Friday, June 4, 2010


This week I'm in San Salvador, and every morning I do what millions across the globe do: I commute to an office. Not having done this for close to five years, it feels a little strange. Each morning, I hop on a bus and ride it to work. What kind of work? This week I've been writing up 6 years of bird banding data collected on a hummingbird. All will be neatly compiled into a peer-reviewed science paper that will likely be a major source of information on that particular species of hummingbird for some time to come. The hummingbird is called Green-throated Mountain-gem.

On my commute, I get off the bus at the national stadium, which has a little swimming pool attached to it. The swimming pool is patronized by a couple of swimming clubs.

One of them is called "Fleeper"!

As a kid in the seventies, I grew up watching reruns of Flipper, the intrepid, hyper-intelligent dolphin that solved crimes humans could never solve. Flipper was my hero, and probably fostered in me an interest in nature, as I'm sure Flipper did in millions of other kids. Evidently, the members of this Salvadoran swimming club have similar fond memories of the bravery and charm of the beloved mammal. They remember his name, but they just don't remember exactly how it is spelled. Hence, an orthographic rendition that literally spells out the Spanish inflection: Fleeper. Gotta love it!

Also amusing to me: I'm standing in front of the cheese section at my local supermarket, and a sales girl comes up to me to offer me a sample of Gouda cheese. Instantly, my mind's eye registers a flashback to the Dutch city of Gouda and its market square. I passed through Gouda almost daily back in... ooh, let me see now, a long time ago. Probably sometime in the mid-nineties. I was doing field work on four species of shorebirds (waders, as they are called in Europe) in an area roughly between Gouda and Rotterdam. So I'm munching on the cheese, surprised at how good it is, and I ask her, smiling: "Do you know where Gouda is?" Without so much as batting an eyelash, she says: "Costa Rica."

And - lo and behold! - close inspection of the packaging at home reveals that this rather delectable piece of 'Gouda' cheese was indeed hecho en Costa Rica! Food purists will protest that this cannot be anything like the real thing, and that 'he has been away too long' to remember what real Gouda cheese tastes like. Meanwhile, I am enjoying this inexpensive Costa Rican product as a more than satisfactory alternative...

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