Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Embracing Life in the Woods

OK, blog, it's you, me and the world. Not to be down on myself but 6 posts in 2 years is less than impressive! The real truth behind my lacking updates is that I genuinely forget that I have a blog, which is quite sad because it has such great potential for me to share my travel experiences, my thoughts in general, and hopefully be of some inspiration to a reader somewhere out there in cyberspace.

Ever since my 5-month-long Euro trip ended in March, I have kept busy holding administrative jobs in a field completely unrelated to my degree. Don't get me wrong. I learned lots about things like file sorting and processing, the procedure for medical retirement and pension buyback applications, which was all very interesting in its own way, but I have not had the chance to directly apply what I have studied in school (neoliberalism, environmental change, exploitation of natural resources, etc.) until right now.

Since late July, I have been living and working at a demonstration and training centre in the middle of nowhere, New Brunswick, that educates people about organic farming and sustainable living. This is the first time I have lived in a rural community and have gotten hands-on experience in the environmental field. I have never seen or touched so many raspberries, black currants, elderberries, cucumbers, zucchinis, carrots or beets in my life. I love that we can find all these in our Community Supported Agriculture garden and know exactly where they came from before creatively using them in dishes prepared on our wood-oven stove in the outdoor kitchen.

As hard as it was to adapt to the rustic lifestyle with cold rainwater showers, outdoor compost toilets, no internet at home, no TV in general (the list goes on) and all, I can truly say that I am happy to be here. I have never been so dirty (compost and manure handling, as well as harvesting will do that to you), so smelly (I shower once weekly) and overall so grungy-looking in my life, yet I am really embracing this phase of my life.

I would be lying if I said it has all been a stroll in the park. The mice that bounce and scurry along happily in the cabin I live in the middle of the woods were not my first choice for housemates. C and E have been the best in this regard. Thankfully, we had that antler lying around to help defend us if they got too rambunctious. This defense tool would later come in handy in case the lynx or coyotes lurking in the shadows encroached closer onto our territory.

Ever since I got the 10 days of misery from my e-coli contamination out of the way, I have been feeling great. Yes, that's right. You read properly. I got e-coli from the tap water coming out of the kitchen. Even though the water is from a nearby spring, the purity of which you can hardly come by nowadays, somehow this summer's extreme heat wave followed by torrential downpours created the perfect conditions for a body of feces to thrive and flourish in. Silly me, thinking I had done my time suffering through the Delhi Belly phenomenon soon after my arrival in India.

While these things happen in nature and cannot always be controlled, I, unfortunately, was the unlucky one who found out the hard way that our water was contaminated. It wasn't until after I had been seen by a doctor that our water was officially tested and found with e-coli in it. Four hours in a hospital and two failed IV attempts later, I was sent home diagnosed with gastroenteritis and told to "wait it out" because apparently there is nothing else you can do but let the nasty devil pass through your system. During that time, the Bananas, Rice, Apple sauce and Toast (BRAT) was all my stomach could digest without sending me running to the nearest outhouse. I can't remember the last time I felt so weak and powerless, with little energy, eating only mushy food and having no control over my bowel movements, which is probably more than you wanted to know but I can't stress enough how unpleasant this experience was.

Now that I've gotten all of my venting and prompts for pity, I am able to reflect on my time here and acknowledge that I have come a long way from when I first started, both on a personal and spiritual level. I am calmer, more patient, more open and willing to have change in my life. I've already done things I wasn't so sure I could do, like embracing nature in its entirety, blood-sucking insects and all. The forest trails on site here are a great way for me to clear my mind and think. I love the smell of the pines, the rustling of leaves in the wind, the trickling water in a nearby stream and the unfolding hues of yellow, orange and red. Fall has to be one of my favourite seasons. I'm glad I get to be here for the part that is beautiful and skip out on the cold, damp and rainy weather just before winter.

I am looking forward to new adventures ahead. In two and a half weeks, I will be arriving in La Ceiba, Honduras as part of a 5 month environmental internship. I am a bit concerned about safety in the city and how quickly I will adapt to this new culture but I am confident that my previous experience living in Central America will help me settle in quite nicely. Salsa dancing, scuba diving and Spanish speaking, here I come!