September 1, 2008
The big news of the day is that the survey departure has been pushed back another day to Thursday. A photographer that is going to be shooting the trip cannot make it for the planned Wednesday departure. I had talked to one of the aquatic biologists a couple of days ago and had volunteered to go with him in a boat to collect data on a species of fish. Unfortunately a last minute addition to the expedition made it impossible for me to go.
Today I have proof that highly educated people can sometimes lack common sense in certain situations. When I first arrived I tried the shower; cold water was all that I could get. A visiting scientist in the adjacent room confirmed that there was no hot water for the showers. Today after six nights at the Station I noticed that the pipe to the shower faucet was coming out of the wall; as was the showerhead. The faucet was not connected to a pipe that was on the outside of the shower wall coming from the corner and that ran up to the shower head. There were two pipes leading into the showerhead, one from inside the wall and one from outside of the wall. The outside pipe also had a supply line cut off valve on it (not a faucet type valve) that was in the shut off position. I turned the handle to the on position and in about 30 seconds large amounts of wonderful hot water came out of the shower! Sometimes you have to just think outside the box. This was definitely not your typical American plumbing set up.
I spent time studying the materials that Gustavo had given me including the manual for the Penguin Census. All of the documents that he had e-mailed me were in Spanish. I ran them through Google Translator. This gave me a translation that was sufficient for me to get the main points of the documents. It was not a perfect solution. The language barrier is going to be tough to overcome.
Every time I sat down on the porch of the dorm to study or read, a Galapagos Mocking Bird would show up looking for a handout. The bird had multiple aluminum bands on its legs that clanked around so much that I could hear it when it landed and walked around. One time I left my door open and the bird hopped right into my room. I could hear his leg bands clanking as he hopped around inside looking for something to eat. He was very amusing and I actually looked forward to seeing him!
Checking my e-mail has been a challenge. The computer that I was told to use does not work and most of the scientists and others are all very busy using their computers. I was able to get on a computer a few times to check and send e-mails. The Internet connections here are very slow. The bandwidth from the islands to the mainland is very limited. I tried to send a few low-resolution images home and it took several minutes to send them.
I went downtown today to call home again. As always it was great to talk to my family. The system that the stores have for the long distance calls is interesting. You go in ask for a phone and they assign you a booth. You make the call and when you are finished the clerk hands you a printout with the time and the cost. As I said earlier, it was only 25 cents a minute to call the United States.
The downtown area comes alive in the evenings. There is a park along the waterfront where many people sit, talk, and play. Every evening there are 3 on 3 volleyball games that are played on two courts at the park. The play can be very intense and there are several games played each evening. Each court has a referee to call the games and settle disputes. Food venders roll out food carts serving hot meals, snacks, ice cream and drinks. A man with a snack/candy/cigarette tray hanging from a strap around his neck wanders through the crowd selling his wares. Many people sit on a low wall around the park to watch the games. The activities go on well into the evening. I wish that we had something like this in my hometown; it is a great way to develop a sense of community. At the other end of the park is a stage that is often used by Evangelistas, travelling preachers. One evening I witnessed a preacher that was very animated with a definite fire and brimstone tone to his preaching. He had a small band that would sometimes break out into what I can only assume is a hymn.
One of the preferred methods of motorized transportation in Porta Ayora is the motor scooter. I saw entire families on one scooter! Only the driver is required to wear a helmet. I would see the Dad driving (wearing a helmet), Mom sitting behind him holding a baby, with one child sandwiched between the parents (none wearing a helmet). I saw several people with their dogs trained to sit and stay on the floorboard of the scooter!
Another observation is that almost all of the stores, restaurants, and businesses have a TV that is always turned on with the volume turned up to a very loud level. They are so loud that you can hear them as you are walking down the street.
Tomorrow is quarantine day!