Woke up to bright sunshine -- the actual orb beaming into my eye. So far, the sky is blue and there are few clouds veiling the mountains. We've been walking around looking for birds -- seeing little, but hearing their songs fill the valley. I gulped the air to see what special fragrances I could detect, but there is no special "sweetness" -- it just fills the lungs so easily.
Last night's dinner was lively. New guests: a couple from Ottawa, fresh from 3 weeks in the Galápagos; a London woman who's finishing up a solo tour of South America (3 months!); and a Texas woman who just completed 2 weeks of language study (her "midlife thing") in Quito. J and Debbie (the Londoner) got into a friendly pissing match over travel experiences. I didn't feel like hearing the same old stories from J -- he can always trump anyone, yet gets oddly competitive. Debbie was tough competition, with pretty intense adventures in 52 countries.
It took me a while to get to sleep -- we crawled into bed early and the voices from the other lodgers kept up a steady stream for a good long time. Then J had a nightmare. He thrashed around, then screamed: "Get away from me, you bitch!" Great entertainment for everyone in the lodge, I'm sure... I began to count up the countries that I'd been in (not including airport stopovers). 17. (I asked J about his in the morning. His unofficial total was 53.)
Morning walk down the road toward Tandayapa. Sky clouded over. Quiet. We walk slowly, but still hear more when we stop. The mist makes the sound travel. There are hidden brooks and waterfalls. Lots of flowers: giant bromeliads and tiny ones, red, purple, yellow of all varieties. Lots of small butterflies and phlegmatic bunches of tiny metallic blue scarab beetles on broadleaf plants eating the juicy green parts and leaving veinous skeletons. We were anxious about the walk back -- all uphill -- but it was fine. It didn't take any longer than the downhill leg.
It is interesting to be at a crossroads where travelers from all over cross paths. We asked Debbie how her travel has changed her. A denizen of the corporate world, she responded that it was the greatest possible course in communication. We also agreed that it makes risk-taking more comfortable and increases our tolerance for ambiguity. She mentioned that she always tries to adhere to the "three Cs": Confidence (gotta display it even when you don't feel it), Common Sense (don't get off a bus staring stupidly at a tourist map), and Cultural Sensitivity. Later, J thought about the contrast of voluntary travelers with people, say, in the military, who insist on staying in their own enclaves, who isolate themselves from any interaction with or learning about the culture they've found themselves in. These types are simultaneously disdainful and intimidated. The travelers we've met here are all eager students and full of openness about new things. I think it's ironic how often it is these fellow travelers who are the most interesting people we meet, not the locals, who are too commonly sullen workaday slugs like we are back home.
God, I'm relaxed. There are bugs here, yes, but they don't bother me like they once might have. They have their own business and don't get into ours. I can't be bothered worrying about them. This damp cool treehouse is too fabulous not to share (as long as they are not in my bed). My treehouse is a great rainy backdrop to the contemplation of great thoughts -- even though I have none.
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