"On the outskirts of every agony sits some observant fellow who points." --Virginia Woolf
Friday, December 19, 2008
The town fool sings to me.
Tropical Christmas, take two
Tomorrow I depart for Costa Rica for eight days. This will be the second tropical Christmas/hunt for dad's new retirement community I will have endured. He assures me this year won't be like last year's "journey into the heart of Dominica's darkness" (as I refer to it).
Dominica, for those not familiar, is one of the most rural of the Caribbean islands. The rain forests comprise more land mass per acre than any of the other islands, and it is the only island with a Caribe indian reservation. In my father's words, it is "not safe for whitey," i.e., there are no major hotel resorts and it is not a popular stop for cruise ships. From a distance this seemed like the idyllic retreat for him. But what we discovered, upon arrival, was a very rugged terrain and a lot of discomfort. Every beach took at least 45 minutes to hike to, and the roads were so narrow, the cliffs so very treacherous, that we constantly struggled just to get around.
After a few days, the daily dose of mortal fear was getting me down. One time, while in the car, my father remarked while speeding through a hairpin turn and nearly colliding with an oncoming van whose windows were brimming with villagers: "Wow honey, with all them hail mary's, I'd think you were turning Catholic on me!" I'll never forget how he laughed as I contemplated the cliffs and ravines to my right, whose only barrier was a bamboo fence and bright yellow caution tape.
The following is a list of random notes from our trip. The only notes I took:
- driving down Dominican roads is as thrilling as a jungle safari; instead of the threat of wild animals, you have the fear of head-on collisions and driving into ditches or off of cliffs.
- I think I heard a woman assaulted and/or killed last night. The Belgiums denied hearing anything the next morning, but I could tell they were lying.
- the buzzing and chirping of insects, the rooster calls, and the mangy dog barks drown out the human presence. But when a man yells he can be heard a mile away.
- the fan makes a galluping sound. Where is it leading me?
- passionfruit is much more passionate here.
- the villagers are like helpful zombies that don't want to eat at you, all they want to do is stare.
- i was serenaded by the "town fool" (local boozer) tonight, that is, until I backed away from the balcony and he started yelling out "bitch" to me.
- "travel" comes from the word "travail."
- the percussion of soft rain is overwhelming yet of some comfort.
I am uncommonly mobile; I have circumnavigated the globe eight times, walking amazing distances. Through the South Island of New Zealand to the Southern Alps. From Chile to the Andes in Argentina. Across the Serengeti in Africa. I made 300 ascents of mountains 10,000 ft. tall or more, including the Matterhorn, Mont Blanc, and Kilimanjaro. I traveled alone, aided only by my porters, sketching volcanos and collecting wildflowers along the way.