. I was thinking to myself…cliff jumped and climbed by 10am…snorkeling and saw sea turtles by 11am…what next right? Most of our group was super tired but I caught a second wind and decided to go find out the internet situation in town. I tried the hotspot at the harbor which was frustratingly slow but hit up the internet café cross the street. For $2.50 you can get an hours’ worth of internet. I called Rachel which was great to hear from and ended up staying about 2 hours J on a pretty slow connection. We met some professors from Colorado State and they are here banding Albatross to try and figure out their breeding patterns. Had them over for some beers at 7pm and I could barely stay awake so I wrote a quick letter J and hit the hay by 9:30

Forgot but we met this other professor from a Canadian University who’s here filming part of a show that’s going to air on BBC called the “Galapagos in Detail”, he’s studying a finch population that is in the mix of becoming two separate species. The species is slowly moving apart and back together based on what they think is human interaction due to the food resources. Interesting stuff, but David Attenborough the famous British guy who narrates Life episodes is supposedly coming in the next few weeks to narrate his work. Oh and I guess Brad Pitt and Angelia Jolie were here a couple weeks ago…this place has some people go through it. Wow. 

On to today…We were to start work at 8am but since I went to bed so early I was up at 5:45. Joe n I made egg sandwiches and then I hiked into town to see if I could send out an email J  The hotspot in the harbor works decent with no one on it but it worked well enough to skype in the morning! We headed to the station to fill out paper work get the orientation tour and meet everyone. But the station right now is highly chaotic because their internet I guess literally like blew up two weeks ago, their servers down, and they just launched their new Datazone website. So without a way to keep things running smoothly they are a little unorganized. We met our head boss Frank Bungartz who listed out what we’ll most likely be working with. It made me super happy to hear that I’ll definitely be working with GIS! I have a meeting at 3pm with Frank and the programmers to try and figure out what they need or how they operate as far as the geospatial elements fit in with their web design. We also get snazzy email addresses with the stations name behind them. what what!! Email accounts along with access to their collections database, and connection to their secured internet are being hooked up and personalized to our computers at 2:30ish! I had some time to kill in between our morning meeting and the one this afternoon so I swam some laps at the beach and then biked into town on our bikes that we recovered from Deb’s storage unit!! I decided to try out the internet café that Joe had been to and it was way faster, cheaper, and super close to our place. Skype worked great and even kept up real time. Glad I can finally figure out a system that keeps me connected JI’m just sitting around watching sparrows land on our porch and we just found another tortoise that wanders around our back yard. Tortoise one is now named Charles by Rob and the second which we found is now Darwin…which I think escaped a pen so were probably ratting on them…our bad but they move soo slow. Glad we’re finally figuring things out slowly, getting acquainted and having a super time living with an ocean in our backyard!

5/25/2012 – Soarin’

Yesterday we had the opportunity to drive from our tree top oasis to a small eco-tourism based town called Mindo. It was a really cool town with rafting which they describe as rigging multiple float tubes together and given’ er hell. But we had our sights set on another adventure, zip-lining through the Andes. It was crazy cool and the biggest zipline I’ve ever done. We did 10 cables and the highest was over 300m off the ground. I’ll put together a short video to capture the size of the mountains we cruised over. After that we went to an artisan chocolate shop which made chocolate from scratch. We were given a tour through the processes and then sat town to test it out. In truth chocolate, pure 100% chocolate tastes like crap…hardly able to swallow. However once you mix it with sugar, in our case pure cane sugar it tastes phenomenal, almost just adding a flavor to the sugar itself. We also tried a spiced chocolate which burnt my tongue and then a chocolate barbeque sauce which I purchased in the gift shop, its delicious! I also got some different varieties of bars each with a different darkness 🙂 and some passion fruit jam! From there we were back off to our treetop resort to check out and each our last meal which was pork ribs and salad. I just re-read all this and wow it was a big day, because we also drove back into Quito and checked back into Hotel Plaza for the night! I was able to buy some skype credit and get ahold of my dad and Rachel which ended a busy day perfectly 🙂

Our driver, Johnny mentioned he would take us up to the local volcano, Antisana, that is capped with glaciers…we agreed and decided to wake up at 5am to get on the road by 6am. Woofta another early day but the drive was great. We drove through small Quechua towns that are the indigenous peoples remaning from the days of the Spanish invasion. The condor bird is Equadors national bird and the locals informed us that we had the chance to see 3 of them right up the road. They are HUGE birds even from the distance that we saw them from. The drive started to turn into rolling hills of grasslands with massive incised valleys cutting them apart. It started to rain but as the weather got better this volcano rose out of the air. It was a cone volcano bowl in shape capped with snow and glaciers. First off I worked near Glacier National Park last summer and didn’t see one so I was giddy with excitement and took plenty of pictures.

The drive took some time to get up to this area which by the way is at 11,000ft and the top of Antisana reached a mighty ~18,000ft. The air was thin and was apparent after a short jog in which I almost threw up and quickly got a headache. my b. From here we were all super tired from such jam packed days so we headed back to Quito early and arrived at about 3:00pm. It’s nice to relax, chat it up online with rach, catch up on what we’ve been doing, upload photos, and grab some grub down the road.

Tomorrow we’re off to the Galapagos with a 9:30 flight to a small town to pick up others and then straight to Baltra Isle. We should be moving into what we think is the station duplex at about 12:30pm. Since we’ve been in the same time zone we’ll be changing an hour back from WI because we’ll be hundreds of miles into the Pacific Ocean. Off to dinner and to grab some dollar pilseners.

5/21/2012 and 5/22/2012 – Ziplining and Volcanoes

So we land in Quito at about 11:30pm delayed about 15 min for baggage issues. Customs was careless, they weren’t even watching the x-ray scanner that our bags had to pass through…but it finally felt like I was somewhere different with the crisp smell of a city running on diesel. Slightly out of it we found our 6 person Josh who had landed right before us. Advised not to let anyone take our bags we found a taxi and headed for Hotel International. A good drive away from the airport, the city was dead with shops closed up and graffiti coating every inch of exposed buildings. The hotel is this old Victorian looking place and where the language barrier finally became realized. Deb negotiates our rooms and we bugger off to get situated at 1:00am. Waking at 6 to make a taxi at 6:30 we were up before breakfast. Checking my email I got the greatest email ever from Rachel which made me super happy before losing the net for a few days.

Our plan was to head to Bella Vista, a resort located in the Cloud Forest Reserve about 1.5hrs NW of Quito. The drive was great, slowing getting out of the city through rural towns straight out of National Geographic. Farming communities located on the steepest of hills, and women with chiseled, tan, tired, looking faces. It was an unfortunate situation to grasp because they were living in shanties tending to the little amount of land that grew corn and fed their cattle. Getting into the rainforest we turned on to a one-way gravel road that hugged the mountainside for 16km. Driving up the valley we passed even smaller communities that had capitalized on the trout they farmed in streams from the subsequent rain that this area receives.

So we pull into Belle Vista Resort…and I literally thought I was dreaming…this place is straight out of Robinson Crusoe. There was multiple, elegant as hell, tree houses that we were about to stay in. We meet Nelson our guide for the few days were here and he starts our tour. Walking into this complex we come to this 4 story round tree house made of bamboo. The dining room, located on the first floor is all windows overlooking the Andes Mountains that are hard to comprehend from their size in the first place. Nelson goes well you guys are staying in the “dome.” A wood spiral staircase in the middle of the dining area leads us to four rooms bathroom and shower in each…it gets better…from here there is a hole located again in the middle, with a ladder that leads to story 3 which holds 3 beds sharing one bathroom…remind you that we have six people and can stay in any room we want…but it gets better…in the middle again there is a ladder leading to the top floor…I get curious and assume it cannot seriously get better than this…climb the ladder and sure enough there are three more beds on the floor surrounded by all windows looking over the Andes Mountains on the fourth floor of a tree house…so of course I’m sleeping at the top…which is where at I’m typing this up right now…

Again this is only the start to our day; we got settled and went down our bungalow to get some breakfast…consisting of fruit bowlsJ, eggs, and toast. We hear that Nelson gives tours of the reserve throughout the day and decide to go on the 10am tour. Heading out for this tour he stops at a bird feeder where over a dozen multi-colored hummingbirds, tanagers, sparrows, are buzzing around our heads. I would love to bring my Grandma here. I put my hand down and they land on my hand!! Un-real…So we start our hike into the rainforest and it’s like walking through a scene in Jurassic Park. After learning about dragons blood (a medicinal tree that literally bleeds red juice), eating some red flower that was better than any candy you could find in a store, and seeing a rare bird that lives on the top of dead trees it was quite the morning. We headed to lunch which was squash soup and local trout from the stream down the road. Probably the best food I’ve had in a while. After lunch and plenty of coffee it started to pour, which is normal at this time of the day after the moisture builds up enough to dump. We put on parkas and boots and headed for this waterfall called discovery falls which was again like walking back in time. It was a truly relaxing hike despite the elevation were at (7500ft) and the uphill hike on the way back. I’m pooped by now and as I sit here waiting to know what’s for dinner I’m watching birds try to get in my tree top bedroom and watching Joe and Josh climb up our ladder. I’m off to shower, eat, then grab a beer and go insect hunting with our group.

5/11/2012 – 10 days to go

A locator map that I put together in case your wondering where in the world are the Galapagos Islands? I also included a digital elevation model (bottom left) and extruded it within the ESRI software ArcScene. It helps in getting a sense of local topology that this hot spot has created over millenia. You can see the original size image HERE.

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