Grocery Shopping in the Jungle.
Living on a start- up farm, the majority of our 200 fruit trees still need several years of growth before producing, and our greenhouse is only a couple of months young, therefore the first heads of lettuce alone were nonetheless a celebration.
That being said, a once a week trek to town for food is necessary as of now, unless we want to eat rice and fallen guavas all day until the farm is self-sustaining.
So, on Friday morning I began to walk. I walked down the seemingly endless, unpaved, rocky trail just as the sun peaked above the Talamanca Jungle, excited and oddly energized for the long journey ahead of me.
I sang to myself, spun in circles with the butterflies, and chatted with a neighbor’s dog that follows me for miles every time I walk down this road. Knowing I had almost four miles of this beaten path ahead, before being spitted out onto the main road where I must hold high hopes of finding a bus to take me the following eight miles to town, I had learned to not count down the steps until my arrival, but rather enjoy the travels instead. Considering that finding the biggest papaya in town was my greatest worry today, I would gladly take my time and enjoy this walk with every bit of me.
About an hour into my journey, I had begun to drip in sweat, as the unforgiving sun was now dancing in the middle of the blue sky. I had yet to see a single vehicle pass me, and did not expect one either, as I just so happened to live in the middle of nowhere and finding through traffic to hitch a ride on was little to none.
Just as I stopped for a swig of water, the familiar, sweet sound of a nearby engine had begun to rattle my eardrums ever so slightly.
To me, this noise was so much more than a vehicle, and always will be. This was the noise of hope, that maybe, just maybe, this noise would continue to come my way, pick me up, and I would save myself a couple of legs.
As always, I stopped, closed my eyes, and listened intently. I tried to gauge how far away this rumbling was, and whether it was headed my way. Considering there was only one road, with very few turnoffs, the odds were in my favor.
I then tried to imagine what kind of vehicle it was, small or big, truck or motorcycle. Cars cannot typically survive on this treacherous road, so it was usually something massive or tiny that came my way, and I put all my bets down that this one had to be a motorized bike of some sort.
My insides jumped more and more as I heard it coming closer, until finally, turning the corner was a local guy with no helmet driving a janky, old motorcycle. He stopped right in front of me and invited me on. Sweaty and breathless, I tirelessly nodded as I crawled behind him, burning my leg on his exhaust in the process, and too tired to react in any which way.
He shouted small talk to me, simultaneously dodging large rocks and waving hello to several small groups of working men with machetes in the process.
I was dropped on the main road, glamorously burning my leg on the exhaust pipe once again, and my journey continued.
I walked another half a mile to the bus stop and collapsed on the bench, wondering if a bus would show up today, as that was always a hit or a miss.
Just as I had begun shuffling through my bag for a snack, a different motorcycle pulled up in front of me, with another helmetless, smiling local boy inviting me on for a lift. Within moments, we were off.
I was now three miles from my destination, and I decided this time to stick my thumb up to the first vehicle I spotted rolling by, a red jeep. He screeched onto the side of the road and waved me in, and within ten minutes of Spanglish and laughs, I was standing in the center of town, looking back and forth between food and the ocean, deciding which one I wanted first.
Ocean it was.
Salty and hungry, my eyes now raced around in awe. I could walk into any of these shops, or stands upon the side of the road, hand over a bill, and have my mouth indulged in anything I desire. I had been waiting weeks for the almost ripe pineapple on the farm to be ready for harvest, but here I could have one within seconds if I wanted.
It is so, very astonishing to me how many different forms of lives we can choose to live in this one lifetime of ours.
That night, I crashed in a hostel and woke with the sun to have first grabs at the fresh produce at the Saturday farmers market the following morning.
With one stuffed backpack on my back, and another overly- filled backpack on my front, three grocery bags in my hands, and a bar of fresh cacao for motivation, I was weighed down by an overload of food, and ready for my journey home.
Finding a ride on the main road, as always, was no problem, as this was a place that through- traffic existed. However, once the worried, older man dropped me off at the turnout of my final four- mile, desolate stretch and the rain had begun to pour down heavily, I knew that these remaining hours would inevitably create a story to tell.
With my luggage nearly pelting me into the ground, I carefully refrained from slipping on the wet rocks as I began my walk up the first hill. My eyes squinted in the rain, and I howled with the jungle monkeys, in attempts to keep my mind off my weakening shoulders and shaky legs.
As I climbed hill over hill, resting far too often to relieve the weight of my backpacks, I as always, contemplated alternatives.
If I eat one of these papayas right here, that will be at least several pounds less.
If I scarf down a head of lettuce, I will be able to fit more bananas into my backpack and have less bags to carry.
If I just camp out right here, I will have food to last me for a week.
Throughout this, I laughed to myself like a crazy woman at the insanity of the situation, and at my stubbornness of not wanting to waste my chocolate money on a taxi. It was the funny truth of knowing I could, if needed, budget for a taxi, but that to me would feel like defeat. Like an easy route, like I did not truly work for this food.
Every time I stopped, I glanced behind me with high hopes. I imagined a vehicle whipping around the corner, coming to relieve me. It appeared as though the more I listened for the sound of a roaring engine, the more I was capable of hearing one. Or maybe I was just losing oxygen and going mad. Probably more likely.
Finally, I heard it. This one was loud. Loud and hopeful, and it was coming close quickly.
This time, I didn’t need to put on an act of being completely exhausted and in desperate need of a ride, as that had come over me all on its own.
I watched as a truck veered around the corner, my hopes simmering as I read “Policia” in bold print on the doors. Looks like I would be eating that papaya after all.
The truck blew past me, and just as I had begun bargaining with my body for an extra surge of energy, the truck came to a quick stop and backed itself up to me.
I jumped in the back in sheer surprise, keeping my cool as I created small talk with two large guys in bullet proof vests, holding my breath as a rifle rested against my leg.
And just like that, I was home from the grocery store!
I promise you, that papaya would not have tasted that magical, had I gotten a taxi home.
On another note, I will never again take for granted a drive- through burrito shop and the simple luxury of not having to choose my food based upon what I can carry on my body.
However, I gladly accept knowing that I will never, ever again have those conveniences.
Here’s to the most delicious, well- earned papaya that I have ever indulged in, and many more grocery shopping adventures to come.
The art of something so majestic, yet so destructive.
A whirlwind of beautiful chaos, I’d say.
Today, as I lay upon my hammock, I listen to the chickens rise as the rooster’s sing without a single care in the world.
The familiar noises of the jungle are suddenly overrun by a hushed, foreign, slithering sound coming from beneath me. A noise so settle, so quiet, but so rare as to catch my ears even in the mist of the dense morning tunes of the jungle.
I glance beneath my hammock, my heart beginning to gallop, as a radiant green, four-foot Viper snake slithers right past my bare feet and towards the goat pen. In astonishment, I do whatever any logical, trained jungle survivor would do, and closely follow it (still with no boots on).
There I am, peering eye to eye with this mysterious creature, which is now perched upon the goat pen. Its long, thin tail drags on the ground, wraps around a janky, old post, and its slim body progressively thickens to support the weight of its frail, yet powerful head. He turns and looks at me in one smooth motion, his golden eyes piercing through my body, as if he were staring into my soul.
I stop and stare back, and it felt as though I were looking into the windows of the sun.
Bright, powerful, luring, and so, very dangerous.
Fatal, if there is any direct contact.
I flashback to one of my first days spent in the jungle, at 17 years old. Living in a treehouse at Punta Mona, without a single worry in mind. Nonalert, oblivious, and thoroughly happy at my odd assumptions of invincibility.
I was walking back to my room in the late night, doing everything I was specifically warned by the elders of the jungle what not to do. Being a rebellious teenager, my toes were completely exposed to the thick jungle grass, as I believed shoes never served a purpose. And, on top of that, instead of looking down, keeping an eye out for the deadly creatures that could possibly be slithering on the floor, I was caught in a daydream, looking up at the stars. Breathless I was; little did I know that beyond breathless is what I was soon to be.
Peering down was by chance but stepping over the snake was pure luck. I looked down just in time to catch a glimpse of a bright green Viper snake, slithering right between my legs as I conveniently missed it with my foot by several inches. Within mere seconds, it disappeared into the dark brush next to me, most likely hunting for a delicious frog.
What a powerful thing it is to have death so near to you, you can literally pinch it between your pinky toes.
As I now stare at this all too familiar, beautifully bone- chilling creature, the yin and yang of the jungle comes surging through me.
The good and the bad.
The beauty and the ugly.
The safe and the danger.
The exhilarating insanity of being within arms- length of something that is a little bit of everything.
That can be so beautiful, yet so destructive.
That can, within moments, slither delicately to me and end my life.
Yet instead chooses to comfortably, and curiously, watch me.
So, with the sun in my eyes, I admire this creature from a safe distance, allowing it to not harm me with its immeasurable heat, but rather shift me, with its un-denying beauty.
Because, like all things in this jungle, in this planet, and in this universe, there is good and bad within everything, and it is up to us whether to allow all things to sparkle, or to get harmed by interfering in the process.
What a wonderous world this is.
The second I begin to question my worth, I think back to that one time, almost a year ago, with my dad.
We ran through the hot, sunny, paved dirt in Southern California, struggling to talk as we both breathed heavily.
“So, I made friends with the young boy who worked at my hotel in Virginia. Told him about you, hoping to inspire him to do something he loved, rather than sit in boredom as a front desk clerk,” my dad tends to talk about me a lot. He once told me that I am his small talk when checking out in a grocery store.
“I told him about how your day to day commute is walking through the jungle barefoot with a machete in your hand. The young boy loved hearing about your stories. He had even said to me, ‘Wow, your daughter seems pretty badass.’”
These words stuck to me like glue, and I picked up my pace on the trail.
Within one swift motion, this once exhilarating comment had now begun to linger around me like a grey cloud.
A cold feeling of defeat washed over my entire body, as I came to the quick realization that although I had been a badass, I was no longer one.
On that trail, at that moment in my life, I was everything but a badass.
You see, at that moment, I had been consumed in a toxic relationship.
A relationship that shrank me.
A relationship that drained me.
So, at that very moment, on that very trail, I realized I was not that badass from the jungle who didn’t have a single care in the world, yet at the same time cared deeply for everything around her.
No, I was rather a wounded soul, exhausting myself in attempts to gain the acceptance of somebody who would never make me feel badass.
And who would never allow me to make myself feel badass.
On that very trail is also the moment when I had decided that I wanted that fearless, outspoken girl with the machete back.
The girl who didn’t take crap from anybody, and who never dared question her worth.
That was the day I decided to leave that toxic relationship and put the energy of that constant fight and struggle back into myself.
Because I am, and always will be a badass.
And I will never again allow anybody to make me feel less than.
Thank you, Dad. Although you had no intentions of anything more than creating small talk on that exhausting run of ours, you helped free me.
It’s the feeling in the core
Of constantly craving more.
Knowing how to fly
But being afraid to truly soar.
It’s those nights of dreaming and fantasizing
With the stars of your side, your excitement beings rising.
But then morning comes and it’s time to shake those ideas away
Because it is time for work the second your skin hits the sunshine rays.
So you walk to your overpaid car
Wishing you had parked far.
As this is your only opportunity to soak in some Vitamin D
Until you have to drive to a place where fluorescent lights is the only thing your body will see
But you relentlessly believe that this is the only way life can be.
I’ll ask you why
And you’ll tell me that money doesn’t grow on trees.
But I will say it does indeed
All you need is a seed!
I know that baby trees cannot buy your way through the grocery store
But let me tell you, your options are so much more.
As that chocolate and salad that you are saving up to buy
You can literally grow yourself beneath the sunny sky.
And your skin will thank you so much it may begin to cry.
So, continue to dream throughout the night
But in the morning, allow your heart to fight.
Do not hesitate.
Do not resist.
Do not be afraid to skip your daily list.
Follow what your heart is asking for.
After all, it deserves so much more.
And you’ll see what you are truly capable of
When you begin to listen to your soul and strive for a life you truly love.
The days begin to blend together as my iPhone remains shut off.
The land sings to me every morning as I release the chickens, and any recollection of a “normal” lifestyle remains completely and utterly irrelevant to me.
I no longer know life outside of these trees. Cars and technology are now strangers, as my new- found stimulation’s are howler monkeys, chirping birds, and pouring rain. I am in a place where not only do my dreams come to life, but where absolutely everything else is alive as well.
I am thirsty, so I walk down to the river where we have created a water catchment system from the earth.
I need a shower, so I jump in that very river in the process (far from where we catch water, no worries).
If there is an illness we pick leaves
If we need something we make it.
From watering cans made from recycled plastic bottles, to a janky, homemade colloidal silver maker, I rise with the sun and stick my machete into the earth at sundown.
I play charades less and less every day, as my Spanish rapidly improves.
In return, I teach the locals English.
The second I knew I was working alongside a powerful, badass woman, is when my newfound mentor, Maria, guided the goats in for the night (Bello y Linda) with her soft, gentle voice. As she locked them away, she was stung by a ferocious green caterpillar.
I gasped and asked if she was okay, as I knew first- hand how powerful those furry creatures can be. She forced a smile and explained that pain is only mental, stemming from shock and fear. She was not in pain, because she was not afraid of the jungle. She accepts that something has hurt her, and can now move on lightly, without a worry in the world.
Badass woman she is.
I am immersed in a world where not only fear is irrelevant, but our modern day “necessities” are as well. Money, valuables and possessions, roads and cars, useless wires and technology, you name it; you will not find any of that here.
There are endless different lives we can choose to live, and although this one is foreign from anything that I once knew, I am so fulfilled with each breath I take, as freedom floats within my lungs at every moment.
With dreaded hair and dirty feet, this life is the one worth knowing to me.
A typical day in a house on wheels.
Taking advantage of strange opportunities is sort of the way to go when your home is the open road.
We found a beautiful home for sale hidden in the back of a large piece of property in our favorite beach town of San Diego. Although some may see simply an empty home, we see an opportunity for an open shower and the luxury of cooking without the need to start a fire tonight.
We wake the next morning, clean and well- fed, only to discover that there will be a showing at any moment in this house. I guess it wouldn’t look too great on the realtor if she were trying to sell a space full of strangers in towels cooking breakfast.
Time to go!
We quickly gathered our belongings, swept the floor, scrubbed the the counters, then drove down to our favorite cliff- side. This is where we changed from our pajamas and peed on the side of the dirt road.
Phew, that was a close call.
As my adrenaline slowed, I looked down at my clean fingernails and my heart instantly sank. This was the first time in over a week that they weren’t coated in dirt. I then ran my hands through my hair for the first time in ages. No sign of dreads (well, maybe one), and the lacking of the usual thick grease swarming my nappy hair.
The usually refreshing shower suddenly didn’t feel so refreshing to me, as I had grown far more comfortable with the untamed nature I typically carried myself with. I felt as if that shower had washed off the last of the nutrients burrowed between my toes. However, no need to worry, as I will feel like my wild self again the moment that I step into work tomorrow.
Ah, the joys of getting paid to play in the dirt all day.
I sit on my tailgate, clean but still in my filthy clothes, as I watch the expressions of people passing by.
Man, I brushed my hair and everything, why am I still getting strange looks from others?
A couple of people asked me what I was eating, as apparently their dinner doesn’t usually consist of a beet that they chewed on as if it were an apple, followed by a handful of freshly grown micro-greens. Others inspected my home from afar and, if they were truly daring, asked to see inside of it.
Sometimes my life can be a bit chaotic, and there are certainly times where I feel as though I am a dinosaur being observed in a museum. I guess that these feelings go hand in hand with constantly being on the move, and living a way that most others do not.
But, let me tell you, the hectic moments that make strangers tilt their heads in confusion at me, are the little things that keep my soul ignited, and my heart fully alive.
Getting off from a long day of growing food and picking weeds, hopping into my home, and impulsively deciding where I would like my front yard to be for the evening.
Stopping at a gas station and stumbling inside barefoot with a bar of soap in my hand, ready to scrub my pits in their bathroom and splash some water on my dirt- stained face. It is always a good day when I find a single room bathroom. In that case, I may even brush my teeth.
After cleaning myself and buying ice for my cooler, I then smell around for the cleanest t- shirt and change behind the wheel.
Ah, finally, my muddy converse are off, my toes are free, and the night is mine to relax and enjoy.
Then, I sit on the same tailgate I plop atop of for every sunset, and look out into my favorite cliff- sides, or mountains, depending upon my days preference.
I enjoy this sunset as I munch on the fresh veggies acclimated from the days work, as I reminisce on the, yet again, sequence of events it took simply to enjoy this very sunset.
Some go home and shower and cook after work, I on the other hand find a decent faucet and some ice.
I am not strange or different, I just simply prefer days consisting of strange moments like this. Moments many wonder about, but few actually try out for themselves.
All I know is, when I grow old and my skin begins to wrinkle from a life beneath the sun, and my hair begins to shed away at its lively dreads, I will tell these stories to the younger generation. I will speak of my young, wild, free self with the same, exact glow in my eyes as I hold within me today.
Although my life constantly changes with each breathe I take, I will never stop living a way that is worth smiling about, laughing about, crying about, and talking about.
Here’s to an eternity of adventure, chaos, dirt, and above all, freedom.
It’s funny what we consider homeless back home in comparison to here.
San Diego, Compton, Hawaii; any of the largest homeless populations of the U.S… my heart has always reached out to them. Each time I walk past these impoverished people in tents, with shopping carts full of clothes and blankets and usually a half eaten McDonalds bag beside them, my stomach clenches and my heart breaks for them. I am constantly compelled to always help, whether it is donating clothing to them or organizing food drives, there was hope, simply one donated sandwich to each of them was hope. To me, these people were rock bottom, to me this was all of the help I needed to give, because I had done my part in giving them all I could. To me, once I helped the community in my small bubble, the rest of the world would be okay.
To me, I never knew worse.
I was sitting in a smoothie bar in Leon, Nicaragua, enjoying a refreshing drink alongside many locals in 100+ degree heat. Anything other than my delicious smoothie was invisible to me in this moment.
I looked up just in time to see two teenage boys, no older than 16, carrying their limp bodies inside, clearly out of place.
Their meatless ribs popped out of their ripped up shirts, and dirty pants swam at their small hip bones. Despite the sweltering hot pavement outdoors, these boys were shoeless, and their burnt feet seemed to be the last of their worries.
One boy carried nothing on him besides the clothes on his back, the other had one thin sheet slung over his shoulder; probably to sleep on to protect his back from the rocky street… lucky him.
Then, the boy walked up to me. He carefully placed his fragile, clammy palm onto my arm and communicated to me through his eyes.
Maybe he assumed I didn’t speak Spanish, or maybe he was too tired and hungry to use his words, but he didn’t need to, as the split second his eyes were on mine, my stomach was sent into twists. With his sad, brown eyes, he told me he needed help, that he was holding on by one last string and simply needed a drop of hope to continue. One last person to show they still cared, somebody to help him.
This wasn’t the first time this had happened to me here.
Breaking his grip from me, I dug my head into my palms, as I knew I had no spare money or anything on me to give to him.
The kid continued to do this to everybody else in the shop. Some didn’t acknowledge him, others backed away in disgust, while very few politely rejected his pleads.
In defeat, he stumbled away.
As I attempted to drink my once delicious smoothie, the sickness in my stomach would not fade away. I wanted to hurl with each sip I took. He needed me, and I wasn’t able to help him.
That’s when I realized, I still had over half of my smoothie left, and could have given it to him. As I walked outside to find him, he was long gone. My heart sank in a way it never has before. I still felt the burn of his eyes piercing into mine. I failed him.
But, let’s say I had given him my smoothie, or let’s say I had several bucks of change on me to pass his way. Besides one refreshing drink and a cheap burger, would I really be making a difference?
As we walked back to our hostel, my legs limp and eyes flooded in tears, we passed a blind lady on the corner, begging. Then, a sick man hoping his half smile would win him spare change. A man trying to sell janky jewelry to feed his son, and many others who had simply given up on trying, lost all hope and just emotionlessly sat on the curbside.
The 1% and the 99%.
The 1%, the lucky few who own more wealth than the other 99% of the population all together, sat in restaurants, eyes on their phones, oblivious to those struggling right outside their dinner tables.
How much is money worth? If I gave a dollar to each starving belly here, I’d be left in debt, and what would that dollar really do? What would it do, if the rest of the world was blind to these issues? What would one person, one dollar be able to do?
Yes, our own community needs our help. Yes, places such as San Diego need our helping hands. But, what I want to know is, why are we isolated, blinded from the rest of the world, from the true and real rock bottom?
When I was 16, my biggest worries was academics and my upcoming soccer games.
This boy simply wants a sandwich he will savor for days.
How has life come to this, when have we stopped helping one another?
They need us.
Today is the day. The day I am going to start my voyage of change.
I do not yet know how I will make a true and permanent change, but all I know is that I cannot do it alone.
I am going to help, somehow, someway, but if we all help together it’ll be more than just a dollar.
The first step is knowing. Ignorance is bliss, but we cannot turn our backs to the rest of the world, hoping somebody else will handle it for us. We will find a way to handle it ourselves.
Be the change you wish to see in this world.
If we all join together, help as one, we will be that last glimmer of hope that so many people need. We will be the change we wish to see.
(A year in a half ago…)
Today I am 18.
Today I am filled with love.
Today I am filled with an immense amount of life.
Usually I am not big on birthdays but, man, today… I could’ve sworn the birds were singing just for me. I felt things I never knew existed.
As we walked to breakfast in the pouring rain, I skipped and twirled in my new overalls. I felt the pulling urge to smell every wildflower, and say hello to every passing stranger along the way.
The grey weather, the small, desolate neighborhoods with ancient homes, and the plants and trees felt as if their beauty had been magnified times ten on this day.
We then found a magical, fairy forest to stroll through all day. Let’s just say, there was moss EVERYWHERE.
My mind will never fully comprehend these moments. From the towering pine trees and never- ending green, to the immense cliffsides and pooling waterfalls, there is simply no way that this place wasn’t simply just a fragment of my wildest imagination.
“But, the crazy thing is, this is real. Our surroundings are real. Real and raw. No filters, no anything. Simply mother nature before our very own eyes,”- My beloved hiking companion.
I soaked my hands in puddles, tilted my head back as I drank from waterfalls, and hugged countless moss trees.
At one point, the sensation that something extraordinary was just around the corner swam through my body and sent me into a full run. I sprinted and allowed my rain- soaked hair to press against my rosy cheeks as I dodged rocks whilst I sang at the top of my lungs that I was 18 and so, very alive because of it.
Around the next mountain curve was certainly beyond my imagination.
A gigantic, elderly bridge overlooked the deepest untamed river of Oregon, soaring delicately through a city of green.
As my friends caught up to me, we laid on the bridge and felt everything, all at once.
The rain softly trickled onto my numb cheeks as the soft river water danced thirty feet beneath me. I felt the wind tickle my hair as autumn leaves swarmed my listless body.
The lush rain collided with my tears as my heart grew with the overwhelming beauty of my surroundings.
We gently tossed leaves over the bridge and, as we watched them slowly twirl downwards towards the river, I knew this is what it felt like to be alive.
I am falling deeper and deeper into love with life each and every day, and this year is going to be absolutely extraordinary.
Oh, I saw a double rainbow on my birthday. Oregon, you never fail to disappoint me.
You must let her be.
Free birds are meant to soar
If you try to contain her, she will roar.
As what you think you are protecting her from
Are simply fears she longs to overcome.
Because when the wind moves her wild hair
She knows there is nothing she cannot bear.
So, let her splash mud on her young face
While she twirls in fields of grace.
The desire within her continues to burn.
Don’t you get it? Getting lost in the world is what’ll make her learn.
Classrooms and textbooks are simply a safety net.
I promise you, learning through life is the best lesson yet.
Please, do not lock her in a room.
It will set her up for an eternity of doom.
As the feeling of twirling on a foreign, desolate beach
Is something a professor cannot teach.
She will learn through moments, unique souls, earth and travel
It will teach her how life truly unravels.
You see, this is her time to grow.
Let her jump, and watch her soar.