Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Crash, The Hum, The Quick Silence

 A little border crossing over into
Nicaragua the other week
There are so many unknowns in life, there are never guarantees, sometimes things work out and sometimes they don't.  I've been thinking a lot about this since I made a final decision to move to Puerto Viejo and find work here.  I took a chance, there aren't too many teaching jobs here, if any, so I have to figure my own way.  I'm no stranger to figuring out creative ways to make money.  It's what I've done for the past ten years.  I've rejected the "normal" way of life, a "normal" career path, so I've had to think of other ways to make money.  Having a positive attitude about things, believing that they will work out the way they are supposed to, that you are meant to be where you are meant to be in every moment will get you far, at least I think so.

I've been thinking a lot about the things that scare you, hesitation from one moment to the next, sincerity with people you know well and people you want to know well.  Sincerity with strangers even.  Lending a helping hand or even just a smile to someone you don't know.  And above all, respect.  Respect enough to always tell someone exactly what you're thinking and to do it gracefully with tact, even if you're afraid of the outcome.  Having courage takes balls.  It doesn't happen overnight.

There were so many people that told me I was crazy, stupid, foolish to leave Rochester and move to Latin America.  It's dangerous for a blond gringa.  What's wrong with just staying in the States and working there?  Here's the thing, you can live your whole life in fear, fear of change, fear of tomorrow, fear of relationships, fear of the unknown, fear of the known.  Or you can grab that bull by the horns and ride the living daylights out of it, laughing, crying, smiling, fighting, realizing, changing, meditating, rising fierce and loving gently.  It's your choice.  You only live once, you could get hit by a bus tomorrow.  Everywhere in the world is dangerous and everywhere in the world is safe, we cannot control circumstances but we can control our actions, we can control what dark streets we walk down at night.  We can control how we react to situations, we can take everything as a moment or a lesson in the grand scheme of things or, like a weed that desiccates in the sun, we can let it dry us up, make us brittle and bitter.

I had a moment the other night, I was talking to a friend online and she pointed out to me that "there is no shame in what you're feeling or hoping for."  I was feeling like maybe I made the wrong decision in coming here.  I was thinking, "geez, why did I come here, what was I thinking?  Maybe this isn't the place for me."  Even though I knew it was.  I went around the Pacific and felt almost nothing for the places there.  They were nice but they were not for me.  Here in Puerto Viejo I find myself smiling for no reason, especially when I'm on my bike, especially when I'm by the ocean and simply listening.  Sometimes you just need to listen, the crash, the hum, the quick silence at times when no waves are barreling and then the sudden crash and hum again.  The energy here is completely different from the Pacific, it's palpable here, there's life in the air here, there's an ebb and flow of electricity and you can sense it if you sit real quiet and listen.  I used to always tell Ashley to do this when she was having a rough time in Tulum before I arrived.  

I often think of my friend, Ashley, the one perhaps you have read about in earlier posts.  She defied everyone's negative reactions towards her choosing to have her baby in Mexico at home with a midwife.  This was what she wanted, it didn't matter what others thought.  She may not have come out of it all unscathed but she did it nonetheless and she's stronger for it all now.  She's a different person, she's someone I admire, she's someone I look up to (not that I didn't before but even more so now).  I want to mirror her courage, her strength, her endurance.  She's a warrior, she's a fighter, and that little bundle of goodness nestled at her breast is the luckiest kid in the world.  We used to discuss fear and darkness when I was in Mexico.  Or, how far would you go for yourself, how far can you pull yourself out of your own fear.  Ashley pulled herself out, I watched the entire transformation and it was breathtaking, the transformation from Vermont to Mexico, the transformation from woman to mother.  The transformation from one being becoming two separate beings but always binded by blood.  A mother has different eyes, I saw them change in Ashley and it blew me away.  It wasn't easy for her, it wasn't easy for me, the labor, the birth, the time afterwards, the beginning of Calai's life.  She labored for a day at home before she needed to be moved to a hospital in Cancun to have a cesarean.  She hadn't dilated past 3 cm in 24 hours.  She was beyond exhausted.  I had gone home for a few hours to sleep in the  middle of the night when they decided to go to the hospital.  I woke up to an email from our other friend, Sarah, who was there for the birth as well.  It all happened so fast and they couldn't find Ashley's phone to call me.  It was 6 in the morning when I got the email and I sat in my little rented room and wept, feeling helpless and sensing the disappointment Ashley must have felt at having to move to the hospital.

I was supposed to be the rock for her, I was supposed to be the face she looked at for comfort, for relief and I was asleep.  The guilt I felt, the remorse, it was awful.  I just wanted to be present for her, I wanted to hold her hand, breathe with her, look her in the eyes to transfer the energy I had for her since hers was so depleted at that point.  Two years ago she was the friend that held my head in her lap and stroked my hair while I sobbed the day I was to move from Vermont after 10 years of living there, after an abrupt break up with a guy I'd been with for three years, a rather sudden decision all together to up and leave VT.  It happened in a flash, we broke up, I quit my job and I moved from VT all within a two week period.  To say I was a mess is an understatement, I was just a shadow of who I had ever been before at that point.  I was looking into mirrors and not recognizing at all the dazed and heart broken stranger staring back at me.  I stayed with her for those two weeks, she held my hand, she was my anchor, my solid ground when everything underneath me had turned into a hurricane.  She was yet another good reason for me to start my travels, to begin in Tulum, and she assured me that happiness exists for everyone in the world, it's just a matter of manifesting it.  And extremely selfishly, I had this notion that seeing Calai enter this world was going to change my life immensely.

But I was stuck in Tulum, I didn't know where the hospital was, I couldn't get in touch with anyone there.  I felt like I had failed for some reason.  And my heart hurt for Ashley, who had wanted nothing more than to have a natural childbirth at home with her midwife.  She didn't want a c-section, she didn't want drugs, this was not how she envisioned it happening.  She is such an advocate for natural home births, we all perhaps foolishly assumed that everything would be fine with Ashley's labor and that she wouldn't have to go to the hospital.  We were very wrong and we know better for next time.  Expect the unexpected in childbirth.  Always.  I worried how she would react to it all once she came to terms with it.  But this is what we do as women, we give life and how that life begins, be it natural childbirth or c-section, it is the end product that is the best part anyways.  What I didn't know then, but realize now, is that Calai did change my life, it didn't matter that I wasn't there for that sobering moment
of a baby's first breath.  I was there for the next three months and I got to cuddle with him almost every day.  And my constant presence after the birth did more for Ashley than what I could have offered had I been at the hospital.  I see that now.  I had been working on being a gentler person, gentler to myself and to others, and what better way than spending time with a newborn.  What better way than watching your best friend do something so primordial for every woman in this world.  What better way than seeing the animal instinct that is also born in a woman the moment her child is born.  And what better way than to see it in Ashley, a woman who has been ready to be a mother for as long as I've known her.  

 So when I'm feeling that heaviness creeping, when I'm feeling overwhelmed, homesick, wondering if I'm doing the right thing by being here,  I think of Ashley.  I channel her strength, I channel her courage.  I remember that at every moment, we are exactly where we are supposed to be, that everything happens for a reason and one moment in life is just leading to another and another and another.  What lessons can you learn from your fear?  How can you stare it straight in the eyes as it hovers above you while you feign sleep, as it enters your dreams, your thoughts and undulates slowly over your mind, paralyzes your thoughts and actions until it's all marred in black?  I acknowledge it, I remember that I'm a woman from a family of women who are fierce and bold, who have stared birth and death directly in the face and have the strength of a pride of lions.  My blood, my lineage, it all brought me to where I am today.  The amazing girlfriends I have, they too, brought me to where I am today.  And Ashley, for her beauty, her courage, her sheer will power, the way she gracefully moves through the world defying the unknowns and trusting.  When the heaviness of the unknowns, when the fear comes calling, I acknowledge it, I think of Ashley and I remember that we are who we are for the people we meet.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Girl Seeking Beach, Job and Home

                                                                                                                                                       I have obtained my TEFL certification and I am out searching for a job.  That is only slightly accurate.  I am first looking for a town on the coast that I want to call home for six months to a year and then I will look for a job.  The problem is, or maybe it’s not really a problem at all, I loved the first place I went to best, Puerto Viejo, on the Caribbean.  On the Pacific, this past week I have been to Quepos, Manuel Antonio, Montezuma, Santa Teresa and Sámara.  None of them toot my horn like Puerto Viejo does.  None of them have that Caribbean charm that is clearly only on the Caribbean side.  In the past two weeks of traveling around the coast of Costa Rica, I wonder if I might be searching for something that I already found the first weekend I was here when I went to Puerto Viejo during the TEFL course.  I went back a second time for a week after the course but I purposely didn't look for a job.  I felt like I couldn't settle for the first beach town I had been to.  I needed to see others on the Pacific first.  (Unfortunately I have no photos from Puerto Viejo as my camera wasn't working at the time and I did nothing to fix it and miraculously now it's working again...) 

Basically the first thing I do in each new town is check out the beach.  Can I live in this town and hang out at this beach every day?  This is a huge factor in where I will chose to live.  A new German friend I met in Quepos asked me what I like to do for activities on the beach, for example, surfing.   I told him I could spend an entire day at the beach reading and swimming and that is a day very well spent for me.  He said, “ahhh, so your sport is Extreme Beaching!”  So, yes, extreme beaching, I’m very good at it, but I am very particular about the beach, it needs to have a certain ambiance and the more I think about it the more I think the ambiance is the Caribbean flair.  I have the problem in that I compare every beach here to Tulum and Puerto Viejo.  There is something about the Caribbean that is so different from the Pacific.  Call me pagan, but the energy is different there.  Maybe it’s because Tulum was the beginning so it will always be dear in my heart and then Puerto Viejo was the first beach town I saw in Costa Rica.  My friend, Alison, calls this “first beach town love.”   The stubborn woman in me wouldn’t let me settle for Puerto Viejo right off the bat though, I needed to experience the Pacific side of Costa Rica before making any decisions.

I’m in Sámara right now.  It’s a lovely little beach town and I’m not joking when I say little.  The guy running the hostel that I’m staying at, he’s from Pittsburgh, PA, so I immediately felt a kinship since it’s only 6 hours away from Rochester.  Anyhow, he told me it will take about 15 minutes to walk the perimeter of the town.  I gave it go and he was right.  I’ve been here two days and I already recognize faces.  Namely, the face of a local who, out of the kindness of his own heart, I’m sure, tried to help me out with finding accommodation the afternoon I got here.  He was selling his cheap touristy crap when I walked by laden down with my life on my back, and he said, “Girl, there’s a hostel back there, if you are looking!”  I told him, no thanks and that I was looking for a different place.  The first place I looked at was too expensive so when I backtracked and walked past this local again he said, “Come on, I’ll show you this hostel here.”  I said sure and we walked up the road to a “hostel” which was really just a shit motel with dark, dingy and depressing rooms.  I’m looking for a hostel, man, with dorm rooms, not a place with single rooms that looks like something out of a Hitchcock film.  “Oh, well you won’t find anything like that here, this is the cheapest place in town and there aren’t any hostels here.”  He must have taken me for an idiot and not a seasoned traveler.  I knew there were hostels in this town, it's a touristy beach town for godsakes!  I told him I was going to keep looking.  I constantly get annoyed when townies try to swindle me, but I’m sure it works some of the time.  All I needed to do was walk about two more blocks and I happened upon a lovely little hostel called Hostel Matilori.

I wonder if one of the reasons that guy tried to pull the wool over my eyes was because I was looking rather haggard at that point in the afternoon.  I had been up since 5 AM and hadn’t slept much the night before (whenever I have to get up early for travel I stress the night before and wake up every hour thinking I have overslept).  I had basically spent 10 hours in transit, on a bus, on a ferry, at a bus stop in the middle of nowhere, on another bus, then another bus stop in the middle of nowhere, then another bus, then finally my destination.  I had come from Santa Teresa with the strangest thing occurring that morning that has ever happened to me in a hostel.

I had packed up my bags the night before and had just left my shorts and tank top out to wear that following day.  Early in the AM, when I went to change out of my pajamas I was a bit perplexed as my tank top was missing, as was my hat that had been stashed at the top of my backpack and also my bra.  I looked around on the floor, under the bed, scratching my head.  I dug into my backpack a little bit and then started to think, did someone steal my stuff?  And why the hell would they do that?  I flipped the blankets on my bed and searched around the room surveying other travelers piles of clothing and whatnot.  I finally turned around and looked at a guy sleeping on the bottom bunk on the other side of the room.  There, nestled under his neck was my tank top, next to his head was my bra and in his hand was my hat.  What the fuck?  I stood there blinking, amazed, wondering why.  He was the only guy I hadn’t met in the dorm room.  And I had been told by another guy in the room that this fellow was a bit strange and was here with his parents in an apartment that you could also rent at this establishment but that he would come into this dorm room and sleep at night.  He looked to be about my age, maybe a little younger.  I walked over and tentatively took my stuff, trying not to wake him up.  He stirred a little and opened his eyes, “I don’t know you, but you have my clothes and that’s really weird.”  I’m not sure he registered anything as he just shifted positions and fell back asleep.  I laughed about this for awhile with the Canadian fellow who was also taking the bus that morning.  We couldn’t really come up with a good scenario as to why he would do this.  I’m just thankful it was only my clothes and nothing more serious. 
But back to Hostel Matilori, it’s little wonderful little haven, quiet and peaceful with a few hammocks for extreme resting after a day of extreme beaching.  There’s even a german shepherd here named Bulma that I actually like.  If you know me well, you know that the dogs I like are few and far between.  But this lady is regal and doesn’t need my constant attention and moreover, she doesn’t stare at me when I eat.  I like her for that alone.  The rooms here have wooden ceilings lending it that beach-y feel.  They are spacious and the beds are comfortable.  Most notably, the mosquitos aren't that bad here.

´When I was in Montezuma, a funky little hippie town, that is literally only one block between the jungle and the ocean, I stayed in a little hostel up the hill from the center of town.  It was also great, however, the mosquitos loved me there.  It was like I was famous for my tasty blood and they were the paparazzi.  No one else had issues at night with them like I did and I wondered if there was literally a nest in my mattress.  The pesty sonsofbitches buzzing that high pitch buzz in my ear all night long.  The frustration and the scratching kept me up all hours.  But the great thing about that hostel was that it was situated on a little hill, perched just off the road in the jungle and you could hear the ocean below and every morning you could hear the howler monkeys in the trees.  I also was fortunate enough to have this same experience when I was in Puerto Viejo (the monkeys, not the mosquitos).  Howler monkeys are small but the sound that bellows from their guts makes you think there is a family of gorillas camping nearby.  And they will go on for hours in the morning.  (With the wonders of National Geographic and youtube you also can hear what I hear.)  Being a person who never grew up with monkeys nearby, this is a novelty that has not worn off.  I mean, I can hear monkeys in the trees and then I can see them swinging and jumping from branch to branch!  And the immature girl in me can’t stop laughing at the male monkey’s balls just dangling about like oversized grapes.  Here in Sámara I haven't been searanaded by the howler monkeys but I have seen them in the trees lounging.

In the next few days I will have to make a decision here as to where to settle down for a bit and find a job.  It's a toss up between here, where there is actually a language school (they aren't hiring at the moment however) or returning to Puerto Viejo where there is no language school so I will have to get inventive with perhaps private lessons or teaching online.  I'm beginning to realize the west side of the Americas does not do it for me like the east side.  Maybe it's because I grew up going to Maine every summer, maybe it's because Tulum showed me how to be happy, maybe it's because Puerto Viejo is a special little place that is not comparable to any town on the Pacific.  I do a lot of sitting at the beach and thinking.  The constant sound of waves breaking over and over again soothes the stress of where the heck I should live, what the heck I should do with my near future, when will I find a place that I'm satisfied with, what is my path now?  All those questions that you can only answer by choosing a path and doing it.  I feel like I'm getting close to a decision but I think I need just a few more days of Sámara sun and sand to cement a decision.  I'll let you know when I know!

PS- I wrote all of this the other day and have made a decision!  I am heading back to Puerto Viejo in the next few days to start the job search there.  I just love the Caribbean and the Pacific is great but doesn't do it for me like the other side of Costa Rica does.