Garbage to Gold

Written: January 13, 2009

It is funny. When I first got to Costa Rica I was ever so cautious of impurities. Careful not to swallow the water as I brushed my teeth. Careful not to touch anything more than I needed to in the shower, in the bread store, on the bus. Even the grocery to me in Alajuela felt tainted, and there was no way that I was going to consider eating from an exposed mound of complimentary brown and bruised bananas and crumby white loaf bread at the hotel in San Jose.

Since I have been here in Caletas, all of these preconceived ideas of impurities have been diminished. We wash our dishes with sometimes foul-smelling well water. The dishes are hardly ever really clean, sitting out in the open air just like everything else at camp. Leftovers sit out uncovered, or saran wrapped in above normal temperatures for a day and we still eat them. Our hands and nails are always dirty from digging in the sand, using the "facilities," and digging up rotting turtle eggs. Often they are washed only to immediately come in contact with some other unsanitary surface. Some of us shower daily, while some shower only once or twice a week. We all brush our teeth, some a little compulsively than others, but I admit that I have stopped having a problem with dampening my bristles in the dish water. We've mastered the art of scavenging for every last crumb of food, even if it so happens to be lost in the sand. Mites and ants run rampant across every surface, and I have grown tireless of brushing them from my skin or chasing them from meals. We've learned to efficiently utilize every last drop of honey, every minute scrap from the peanut jar, and tattered, torn and stained articles of clothing have no choice, but to carry on.

I have a memory from the beginning of one of the girls washing a bucket before she used it, and I laughed, "We live in a camp!" I recall people complaining that they were sick of always having to eat rice and beans--still are-- and I exclaimed, "Hey, reality check. We live in a camp!" I remember people complaining of the toxic fumes omitted from the almost revolting facilities, and I screamed, "Dude, we live in a fucking camp!!!"

As I sit here on this early Tuesday morning, surrounded by dirty cups and plates. Surrounded by deteriorating and stained books, duct tape patched tarps, knife carved and marked surfaces, dried up coconut shells, empty glass Imperial bottles, heaps of junk behind the bookshelf, empty water jugs, rusty metal, and plastic garbage collected from the beach. I am content pushing my sweaty hair behind my ears and dabbing my brow. I am content rinsing and peeing in the ocean, eating lukewarm leftovers, drinking dirt-tasting water, and slapping bugs on my skin. It's not paradise. Never said it was. But I am content and comfortable and a part of me is sad to let go of this freedom; this filthy, acceptable companionship.

As unsettling as any of this sounds to you--maybe making your stomach turn, or face scrunch--the fact of the matter is, is that none of these things that I have explained matter. The dirt, the sweat, the rot, the filth, the stench--these are real things and they are life. We establish standards of living as we move about as creatures of habit. Creatures of habit that have since been radically molded by the standards that society has seen "acceptably" fit. We judge others for living in their trash, not having access to clean water, wearing clean clothes, etc. I don't know... maybe I feel differently about it all now. About human beings as a whole, and distinguishing the difference between "choice" and "force," and how these two categories can make any standard of living acceptable under circumstance and understanding.

I came from a country where appearance and status is every thing. Where trends are all that matter, and makeup, hair, clothes are always perfect. I came to a place where none of that mattered, and I could confidentially walk into town on a dirt-caked road, clothes and skin covered in dust, stains, holes, and scrapes, humidity ravaged hair and drenched in sweat. I can be this way and found that I feel beautiful. I really do. Humble, simple, and pure. And all I hope is that I can keep this, and come home being content just being. I hope that I can go home and stop trying to be perfect. Stop trying to impress the social sphere and the cliche.

"I hope for your sake I’ve changed , and I hope for my sake you managed to remain the same."

Hold me to it. Hold myself high and hold me to it. This could be the beginning of something beautiful, and I can't let you destroy that this time.


er!ca said…
can i just say that the facebook photo you have up right now (with the little turtle) is probably the most beautiful photo of you i have ever seen.
Anonymous said…
hi friend!!! your back! well, in japan! i just love your writing, a little sorry i've just now stumbled upon it. it's nice to live a little vicariously during my 1/2 hour lunch break :) i'm so happy for you! seriously, you go girl!

Kimbrolynn said…
You don't know how happy I am to hear from you Linds! Seriously, freakin' love and miss you to pieces. :)

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