Pete and I just arrived in Ireland on Friday, and so while we recover from jet lag and get our heads wrapped around the fact that we are *actually here*, I thought I would share something a little different.
Unbeknownst to most of you, I have enrolled in an online travel writing course at MatadorU. Even though I am only a few sections in, it has definitely provided challenge to me as a writer, and I believe I have already seen improvement in my skills. Below you will find one of my early submissions that was well received and in which I am quite happy with.
However, I need to preface the piece with a couple of things. While it may come across that I am desperate and unhappy in our travels and concurrent search for that ideal place in which to settle down, that is definitely not the case. The assignment for which I wrote this asked to focus on using effective transitions between a recent day and a flashback to some time in the past. This piece reflects a particular day when I was miserable from the heat of Honduras, and I paralleled it to a time in Patagonia when I felt the same misery from the exact opposite climate.
Pete also asked me to point out that he is indeed a loving and compassionate husband, and does not always sleep through my troubling times.
I hope you like it.
I toss. And in the turn that follows, the fitted bed sheet snaps loose from the corner once again. I curse, not so quietly, and rise to pull the turquoise sheet back into place. Peter fidgets on hearing the elevated tone in my voice, he is slightly disturbed by the movement of the sheet beneath him. Milliseconds later his peaceful, quiet snoring is restored and I plop back down on the bed with an exasperated sigh.
It’s too hot. The euphoric rush of the cool shower before bed lasted only an hour before the sweat beads on my forehead begin to form again, dripping down my face, the salty liquid sometimes stinging my eyes. It has been several sleepless nights in a row now, and I begin to wonder how much more I can stand. I turn and look at Peter, silently wishing I had his ability to ignore the temperature, slightly hating him for his ability to turn off the world. And even though he is mere inches from me, I feel totally alone in my misery and discomfort. My tears begin to mix with the sweat. It wasn’t so long ago that I remember silently crying from exposure to the extreme opposite element, but that chain of thought provides no comfort now.
“Think of warm things, think of warm things,” I said to myself through chattering teeth. I pulled the opening of the sleeping bag tight around me and my toque further down on my forehead until it covered my eyes. Stray llama wool hairs tickled my exposed nose, and the urge to itch my eyebrow overwhelmed me. I pushed the toque back up, and exposed my forehead to the chill once again. I couldn’t win.
“I actually paid for this experience,” became my dominant thought, wedging out any attempt to conjure up images of beaches and deserts. Indeed, I paid good money to explore the nether regions of Patagonia. By day we glided across the frigid waters in kayaks, marveled at the majestic glaciers and the sight of the elusive condors. We enjoyed the serenity of the gently rushing river and the stark absence of other tourists. This tiny corner of mountainous eden was ours to explore autonomously, and I reveled in every minute of it. Near frozen fingers and toes were ultimately forgotten, or at least made bearable by the intense beauty surrounding us.
But at night, beneath the canopy of the thin vinyl tent, the pleasure from the day past provided no enduring warmth. The wind whipped and shook my eyes open from the promise of sleep. My several shifting attempts to find a comfortable position were futile given the uneven ground beneath me.
Beside me, he snored.
Peter was not shivering from the chill, nor was he disturbed by my fitfulness. I attempted to snuggle closer and be enveloped by his body heat, but found a large rock under the tent right where I would lay. I retreated to my corner and tearfully shivered. For the first time during our excited travels around South America, I cried myself to sleep and wished that I was home.
“Home. Where is that now?” I think to myself as I run a cloth under the cool tap water. I return to my bed, drape the cloth across my forehead and settle on the warm sheets, careful to keep my distance from Pete and his feverous radiation. My mind drifts to our time in Patagonia, drawing an obvious parallel to our time here on this tiny Caribbean island. Two extremes, met with misery and tears, and suddenly, painful revelation.
The southern region of Chile was too cold, this small Honduran island, too hot. The cities we’ve visited have been too busy, the country, too quiet. Too rainy, too dry, too many bugs. Our almost two year journey to explore and perhaps find a place to settle has thus far, come up empty. Nothing seems just right.
I wonder where my happy medium might be. Or if it even exists.