Grist to the Mill

Must post, must post, must post! It seems like a long time since the publish button was tapped, and indeed it is, over 3-weeks. Why this has happened is the reason behind this post’s opening lines. There is a a need to break silence and get something, anything out there (although not just any old thing will do as it does need to have some sort of binding theme to it). Quite why nothing has been forthcoming is due in large part to the change of country at the very beginning of this year. Emerging from the remote jungle of the Río San Juan delta in Nicaragua we found ourselves in the mega-tourist destination that is Costa Rica. Gone were the night-time nature watches in hand-poled wooden canoes and the quiet contemplation of monkeys occupying their lofty treetop encampments. Now it was all zip lines, quad-bike tours, air-boarding and white-water rafting. Everything seemed to be adrenaline fuelled: bars buzzed with North American tourists on 2-week trips, advertising hoardings were piled one on top of another, tour buses were parked everywhere waiting for their next cargo of fresh-faced thrill-seeking punters.

We entered a period of shock – briefly. Then, after a move to the coast where we found the same tourist party albeit in a slightly different dress, we made the decision to hire a car (a 4×4) and head off to more remote regions. This worked up to a point but we were still dogged by crowds and an environment in which every piece of real estate was up for grabs with the promise of a ‘Dream Lifestyle in the Sun’.

Ideas for posts kept coming: notes were made and ideas bounced around but nothing really ‘stuck’. Again part of this lack of adhesion was that we were clipping along at a fair old pace and time was being wolfed down at an extraordinary rate. Travelling as we do without fixed plans or reservations, ready to adjust at a moment’s notice to any likely opportunity if required, is both exhilarating and exhausting. To anyone who has never travelled in such an ad hoc manner it may seem absurd to say that one often does not have enough time to sit down for an hour or two to write every day. But the actual logistics of being constantly on the road are all-consuming: the actual time spent travelling; the waiting; the time planning where and how to travel; hotels and eateries to find; personal maintenance; the activities one engages in; a new language to learn; the people one encounters and talk with; and the mundanities such as getting clothes washed. It all adds up.

Then there is the fact that fresh stimuli is constantly coming up on the radar. What might seem like a hot post topic one day is swiftly relegated to the back burner as another even fresher one comes along to take its place in the front of the queue. My drafts folder is full to bursting with short snippets,a boat ride here, a jungle walk there, a sad old expat at a bar or a delighted retiree from France. It is all encompassing and truth be told at this moment I want to be out there experiencing it all rather than tapping out my impressions on a small keyboard. Thinking about not having enough time to write has prompted me to ask if that time could be created. What would have to be sacrificed in order to have more time to write? That is a tricky question and one to which at present I do not have an answer. Perhaps it is just a case of riding out this particular impasse and waiting for the muse to reassert itself. Different ways of travelling have been discussed. Do we move on too fast sometimes and try to do too much? Sometimes yes and sometimes no was our take on that issue. It is largely down to how we are feeling on a day-by-day basis. There is an underlying sense that this time is extremely special and that we need to keep achieving as much as we possibly can from each and every situation as they present themselves. Much of what we are doing will be impossible or extremely difficult if left until later in our lives. There is very little sitting back and letting opportunities fritter away.

So, what is all this, a justification for not having written more over the last few weeks? Not really, as there was plenty written it just did not translate across to the blog. In a letter to a friend a while back, after he’d sent a well-intentioned and precise critique of a piece I’d posted, I resolved to sharpen up my powers of observation as it seemed that this was one of the keys to sharpening up my prose. So, in some small part, I now feel that unless I hit on a certain level of writing it will not get any further as a complete piece. This is almost certainly a good thing but leaves me stuck in an exasperated mire of half-written morsels none of which can be combined to make up a worthy meal. But better a fresh, lovingly home-cooked meal than a quickly thrown together sandwich.

Lastly, this stream of consciousness (one hour and counting) written on a hot and steamy balcony overlooking a tiny enclave of Afro-Caribbean culture on the Costa Rican coast might be just the thing to get the writing mill grinding round again. Yesterday’s storm is passing over, the wind has dropped, patches of blue are appearing where this morning all was leaden and dark. I can hear the strains of a classic Bob Marley tune in the distance, the surf is tumbling more softly and it has been enjoyable to get this down. A bit scrappy, largely unedited and clearly not a full meal in current form but it has got the fingers moving, the mind engaged in things other than what is ‘out there’ and more with what is going on ‘in here’. Grist to the mill indeed, watch this space.

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8 thoughts on “Grist to the Mill

  1. I for one love this post David as so much of it resonated with me – we only had 3 weeks to see Guatemala – so didn’t see much – and I spent more time reading Lonely Planet and debating what to do next than I would have liked – and we even had the first 2 weeks of Air BNB’s booked in advance! We also spent out last day in the country (other than travel day back to the City) on the Caribbean coast, in a black Garifuna community with pasta music blaring, Haile Salassie photos in the houses and ne’er a Mayan in sight. So different.

    Anyway, get away from CR as fast as you can and go where…??? So much of the continent is now over-developed. Maybe Surinam? Guyana? Deep into Brazil?

    xo

    Jenny

    490 Ontario Street Toronto ON M4X 1M7 416 525 2136

    >

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    • Hi Jenny,

      Glad you liked it. Steaming on with another right now, fuelled by CR’s Imperial Beer! We are indeed ready to leave CR and will head to the bright lights of Havana – do you know it? Important to get there before the floodgates open and they let them darn ‘mericans in there. But the last week or so has seen us getting off the beaten trail and seeing some more authentic country and people. Maybe that should be our new MO – throw away the Lonely Planet and go to everywhere that they do not list! A piece on modern tourism Laos in the offing. Sounds like you made it to Livingstone in Guatemala? We loved it. Anyway, mozzies are beginning to gather, inside for a while. David xx

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  2. Hello Lovely!

    Well, a very nice piece, actually – kind of “behind the scenes” of your trip which some of us get in emails but which might fill in a few gaps for some of your other readers! And I, for one, would read any of your scrappy half-baked snippets over most student essays any day!

    Love the photo at the end of the piece – Davol about to be engulfed by the waves!

    Is the dreadful Ziku virus present in CA? It’s been so sad reading about it – apparently (obviously, rather) hitting the communities the least equipped to deal with the results.

    I’ve just heard from Vincent for the first time in ages. A tear-wrenching email of great unhappiness. Making a living in northern Brazil is so obviously grinding him down and he feels trapped and desperate for a way out. Unbearable to read as he tries to soldier on. Send him some positive vibes across the Americas….

    Big bisous,

    Sarol xxx

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  3. Yes the Lonely Planet is a good book to see where not to go LOL. I actally found it useful in finding over populated guesthouses so I could post adds to find people who may be interested in hiring a motor to go off the beaten track and share the cost. Why on earth do people flock to these crowded places and take no notice of the culture. Certainly strange behaviour to be missed. I like the way the tone of your writing can change from time to time btw. This post had a lot of mad energy about it. Safe journeys

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      • Actually we’ve borrowed a car and I’ll drive from Beijing to Tangshan to see wifey’s family before the Chinese Spring Festival. I’ve never driven in China before so I’m excited beyond all comprehension at the moment. Just working the route out now weheeeey

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