Monday, July 28, 2014

The first week in Bahia

Monday to friday I wake up early. I get out of bed fifteen minutes after the alarm sounds at seven to cut up bananas and strawberries and have the coffee Joe's made for me, the cheap instant kind we mask with small teaspoons of brown sugar. We sit in the dining room with its large french style doors that are always open, showing small balconies with pot plants of knee-high aloe vera. Orlando, an ecuadorian equivalent of my dad, usually knocks on the door at eight.

We walk with him to buy coconuts - he buys the ones with the least flesh because he only likes the juice while we buy the more mature ones for 25 cents more. We eat them later when the sun is high and the sweat soaked into our shirts on what we now call our Coconut Break. This means Orlando talks about how much he likes coconut juice (but not the flesh!) while we suck out all the water under the shade of the bamboo hut's thatched roof. After all the juice is gone Orlando hacks them into quarters with his machete and we scoop them out with his pocket knife.

The hours pass as we water plants, weed, move the small trees in their plastic bottles from the corales to the nursery, we separate seeds, prepare soil, mix the compost and supervise groups of school children who fight over how many plants they can take home and which kinds and how big this one is or how small the other; the child's right to complain for complaining's sake. We learn to distinguish the leaves of the chirimoya tree from other kinds, the purpose of using rice husks in the soil, fine and thick compost and which weeds to pull out even though they have grown so big they look like the trees we want to grow.

It is not Cartagena humid. A pinch of cool water sits in the air - not enough to make everything permanently sticky. The mornings have been cool, the sun peering out as we board the twenty minute bus passing painted walls advertising last year's regional candidates Cristi - Mujer Con Pantalones. Despite the motto she didn't win but Orlando says nobody wants to paint over the walls because they're all still too attached to their favourites.

Joe and I have already tried the different almuerzos, scoped out dinner places when we don't feel like cooking and have designated Coco Bongo as the regular wifi and coffee spot. During the week I bake brownies and banana bread like I did in Cochabamba. Trips to the local market a block away are made once a day to buy fresh fish, fruit and vegetables. We are early retirees - living not off our pensions but our debt or savings and spending leisurely hours reading, writing and taking naps.

The pace of life is different here, from traveling through Colombia, from the year in Bolivia, from Sydney life, from spain. The sun doesn't set later or earlier at any time during the year. The equator has that effect of evenness, of balance and I find I am liking more everyday having my hands in the earth in the morning and my feet in the sand and ocean in the afternoon.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The things I count

These days I count
the time since I last saw
the half moon, my sister's face
the southern cross, my lover

I do not count on my fingers
but in my closed eyes dream
as I walk through palm trees
on mountains, so far from the sea

I count the pages of my life
double checking that none are missing
that the naked parchment will be filled
by words as earnest and full as the last

There are things I cannot count
like my missing him, them, home, out
I cannot count on how I feel, the words I speak
that the past will not be forgot, on tomorrow

Yet I keep counting
mostly my blessings
giving perfect thanks
for the countless times
I've seen the half moon
my sister's face
the southern cross
my love

Friday, July 4, 2014

Notes on Colombia

Here your travelers paranoia is disproven, it does not apply. A stranger on a bus takes your luggage and yourself suddenly and too soon you are in a taxi heading to a place you don't know. You are practising ways to defend yourself when he turns to attack you which he surely will because nobody is to be trusted - least of all a random passenger from a bus in some small city in Colombia. Cursing yourself silently for being so stupid and unoriginal, sure to end up another irresponsible single female traveler headline in a foreign country. You reply to him in curt, one word answers.

You are wrong. He pays for the taxi and sees you to the bus stop, warning you about the dangers of traveling alone and to always be careful. The bus to the little fish village arrives, as he said, and he sees you on helping you with your luggage. You apologise briefly, rightly embarrassed at the way you were hypothetically karate chopping his neck before running out of the taxi in the worst-case-scenario nightmare playing in your head. 
***

Cartagena is thick, sticky heat that clings to you. You sweat through your thin cotton shirts and tiny shorts while the locals stride by unperturbed in jeans and long sleeve shirts. There are also some of the most hideously unnatural plastic surgery results you've ever seen; Colombia - home to the world's most beautiful women. Their legs are thin yet somehow morph into giant curves that make you want to break out into all the songs you know that have to do with ass. But you don't, your mouth drops and your head turns and you realise now what it's like to be a guy. You keep on. 

The colonial centre is stunning and immediately you are taken aback, you have discovered time travel, or perhaps just travel - the best kind. Vines creep up pale pink walls, you peer into wooden barred windows and walk under balconies fit for serenading. It is undoubtedly romantic and you smile at the thought of coming back here with him and doing it all again. Him who you miss and whose absence reaffirms both that you can, in fact, be alone again and be more than okay and that now he has formed a part of what home means to you, a home that you carry with you always, wearing it around your neck and close to your heart.
***

You travel with a french friend who is every bit as awesome as her name suggests. Most of the time you spend laughing at everything that nobody else would find funny. She asks you questions without easy answers and listens intently to your inchoate replies. There's the absence of self-consciousness in your conversations, topics that might make one frown or cringe but that you dive into without hesitation. The comfort of your chatter and later the silences pave over the discomforts of traveling, sweaty and tired through buses and taxis. You sleep in hammocks by a beach, in a tent in a national park, in a dorm with young good looking french guys and at the hospitality of lovely colombian connections who prove over and over that yes, colombian people may just be the nicest people in the world.
***

Alone you write a lot and quickly the pages fill with your slanted scrawl. You draw occasionally but write mostly and one of the things that stands out are the only true words of a poorly attempted poem I want to live the way I float in the sea

I want to live the way I float in the sea.

I want to live the way I float in the sea.