Solitude and Peace (So where is that d*** epiphany?)
08.02.2015 - 26.04.2015 89 °F
I didn't plan on living in such a small village, but when I envisioned living on Caye Caulker, I wondered if I could find a place with reasonable rates for long term rental at this time of year. I also thought about the touristy aspect...was that the kind of environment I wanted around me while I sort out my life and try to do some writing? I just wanted a 'normal' life, but with blue skies and natural light throughout the day. Near the sea preferred. Hey, why not here? So I decided to make inquiries here and found a place right away.
I am fairly happy with my casita (little house) which is located on the edge of the village. In fact, it is on the last street--Tulip Street. The casita is technically attached to my landlords' house, but I have my own front door. It is just a decent-sized room with an attached bathroom, furnished with a large refrigerator, a double bed, a table, two plastic chairs, a 3-drawer nightstand and a small set of shelves which is now my 'kitchen'.
So that I could cook for myself, I bought a two-burner table top stove and some basics: one pot, one pan, etc. A plastic dishpan allows me to wash my dishes (in the shower!). A dish towel and food supplies make it complete. Cooking takes some extra planning and care (I'm a bit nervous about using the tiny two-burner) and it can be a little awkward without counter space or a sink...but I'm hoping to produce healthier fare than I can get at any 'restaurant' in town.
My bathroom is basic. There is a toilet and a shower, but the minuscule sink produces only a trickle and is too small for washing more than hands. The toilet does not have a toilet seat (this is common in many countries), but luckily it is the right size for me and it is never cold to sit on the porcelain since the weather is warm and tropical. The shower has a shower curtain and doesn't get the rest of the bathroom wet-- a relief since shower curtains are not commonly used here. There is no hot water. Most locals don't have have water, it's usually just in places that tourists stay-- Americans are notorious for expecting hot water even in very hot climates. I shower once or twice a day and find that a cool shower means I stay as clean and can cool off, but don't waste as much water. The only time, I miss warm water is for shampooing, but luckily, my hair is still in my short African style. In the afternoon, I have sun-warmed water in the pipe which is just enough to do my hair before the cool water starts.
Washing dishes in the shower takes some patience and coordination. The faucet in the shower is about 20 inches off the floor. As I squat or lean over from the waist to do my washing in a plastic pan, I think of my sisters in Africa- most of whom would be envious just because I have running water in my house. Travel makes one thankful and appreciate what may seem to be small things, but that are really BIG.
I was thinking that a small village might help me with reflections; that it would be hard to find distractions. HA! Yet it is also true that everything, even the simple things (brushing my teeth, buying food, etc.) takes much more effort and time. In this sense, there are many distractions...just not the fun kind. Sometimes, it seems like an endless loop of doing laundry (by hand), washing dishes, cooking, scavenging for food, fighting the hordes of invasive ants and keeping on top of the dust (no paved roads and it's the dry season).
As I write this, the long white curtains are waving from the breeze entering through the two big windows. The cooling breeze also comes through my screen door to the table where I write. Light. Lovely natural light fills my room. On first reflection it's peaceful and quiet, but there is actually a lot of noise. The sounds you tune into when laying on the grass with your eyes closed on a lazy summer day...the rattle of my propped-open door when the sea breeze blows; a rooster crowing from down the road; the strange whoops and whistles of tropical birds; the rustling of the mango tree leaves; a dog barking far away. It's so quiet, if I listen hard, I can hear voices from several blocks away, singing from a church, someone's radio playing musica romantica and an occasional pickup driving down main street a long block away.
Sometimes, my landlord walks by to feed Puma the dog or to get something from the storage shed. She's company if I want it, but I seldom do. I am content with the quiet and a occasional visits by small geckos which I welcome for their bug eating activities. Geckos make a cheery chuckling noise now and then, but they are actually quite shy. I have one little guy hanging out in the corner who is less than an inch long. I hope he is consuming ants.
This place can get buggy. I've not seen a single cockroach which is a surprise for a tropical setting, but I do get ant hordes in the strangest places. They are the smallest ants I have ever seen and seem to appear out of no where. One night I saw a spider on the floor. It looked huge and black, but on a closer look-- it was dead or almost dead. It was completely covered by hundreds of the teeny-tiny ants consuming it, ugh!
The best time of day is in the late afternoon. Without fail, I walk or ride a bike to the sea. I walk the length of a long warped wooden dock and enter the water. It is my favorite activity. I have to walk a long distance in the water until it is finally up to my shoulders. By then, I am far away from everyone. I plunge in and start swimming. I make a game of swimming out to a different boat each day to see what their names are. Without my glasses, I have to get close. Puff (with a picture of a dragon), O La La, Tiempo de Isla (Island Time), Grasy's, El Dueno (the owner/boss), Regalito (Gift)... many are so faded I can barely read them.
I time my swim to avoid a large group of Canadian snowbirds that descend more like a flock of waddling penguins and stand in the water by the dock loudly talking about what seem to be their favorite topics-- drinking and how "things should be". After a few minutes in the water, they sit on the dock for more social chatter, make plans for evening cocktails, then leave. When I arrive, there are just a few locals (mostly kids) or if I am lucky, no one. I do a lot of thinking while I'm swimming. Usually, the only interruption is when the Thunderbolt ferry comes roaring up to the cement public pier nearby. I watch the brief flurry as a handful of people get off, get on, receive or handover something for delivery. For some strange reason this always makes me smile and gives me a sense of well-being. Sometimes, I arrive too late to see it arrive, but then I content myself with watching yet another gorgeous sunset over the water. From bright sun to burnishing gold and then a glowing red ball of fire, it slips below the water's surface.