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?
All I’ve ever known was the city, but for at least the next four weeks, I’ll be immersed in the ways of nature, where you can’t quite escape all the natural things city people hate so much, like mosquitoes, flies, wasps, bees, spiders and dirt. My last hot shower was weeks ago and can’t be anticipated anytime soon.
I’m so uncomfortable. And that’s exactly what I love about being here. I’m going to be stretched in ways I can’t be in Brooklyn. What will result isn’t yet known to me, but I’m taking all of it in stride in preparation for an amazing transformation and a great story.
How do you feel about it?
In what ways do you think you’ll grow because of it?