Category: Writing

The not-so-nice side of international travel Part Two

I was going to follow on from the previous post with some cheery old bollocks about how despite travel sometimes involving stressful or unpleasant events It Was All Worth It In The End (sounds of heavenly choirs).

However, the loss of money from the scam in Costa Rica was just one of a string of problems.

Having made it to Cahuita I was keen to try the life style I’d always wanted: tapping creatively away at my laptop in an open air café, enjoying sunshine and the occasional cocktail.

And, for the couple of days in which I was able to do this, it was great!  Exactly as I’d dreamed of. Finally I was writing and writing regularly. The feminist Hemingway. An ageing digital nomad.  This was how my life was supposed to be.

Cahuita was tropically, stickily, hot. But hey, that’s what I wanted right?  A change from British weather.  So why complain?  Just get on and write.  And I did.

Until the flip side of the hot weather reared its ugly head.  As I walked back to my Air BnB early one evening the heavens opened.  I had never experienced precipitation like it. I was instantly soaked to the skin.

It was a ten minute walk back from the centre of this tiny town to the cabin by the beach I was staying in.  There was nowhere to shelter on the way so I just kept plodding on.  No problem, except later when I tried to use my MacBook it typed gibberish, totally unrelated to the keys I was hitting.

I had to cut my trip short and return to San Jose to find an Apple store (known as iCon in Latin America should you ever need to know).  The helpful assistant said I could either wait around for a few days while my Mac was sent off to an engineer, or I could just buy a bluetooth keyboard for $100.

I decided to go with the latter option.  The assistant felt I had made the right choice, as there was no guarantee my Mac’s keyboard could even be fixed.  His initial diagnosis?  That (despite being inside its own carry case and a small backpack) the Mac had been penetrated by the  torrential rain and was extremely unhappy about it.

I found it difficult to juggle using the blue tooth keyboard and watching the screen on my Mac at the same time.  Pathetic I know, but my writing dwindled to a halt.  Any excuse.

As well as these two incidents in Costa Rica I also experienced (in no particular order of importance):

  • Losing my dental bite guard (probably during an over-enthusiastic search of my hand luggage when flying out of Mexico City).
  • How incredibly tiring travelling actually is, as I constantly tried to see as much as possible in a short space of time while simultaneously planning ahead and booking my next flights and destinations.
  • The loneliness of a being a single traveller (or more accurately an older single female traveller).
  • The loss of one earring of a pair I’d bought in Mexico and was looking forward to taking home.
  • The MacBook suddenly made a full recovery and the keyboard was working again! Yay!
  • BUT THEN – the apartment I was staying in was burgled and my beloved MacBook, its charger and  pink neoprene case were stolen, together with my Tesco Hudl (a tablet, in case you’ve never heard of them).  The burglar did manage to miss the bluetooth keyboard.  I still have that.
  • The burglary took place the day before I was due to fly back to the U.K.  The police officer who came to the apartment swore he would have a copy of the police report delivered the next morning before I left.  No sign of report before I finally had to set off in order not to miss my plane.
  • The very expensive travel insurance (world wide, for a year) I paid for will not pay up for the loss of my MacBook without a copy of a police report.  The claim is currently being dealt with by the underwriters. I am not hopeful.

After all this I was depressed and felt the Fates really did not want me either to travel or to write. Maybe I just wasn’t cut out for this lifestyle?  Then things got worse.

When I returned to England I only expected to spend a month here. My flight to Thailand was already booked.  I intended to travel around sightseeing but also popping into ESL colleges touting my wares. I hoped to find work so I could stay on longer than the month allowed on a tourist visa.

While back in Blighty I visited my GP and discovered I have probably had a heart attack some time (or times!) in the last few years.  I was given medical advice not to travel and had to cancel my flight to Bangkok at the last minute.

So suddenly instead of being a blog about someone following her dreams and travelling the world, this became a blog about someone waiting for an NHS appointment. No wonder I didn’t feel inspired to write anything.

But in a couple of days I finally get to see the cardiology consultant and find out whether I get to travel again or not.  Having made a bullet list of my woes while travelling they look a bit petty, really.

So if the medics give me the go ahead to go abroad again, will I?  Too bloody right I will.

 

It bloody rains a lot in South America

Just over four years ago I had my delayed mid-life crisis.  This mainly consisted of waking up in the middle of the night thinking “I don’t want to end up lying on my death bed regretting all the things I didn’t do”.

Eventually this crystallised into a sort of plan.  “I want to go somewhere warm and work with animals”.  The somewhere warm ended up being Ecuador.  So having always been a bit of a wimpy, middle-aged traveller even when I was a teenager (blame my parents, I do, for most things) I suddenly had to be adventurous and go to South America.

I spent six weeks in Ecuador, one month volunteering at an animal rescue centre and two weeks being a tourist, scratching a couple of things off my bucket list (Galapagos; rainforest).  I loved it.  So much that I came back last September, this time to work in Ecuador for nine months as an ESL teacher. Also I hope to travel around and see some more of Latin America.

But what concerns me is the “somewhere warm” issue.  On my first visit I stayed for four weeks in a city in the north of Ecuador (about an hour’s drive from the Colombian border) called Ibarra.  There was the odd rain shower but mostly it was sunny.  And warm. Even though it was October.

The Galapagos Islands were blazing hot and dry.  Yes, the rainforest was, well, rainy.  But it was hot rain and I was so distracted by the amazing things I was seeing that I didn’t really care.

So possibly I got a misleading impression of South America being mainly warm and dry.

When I returned last year I came to work in Cuenca, a city in the south of Ecuador.  It is up in the Andes, but so was Ibarra so I had expected a similar climate.  Guidebooks describe Cuenca as having “a year-round spring-like climate”.  This is probably accurate if they mean a British spring-like climate where it pisses down with rain a lot.  Plus it’s surprisingly cold at night.

Before I go any further I should make it clear that I love living in Cuenca.  It’s a wonderful city and I will write more about this later.  But for now I am sticking with the issue of precipitation.

One of the main reasons I was desperate to leave the U.K. was the rain.  Miserable, grey, cold, drenching downpours that make any journey a major effort.  My mood is vastly affected by the weather.  If it’s grey and rainy I am morose and immobile.  If the sky is clear, the sun is shining, a soft breeze is playing and the birdies are tweeting I feel I can conquer the world.  You get the picture.

What tends to happen in Cuenca is we have a wonderful sunny morning and then a grey and rainy afternoon. Sometimes followed by a grey and rainy evening. I particularly don’t appreciate this as my teaching hours start at 3 p.m. so I usually have to travel in the pouring rain.

Recently I went to Peru for two weeks.  I loved the desert climate of Lima, where it apparently rarely rains.  Yes, it is a little humid, but I am practising for my next planned teaching destination (Thailand) in my eternal quest for warmth and sunlight.

On my way to visit Machu Picchu I stayed in Cusco in the south of Peru and I was once again back in Cuenca’s climate – rain and cold nights.

However, I made an unhappy discovery.  When I was in Lima there was no air conditioning in my hotel room and I was too sluggish to do anything in the heat. There was no heating in my room in Cusco and I was freezing – but I still managed to put some warm layers on and do some writing.  So perhaps my plans to live in a warm climate while trying to be productive are doomed to failure?

And in case you think I’m exaggerating here is a video of a Cuenca rainstorm taken from the window of my apartment.  You may not be able to see the rain, but you will hear it.  In this particular storm hailstones, thunder and lightning were also part of the mix although I did not catch them on film.

So here’s the thing …

… I’m supposed to be a writer.  All my life, pretty much (well at least since I read “A Wrinkle In Time” when I  was eight years old) I have wanted to be a writer.  And I even wrote.  More than that I even sold stuff and got published.  Just a few short stories and articles, but it was something.

So why is it so incredibly difficult to make myself sit down and write?  Every time I think about it I start to panic.  The panic spreads into the rest of my life. Thus in my spare time when I should be writing I find myself sleeping; making cups of tea; reading other people’s writing; watching TV and films online.  Or just sitting paralysed and sick with nerves.  I even start worrying about the things I have to do before I can get some free time to start writing.

Now I’ve written myself into a corner because I finished the last post on a cliffhanger waiting for my husband to arrive.  So good practice would be to carry on from there.  Detail what happened and give some back story.  But actually I feel like writing about other things now.

So I think the only way to escape from this corner is just to publish this post.  As it is.  And then simply carry on writing what I feel like when I feel like it.  Otherwise I will never write at all.