I opened up Cannery Row today. The very first pre-chapter asks how you can possible put people and characters and feelings down on paper.
And that really struck a chord because I really feel like I haven’t been doing that quite right here.
I mean, in the first place I have to deal with culture shock. Which is a concept which I didn’t really take seriously at first. I mean, come on, I travel all the time. It’s like, culture shock is like jet lag, right? Something that everyone talks about that doesn’t really affect me? Except that it does. And I’ve come to understand that this year more than I ever thought I would.
It’s tough right now because I’m in this double jeopardy place. I’ve long gotten over my Costa Rica culture shock. I’m comfortable and happy and all of the sudden I uproot myself and relocate to a place that is so different than anyplace I’ve ever stayed for a prolonged period of time. PLUS I have to deal with the knowledge of my impending reverse culture-shock.
I spend a lot of time here while I’m working on the farm, daydreaming about stuff I’ll do when I get back. During those long hot nights when I can’t sleep because the heat is just there, not oppressive necessarily, but sneaky in that it’s almost unnoticeable except for the fact that you can’t sleep. During those long hours in the sun where I do repetitive and physically straining farm tasks. I think about the airport and how excited I am to be in an airport again. I can’t remember the last time I went this long without seeing the inside of an airport. The orderliness, the false cleanliness, the giant windows that flood light and the steady feeling of transience. Everyone coming or going, planes leave, tons of planes, hundreds of planes, experience, novelty and excitement just saturates the air. I can’t wait to be back in an airport. I hope my layover is long. I also think about stuff I want to do in The Bay, Giants games, tea in the fog, Coit tower (though I don’t really know why), Ocean Beach in the evening with the windows rolled down, Haight street… just all my favorite things that I’ve already probably hashed out a million times here.
But the problem with that is, while it helps me power through the culture shock, the ticking off of the days, I miss things too.
I mean, I got exactly what I wanted here. I wanted to start living off the grid in an area that’s not like that 2% of the world I’m used to. I wanted to work hard, like really hard. I wanted to work so that at the end of the day, my body would just hurt and I’d have innumerable mysterious scratches, bruises and pains. I wanted to drag myself up everyday, whether or not I want to, because I’m obligated to.
Because I don’t know what that is like.
And honey, I got what I wanted. I signed up for this, and it ain’t day camp.
And as hard as it is, emotionally and physically, I just have to remember that. And I also have to just look up once in a while from my whining and my frustration and things that go bump in the night, because I’ll see the sunset, just like it did today.
This afternoon, after back-breaking work on the farm which made me dizzy and light headed, MK and I washed the outside of the changing rooms that we’re going to start painting tomorrow. Of course, all the 12 year old boys in eyesight, who are still on vacation and thus have little to do, eventually drifted over. I’m not sure if it was horsing around with the hose or the possibility of recruiting us as two more soccer players that enticed them, but either way, we totally pulled a Tom Sawyer. By the time we finished one wall, they had “finished” the other three. Well enough at least.
So then we played soccer, barefoot in the muddy field. The two resident gringas (literally) alternately played with competitive ferocity and collapsed all over each other in laughter at the absolute horror that is our soccer skills and swore loudly. I got a leetle too excited when I realized that I wasn’t spent after about 5 minutes and ran around like a madman. Then I realized, it’s okay to throw elbows around my compatriot, not so much around 12 year old boys. I definitely bowled one over at one point. He was okay.
So to recap:
Farm work: check
Community development project: check
Bonding with the youth: check
Teach English: check. Oops….
Then somehow another group of kids absconded with our ball, so, game over. I got at least 5 goals. Beat that!
We chatted for a while, then I headed home for dinner. I greeted the few people I knew as I walked by, tried not to seem put-off when I was greeted by people I didn’t know. I could smell the smoke of a campfire coming from my house. My new host mom cooked rice on an open flame today and it was every bit as good as she said it would be. Then I turned around. The sun was setting in the distance. It started as a perfect arc that blushed pink in the periwinkle sky. (Bear with me here for a second; this is going to get really… prose-y). Then it grew warmer and warmer until the arc was lit up with the particular yellowy-orange of a mango. The clouds were low in the sky, threading through the mountains off to the left, smoky and thin like a sumi painting. I always thought the phrase “purple mountain’s majesty” was a little corny, but I discovered tonight that it’s no exaggeration. The jagged mountains in the distance were a deep royal purple against the lush greenery that was lit up orange. And then the opposite side of the sky was blushing in response, having caught the reflection of the breathtaking sunset. And I swear, no joke, there was a faint rainbow off to the right. Just one pillar, one side of the rainbow, fainter than and disappearing into the reflected sunset.
And just down the dirt road, picking its way through the rocks and the puddles that I do my best to avoid when biking to and from work, one of the neighborhood mutts with a hangdog look, lopsided pointy coyote ears and pale blue eyes watched me.