On your mark…

Well, it’s 14 days and counting, and it’s time to begin writing about the sabbatical. As previously mentioned, we’re heading to Costa Rica on February 1!

How we’ll get there and where we’ll stay

Tickets are booked through to Drake Bay. We’ll catch a redeye out of LA, arrive in San José at 6:30am, catch a puddle-jumper to Bahía Drake at noon, and be sleeping in our bungalow in the town of Agujitas by 2pm. The only wrinkle here is that we bought 1-way tickets to San Jose, since the tail-end of our trip through Central America and the Caribbean is still very much undefined. So, one remaining travel-chore is getting proof of ‘onward travel’ from Costa Rica. This will likely wind up being a Carnaval trip to Las Tablas in Panama. Still, the ticketing end of things is more-or-less wrapped up.

The rental in Drake Bay is also sorted, though it still seems a bit of a mystery. Will the internet be good? Is the kitchen functional? Will the bed and sheets be tolerable? What does air-conditioning really mean? In my experience it is not a 0/1 proposition, but a spectrum of possibilities. All this may seem picky, but the truth is that once your’e in Drake, there’s no switching. It’s just too small, there aren’t many choices, and your exit options take the form of two flights a day.

You may recall that my initial visit to Agujitas back in November was a bit of a whirlwind, really only an hour or two to explore. I fell in love immediately, but failed to find out things like “does the only grocery store take tarjetas?” Or any of the boat captains? Not to mention guide outfits that lead trips into Corcovado which, it must understood, will be our home-away-from-home-away-from-home during the Drake sojourn. So, I guess one of my worries is leaving behind the world of ATMs… I should be dancing a jig instead of panicking!

Of course, getting the kids into school is an unsolved problem, but we have leads. Many are the forms that must be triple-stamped… this is Latin America, after all.

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Research and research funding

The research permits are also shaping up. Recall that I’ve signed on as a research associate with Fundación Keto, and the word is that our permits are awaiting one last signature with the director of the Osa Conservation Area: it’s unbelievable how quickly this came together!

Then again, I’m about to launch (a bit tardy, as usual) a crowd-funding page on Microryza.com. I’ll be trying to raise $6500, at $300-500 for a half-day, the crowd-funds will pay for 2-3 weeks of boat-time, in addition to a similar amount I have in my own research funds. I’ll be recording and editing an introductory video over the next day or two, then the microryza site will be active. It’ll be really interesting to see whether my plan generates any interest.

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The killer

I know that talking openly about money is gauche, but it’s hard to make an international sabbatical work on a professor’s salary if your mortgage is $3000/mo and your destination rental is $1200/mo. So the last and greatest sabbatical killjoy is, of course, our utter failure to get our house rented. UCSB community housing office, check; SBCC’s housing list, check; Craigslist, check; word of mouth, check… all for naught. Well, worse than naught really: one family called us on boxing day, eager-beavers! Two weeks go by, with them going so far as to write a check, only to flake two days later.

That hurt, after spending New Year’s celebrating total victory over the poor-family-sabbatical demons. The real kick to the swimsuit area came this Monday, when a vacation rental property manager turned us down as too ‘shabby-chic’. At least he had the kindness to add the ‘chic’. I love my house, but nothing makes you feel like you live on the wrong side of the tracks like all this rejection.

.Screen Shot 2014-01-21 at 6.24.30 PM

So, basically, the mortgage/rent issue has left me in a state of total panic 24/7. There’re still a few irons in the fire, a few folks asking every day or two, but no one’s signed on the dotted line.

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The upside

Of course, it’s pretty unfair to end this worried, complaining post without acknowledging how great an opportunity the sabbatical is. For readers (thank you my seven intrepid readers) that don’t know, most academic positions offer a break once in a while, as a compensation for the low pay and mentally strenuous work.  You know how economy-destroying hedge fund managers get $2 million annual bonuses? Well professors get 6 months off at full pay, or 1 year at half pay, every seven years.

The coming months spent with the Gillezondos, wandering with my family in one of the largest contiguous lowland rainforest tracts in the Americas, or following new humpback families as neonates transition to juveniles, will be one of my life’s golden moments. I know this, regardless of the anxiety I bring to the trip and its preparations.

I’m studying my Kircher’s Tropical Ecology, and my Garrigues bird guide, so I’ll be ready to homeschool the kids on speciation and forest succession models. With luck our journey will yaw closer to Voyage of the Beagle than to Mosquito Coast or Land of the Lost, but we are heading into unknown waters and there’s a lunatic at the wheel.

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4 responses to “On your mark…

  1. Dude,

    Just “accidentally” set the house on fire as you leave after you have everything in storage for a potential “renter.” Bam! Problem solved AND you get to come back to a new house….that’s why they call me the fixer.

    • I like it, Sean, it’s a very southern, Faulkner-style, approach… I should’ve taken the same approach with the chickens, we would’ve been eating fewer pizzas and hamburgers this last week…

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