Saturday, 28 June 2014

Treeplanting: The End of an Era

It's been a love/hate relationship since we began 7 years ago. One year, I woke up one day and hated it from the start. That trend continued for well over 100 days. Some days I would just scream, or cry, always cursing that first time I decided to enter into it. Then one day, I decided not to be like that. I decided, one day this year, that I should, would, and want to embrace it, and love it, exactly for what it is and always will be to me. Most days now, I come home having enjoyed my day, or at least most of it. And if I want to punch it, I try to remember why I loved it in the first place.

Now, I am not talking about a physical relationship, in the sense two people in love or lust or infatuation. I am talking about my relationship with TREEPLANTING.

And to be honest I am torn. This will be my last "big year" as I like to call it. My last year with well over 100 days, hell, I'm almost at 90 right now! You see, this fall, I am going back to school, and there is this deep feeling of nostalgia, of a loss I cannot explain. And even though it is not over completely, this relationship of mine, I am melancholic. I feel like it will not be the same from now on. I think mostly because I won't truly be "in it" like so many of the people I love. In the trenches of hellish blocks, climbing through, over, and under giant logs, and planting for my most favorite company, Sitka, a company that feels to me more like a family than any other.

The people I have met throughout the years, thanking them for teaching me, helping shape me, and accepting me exactly for who I am would never be enough. You, I hope know who you are, you loves of mine. You are some of the most compassionate, passionate, intelligent, interesting, accepting, open minded, trustworthy people I have ever met, and maybe will ever meet. There is a certain honesty about you that is hard to find in other circles. I have never felt so at home, so at ease with who I am when I am with you. Thank you. Thank you for teaching me all of your eccentricities and quirks, knowledge and insight, sharing with me your jokes and laughter, but most of all, thank you for being you, and allowing me to be me. I could rattle off so many names that come to my mind, and situations that stick out, but this post may not ever end.

At times, I have been getting choked up over this subject. To me, it is almost like an end to a whole era. I won't be gallivanting around for at least 8 months out of the year, exploring places (in a weird way) that only a handful of others have ever explored. Viewing the open ocean from a heli-pad that maybe, just maybe 10 other people have been to, or seeing Mount Loki from a mountain across the lake from a spot only I have decided to stop and appreciate the beauty of it, or on one crazy clean-up day, looking out over the Broken Islands from the very top of a mountain, these things will never be the same now. I have been so incredibly fortunate in my time treeplanting.

Thank you to my family, who has always (maybe not understanding why) supported me in everything I have done. Mom and Dad, thank you for taking pride in what I do, and loving me through my ups and downs, slip-ups, and fuck-ups (excuse the curse). Thank you for taking a genuine interest in the way treeplanting is. Thank you for fixing shovels. But most of all, thank you, to my family for always being each other's rock and support. Without you 5, I would be lost in this world. I love you.

And thank you Thomas. You, I met by chance, in a treeplanting camp, when my girlfriends and I decided come and party. You, who happened to be going 20 minutes from where I grew up, for summer plant. You, who I felt so shy around, and yet so comfortable around from the start. You are my other half, my love of loves, my best friend, partner in crime, counselor, and my rock. You have taught me to be a better planter, and work things in a better way, but really those things carry into our lives. Thank you Thomas, for having passion in what you do, even though some days you seem to despise it, and taking pride in it, because I wouldn't be the planter I am without the pride that you instilled in me. How fortunate is it that we met by chance, and stayed together through some of the toughest times apart? How fortunate is it that we have each other for entertainment when, like now, we are looking for more work, and support when we feel down? Thank you, my handsome, thank you.

The further I dig, the more melancholic I become when I think of leaving all of this, and all of you. But, I know in the future, you will be there, for better or worse, treeplanting will be there for me, and I for it. And, the future is bright with different possibilities, and a different way of learning, for I am heading back to school. Strapping on my backpack, instead of my treeplanting bags, and picking up my pencil, instead of my shovel, I will wander into the unknown of being a grown woman in university.

Thank you again. I love all of you. And, I love you treeplanting.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Isla de Ometepe... Part 2: Into the Mist

Wow, what an absence from writing. I guess I got caught up in all of the fun I was having... and I was truly having fun.

Coming from the Nahuatl words ome (two) and tepetl (mountain), Isla de Ometepe is exactly that. An island consisting of two volcanic mountains, with an isthmus connecting them, making an hourglass shape. Arriving in Moyagalpa, on the northwest side of the island, I looked up in awe at Volcán  Concepción, its perfect upsidedown cone shape welcoming us to the island.

Our second day on the island, we made our way to the isthmus, and Playa Santa Cruz, where we had our sights set on staying at El Encanto, a guesthouse on a 4 acre banana farm. After hopping off the bus, we started walking with our packs on our backs, and arrived at El Encanto about 10 minutes later. There, we were told they were booked for the night, but kindly offered a suggestion as to another place to stay. And, so, in the heat, we walked, and we walked, and we walked. Finally seeing the guesthouse, I was so hopeful, only to be dissappointed yet again.

On our way back down the kilometre long driveway, we stopped to take a photo of a petroglyph, one of many dotted around the island, and made our way even further to a place called Little Morgan's.

On first arrival, Little Morgan's seemed like a great spot to chat with travelers from all over the world, party, and get cheap deals on local tours, with local guides. So, with gusto in our hearts, we decided to climb Volcán Maderas the next day, an extinct volcano on the south end of the island.

The next day, our adventure began, in full swing at 7 a.m. Off we went to climb Maderas, a 17km round trip hike. Our guide warned us of the mud, which, I think at first we didn't believe, as the rest of the island seemed so incredibly dry. Our climb took us through plantain groves, coffee plantations, and past locals' houses, where one woman called our guide over in panic. In a few moments, he came back with a coral snake, a highly poisonous snake, wrapped in a plastic bag. It was our luck, as it was a false coral snake, but still made my stomach turn.

Continuing our climb, we soon began to ascend into the cloud rainforest, where the hot air from below soon felt cool against our skin, and water dropped from leaves of plants and trees around us. The mist engulfed us, and the ground under our feet turned to soft mud, slick and slippery. We climbed, and climbed, some trying hard to keep their nice, new shoes out of mud holes and puddles. But it was no use. In time, I just let myself tromp through the mud, not caring that my feet were wet, or that my legs were caked, or that I'm sure I had mud on my face, which no one told me about. Legs burning, and heart pumping we reached the summit, and began to descend into the extinct crater lake, Laguna de Maderas, surrounded by cloud rainforest, and families of howler monkeys (mono). Surrounded by mist, and forest, the mono howled, letting us know we were in their territory. It was haunting.
After we ate lunch, we began our hike out of the crater, and down the mountain, where we took different trails than before, and came across a lone howler monkey eating leaves in a tree.
And as much as I wanted to, I was warned not to touch her, but doesn't she look cuddly?
Soon we were back at Little Morgan's exhausted, hungry, and thirsty for more water than we brought up the mountain, only to find a surprise that we were not expecting...

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Isla de Ometepe... Part 1: Rough Waves

Isla de Ometepe has been a fun rollercoaster from the moment we left San Juan Del Sur, until tonight, Thomas' and my last night.

It all began while we were on the bus to Rivas. It was packed, as usual, shoulder to shoulder on an old Blue Bird bus fitted with hand rails. Well, a taxi driver hopped on somewhere and picked out the only five of us that were going to try and catch the ferry to Ometepe. I thought, great!, we'll make it. But, as we were pulling into the chaotic bus depot, I many people did he get confirmation from that they were taking this taxi?
Once we were standing beside the taxi, it became crystal clear that we were 5 passengers, 1 a beat up , old, Neon sized car, with a bungee cord to tie the trunk shut. Well, here's how it worked: one in the front, three large men in the back, and me, sitting on Thomas' lap, half way out the window. You really do get a different view from outside a moving vehicle. Until that drive, I hadn't been yelled at, cheered for, or stared at that much in a span of ten minutes, ten minutes of contortionist style driving.

So, anyways, we made it to the ferry!

Lining up for the ferry was a hot ordeal, and to be honest a tad nerve racking. Thomas had just watched the old cargo boat tip and dip and rock into the dock. The lake, Lago de Nicaragua, was extremely rough that day with wind whipping and gusting from the east. Passengers boarding after all the cargo was thrown on, and Thomas and I found a seat by the right side of the boat in the bottom level. Rocking and swaying, we were off!
It wasn't long before we realized exactly how rough the ride was going to be, and how wet we may end up getting. You see, the sides of the boat were wooden slats, fitted into slots, not attached to the bottom with nuts or bolts or screws or anything! As the water started coming in, and going out, the base board came loose just enough so I could see the rough lake water outside.
I thought, "well, maybe I'll just hold it with me leg." And I did for about ten minutes. It wasn't until one of the men working on the boat saw that he called, what I will assume as the maintenance man, over to inspect the very big issue of rough lake water spilling into the bottom of the boat. Thomas and I were moved seats and the work began.
For a good majority of the rest of the swaying boat ride four men worked at repairing the four foot by three foot hole in the side of the boat... Oh did I forget to mention that another slat had come loose?!
When it was all done with, the men who had fixed the hole looked at each other in shock as to what had just happened. They had fixed the boat, all while we were being thrown around by the rough lake waves.

Enough is enough, this will be continued!

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Sunday Funday vs Shins

Today I wished I had known Spanish even more than before. Thomas and I were walking back to our place in San Juan Del Sur, in southwest Nicaragua, when we stumbled on some sort of domestic fight.

Sunday around here is known as Sunday Funday, much like other places. Except, as far as a little bit of Thomas' reading, is also a day for heavy drinking, baseball games on t.v, and fights. When he first told me this, I obviously pictured guys outside of bars, or girls too for that matter, fist fighting after having a few too many rum and cokes, or Tonas (Nica beer). And although I'm not a fighter, and the thought of seeing blood or a fist make contact with someone's face makes me cringe, my knees go weak, and brings a funny feeling deep in my belly, I thought it would be kind shall I put this, enlightening?

Well, as we were walking, we spotted, what looked like a grown man sitting in the front of a Toyota truck getting berated by an extremely angry woman. At first, I was slightly curious as to what was happening, when I saw her wind up, not with her fist, but with the truck door, and slam it closed...unluckily for him, his leg was hanging out of the truck just enough that she caught him square on the shin. I thought, for sure, my knees were going to buckle, and made a beeline for the middle of the street in case she decided to do it again. I wouldn't be sure if I could handle that again.

I'm not sure if I could have ever imagined Sunday Funday to be just the opposite of that. And I am also not sure if I could have ever imagined watching someone slam a truck door on somebody's shin.

It gives me the weebee geebees. *shudder

Now, I can only think about it and laugh (as queasy as I may feel), and write this one up as yet another experience I was completely and utterly UN-prepared for. I guess if it ever happens again, I will be sure to grab something sturdy to support my knees!
Really, what was it for?? If only my Spanish were better... I would know then!

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

2014-An Adventure Awaits

Incredible. This is a word that nearly describes how I am feeling at this very moment. Incredible, almost the right word, but perhaps not grandious enough.
Let's start right and proper, let's start at the beginning, the moment I found my flare for adventure... Life in general actually.
I felt trapped, and I was depressed. And from the moment I met this person, I learned about the meaning of happiness, of love, of laughter, and of life. His name was Eric. Now, those of you who know me, know exactly what this person meant to me. You will know that he, first of all, taught me to not sweat the small things ( which at times I have been guilty of forgetting), laugh, love, live. However, as sad as it may seem, it took the passing of Eric, for all he taught me to really take hold. The moment I heard the horrible news, was the exact moment I took hold of my own happiness, the moment I took it back from the hands of others. This was the moment I chose to live... In my own way. This was to travel, and to find myself outside of my comfort zone. Travel to southeast Asia.
That trip, the trip with so many mishaps, and trial and tribulations, taught me so much about who I am, who I can be, what I am capable of, and all I would love to accomplish in my life. It was that trip that I allowed myself to open up, meet some of the most amazing, incredible people from all over the world, and learn as much as I could.
Now, please don't take all of this the wrong way. I don't not wish this to appear as a sob story (although the passing of Eric is not something I find okay), I only hope you can see where I am coming from, see that one moment can change your entire perspective on how you react to the world.

Now, onto my newest adventure... NICARAGUA!!!
Thomas, (my love, my partner in fun, my best friend), and I arrived on the 10th of January. A mere four days ago, well there days ago really. We arrived late in the evening, walking out of the cold airplane to a humid, hot airport. Feeling bombarded by taxi driver, we both slipped into the washrooms to switch our documents and money over to our hidden spots, and took our first steps in Nicaragua. Ricardo, our taxi driver, at first seemed like he had something up his sleeve. We stopped at two gas stations on the way, the first one he tried to get diesel, but didn't have any money for it, on the way to the next one a block away, he explained to us his need for cash. He told us that his mother was in the hospital, and he hadn't worked for a few days, so he had no money to get gas. Even though this could have been an 'elaborate truth' (as I like to call a lie), I believe in the inherent goodness of people, and so will believe this story. Thomas gave him the $5 he wanted, and he cut the price of the taxi accordingly. Ricardo, I believe only wished to tell us about his country he was proud of. He was an information bucket, full of goodies. What a treat!
Well, here is my first send off, of my new blog. I am really treading in unknown waters here. So I will leave you with this...
"There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open up to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life." -John Lennon