Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Bus Station Engagement

Excitedly eating my second breakfast of the day at the bus station in San Jose, I alternated bites of food with turning the pages of the novel I didn't want to stop reading.  I was staving off the inevitable hunger that would come during the four and a half hour bus ride back to Puerto Viejo by eating, what I like to refer to as, second breakfast two hours after first breakfast.  Knowing that I am an insufferable bitch when I'm overly hungry (I even annoy myself), I figured I ought to be stuffed before ascending the bus for the scenic ride back to my little corner of the Caribbean.    

I had ordered the ubiquitous gallo pinto with eggs.  Gallo pinto is a traditional Costa Rican dish comprised of rice and beans.  Literally translated as spotted rooster because of the speckled effect it lends before delicious consumption.  I giggled out loud at a line from my book and, not meaning to, attracted the attention of a man sitting in the booth across the way.  He asked me what I was reading.  I pretended to not hear him as I find a lot of men here are after one thing with blond gringas and we all know what that one thing is.

He asked me again louder in a bit of a southern drawl.  I had pegged him for a local but he was definitely an American with that accent.  I hesitantly looked up from my book, "It's about three sisters who all return to their small hometown in Ohio to take care of their mother who is diagnosed with cancer."  His eyes were a dull, watery blue, as if he has seen too much in this world and perhaps disappointment had dimmed what once may have been bright.  I would venture to say he was in his sixties, the same age bracket as my parents, ie: way too old to be making suggestive comments to me which I sensed the conversation was headed.

"I thought you were gonna say the book was about you,"  he said as he took a sip of his coffee.

"Uhh, no.  It's not about me," I half snorted half laughed as I said this.  Wow, nice pickup line, I thought to myself.  I am often struck between wanting to make connections with people here but also wanting to trust that that connection is something platonic.  All spider senses pointed to the opposite direction of platonic with this fellow.

Without my inviting him to do so, he dove into telling me why he was here, like an overenthusiastic child excited about the prospect of opening a door into a room full of candy.  "You see, I'm retired and I've moved down here to find a wife or a lady friend.  But the problem is, it's hard to find a woman who speaks English.  I'm so surprised you speak English!  I thought you were from here.  My god, you have beautiful eyes."

Jesus, I was in a bus station and all I wanted to do was finish my gallo pinto and read my attention grabbing novel.  Now I had to ward off advances from a very clearly desperate and lonely man who came all the way down here to find a wife or a lady friend.  He wasn't seedy or sketchy, like some guys I've met here, he was just lonely, it was palpable.  However, he was definitely optimistic. I suggested that he try to learn Spanish and he told me he knew a little bit.  I wanted to say out loud but refrained, that it would behoove him to learn Spanish at a rapid pace if he was looking to live out his retirement with a woman from here.

Then of course, the question that every man asks here who's looking for something, anything with a gringa.  "Do you have a husband?"


"Do you have a boyfriend."

I hate lying but sometimes it's necessary, "Yes, I do."  But that didn't stop him.

"Look, I'd like to give you my phone number and maybe we can get together sometime."

"Oh, I don't live here,"  I told him, "and I'm probably never coming back this way again."  Second lie.  What, in our conversation, made the idea in him transpire that I would call him if he gave me his number?  I knew he meant no harm, you had to give him kudos for trying, but a man that forward about his expeditions is clearly looking for something that I am not.  I wanted to tell him that by exuding a desperate vibe, such as he was, he was more likely to push women away by being too forward about what he was looking for.  However, he had thirty years on me and perhaps hadn't found love yet and felt as though time was running out.  I did fear his asking me to marry him though, if I stuck around the cafe for much longer.  

"You don't live here?"

Somehow the fact that we were at a bus station and I was sitting at the booth with my backpack didn't convey to him the fact that perhaps I didn't live there.  Especially note the fact that I had told him I taught English in Puerto Viejo earlier in the conversation.  It must have simply flown over his head like fumes flying out of a rumbling bus.  His optimism got the better of him, perhaps.

I stood up to pay my bill at the counter explaining to him that I needed to catch my bus, which hadn't arrived yet but I figured I could make myself scarce in a different area of the bus station.  "It was nice meeting you, good luck with everything."  I walked over and shook his hand.  I silently and sincerely wished him good luck in his wife and lady friend endeavors.  I hoped he would find what he came here seeking.  I hoped he would find someone to love.  One less lonely person on the planet can't be a bad thing.  


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Teaching Blindfolded

"A la izquierda is to the left, you know like that Beyonce song, to the left, to the left!"  I shook my shoulders and head a little bit as I sang it shooting my pointer fingers to the left.  One or two students laughed and the others looked at me as if I had pulled rainbows out of my eyeballs.  Maybe they hadn't heard the song before.  I had also rapped a little bit of a Snoop Dogg song to my other class in reference to the word, 'laid-back,' and had pretty much the same mixed reaction.

Every Wednesday and Saturday from 10-12 I teach English class.  A tour company here hired me to teach two different English classes; beginners conversational and business with a focus on email writing.  They are very different ends of the spectrum where my business English students are mostly advanced speakers and some of my beginners in conversational English barely speak a lick.  In the latter I do a lot of acting out and miming or asking one student, who speaks more English than the others, to translate.  In my TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course we were discouraged from speaking in Spanish to our students, the whole total immersion approach.  From learning Spanish this way for a month, I can say it works.  However, sometimes it's just easier to explain in Spanish and translate in English so I don't spend half the class trying to get a basic point across.

In our TEFL course we were trained with the assumption that we would get jobs in ESL schools with basic things in a classroom like a dry erase board.  Much attention was given to our board work when we were getting certified.  I teach at the tour company's office which is nothing like a classroom setting, nor do I have a dry erase board.  It's been interesting learning to improvise as I go.  I have figured out how to teach lessons without a dry erase board which isn't so challenging in the business English class but definitely challenging with the conversational beginners.  I write words or phrases on pieces of paper and they pass it around to copy.

Recently, I taught directions to my conversational class.  It took two classes for them to get it down.  The first class I found this dandy little worksheet online with a picture of a town and then exercises directing them in how to ask and give directions.  There was a little script for them to follow and I assumed they'd see the script and figure out how to substitute the phrases listed in the box.  Piece of cake, right?  More like a piece of amateur gluten free cake that crumbles the second you touch it.  It failed miserably.  My students looked at me as if not only had I pulled rainbows out of my eyeballs again but unicorns and dandelions as well.  How could it be so difficult?  Was I not explaining it enough?  I went over the directions several times and did an example with a student.

I've had these panicky moments in class before when I see no one is comprehending what I am saying and I can usually figure out a way to get out of them.  I'm like the Macgyver of English classes without a dry erase board or a classroom setting.  How to get out of this jam?  I kept repeating what I wanted them to do but they all looked at me with befuddled expressions.  Well I didn't have a paper clip, dental floss and a flannel shirt to make a bomb with to demolish the wall between understanding and utter confusion but I did have a simple idea which required no random MacGyver supplies.  Instead of having them practice this in partners as I had so wrongly assumed would go smoothly, we did it as a class going very slowly, with my new budding patience plodding us along.  Slowly but surely, one by one, they started to get the idea of the script.  All it took was having us do the activity together as a group instead.  Why this hadn't occurred to me when I was planning my lesson I don't know.

Patience is a definite must when you are a teacher and I've never had it before.  I've honed in on it slightly like a seaman looking through his telescope.  I can see the shoreline of patience, I can envision landing on it's sandy dunes but it's still going to take some bustling about on the waves before I land on that island.

The end of class came and my students were just beginning to get the hang of asking for and giving directions.  The following week an idea came to me.  Well, the infamous lightbulb didn't go off in my head so much as google search providing just the answer I needed.  We reviewed the worksheet again and then I created a maze in the room with tables and chairs.  My students stood there perplexed watching me.  I pulled out a scarf and explained slowly the activity.  I blindfolded myself and asked a student to give me directions across the room and back again.  I could hear my students giggling as I walked slowly along, feet and knees hitting chairs every so often.  I was told by my TEFL instructor during one of my student teaching classes that I needed to add more fun into my lessons.  I happily thought she would approve.  And my students were into it!  When I was finished, they eagerly took turns being blindfolded and giving directions.  No serious injuries occurred, but a deeper understanding of how to give directions through laughter, practice and patience did occur.

You know the best part about teaching?  My students leave each class knowing something new, even if I had to sing and act things out and make them go blindfolded in order for them to learn.  It's pretty damn great, to pass on knowledge.  It's what keeps me motivated every week.  How wonderful to be able to contribute to someone's life like that.  How fabulous to know that in teaching them English, they might have better job opportunities in the tourism industry.  Even if I have to look like a total idiot dancing around and singing pop songs, it's worth it.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Shaping Your Brazilian Bum Bum

"Stick your butt out!  Don't be shy!"  Leandro often demands this from you in his spunky Brazilian accent.  The way he speaks makes me think of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Brazilian style.  One night last week I found myself in the yoga studio with Kristin, the owner of Om (the yoga hostel I am doing a work trade at), giggling while Leandro commanded us to stick out our rear ends like a cat that really likes the base her spine to be scratched.  We were working out to a video called Brazilian Bum Bum, which is pronounced "boom boom" in Portuguese, with some famous guy in the fitness biz named Leandro who kept reminding us that after this workout we would have fabulous and beach worthy boom booms.

When Kristin mentioned to me she wanted to start working out to some DVDs she owned my ears perked up.  You see, for many years in my life, I have worked out to videos in my living room.  This dates all the way back to when I was in high school, I'm talking VHS days.  To list a few real good ones; Tami Lee Webb's "Buns of Steel," Cindy Crawford's "Shape Your Body," and Elle MacPherson's "Your Personal Best." All circa early 90's.  I daresay the hair and outfits have probably come back into style at this point.  The Elle MacPherson video tape was passed between me, my sister and my mom so much that it finally bit the dust one day.  A rather disappointing day, I might add, as I stood in front of the TV crestfallen that I wouldn't be able to work out with Elle.  Although, at that point, I had exercised with that tape so many times I didn't really need to watch it to do it.  I could probably even voice all of Elle's commentary while I did my crunches and bicep curls.

Since last week, workouts with Leandro happen almost every second night.  One humid and jungle humming night we were sculpting our thighs and posteriors with multiple types of squats and lunges.  The bi-nightly workouts had gone from just me and Kristin to several other ladies and that night in particular there were six or seven of us.  It's hard to take the Schwarzenegger of Brazil too seriously when he is oohing and aahing his work out team and preaching about the fit boom boom.  Think of a dance instructor teaching moves to kindergardeners with the attention spans of squirrels.  In between gulps of laughter, I imagine this is what we may have looked like.

The yoga studio where we were working out is on the second floor and all open air.  You can see the ocean through the trees on the opposite side of the road.  People passing on the road can look up and see you in your downward dog during the day or fine tuning your gluteus maximus at night.  I'm not sure if it was because it was a larger group of us upstairs laughing and moving about but several times cars pulled into the little parking lot and peered up at us possibly wondering if some event was going on.  The thing about Puerto Viejo is that if you need a party, there is one somewhere.  It's what gives this place perhaps the bad rep of being a party town.  In my two months here I have come to realize I was drawn to this place more for a resting point on my journey to practice yoga every day and work on my writing.  I couldn't be farther removed from partying if I tried.  Making dinner with a new friend or staying in and reading and writing sounds far more entertaining to me than copious shots at a local watering hole rendering me useless for the following 24 to 48 hours.

About 20 minutes into our thigh and butt shaping workout, four people on bikes rolled up and started hooting and hollering at us.  They parked their bikes and ran upstairs with their beer cans in hand.  They were very clearly inebriated.  It was 6:30 PM.

"Yeah dance party!"  One of them yelled in drunken delight.

"Well, actually, we're working out and this isn't something the yoga studio offers, we are just doing this on our own.  And you also can't have your beer up here,"  Kristin kindly told them.  Without asking if they could join, two of them scurried to different parts of the studio and started working out with us.  The drunkest and loudest girl there was wearing a sea captain's hat.

"Wooo hooo!!  Work it out girls!"  She kept yelling as we all squatted and lunged, Leandro's commentary being drowned out by her intoxicated ruckus.  The other two stood by the stairs as it slowly dawned on them that this wasn't a dance party in the least, but a bunch of friends doing a work out DVD together.

Sea Captain in the back kept up her jolly yet slightly obnoxious drunken encouragement for less than five minutes while the rest of us basically ignored her.  I wondered if she had any sobering moments in those few minutes where she realized that we were not on the same wavelength as her at all and that perhaps she was annoying rather than entertaining us.  Eventually, they all caught the drift and filed back down the stairs like little penguins plunging back into the boozy waters of their bike ride.

It made me sad.  It made me wonder if tourists come here thinking that all of Puerto Viejo is just a party. After knocking back a few rounds, they can barge in wherever and assume that anywhere they go they will be welcomed by other drunk people.  It wasn't a dance party, for god sakes, we were working out.  No wonder so many locals are under the impression that North Americans just want to get annihilated when they are here.  Now I'm no saint, but I would never barge in somewhere that looked like it was having a party and then assume it was just ok to join in.  It was disheartening to say the least.  In no way am I trying to stand on my soap box and claim that I am so great because I'm here and not partying and practicing yoga everyday, oh and then I work out to Brazilian Bum Bum at night, blah blah blah.  I'm simply saying that it was disappointing to witness tourists wasted by 6:30 PM assuming that the rest of Puerto Viejo is also just as wasted and that it's ok to bust in anywhere and partake in what you think is a party but in reality is a bunch of chicks trying to exercise together.  Try and meet me on a deeper level here.  It's about having respect for the place you are visiting, for the people who live there and the culture.  It's about going to a place that's rumored to be a party town and finding a more committed community underneath the booze and grime trying to better the image.  Finally, it's about realizing that Leandro is a serious guy and can't have drunken tourists raining on his boom boom parade.  

Thursday, July 11, 2013

World Travel Buzz News

I'm excited to announce I have another article published on World Travel Buzz!  The first link is the most recent, the other two you may have already read.  Check out the other posts on this blog too, it's a great website!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Home Is Where The Kitchen Is

The lovely Miss Jennifer.  I pilfered this photo from
La Botanic Organica's facebook page.
I had been looking forward to this night ever since I had heard about it two weeks prior.  A new friend, Jennifer, was going to be cooking dinner for thirty people at a local restaurant in Playa Chaquita called La Botanica Organica.  It was a special event simply to bring people together and nosh on some good, healthy eats.  I had ridden by on my bike on numerous sunny occasions but had never stopped in to eat.  For the passerby, it has that charm of being an all open-air restaurant, with dark hardwood tables and chairs.  What I hadn't seen was the floor, which is cement but with huge inlaid outlines of various local leaves.  The coolest floor I've seen in quite some time.  Soft lighting, vivid bouquets of tropical flowers on the tables, and tea candles lent an almost romantic feel to the dinner.  Like thirty of us were perhaps at a speed dating event in the Caribbean.  Not only was I eager to meet some new people, I was also eager to eat some delicious, organic, and soul nourishing food.

I must admit I haven't gotten too inventive with my cooking since I left the states.  I pride myself on being a great cook and baker at home.  Heck I co-owned a bakery in Rochester for a year and did the entire gluten-free line of baked goods myself.  Two out of the seven months I've been gone I have been doing homestays where all the meals have been provided.  A little Spanish practicing over arroz y frijoles.  However, when on the go, I feel frazzled and lost in an unfamiliar kitchen in a foreign country.  Sometimes I pine for my well-equipped kitchen; my eggplant colored Kitchen-aid mixer (the excaliber of electronic mixers), several great sharp knives, my two big wooden cutting boards, my crockpot, my food processor, my blender, my cast iron skillet.

Some women prefer to spend their benjamins on expensive clothes and shoes.  I like to spend my benjamins on expensive kitchen appliances and shoes.  I get as excited about going to specialty kitchen shops as a cat does when a can of tuna is opened nearby.  I get equally excited for shoe shopping.  I won't even entertain the idea of being in a deluxe kitchen appliance store that doubles as a shoe store.  A pair of Clark's next to a Le Creuset pot?  God help us, I'd never leave and my bank account would suffer.  I have flitted through one hostel after another with shitty dull knives, warped plastic cutting boards, no counter space, inadequate pots and pans, mismatching tops to those pots and pans and a general feeling of ill ease in the kitchen.  I don't think Jennifer feels this apprehension.  This was the menu: swiss chard and rainbow carrot salad with tumeric ginger dressing, raw beet salad marinated in tumeric ginger dressing (I loathe beets and ate a giant helping of this it was so delectable), cucumber apple salad with fresh herbs, spicy guacamole, brown rice, red beans with oodles of garlic, curried ginger tumeric roasted potatoes, watermelon "cake" with coconut cream icing, granola and strawberries and brownies with a cocoa, coconut, cashew spread.

I also pilfered this photo from La Botanic Organica's facebook page.

Jennifer's meal was the Eiffel Tower of dinners, lighting up my taste buds like the tower itself lights up at night.  Most of my meals could be likened to something as boring as a beret, and some have tasted like what I imagine a beret must taste like, dull and lifeless.  "Oh, I just bought a bunch of veggies at the supermarket, I think I'll sautee them and eat them with beans and rice because I never eat that while I'm traveling."  I marvel at people who move in any kitchen like a happy baby, giggling and cuddling with whomever will bestow attention on it.  I'm not good with just thinking meals up on the cuff.  Usually, back home, every week I would pour over my cook books and decide on two or three rather elaborate meals that I would make for the week.  Braised lamb shanks with a blueberry red wine reduction?  Done.  Pulled pork tacos with handmade corn tortillas?  Done.  Chicken breasts wrapped in bacon stuffed with kale and goat cheese?  Done.  Baking intricate desserts didn't phase me at all but you're lucky if there is an oven in your kitchen here.  Usually, hostel kitchens have glorified camping stoves hooked up to a gas tank.  I don't know if it is considered a luxury to have an oven in Central America but I have found them few and far between.  When I stayed with my host family in April, my host mother used the oven as storage.  It reminded me of my Grandma Kay's dishwasher when I was a kid.  It was the kind you had to hook up to the sink faucet with a hose so she only used it on Thanksgiving and Christmas.  The rest of the 363 days of the year, it housed her bread, crackers, cookies and other items that she bought from the Super Duper.  I, in my child-like fascination, would open the dishwasher door and stare, marveling at how strange it was that she kept actual food in there and not dirty dishes.  It wasn't until much later in life I realized that because she lived alone, the need for a dishwasher was a bit obsolete.

There wasn't a dishwasher at this restaurant (that's another thing I haven't seen much of here in Central America) and I had volunteered to help clean up after the dinner.  Being a waitress for many years, my idea of efficiency is utilitarian.  There is an order to things, everything belongs in a place.  It was slightly not so as I was putting the clean glasses away after the owner handwashed each one in the sink.  There were all different types and it just seemed natural to me that each one would have it's own shelf.  This was not the case and the owner told me there was no rhyme or reason to where they went.  My reaction was to feel stressed.  I thought of all the restaurants I've worked at in the past and how each different type of glassware was always stored with ones of the same kin.  The same went for my own cupboards in any kitchen I'd ever had.  I decided to not let it bother me, this was not my restaurant, I was not going to volunteer for one night and completely rearrange their shelving unit according to my own OCD preferences.

I'm so glad that I was able to go to this dinner.  When you are living in a new place, nights can sometimes be lonely if you are always cooking dinner alone, especially a meal with almost no variation night after night.  Food brings people together.  Think about how almost every get together involves at least a little nibble of something.  When I was a kid visiting family in Pennsylvania or New England there was always cocktail hour starting promptly at 5 and it always involved some cheese and crackers, veggies and dip.  My advice to you, if you are traveling, seek out meals with people.  It's a great way to meet new friends and combat loneliness as well as shovel some yummy food down your throat.  And I definitely did some shoveling.  Had I been a chipmunk, I'd still be feasting off the reserves today, three days later.    

Monday, July 1, 2013

A Solitary Creature

"Writers are solitaries by vocation and necessity. I sometimes think 
the test is not so much talent, which is not as rare as people think, but purpose or vocation, 
which manifests in part as the ability to endure a lot of solitude and keep working. 
Before writers are writers they are readers, living in books, through books, in the lives of others that are also the heads of others, in that act that is so intimate and yet so alone."
-Rebecca Solnit

Sometimes, it's not exactly about what we wrote, but the process of how we got there.  The fact that our audience isn't a face we may recognize perhaps makes it easier.  As a writer I can open up, I put my deeper thoughts onto a page and hope that it touches someone somewhere.  The rest is in the reader's hands.  Take from it what you will.  Love it, judge it, criticize it, criticize me, but somehow, let it affect you in some way.  An author does not always know it's reader, they exist on the same earth but they can be strangers.  They could even be sitting next to each other on the subway, oblivious to the fact that they have shared the intimacy of being inside the same thought bubble, one the creator, one the receiver.  However, it is a symbiotic relationship at best; each needs the other for survival.  A reader needs a writer, a writer needs a reader.  One cannot breathe without the other.

The act of solitude, finding it when it is just you and a keyboard, is intimate in and of itself.  As well as the art of finding it in the loudest and most crowded places or in the quietest and most solitary places.  This is where the masterpiece lies.  Writers seek solitude both in the physical sense and the mental sense, we cannot craft without.

I recently read an introspective piece on the art of being a writer that I was incredibly moved by called, "The Faraway Nearby," by Rebecca Solnit.  In fact, this piece became an infatuation, a man I could have a crush on; the last thing I thought about when I went to bed and the first thing I thought about upon waking up.  I've reread it countless times, pulling the meat of it apart, ripping the muscle and sinew, trying to suck the marrow right of the piece.  I joyfully discovered it's not just an article, as I originally thought because it was republished on Guernicamag.com, but an entire book.  It's a lovely work of art and you should read it too.  I love reading a piece of writing that gets my brain juices churning like this one did.  The same day I read the article, I rode my bike to the beach for the first time in many days as the rain finally let up and I had the afternoon free.  I sat by the water's edge and watched the blue sky become grey yet again.  I listened to the ocean symphony and I contemplated solitude as a writer.  Something clicked.  All these instances in my life added up to the sum of an aspect of my personality that finally made sense to me.  I am someone that needs solitude.  I crave it, I am addicted to it, it is pollen and I am a bee.  In that solitude that I seek, I typically cannot stop thinking.  I always just thought I was weird, until I read this article and realized, "Oh my gosh, I'm a writer, I have been one since high school.  I just took a really long hiatus from college until now where I wrote shitty, unrequited love poems for the most part."  Of course I need solitude often, it's what leads me to my keyboard every day.

I have always been very independent and typically never have a problem doing any activity by myself. Well, let's face it, some activities you just cannot do alone.  You'll never see me on a tennis court lobbing the ball over the net and hoping for some magical force to return it.  However, I am a solitary person.  I need my Bekka time and I require space from people more than the average human.  This has been pointed out to me many times.  I first realized this in a conversation with my mom over a glass of red wine sitting in armchairs in front of their wood stove.  She told me ever since I was a child I never cared much for group activities.  "You always wanted to do things alone, you didn't like being told what to do, you always wanted to pave your own way."  When I lived in Vermont I used to hike and snowshoe all the time alone.  I preferred to worship the vibrations of nature on my own.  I noticed more.  I emerged from the woods calmer.  And, especially during my snowshoeing excursions, the silence.  Oh, the sweet and still silence that snow creates.  The buffer to all raucous creatures in the summertime.  This is not to say I didn't love the sounds of the other season, quite the contrary.  Different energies, different sounds, the immense placidity in one season and the beckoning cannon of sound in the other three.

Two friends in Tulum at different times commented on my need to constantly be alone.  Both telling me I was a bit strange for pushing away the company of others and preferring to rather hang out by myself.  I'm not antisocial by any means, but I require alone time a lot.  More often than not, I would bike to the beach by myself and spend the day on those quintessential Caribbean  beaches thinking about what I was going to write about the following day.  I can't help my need for space, nor do I want to.  The sensation of letting your mind wander, especially after reading a piece like Solnit's, is priceless.  My friend, Melinda, and I used to bond over the fact that we both typically needed to process something inwardly before we were ready to process it in a conversation with others.  This goes for thinking about what I'm going to write, too.

As a writer, it's important to draw those lines of solitude, to make a definite box that you work within.  To turn off gmail, facebook and youtube while you're working.  For me, it is difficult to cut the lines of all communications on my computer, sit with the intention of writing and then actually write.  I try to find a corner of peace, alone to be with my thoughts, to be with the idea that will crescendo into a story.  A story that, unless you are my family or you actually comment on my pieces, I have no idea who is reading.  A piece that often starts as one thing and then morphs into something entirely unexpected by the end.  That's the beauty of art- writing, painting, dancing, whatever.  It's evolving as you breathe more and more life into it.  And it will take you more places than you ever imagined if you let it.  But you have to let it.  And with that allowance, therein lies the solitude and within that solitude a writer's voice.