I am finally getting back into the swing of writing regularly – for the first month or so here I was really enjoying disconnecting from that part of my brain and learning through physical means and experimental processes, only. Now that it’s been several weeks (and it has cooled down enough that it is comfortable to sit still during the day, not to mention that the bugs have been significantly reduced), I am beginning to process by writing again and am enjoying it. So hopefully that will mean I will be more present on the blog. But no promises. 🙂
There is so much to talk about – my first experiences gardening, the local foods, learning Spanish – ah! But before I get to that, I wanted to discuss one of the reasons I was avoiding doing any significant blogging – technology.
I have come to appreciate technology in a totally different way. Things I took for granted before I now appreciate so much, and things that used to seem so important now seem just the opposite.
Let’s start with the technology I am grateful for.
1. La luz – the light. Living in a place without electricity, the first thing you notice and become acutely aware of is the sun. When the sun is down, the options of what you can do are severely limited. All work must be done in the daylight hours, and it is extremely important that we have flashlights with us anywhere we go, just in case we end up coming back to the land after dark.
We have solar lanterns and flashlights that we use and they are fantastic. They charge in the sun all day long and stay lit for as long as we need them to in the night. It is awesome to rely on the sun for lighting our activities after it goes down.
Another thing we have become acutely aware of is the cycle of the moon. When there is a full moon, it is essentially like having an extra afternoon. A full moon produces so much light that you do in fact have a shadow – a moon shadow. People down here throw parties every full moon and it is no wonder why. Tonight is very close to the new moon and it is so dark I can’t see Mike right next to me in the tent without a flashlight (but on the plus side, stargazing is AMAZING. Literally no light pollution.). Possible activities really do vary with the moon cycle.
2. El fuego – the fire. About 50% of Mike and I’s diet comes from things that are grown on the land here. It is the very beginning of the growing season here and that percentage will surely grow with the vegetables, probably coming close to 80 or 90% by the time we leave. Much of what we eat is fruit (mangos, bananas, papayas, avocados) and early veggies (lettuce, radishes), neither of which is really cooked. So we inadvertently end up on a mostly-raw food diet. Which is convenient because 1. It is kind of hot to eat super heavy, cooked meals and 2. Again, there is no electricity and the kitchen is rustic and outdoors, with limited counter space.
But we do have two very important things – a propane stove and a campfire. Fire! Fire is awesome because it provides light (see number 1 above), heat (at night it gets down to 55-60 degrees Fahrenheit – I know I can’t whine to you New Englanders but that is cold when you live in a tent), and the ability to cook food and boil water. I knew all these things theoretically but somehow each one seems truly astounding in practice here.
There is just nothing like a cup of hot tea (especially with all the amazing herbs we have growing here fresh), and I appreciate the fire each and every time I boil water for it. There is also nothing quite like a potato cooked in the fire, or the smell of campfire on your clothes in the morning. It is both practical and good for the soul. So thanks, cavemen, for inventing fire. It is awesome.
3. Skype – the internet phone. I had used Skype when I was in England and in Ghana and it seemed great but I have never appreciated it like I do this week. I had a pretty serious stomach bug getting me down and being able to talk to my parents on one of the worst days of it (although they didn’t know it at the time, haha – sorry mom and dad, I swear I’m ok now) made me feel so much better psychologically. We have a cell phone here but, big surprise, it doesn’t really get service so Skype is our only phone connection. It does rely on an internet connection, but that is surprisingly cheap and easy to come by here.
Mike and I especially appreciated Skype today when we called his brother. Mike became an uncle for the second time on Monday and we were able to both meet his new niece (hi, Norah!) and speak with his nephew via video this afternoon. What an awesome thing that is. It makes us feel much closer to home.
4. Some web 2.0 tools – namely, facebook and Google Reader. A few of my blogosphere friends have been writing about facebook fasts recently and so the usefulness or non-usefulness of it has been on my mind lately. I gotta say – I appreciate it. Each time I go online (and herein lies the difference – this is once or twice a week for no more than an hour, but I’ll talk about that more later), I check it and I immediately feel that connection with people at home. I recognize that it is a fairly artificial feeling but I still appreciate it each and every time. It’s like junk food – I know it isn’t good for me but it just tastes so damn good. Most of it is total and utter crap and I find it, in general, pretty boring, but there is something really comforting in being able to read Kiki’s status updates and realize that, really, home is still there and not tremendously different from when I left six weeks ago. You know?
I have found most web 2.0 tools fairly useless but one that really surprised me positively was Google Reader. I subscribe to a bunch of useless shit, mostly, but I have been looking for jobs while here and I have some really useful job sites set up to go to Google Reader and this means that I don’t have to check a million sites every time I have the internet. I go on Google Reader, read the job sites, and apply to whatever looks interesting. I am sure not to miss anything this way. Such a useful tool. Check it out if you don’t know what it is – it really helps keep the internet somewhat organized.
5. Media – music and movies. Mike and I spend most of our days in the ‘quiet’ of BioSana (the outdoors is not really quiet, FYI. It’s fucking loud). Most days, the only music we have is the kind we make ourselves, with my guitar or (more likely) his ukulele/kazoo. We have the computer and my iphone to play music with but charging these involve a fair amount of planning/strategy and so it happens pretty rarely. But ho boy- you go a week without music and it is like a whole new experience. Last week we went into town and I drank a coffee slightly too late into the afternoon (ha – those of you that know me well know that pretty much anytime into the day is too late) and couldn’t sleep that night. I decided to listen to music on headphones to help me fall asleep and I ended up staying up for hours until my ipod was just about dead because it was blowing my mind.
Same with movies. Mike and I have taken to watching a movie each Sunday night and it is way more fun than it should be. Stuff that I would never consider that interesting in ‘real life’ – i.e. Wolverine : the Beginning or whatever that movie is called – is literally the most riveting piece of entertainment we can imagine.
I think the reason why I am appreciating these things is two-fold: one, the obvious one, is that I am doing it less. It has become a special treat, rather than the expected norm. But perhaps more importantly, two, I am listening to music, or watching a movie, and that is ALL I AM DOING. I am not also on the computer, writing emails, also making or eating dinner, also texting friends, etc. This is a component of our time here that I would like to continue to practice when I get home: mindfulness. Mindful, and only mindful, use of technology. No more checking facebook after I wake up, still in bed, on my iphone. That shit is fucked up.