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2008 Biennial of the International Palm Society – Members Unite in Costa Rica


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#361 Palmarum

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Posted 18 December 2008 - 03:51 PM

2008 IPS Biennial - Costa Rica
Day 08: Saturday, May 10th: The Journey Home


Hilton Doubletree Cariari Hotel -> Juan Santamaría International Airport

- 11:28AM: Our wait in the hotel's lobby continued to close in on two o'clock, our scheduled time to ride the shuttle to the airport. With little in the way of new things to look at, I experimented with new ways to photograph the flower arrangement in the center of the lobby. This was the +.07 EV, slow shutter speed view that I took over and over again. There is always something to do when you have a camera in your hands.

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- 11:29AM: We were not alone in our wait. There were a few attendees who were staying an extra day or two that were hanging around the hotel's pool. When they heard we were camping in the lobby, they came over to offer us drinks or just spend time talking. Occasionally, the shuttle would depart with a group of attendees heading to the airport for an earlier flight. This gave us a brief but welcome chance to say 'bon voyage' to those who we might have missed the night before. I was practically laying on the floor, leaning on luggage trying to get comfortable when I took this view of the lobby.

Our view didn't change much until a hotel employee came over to our corner at a quarter to Two to ask us if we were next for the shuttle. We looked at each other, got to our feet and double and triple checked our luggage, carry-on bags, passports, etc. With help, we loaded our gear onto the shuttle and left the hotel heading for the airport. Since we had abandoned our plans to eat lunch before the ride, we looked forward to a very small and overpriced meal at the airport.

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Juan Santamaría International Airport

The ride to the airport was brief, and seemed much faster than the same ride in reverse, just a week earlier. Everyone on board was quiet and spent the time looking out the windows at the scenery whipping by. After we checked in and got screened through security fairly well, we headed for the food court and used up all of our remaining colones on lunch. We still had a few hours left to wait, so we did the tourist thing and hit the gift shops.

- 3:45PM: We retired to the seating area near our gate after we finished with the tourist traps. At a quarter to Four, our plane was pulling up to the gate, quite possibly the same Boeing 737-800 that brought us here to Costa Rica just eight days ago. When I first took sight of our plane, it finally sunk in that the Biennial was over. I started the process of remembering the week's details to 'engrave' them in memory for the upcoming topic you are now conveniently reading.

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- 4:44PM: "Smile Jeff!" Actually, Forum member and Bus #4 patriarch Jeff Searle didn't have a chance to smile as I ambushed him with this shot as he was coming down the aisle. It was a challenge to myself to see how fast I could unpack my camera bag, dig out my camera, get it ready, aim and shoot before he got too close. The flight was half full so we had our choice of seats. I took a whole row to myself and I made sure to get a window seat with the cleanest window I could find.

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Ryan
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#362 Palmarum

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Posted 18 December 2008 - 04:59 PM

2008 IPS Biennial - Costa Rica
Day 08: Saturday, May 10th: The Journey Home


Juan Santamaría International Airport -> Fort Lauderdale International Airport
San Jose, Costa Rica -> Fort Lauderdale, Florida USA

- 4:47PM: Here come the clouds and for once during the Biennial I didn't mind it raining. It seemed to describe the mood very well. As soon as I got situated and comfortable, I changed lenses and did a once-over cleaning job of the window. Peering outside the portal at the gloomy weather, I was reminded of my first day here in Costa Rica. Our flight coming here, landed on that day in similar weather and it was an exciting experience that I can still remember clearly to this day. I can still feel the sensation I got from being in a different country for the first time, especially one that I had heard so much about for so many years. As it was the beginning of my second Biennial, I knew I had a very important welcoming reception to look forward to later that evening. If you have not ever attended a welcoming reception before, it the key first event of the Biennial that will set the tone for the rest of the week. I did my best beforehand to describe that evening, but words do not do it justice. When you first walk into a large room like that full of palm fanatics from around the world, many you know and respect very much, it inspires awe that stays with you for a long time.

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- 5:12PM: When it became our time to leave the gate there was no other traffic in front of us. As soon as we taxied into position at the end of this runway, we immediately powered up and took off. We had just missed the downpour by only a few minutes. On our second day of the Biennial, my first full day in the country, potential rainfall became the word of the day; as we headed for Marco & Gerardo Herrero's Farms. The CRT guides did an excellent job in keeping us informed, including keeping us aware of the ever present threat of rain. I didn't even need to research the weather, as I had listened to stories about the country for years from different experienced sources. This second hand knowledge made me bring tons of rain gear that thankfully, as you read, I didn't need. The Farms were treasure chests full of rare and unusual palm species, a true botanical garden of planted fields and containers. I truly wish we would have had more time to look around at the farms, as I know there was more to see.

Our visit to the IMBioparque was both educational and interesting. We did have to don our rain jackets for a little while, but we were presented with some of the best examples of biodiversity in the country; making it worth while putting up with the rain. The guided tours were nice, but I felt we could have walked through it ourselves at our own pace. Clearly, some attendees had different speed settings when it came to absorbing information about the park. This location also saw the first, and certainly wouldn't be the last, example of attendee sheer will. When people with like ideals gather together and make a decision to divert from the normal Biennial schedule, it becomes an event to witness. This event led to one important conclusion. When attendees are hungry you cannot make them sit through a presentation of any kind just to make sure they stay there. They should be given the option of whether or not to view the presentation after refreshment, be it lunch or dinner. In the end, stomachs will win over minds any day.

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- 5:18PM: The thrill of take-off never gets old to me. It took only six minutes to get to this altitude at full throttle. The cloud cover was heavy and we quickly began to lose sight of the Costa Rican countryside below. I captured this last shot of green hills and farmland in one of the last clear views before we entered the clouds. I heard someone in the cabin mutter, "Goodbye Costa Rica..." against the sounds of the roaring turbine engines outside. On the third day of the Biennial, I awoke on Monday morning to the first day of the split schedule. Those of us on Bus #4 were now all together on the same fortunate vehicle and we could not have been happier. Being all together on the same bus was delayed by one day, but it was the single moment I had been waiting for since I stepped off the plane. As we made our way to the Rain Forest Aerial Tram and Braulio Carrillo National Park, our vibrant activity quickly sent us on our way. The rides on Bus #4 always seemed to be shorter than they were, as we held true the phrase that 'getting there is half the fun'.

Gliding through the rain forest canopy in a gondola turned out much better than I had thought. It was quiet and slow and you got to take in everything; not to mention shoot a few hundred photos. I would definitely recommend it for anyone traveling to that area of Costa Rica. My time spent walking through the National Park was my first rain forest experience. It was a milestone for me, another item of interest I was looking forward to crossing off of the list during the Biennial. I was surprised to see how large Welfia regia actually get and spotting a tall tree with fruit that I could actually touch froze me in my tracks. Seeing large, mature palm specimens in their natural habitat is a huge part of what a Biennial is all about.

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- 5:27PM: Our ascent continued and our dark cloudy views gave way to scenic vistas of golden cloud tops. The flight back home would seem much longer this time due to the time zone difference. Our travels aboard Bus #4 didn't see a long bus ride until Tuesday, the Biennial's fourth day, when we ventured west to visit Carara National Park. Speaking for myself, that ride also flew by thanks to our ability to entertain ourselves. There were some rare palms in the park that I was hoping to see, and lucked out on spotting a few of them. I photographed a specimen of Neonicholsonia watsonii residing in a small population and that was certainly the highlight of the day for me. Being in the presence of so many active monkeys was exhilarating, I felt as if I was on the other side of the bars of a zoo. They seemed to be the ones observing us palm fanatics in our favorite habitat.

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Ryan
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#363 Palmarum

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Posted 18 December 2008 - 06:01 PM

2008 IPS Biennial - Costa Rica
Day 08: Saturday, May 10th: The Journey Home


Juan Santamaría International Airport -> Fort Lauderdale International Airport
San Jose, Costa Rica -> Fort Lauderdale, Florida USA

- 5:27PM: Our flight through the Costa Rican skies seemed to be timed perfectly with the sunset. The higher up we went the more of the sun light we would see. We got our first taste of being high off the ground during our trip to the Arenal Hanging Bridges. Bus #4's fifth day of the week included some very high bridges and massively tall palms. It was amazing, truly amazing. The tour provided not only spectacular views of the nearby Arenal Volcano, but also included a unique perspective of the nearby rain forest. It is another definite recommendation for a long day's activity while in the area, but if your afraid of heights, bring some special pills or someone to force you through it. Those huge Iriartea deltoidea were worth the trip alone, but spotting the other species were the icing on the cake. The highpoint of the day for me was the close encounter with that one white-faced capuchin monkey. Being able to photograph him that close, with no glass or bars in the way, was breath taking. When he slowly made his way down the branches to check us out, I got more goose bumps the closer he got.

This day showed us that fate and desire can sometimes steer us in certain directions, or even stop us in our tracks. As soon as we drove past that resort with the fruiting Red Sealing Wax Palms, Cyrtostachys renda, the first time in the morning; I knew we would stopping on the way back. I just knew it. The palm affliction is contagious and it infects completely, with little or no resistance. Watching attendees Bill Olson and Robert Wilson climb those trees were pure Kodak moments. It not only summed up the will of Bus #4, but the spirit of the Biennial as well. The sheer number of seed obtained was fantastic. It was great that everyone was willing to spread the seed around. Never before have miscellaneous plastic bags been worth so much. When it became official that the palm mascot of Bus #4 be changed to "Cyrtostachys" and we were happy to be hip-deep in seed, that is when we blew a tire. Of all days and of all buses to get a flat tire it had to be ours on this long trip. When we finished rolling along and came to a stop, I was not surprised to find a bar at our temporary service plaza. What were the odds? I am sure our bus driver Don Juan knew it was there, but contrary to what others have said about Bus #4, we didn't. The iconic imagery of a bus load of tourists breaking down in front of a bar was hard to ignore. One added thing I took away from that 'tangent', was that I enjoyed watching how different attendees dealt with the situation. Some were easy going and just saw it as part of the day, while others had a tough time and tried to hide their emotions under other expressions. Some people do not do well with unexpected change. With the long bus rides that day, it was the longest day so far, but not in the way of photo quantity from my point of view. That record was set the following day.

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- 5:28PM: We had just about reached cruise altitude when those of us on my side of the aircraft were treated to a nice light show, courtesy of the Sun. The rays of sunlight seemed to be perfectly aligned with the cloud tops, skimming across them as they shot through the sky. When we boarded Bus #4 early on Thursday, I figured with the shorter travel time the day would skim on by. I know now to never make that assumption again. Our visit to the Poás Volcano broke my personal record for highest altitude on foot, which was to me a big deal but not so for others. It is a South Florida thing. When we walked our way to the crater to find it clouded over, it was disappointing but we took it in stride. We knew that the scheduled locations for the Biennial had been pretty much flawless for Bus #4 so far, so I figured we were due a set back. The La Paz Waterfall Gardens had an elaborate website to look over prior to the Biennial. I knew from looking it over that I would have plenty of photographic opportunities, which I did. The waterfalls there are world renown and to actually see them in person was an achievement for someone who does not travel often. I was taken back by the incredible amount of animal and plant life that was on display during the wildlife refuge section of the tour. When I saw the Fer-de-Lance, I knew I was in the presence of reptile royalty. I knew I was walking into a house of snakes, but did not think they would have one of those to view.

When it came time for the Talent Show aboard Bus #4, I changed memory cards in anticipation of what was to come. This was a great way to celebrate our last time all together. I of course, have no talent worthy of entertainment, so I stuck with what I was doing; photographing the spectacle. During the high point of the show, where Robert and Jack were going head to head in the pose-off, that is when I knew Bus #4 had reached that plateau of greatness, or is that decadence? I get those terms confused sometimes when describing our actions aboard the "Cyrtostachys" Bus. The day concluded with the one and only set of presentations I was going to see all week. The idea of wearing the headsets while listening to the translator was a good one, but the actual execution of it needed some tweaking. Most of the time I could hear the translator, but the P.A. system in the ballroom would over power it, making it difficult to understand. I am sure we could and would do it again at future Biennials.

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- I zoomed in on that one area in the above photo, above the pylon, to see this view of the clouds in the distance. During the beginning part of the week, I had no plans or gave much thought to covering any distance during Day 07 of the Biennial, also known as the free day. When I found out I was signed up for the day trip to Pozo Azul I was surprised. When we settled on what two activities we were going to do, horseback riding and canopy zip-line, I had to wonder if and how I could photograph during both of them. I was more concerned about how I was going to shoot during the adventures than I was about actually doing them. When the day came, I managed to cover both adventures fairly well. I know now that I need specialized equipment to better photograph on horseback and a different lens to shoot better action photos of people traveling on a zip-line. The Biennial represented a unique and diverse opportunity to gain more experience in photography, as it did two years prior. I learned a great deal and know more about what equipment to bring and what settings to use now in those and other similar situations.

No matter how the Farewell Dinner is planned or what is to be included, it will always be a sad occasion but a necessary one to see everyone all together again for one last time. It is reason to celebrate and celebrate we did. It was unfortunate that the festivities were delayed because of the late return of the bus carrying those of us who went to Pozo Azul. It is important to start the evening as early as possible as some attendees would, and did have, very early flights the next morning. There were some attendees I didn't get to see again because they had to leave the dinner early. The majority who attended the dinner seemed to have enjoyed the band, and I thought they played the various song genres very well. The evening's festivities seemed to lack the finesse that we saw at the farewell dinner in the Dominican Republic two years ago, but each country has its own way of celebrating. I think it would have been more enjoyable if the band was playing outside near the pool area, so it would not have been so loud. Throughout the evening, a steady stream of attendees made their way out to the pool area anyhow. I figured this might have been a possibility, but the outside music and festivities might have disturbed other guests staying at the hotel. With all things considered, it was a great evening and I enjoyed my time there. It was hard to see so many people I know so well leave that evening; knowing it would be a long time before I would see them in person again.

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- 5:29PM: "Hey, look at that out there." Jeff Searle was sitting at the window seat directly in front of me and he was pointing out some of the features he saw as I was doing my best to photograph them in the failing light. This cloud figurine seemed to stand up and wave as we went by. My recollection of the week's events led me back to today, where I found myself starring out the window thinking about how fast the Biennial went by. On paper, eight days can seem to be a long time to spend in a different country but in reality, it isn't.

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Ryan
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#364 Palmarum

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Posted 18 December 2008 - 06:40 PM

2008 IPS Biennial - Costa Rica
Day 08: Saturday, May 10th: The Journey Home: Conclusion


Juan Santamaría International Airport -> Fort Lauderdale International Airport
San Jose, Costa Rica -> Fort Lauderdale, Florida USA

- 5:29PM: Leaving Costa Rica behind created that strange feeling you get when your split between wanting to stay and wanting to go. I asked a few attendees now and then throughout the week if they would return to the country and the replies were unanimously "Yes". I would hope to return one day, but there are quite a few dots on the map that I have not traveled to yet. If you are ever considering taking a trip to a different country for the first time, Costa Rica should be at the top of your list for more than one reason. The country is geared for visitors and it shows vibrantly at every place you visit and on the faces of every person you meet. If you are in the slightest way a fan of palms or tropical plants, you must get to Costa Rica at least once in your lifetime. The country's flora and fauna are some of the most biologically diverse in the world, and it was wonderful to see how the Costa Rican people go to great lengths to protect it. The CRT Staff were well informed about their country's greatest natural resource and had no reservations about sharing their knowledge about it. They had sincere compassion in spreading the word about conservation. They were impressed by our admiration for palms and plants and I feel it made them glad knowing that both their message and their knowledge were being received by those who would use them. When an opportunity arose to have an exchange of information, they were eager to learn more about the different palms that inhabit their corner of the world. This was an absolutely perfect and obvious choice for a Biennial destination and I would not be surprised to see Costa Rica back on the list of possible host countries in the future.

I showed this photo to my young niece and the first thing she said was "teddy bear"...

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- 5:50PM: When Costa Rica was announced as the destination for the Biennial in 2008, during the end of the successful 2006 Biennial in the Dominican Republic, those of us in attendance were elated and became infused with anticipation. The general information bulletin that was issued along with the September 2007 issue of Palms clearly stated that this adventure would be limited to 200 attendees. With that fact in mind and combined with the popularity of the country, I was surprised that this Biennial didn't reach the registration limit. It got very close though. In the months prior, I was more worried about the Biennial reaching full capacity early than I was of missing the deadline. Speaking of registrations, I can not even perceive the amount of hard work that must go on behind the scenes to give rise to such a great event. Witnessing the progression from ideas scratched on paper to seeing a banquet hall full of attendees at a welcoming reception -- must be a great sensation as it is nothing short of a miracle of logistics. The entire enterprise is a daunting task of which I can only imagine. I don't envy those who have to dedicate so much of their time and resources to take it upon themselves to see that each Biennial is made a success. I do however offer my sincere appreciation for a job well done. Towards the end of the topic I had thanked a few of the key individuals, such as IPS Directors Leland Lai and Jim Cain, but I am sure there were more contributors to the achievement we all enjoyed attending.

The International Palm Society has outdone itself once again in providing a great adventure for its members. If you were ever wondering about the benefits of membership to the IPS, all you need to do is re-read the topic. The joy and enlightenment seen on the faces of pictured attendees explains 'benefit' better than I can. Even if you are not able to attend a particular Biennial, your membership goes far in helping the IPS extend its longevity to allow for future Biennials that you might be able to attend. After writing this topic and having you read it, I can say with a clear conscience that if you had planned to make it to Costa Rica for this Biennial and you changed your mind for some small reason; shame on you. You missed out on a great adventure that will never be duplicated. Taking several trips to Costa Rica and visiting the same locations might imitate this Biennial, but they will never add up to being the singular experience that this one was.

sunset at 30,000 feet...

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- 5:57PM: If this topic has motivated you in any way to be considering attending the next Biennial, then the topic itself has done what I’ve meant it to do. That was a key part of my reason behind writing it. I did my best at representing the Biennial from my perspective and from two different view points, as both a participant and also as a photojournalist. I am a palm fanatic of the highest degree, as I have suffered from the disease for a long time. I will always be the first attendee with their camera at the ready to photograph the first palm we see when we arrive at the next destination. This palm addiction will always ensure that I am a participant first, spectator second. Although, I felt at times when describing events during the Biennial, both good and bad, that some impartiality was in order. It helps to get an idea of what happened when your reading a description that was authored without opinion; even though I often included a general opinion of what the majority were feeling at the time. I tried to be as accurate as humanly possible when it came to the description of details, sometimes it required me to do some time-intensive research. Identifying a structure or plant, figuring out a location or matching a name to a face can take a long time as I did not have the impertinent information on hand when I took the photo. I did not take as many notes as I wanted, as it would have meant taking fewer photos. As anyone who knows me in person would guess, that ain't going to change. Since I had taken down less information during the Biennial, that meant I would have to get more afterward. To track down some of the needed info, I had to send messages and emails to several people who were not always the fastest in replying. I trimmed down the amount of photos as much as I could, but there were so many that told the documentary so well. During the Biennial, I would often take a photo and immediately know that "this one has Got to be posted". I just ended up saying that about half the time.

The decision to attend or to not attend a Biennial is not one to be taken lightly. If you have the time, are able to endure the expense and enjoy palm species of all kinds, you should by all means make a concerted effort to attend. These are once in a lifetime opportunities to explore far off destinations filled with members of the planet’s best plant family. As an added bonus, you get to share the time with fellow palm enthusiasts from around the world. Time is well spent when your surrounded by people who share your love of palms; and why not spend that time in an exotic locale populated with species that you have only read about?

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- As I watched the sun go down in my last hour in Costa Rica, I wondered about where in Brazil the attendees would be at the end of their first day of that Biennial; watching their first sunset of that adventure. What will Brazil be like I wonder? It will be the first time the IPS has had a Biennial in South America and I know there are eager members out there 'jumping at the bit' waiting to go. I hope that all parties involved know that there are some high expectations about the upcoming Biennial. The minds of those waiting for information are filled with questions that I hope will have great answers. We will have to keep a close eye on the registration limit, whatever it may be, as we know it could be exhausted well before any deadline. Time will tell.

This was just one perspective of the 2008 IPS Biennial in Costa Rica. Every person who attended has their own memories and I advise you to seek out other attendees you may know to get their experiences as well. All combined, they should give you a better description of what a Biennial is all about more detailed than what I can describe. However, when it comes to portraying life on the greatest bus of all time, Bus #4, I feel that you must talk to one of its attendees. I wish I could take credit for how incredible life was like on Bus #4 or how wonderful the Biennial was, but I didn't have any control over how magnificent the locations were or how remarkable the people are. I was simply along for the ride...

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Ryan

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#365 GTClover

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Posted 02 March 2013 - 05:40 PM

I know it's a couple of years late, but it was great fun reading about and viewing this great adventure!

Thank you Ryan!


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