What My World's Like

#notetoself: follow the signs.

Mar
30

take the journey

This is the fourth #notetoself letter, sent on February 27, 2012.

So much of life can be enigmatic and perplexing. Undoubtedly, there will be times when you don’t know what to do, how to spend your time, where to invest your energies. For quite a while, that’s been the case with me and my life. That’s part of the reason I’m in Central America.

For the past two weeks, I’ve been living off the grid on a farm. On this 26 acre lot, there’s electricity in three locations and two of those are houses I don’t have access to. If you don’t have a flashlight at night, it sucks to be you, especially when you have to use the bathroom in an outdoor squat toilet. I sleep in a tent advertised as a two person tent, but is only big enough for me and my things. When I lay down, my head and feet are basically connected to it’s perimeter, and I may be 5’4″. May. Two people. Right.

Being an off-the-grid permaculture farm, we seek to maximize production and minimize waste. In my tiny tent is a bag of used tissues, baby wipes and other trash that will eventually be packed into used bottles, which will serve as bricks for some sort of construction. There’s no waste management on this island, so residents usually collect their trash into a pile and burn it. We seek to do something more effective and healthier for us and the environment.

Being in a place where I’m confronted with the idea of food security and trying to create a resource loop where there is no waste just another purpose, I’m heavily analyzing the existence I held in my relatively carefree city life before my time here and wondering what I can and will change. I started researching permaculture and found an opportunity to get certified and practice it for a few months in Haiti this summer, so that’ll be my next big adventure. It wasn’t planned.

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#notetoself: relax into the discomfort.

Mar
26

discomfort zone

This is the third #notetoself letter, originally sent on February 20, 2012.

Isla de Ometepe in Nicaragua is an island formed by two volcanoes with an isthmus between them. Many consider it to be a magical place, although I haven’t yet figured out exactly what makes it so, but suspect I will soon. It’s beautiful and there are more signs of nature than the 42,000 people that live here. I’m staying on a permaculture farm with all kinds of good stuff: random greens, herbs, coconut, banana, plantains, Moringa, Mayan breadnut, taro, jackfruit, neem, guava, cashew, cinnamon, mango and so much more.

When I first arrived, I was ecstatic. Everything about this place was cool– the outdoor showers overlooking Lago Nicaragua, the largest lake in Central America, the squat toilets, the compost toilets, the outdoor dorms with amazing views of the sky (basically just a covered platform with a black tarp on one side acting as a wall), the hammock on the platform in a tree overlooking Volcan Concepcion, the solar-powered outdoor kitchen…

I slept horribly the first night. The only two options for mosquito nets was one that was a bit too small for the bed and one that was the appropriate size, but disgusting. It could’ve been from bat droppings, flies, mosquitoes, any number of things. To me, it didn’t matter; it was just really too disgusting for my comfort. The second night, I forgot to charge my cell phone during the hours of 10-3 when we can charge only if it’s sunny. Since the 6:45 meeting is a bit early for me still, I needed an alarm. Rather than asking someone to wake me up, I decided to sleep in the hammock up in the tree where you can see bright, vivid stars. It was windy and cold all night long. Not a good call, but I was still happy about the experience. The third night, an insect flew into my ear while I was sleeping at 2 am. Another lady here helped me drown it with saline solution, but then I was bothered by the fact that there was a dead insect in my ear. The next day was a fumbling exercise in Spanish and patience, spent going to the town clinic, waiting for it to open, hearing it was closed, deciding to go to another clinic and while waiting for the bus to take me to the other side of the island, discovering the town clinic was in fact open but not really equipped to adequately help me. The nurse looked at my ear with a dim light from her cell phone and flushed my ear with a syringe, ejecting a small, black mosquito. Still, something in my ear didn’t feel right, so she urged me on to the other clinic, where I found out that there was no insect but there was “hongo”. Fungus. I have an ear fungus.

After returning to the farm and preparing for bed that night, I wondered what the hell I was doing. I’m in the mountains. With no electricity. Sleeping outdoors. With a mosquito net that’s obviously not very effective. Freaking out about the plethora of bugs grossly outnumbering me. Really, what?

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What My World Sounds Like: “How It Feels to Fly”

Mar
22

alicia-keys-the-element-of-freedom-cover

It took years for this song to find me, but when it did, it stopped me in my tracks and immediately became the most played song of the moment. It’s lifted my spirits, healed my heart, even helped me climb a volcano when all I wanted to do was quit; I persisted. Thanks, Alicia.

[audio:http://www.whatmyworldslike.com/audio/howitfeelstofly.mp3]

#notetoself: release your attachments.

Mar
22

The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it

This is the second #notetoself letter I sent during my trip, sent on February 13, 2012.

Buenas! I hope this letter finds you in good health and high spirits. I’m coasting on the joy of so many blessings in the past week, but also a bit weighed down by the reality of the lessons I’m still learning from my bag being stolen a little over a week ago in Costa Rica.

I’m now in Granada, Nicaragua, which on the surface is a quaint and charming colonial city with humongous houses and beautiful, colorful architecture. With the feel of a small town, the pace is comfortably slow and inviting. I can walk at 2 miles per hour here and not feel hurried. It’s a nice change of pace from Brooklyn and Manhattan.

But travel not even a mile outside the city center and experience the stark oppositional reality that this is the second poorest country in the western hemisphere. Tiny, wooden shacks with tin roofs. Dirt roads. Normalized poverty. I’m accustomed to seeing…more. The standard of living in Nicaragua is lower and visitors like me are thought to be wealthy simply because we can travel, regardless of how budget that travel is or what was sacrificed to do so. Here, I’m faced with how much I have and how much I’m accustomed to having.

On Friday, what I presume to be the purpose of my bag being stolen hit me. Hard. Release your attachments.

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#notetoself: be resilient.

Mar
18

I’ve been traveling for seven weeks. Those who get my #notetoself emails are updated, but most others aren’t. I’ve been meaning to share these here for a while. This is the first #notetoself email (reformatted into letters!) I sent after one week of travel, on February 6, 2012. Please feel free to comment, share, etc.

I’ve only been in Costa Rica for one week, and have learned some pretty big lessons. Traveling is by far one of my favorite things to do because it throws you out of your comfort zone, leaving you with less armor to shield yourself with, which can, if you let it, result in purer knowledge of self.

You live. You learn. You adjust. You get over, under and through if you have to simply because…well, you have to.

At the time of my last writing, I was in Tamarindo. From there, I took a seven hour bus ride to the capital of Costa Rica, San Jose. I stayed the night, woke up and took a two and half hour bus ride to Cariari on my way to Tortuguero, a village on the northeast coast of the country. In Cariari, my backpack was stolen. My bag was one of the last things to be loaded, thus one of the first to be unloaded, while I was one of the last to exit the bus. By the time I got off, it was gone. Nearly everything I needed for my day-to-day living during the next two and half months: shoes, clothes, vitamins, medicines, toiletries, etc. Gone.

Too shocked for an immediate reaction, I wanted to cry, but couldn’t. After I realized this was no mistake and I wasn’t going to haphazardly see the thief with my bag so I could run them down and take it back (yes, I really thought of doing this…quite a number of times), I did cry. As I walked down the streets of a foreign city, wondering what to do next. Do I keep moving in the direction of Tortuguero? Nothing clean to put on the next day, or to wear to sleep. What to do?

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