Monday, November 22, 2010

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

OCTOPOLYPUS!

IT'S AN OCTOPOLYPUS!


Recently, I actually had some time to do some work for myself! I definitely took advantage of that and did a couple of graphite drawings. They were both very much inspired by my recent projects.

The water surrounding Coiba National Park is a hotspot for coral reefs. The island, for the most part, has very little human footprint so it is essentially in pristine condition. Juan Mate is a coral expert and I've learned quite a bit from him. I never really understood how coral worked. I knew that it is a living organism, but that was about it. Coral is made up of a huge colony of little polyps. They create a hard skeleton around their vulnerable bodies as protection. Like the sand dollar or urchin, the remaining part that we like to display is the skeleton of the animal. The octopolypus is an invented hybrid of two different coral polyps and an octopus. Although this guy will never exist, there are decorator crabs that will have coral growing on its shell and there is also a type of coral that has eight arms...so why not? I mean, jackolopes are real, right?

The other drawing was inspired by the sustainable fishing guidebook I designed. I sort of have become obsessed with fish eyes. These are all the groupers that can be fished around Coiba National Park. All the eyes are to scale. It's crazy. Some groupers can get as big as 5 feet. Crazy.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

ISLA NAOS y PUNTA CULEBRA

So where exactly do I work? The Naos Marine Lab is located off the Amador Causeway on an island called Isla Naos. The Causeway connects several small islands. From the front of the building, you can see a spectacular view of the city's skyline along with the Bay of Panama and several boats. For some reason, I recently noticed how pretty it is. Maybe it was the color that the rain clouds made over the view. On nice days, the Causeway is filled with people riding their bikes, jogging, fishing or just taking a leisurely stroll. It's pretty cool. It's a nice little drive to have to take to work. You can read more about the Lab here.




PUNTA CULEBRA

Punta Culebra juts out behind the Lab and houses the Punta Culebra Nature Center. It was founded by The Smithsonian. Read more about it here.

I finally ventured out to far places--the Lab's backyard--to a beautiful beach setting. I was actually stunned to see it. I had no idea that such a lovely landscape exists so close to work.




I love exhibits like this. It's so fun to see wildlife to scale. I'm not sure how many people realize how big groupers are. Even when you see these fish in aquariums, it's still really hard to get a sense of their scale unless you're right next to them. Somehow, for me, it makes the animal more real or something.


Silly little sea turtle. I heart them.

I don't think I'll ever grow out of the desire to touch things. I ALWAYS get sooo excited when I get to hold and touch the animals. Again, I think it has something to do with feeling like it's a reality. All of a sudden we are in the same world. I love the expression on this little girl's face.





So funny...when I took these pictures showing the underside of the sea stars, I imagined a human stomach with a mouth and five human arms growin out of it. I think I'll have to draw that.


EEW! Sea cucumbers are so weird. They feel amazing, though. You might think that they're really slimy or something, but they're actually super soft and pillowy.



It was sort of strange to see this next to the lobster exhibit, but it's beautiful none the less. I wonder if they forgot to discard it or if it's actually part of the exhibit. Maybe it's to show the exoskeleton or something. Who knows.


The day that I visited Punta Culebra, my friend Andrew Sellers was giving a talk about lion fish. Lion fish are invasive species that are rapidly growing in population within the Caribbean and western Atlantic. He is studying the effects lion fish have on an ecosystem where they didn't use to exist.

Lion fish eat little crabs and I went out with him to collect some. They're tiny, move really quickly and are difficult to catch. Basically, you upturn a rock and grab as fast as you can. It was really fun. It brings me back to a time when I used to play with my tonka trucks in the mud without a shirt because I wanted to be like my dad working outside in the hot summer days.


HELLO LITTLE CRABS!



FEED ME!!! I like this crazy giant seed. Oh the tropics have such strange things living in it.

Monday, November 8, 2010

FINCA


FINCA means farm in spanish, and a couple of weekends ago, Ross invited me to his finca near the town of Penonome. It is the main city in the Cocle province west of Panama City. In the 17th century, it was the nation's capital for a few years after Panama City had been taken by the pirate Henry Morgan. It was about a 2 hour drive from Albrook along one of Panama's only highway. I love road trips and it was a great coastal drive. Lourdes, Ross's girlfriend kept me company and I'm proud to say I spoke only Spanish that whole weekend. It wasn't particularly good or fluent Spanish, but something that a Latin American could devise as Spanish.
We stopped at a very traditional roadside eatery on the way and for $4 dollars, we were both able to stuff our faces with delicious Panamanian fare.

When you arrive at the finca, you are greeted with a brilliantly color sign:


Pixbae, or peach-palm in English, is the fruit of a species of palm native to South and Central America. It has the texture of a starchy root and a cheesy sort of flavor. It's really good and was one of the first food Panamanian food items that Ross introduced me to. I find it endearing that he has named his finca after it.


YUM!


AS YOU DRIVE UP THE DRIVEWAY

VIEW FROM FRONT PORCH

ROSS AT THE GRILL

By the way, Ross is a wonderful cook. He made oxtail soup and ribs that weekend. So delicious!


ROSS'S FRIEND, ANDREW, SITTING ON THE FRONT PORCH

VIEW OF BACKYARD

BROMELIADS!!! I WISH THEY WERE FLOWERING

VIEW FROM FRONT PORCH

That hill on the left that looks like a nipple is called Cerro Viejo. Down the road, there is a hotel called Hotel Cerro Vieja. As you know, in Latin languages, things are identified as masculine and feminine. People joke that these two hills were assigned the wrong genders because the masculine Viejo resembles a breast, while Vieja doesn't. :)

Hotel Cerro Vieja is actually a stunning place with gorgeous views. Below are a couple of pictures from the hotel and a good one of Cerro Vieja.


It was such a fun weekend. We ate well, drank well and even smoked some cigars from the neighboring town, La Pintada. The factory is called Cigarros Joyas de Panama. They have tours, but it was closed when I ventured into town. La Pintada is also famous for their sombreros pintados - painted hats. I didn't really see any of those either, but the beauty is, I can always go back!