Monday, August 30, 2010

Cat Traps

Our neighbors have been very focused these last couple of days on a mission given to them by our host mom: catch the black cat, and receive 1.000 colones each.

José David and José Luis (they have informed us that they are both named José because they are brothers – obviously) spent all day on yesterday building and setting up a cat trap. It looks like a pyramid and is only held together with a piece of cord strategically tied. They have balanced one edge of the trap on a piece of bamboo; in theory the cat will enter the trap looking for food (there is a bowl of bread under the trap), hit the piece of bamboo and the trap will fall, detaining the animal that likes to enter the kitchen at night, knocking baskets of eggs on the floor and biting into any bread or bananas accidentally left out when everyone goes to bed.

Last night as we were washing up after dinner María called out to the boys to say that they had caught the cat. Everyone ran outside to see what we had. It was not the black cat, so unfortunately the boys didn't get their money, but one of the black cat's kittens had been caught. Of course, this was a process. The kitten hadn't actually set off the trap, it just got scared and started meowing. José Luis was able to corner it, but didn't want to get scratched so he scared it back toward the trap. María was there waiting and knocked the trap off its post when the kitten entered. She and Rafa then put it in a bag and Rafa took it to the cuadrantes where they say a family will take it in. So, one kitten down (there are 5 more that are currently living in our attic), one black cat to go.

This morning the boys decided that the cat would not be strong enough to set the trap off, so they tied a string to the piece of bamboo and sat at their house, watching and waiting for the black cat to enter their lair (this was their plan for the day as there is apparently no school). They lasted a little while, but by the time we had returned to our house at 8AM, they were no longer sitting in wait. Around 10 we heard them working in our side yard again. This time they had sequestered the help of André. They had decided on a new method:

Tie a box to the window bars where the cat frequently climbs into the attic. Place a little bit of food in the box to lure the cat in, and make sure the box has a whole in the bottom. Place a bag under the box and in theory when the cat enters the box for food it will fall through the hole in the box and into the bag. They have a piece of cord situated around the top of the bag and it is rigged so that once the cat in in the bag they can tie it shut. Of course, they had to watch the trap if they wanted to tie the bag after the cat fell into it, and instead they decided to come inside and talk with us about the US.

So, we still have a black cat wandering around the premises – but there are two traps waiting for it, and two boys anxiously awaiting its capture so that they can be 1.000 colones richer (approximately $2).

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Butterfly Battles and Sloths for Sale

Yesterday we had the brilliant idea to move into the front room of our house. It is a smaller room, but it has two windows – which in theory will result in fresher living space. The two windows also mean that there are twice as many opportunities for creatures to enter our room.

One of the creatures that entered our room was a giant butterfly. It was kind of like a welcoming gift. We looked up at the ceiling when getting ready for bed, and there it was hanging out by the light. Chris tried to take a photo, because this is seriously one of the largest butterflies we have ever seen. Unfortunately his movement scared the butterfly, it went crazy. Its flight in front of the light-bulb created a unique type of eclipse and the sound of its wings on the ceiling alerted us to its incredible strength. I was certain that if this butterfly lost control and hit one of us on the head it would result in a concussion. I did my best to protect myself by utilizing the duck and cover drills that we would do in elementary school. I curled into a ball and covered my neck and head and laughed until I ceased to hear butterfly noises. When at last the butterfly settled, once more on the ceiling (much to my displeasure), I was able to take a quick photo utilizing the zoom. We turned off the light and hoped that we wouldn't be attacked during the night.

(It may look small here, but the plank it is on is 8" wide)

Unfortunately, I had to get up and go to the bathroom a short while later. I got out of bed in the dark to grab my headlamp – only to step on the butterfly. This caused it to fly up into my hair, bounce off of my head (thankfully it did not have enough force to cause the aforementioned concussion,) and start sputtering around the room, once more bouncing off of the walls. This all happened as I was turning on my headlamp, and when I could finally see well enough to locate the butterfly it was staring at me like a menace from the door that I had to walk through. I was brave and flung the door open – hoping the butterfly would have the decency to leave during my absence. But no, when I returned it had only managed to crawl closer to the lock on the door. Not wanting to put my hand that close to it, I grabbed a pen and tried to provoke its departure. Unfortunately, this just caused the giant beast to start flying around again. I quickly shut the door and proceeded to run to the bed and once again use my duck and cover skills.

The night passed without incident, though I did wake up several times to the sounds of the butterfly bouncing off of the walls again. In my sleepy daze my mind wandered to those creepy movies such as Mothman, where those that see the moth end up dying. Thankfully, this was a butterfly, not a moth, and I wasn't just seeing it in my dreams. We survived the night and the creature was gone in the morning. I imagine it left through our window – I just hope that we don't have a repeat performance in the near future.

One of the benefits of our new room is that we are able to see out into the street with ease now. This morning I happened to look out the window to see a couple of the guys from the colegio (high school) walking down the road. They were carrying a broken tree branch with one of their uniform shirts draped over it. We see all sorts of odd things in town, so this wasn't a particularly strange sight, but they came directly to our house. This was a little strange due to the fact that we mostly talk with these guys when we are at the colegio or when we're playing Frisbee with them. They proceeded to take the shirt off of the branch and present us with a baby sloth.

A baby sloth! YES – a baby sloth. It was really adorable. We asked where its parents were – it was abandoned (or at least that's the story we got). Where did they find it – it was just hanging out (the lack of specifics makes me wonder about the validity of its being abandoned). It's so cute, can we touch it – of course. So today, we petted a baby sloth. It was much softer than we had expected. Cool, we saw and touched a sloth. This is what being here is all about right? New experiences. We were good to go, we took some photos and were ready to send the guys back to school. That's when the real purpose for their visit was revealed.

What are you going to do with it, we asked curiously – we're trying to sell it. Do you want it? DO WE WANT A PET SLOTH???? Were they being serious, you better believe it. Being curious as to how much a baby sloth costs I proceeded to ask how much. 10,000 colones was the reply. What?! We could buy a pet sloth for $20. What are the chances! We did have our wits about us though and told them we regretted that we were not able to have pets (a slight untruth, but more polite than we don't want pets) due to our lack of money and we are only renting a room, so we wouldn't have space. They eventually left our front porch, a little sad that they hadn't been able to sell their sloth, but we had gained a new story to tell.

(What could have been ours)

As an aside, you might wonder, what does one do with a pet sloth? We're not really sure what you would do. I guess stay up all night to watch it be active. Otherwise you would just watch it sleep. I don't think they make the list of the most exciting pets you could have. We had both had the thought of buying it so that we could take it into the jungle and set it free – but then we'd be short $20 and not have a baby sloth (of course we could always tell stories of the one time that we had a pet sloth).

An additional point of interest: in Spanish a sloth is called perezoso. This makes me smile because perezoso also means lazy. How fitting (I suppose this is the same as the dual meaning of sloth in English, I just like the way it sounds in Spanish a little more.)

And so, these are our animal adventures as of late. Hopefully we'll have more (as long as they are not attacking butterfly adventures.)

*Please note, the sloth was given to a gentleman who lived near a wildlife reserve. To the best of our knowledge, the sloth is living a happy life, dangling from trees and eating as many leaves as its belly will allow.