From what to wear in the ever-changing climate to harmonizing with creepy crawlies, there have been many, many lessons on how to survive in the rainforest.
Seriously – the jungle has tested me everyday.
Ask any of the mountain-loving, rapids-chasing, outright fearless, people I live and work with on base and they will tell you I have a long, long ways to reach their level and master the art of living in the jungle.
But they will also hopefully tell you that I am learning “poco a poco,” and that soon I will be up to speed. Until then, I will reflect on the lessons I’ve learned thus far and share with you the eight most important things I’ve learned during my first week living in the rainforest.
8 Things I’ve Learned Living in the Rainforest of Costa Rica
1. Dress in layers
Weather on base reads like a middle school math equation in which there are an endless number of permutations.
Mornings on base are usually sunny and relatively warm, but beyond that there’s no predicting what the day will bring… low temperatures, high temperatures, rain that lasts for 20 minutes, rain that lasts all evening… the only guarantees are that the weather will change every hour and I’ll likely end up cold.
I admit I haven’t quite cracked the code on what to wear on our base. To avoid changing clothes three times a day as I did during my fist few days, I’ve learned that layers are my friend and to always bring extra sweaters, jackets, scarves and even shoes to work with me in the morning.
2. Don’t forget your umbrella
Umm duh, Lauren. It’s called the RAINFOREST. That means it rains there. Costa Rica, and Central America in general, has two seasons – dry and rainy. October is rainy season and that means it rains every day in the region I’m in, usually in the afternoon. But the rain can come at any time and with any amount of power. The buildings on our base are not so far apart, but I’ve learned to always have my umbrella with me, because the one time I forget to have it during the day is the one time it starts heavily downpouring 30 seconds after I leave my office.
3. Damp is different from cold
When I first unpacked all of my possessions into my new room all my clothes had a slightly damp feel to them.
My thoughts sank. Great. Not only will I be wet everyday from walking outside my house, even my belongings inside aren’t safe and dry.
When one of my Costa Rican coworkers came to say hello I lamented my discovery that all of my clothes were wet. He gave me a confused look which broke into a smile as he touched one of my t-shirts. In this humid climate when things are cold they may feel damp, but that doesn’t mean they actually are damp.
4. Everything will be moist… except for your lips
There’s so much water in the air my skin must be feeling luminously moist, right? Wrong. My lips have been extremely chapped these days. Moisture in the air does not equate to moist lips.
5. Get used to the bugs
Yep. Part of living in the jungle means there are bugs. So far I haven’t seen anything too crazy, but the bugs I’ve seen are a bit more treacherous looking than your average California house bugs. I’ve been told there are many more fearsome bugs that share the jungle with us and I’m sure I’ll get the privilege of encountering them soon.
6. There are lots of spiders
Unfortunately my introduction to spiders was not so gentle. I came home one night to find two fist-sized spiders in my room. When I told the locals I am scared of spiders this seemed to be an idea they could not understand. Why are you scared of spiders? They don’t hurt you. Ok, but they are TERRIFYING!
7. Get up early if you want to enjoy the daylight
These days the sun has been setting by 5:30 p.m. On top of this it usually starts raining around noon and that rain can last all afternoon and night long making after work hours feel like midnight.
The sun rises around 6 a.m. and usually the mornings are clear and slightly warm so I’ve started getting up earlier to enjoy some sunlight before starting work.
8. The jungle is scary and dark at night
I thought I was so brave in Europe, jetsetting solo from one well-lit and highly populated cosmopolitan city center to another.
And then I met the jungle, which leads me to my current location where I am sitting in my room thinking about the person I was in Europe and saying HA HA HA.
I live on a base with just a handful of people and virtually no lighting after dusk. On my third night here I ventured into the nearest town, Tres Rios, with a colleague to take a trip to the grocery store. When I took the bus back to base night had fallen and I realized I didn’t bring a flashlight (or even have the flashlight app installed on my iphone). I walked down the massive hill to my house in the dark with the jungle all around me and, let me tell you I was terrified. I guess some horror movie about a possessed doll just came out in the United States? Sorry Hollywood – you have nothing on the rainforest.