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Honestly, the scheduled events were fun, but the best memories I made last week were during unplanned moments shared with good friends. There are always open and loving individuals willing to have fun and make an experience as positive as possible. Que te vaya bien, amigo. The last few days have been pretty low-key.

Most days have been spent with classes, homework, and relaxing in the sun. We've had a huge research project to work on, so that has taken up most of my time.

We will get there someday - Blog: ¡Vamos a los Galápagos!

It's actually been really fun: we looked at whether damselfish show selective defensive behavior. That is, we put urchins and rocks into damselfish territories and watched the fish react, usually by kicking the urchin out of its "farm" by pushing or carrying it away. The really fun moments, however, were spent with some adorable sea lion pups after a morning of research aka snorkeling. The beach we were at, La Loberia, seems to function as this season's primary nursery beach. Watch the little guys play in the sand and the sun: ok so eventually there will be a video here.

Again with the internet problems. Last weekend held some fantastic dive trips to kicker rock, but the highlight was really a surprise. We happened to cross paths with a huge group of dolphins! And then? We jumped in. We delayed the dives for the sake of snorkeling with these beautiful animals. It was quite probably one of the most exciting and incredible moments of my life. It was only my second time seeing dolphins in the wild, and being in the water with them as they sang and swam around us nearly made my heart stop with joy.

I'm working on my video clips from that, hopefully I can share them with you as well. Otherwise, Island life has settled down to a pretty regular pattern. It won't last long, though - tomorrow we the international students here leave for a week long island hopping trip. I'll be missing out on my host family's Halloween and day of the Dead celebrations serious bummer , but I'm sure the Island explorations will be worth it. In the mean time, I noticed my posts have had a lot of writing and have severely lacked in visuals In my defense, my access to reliable internet is a bit of a struggle.

Nevertheless, I really should SHOW you what's been going on in my life, rather than just talk your ear off or your eyes, I suppose, since you're reading.

Columbus Travel

So, let's look back at what's happened since my lost photo post not counting the turtles, I think I left you in the dark somewhere in Quito Do you think reptiles are cute? Or is that just me? Especially those of the order Testudines.

Look at these faces! This Sunday, I got to meet some of the land variety. I went with some fellow classmates to visit the Galapaguera de Cerro Colorado, the reserve and breeding center for giant tortoises on San Cristobal Island.

#galapagosisland

Most species are found only on one of the islands, having evolutionarily diverged from tortoises on adjacent islands. The species on San Cristobal, Geochelone chatamensis , has a small existing population that survived the effects of visiting whalers hungry for turtle meat in the past and, later, introduced animals like goats, dogs, and cats. The population is split between two locations: a small, protected area on the northeast area of the island and the breeding center outside of town. The breeding center opened some years ago after transferring some of the adults from the wild population to the Galapaguera.

They watched us carefully, hissing like some prehistoric version of a Monday-morning-grouch and retreating their old-man-heads into their shells if we moved too fast or too close to their comfort zones. The tortoises here mate once a year and the park employees take the eggs and incubate them to maximize survival. The baby turtles are monitored for five years before being released back into the wild population.

Talk about cute: the babies are exact replicas of their massive parents, except for the fact that they could fit in your hand. Even the way they move is the same. They slowly bob and sway their heads to find a good spot to step, then carefully shift one front foot at a time forward. The back feet follow slowly and blindly, dragging along until finding a stable spot.

This whole extensive process is exhausting and time consuming, so the tortoises take a necessary breather every couple of steps. Every single one of us fell in love with the tortoises. The rest of our Sunday was spent exploring the surrounding area.

His family came along, so we all piled in to the back bed of his pickup, ready for adventure. Above the town, there are many trails taking off into the national park, as well as Laguna El Junco, the only major freshwater source on the islands. The slopes catch the southern winds which build up and create a cooler climate with regular rainfall. As a result, everything is green and lush and there are actually substantial trees and flowers and ferns and moss.


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And mud. Our walk to El Junco turned into more of a slippery muck climb. To be honest, it reminded me of romping around in the rain and dirt in Oregon. It was just so refreshing to get out of town and the dry, prickly greyness of the coastal shrubs and cacti to become surrounded by messy, mucky, mudlicious life. We finished off the day with a few hours lounging on Puerto Chino, a secluded beach at the end of the road that traverses the highlands.

It was surprisingly busy. We napped in the sand until we had the beach to ourselves and then explored. We managed to forget food for the day, so an empanada stop was necessary on our return. The food continued when I came home. My host dad cooked up a heaping pile of canchalagua. In English, we call it chiton. It tastes like the smell of dead shellfish and has a texture tougher than calamari.

They foresaw my squeamishness, though, and had some lobster tails grilled up as backup for me. I was just fine with that. This week is disappearing fast. No complaints though. I just sent off my application to spend my spring term studying at the Hatfield Marine Research Center in Newport. Fingers crossed! So turns out over two weeks have flown past since I last posted.

Sorry to leave you hanging there — let me get you all caught up on my life. It was definitely a huge adjustment from Quito. In all honesty, the change has been more than welcome. The small, friendly town is much more my speed. Still, the first few days flew by as I tried to adjust with a full schedule. The transfer happened in the middle of our second module of classes, so school started right after our orientation, which included a walk up to the tsunami evacuation zone.

We're Off. to the Galapagos

My classes are 9am to noon. More often than not, we have field excursions at least a couple times a week in the afternoons. Occasionally, we get to take a dive trip. A required trip to a nearby beach for snorkeling or boat ride to a dive location? Totally worth the field report assignment that follows and the associated scientific paper readings.

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My homework load helps alleviate the question of how to spend my open afternoons. I am in school, I assure you. Kicker Rock is called Leon Dormido sleeping lion locally. Most of it is cliff face. The secret geologist in me is absolutely fascinated by the fact that this rock is composed entirely of volcanic ash, and yet is a solid structure within rough open waters. Below the water line, the walls host a huge number of marine organisms.

Las Islas Galápagos - Santa Cruz 1era parte

Urchins and sea stars and algae and coral and other benthic organisms galore! There are huge variety of reef and semi-pelagic fishes as well, and sea turtles and sea lions frequent the area. Oh, did I mention sharks? Our Marine Life class trip was actually meant to function as a shark observation dive.