December 31, 2005

Rollin' On a River

In case I haven't mentioned it, part of why I am in Ecuador is to learn how to whitewater kayak. I went in the states a few times with my friends Dave and Talia (who first took me and taught me some basics), and a few others who were kind enough to escort me down the lower White Salmon in Washington. But, because the water on the WS is freezing cold year round, it isn't the ideal place to learn. So here I am, in a place with so many rivers, of all kinds, warm and wonderful, hoping to learn all I can during my all to short of a stay.
Yesterday I learned how to roll, which I always thought would be very difficult to learn. Andy is such an excellent instructor, breaking it down into various phases and then linking it all together into one fluid process. I found it to be a little tricky at first, but thanks to his patience and effective teaching techniques, I ended up getting it 6 times in my first lesson! I was very happy.
After the roll session, we ran the Rio Tena all the way back to our apartment in Tena. It was fantastic! Along the way, families did their thing in the river, and some of the kids hopped on Andy's kayak (thankfully not mine, as I would have capsized for sure) and he gave 2 of them a ride quite a ways down the river, towing them on his stern. It was great to watch, they loved it. Ecuadorians live in the rivers, they really are a source of life for them; there is evidence everywhere that along with the forest, the rivers are definitely their lifeline.
Above are some photos of me in a kayak, and of me awestricken by the sights of Loopy River before it joins the Tena. At their confluence is where I learned to roll.

December 30, 2005

The View From Here

Some experiences influence you in more ways than you could have ever imagined; my short stay in Ecuador seems like it has already changed my life. Though it might be hasty to say it, I feel so at home here, so alive and so free, because everything here is teeming with life. The rainforest almost seems to quiver when you look at it, when you hear it because there is so much going on. The energy is contagious; it’s difficult not to feel rejuvenated just looking out of my apartment window, which frames a stunning composition of shades of green, from bright to dark, soft to bold. With so many textures, it is impossible for the eye to grow tired of looking at so much green! It is a plant person’s dream, and a birdwatcher’s fantasy. And I can say that from a distance; actually entering the forest itself would prove to be a mecca for just about anyone, with all that it has to offer in terms of solitude and serenity. I cannot think of a more awe-inspiring place to live.

December 25, 2005

Last but not Least

Last yoga class. Last day of work. Last latte I'll have in a few months. Last time for wearing jeans, and the last time I'll count the days until leaving. I love this part of travelling: knowing that your routine will change, and actually savoring moments and exeriences you know you'll miss.
My brother says that one of the best feelings is how you feel during the 'shoulder' period, the time when you get to the airport and there is NOTHING else you have to do, or can do for that matter. I've never given that space of time any thought. It could be the most relaxing time of the entire trip, between planning and anticipation to arriving in a foreign city you don't know and having to get yourself somewhere (ideally out of it), all of which is pretty stressful at times. And flying itself is never exactly relaxing, although I am flying on Christmas Day, so maybe it will be mellow. But the very idea of being on a plane that is hurling through the atmosphere at unnatural speeds isn't really very comforting, but we won't think about that right now.
With that in mind, the departure hour is approaching, and I'm sure there is somthing I'm forgetting to do or bring, some last item or experience I should have before I leave for 2 months. Part of staying sane though before travelling is to realize that whatever you forget you can live without, and that the last thing you wanted to do or say can probably wait; letting go of all such last items and needs is the only way you can truly enjoy all of the firsts that are about to happen.

December 1, 2005

Leaving, cont'd.

But before I go, I will swim through the stacks, sorting, downsizing and deciding what I can and cannot live without. I feel as though I am sounding very materialistic, like I have loads of possessions, but I suppose, relatively speaking, I don't own much at all. But we can always, always, always own less! After all, we can live out of a backpack, without all of the shoes and clothes and still feel happy and content. I for one am happiest the less I have.
When I start feeling burdened and conscientious of my possessions, I know it is time to leave. I suppose this is the part of leaving I both love and hate: being forced to deal with the nature of the beast, both accepting it and trying to control my possessive ways, re-training my brain and convincing it that I can live with only one pair of pants. It is challenging, but very rewarding at the same time. It is also motivation to continue to downsize and simplify upon returning from Ecuador.


Leaving isn't always easy. If it were, everyone would be more inclined to just pack up and go, free to explore the world and themselves. But daily life, responsibilities, and so-called necessities make it difficult to do, even when you consider yourself to be a non-participatory "member" of society.
Living for even a few months in a house or other such dwelling requires commitment, and facilitates the accumulation of personal property and belongings, both of which make leaving difficult in the end. As you long for the days of living out of a backpack in your simple, obligation-free cabana on the beach, you also cherish the thought of having a place to be and feel settled. It's this quandry that gets my head spinning: How do I live freely and be true to myself in a world that I feel is becoming a place ruled by the very things that complicate life when they are supposed to be making it easier, simpler, more convenient? I question the priorities of society, and my own, on a daily basis, and as a result, often feel conflicted, torn, and sometimes just downright guilty.
How does this have anything to do with leaving? I suppose it's those creature comforts that I have the love-hate relationship with, the necessity of having a place to house them, and having to deal with them before I can leave, and live, and feel free. So why do I have them if its this upsetting? Well, I like my down jacket! I like having a pillow on a comfy bed, and I even like being able to watch a movie now and then. But they just seem to accumulate, endlessly, out of control: stacks of books, magazines, clothes, shoes (!), cookbooks and kitchen gadgets. Don't even get me started on art supplies and assorted papers. Only when forced to move said objects do we start to wonder why in the hell we have so many, and when on earth we ever find the time to use them all.
Which is where I am at right now. In a short 6 months, post-Mexico cabania, I have acquired the stacks and piles and feel buried. In order to feel free and alive again, I am planning my next trip. I think part of the appeal of travelling and living out of a backpack is that you remind yourself once again how little you actually do need to survive in this materialistic, misguided society.