Naked and spectacular

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Behind the cultural haze

Having surrendered to the will of the universe in which I exist, I continue to find myself at home in places that I could not previously have imagined.

I was warned about travelling through Central America by people who have never been here and know nothing about it.  I forget what I am supposed to worry about here.  Years ago I chose a life without stress, I'm not sure I would be alive today otherwise.  I also chose to listen to my body, and the pain of loneliness and boredom has pushed me into situations that could appear to be dangerous or stressful.  I can only push myself as far as I feel comfortable.

I do not speak the local language, I don't know how many people do, or when they get the opportunity to do so.  There is a common Spanish that is mostly spoken, and my grasp of even this language is thin.  I could not have come here without the knowledge that I was walking into the wet tropical forest to find 100 brothers and sisters from all over the world who blessedly speak in a common English.  Can I remain in this bubble of international love and hippie culture?

I look at the locals and we both grin stupidly.  Am I the retard who can't even speak Spanish?  Am I the exotic foreigner, equally hilarious and intriguing?  Or am I just another human being?  I am rich in this country.  One US dollar is worth almost eight quetzales and everything is considerably cheaper.  Still we haggle and try to talk down the price, fearful that we might be ripped off by a quetzale or two.  We gringoes bring in our phones and our laptops and leave them in our Made in China tents and then we shout our complaints when they disappear.  In Cobán, the local town, the cellphone companies announce the importance of their products on the streets and the thirdworlders clamour to buy into the advertised glory of Western Civilisation.  There are so many things that we didn't know we didn't have.

I am always an outsider, at least as long as it takes me to have a conversation in Spanish, but I am with my friends so it is okay.  Sometimes I want to escape to Civilisation somewhere, but it is too far away and I won't know anyone there and I will need money to survive and my meagre savings won't last for long.  I think about San Francisco, where I spent five days with my friends on the way to Guatemala, and I yearn for the convenience and the good food and entertainment and English.  Instead I sludge through endless mud and rain, cross lines of ants carrying huge pieces of cut leaves into their underground cities, and end my day curled awkwardly by the fire on a brother's lap or laid out alone in my tiny stolen tent surrounded by my belongings and food.  I wonder at the life I chose for myself and how far away it is from what I was educated for.  Here, the currency is touch and music; in town, the currency is quetzales and smiles.

My brother discusses the possibility of buying land; it is cheap, and here we can be free and be together.  We are all searching for something we cannot name, we searched each other out from across the globe and together we know we feel the same about something.  We span the American continents, all of Europe, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.  I notice a distinct dark patch across much of the populated globe.  We agree that we reject much of what we were taught to value, though a lot of it we are addicted to.  We say, "No alcohol, no drugs, no meat," though we suck into our lungs a lot of tobacco, marijuana and industrial grains.  I reject oats and wheat, though I am smitten by a new love of corn.  We expect the world is changing, though we make plans as though it has always been like this and always will be.  I feel my love for the new people around me grow much more rapidly than my ability to speak Spanish, but I fantasise about the most beautiful and cause awkward inabilities to behave normally in their presence.

I am confused human being, placing myself in environments in which my habitual behaviours are not appropriate or useful, forcing myself to discover what it really is I am doing, behind all the thoughts, behind the cultural haze that binds and confuses me, behind the throbbing in my loins to the beating heart in my chest.

1 comment:

Hamish Gavin said...

Sounds incredible and strange man... glad you're adventuring and learning and staying alive