It has now been a week since I left Nicaragua and returned to Canada to begin my last year of university. I’ve been trying to conceal how sad I am about being back, and maybe it’s because the weather today is 10 degrees celsius, or maybe it’s because I’ve averaged 4 hours of sleep a night for the last 9 days (thanks for keeping me informed, FitBit!), but now seems like a good day for me to unload a few of the many things my backpacking trip taught me. If you want to read about why I decided to backpack Nicaragua, check out Part 1!
I forgot how much I like nature.
Growing up, my parents took me camping every summer (sometimes twice a summer), and would bring my sisters and I back to Vietnam every few years. I think naturally, I have always been really fascinated with nature, animals, flora, and fauna, and somewhere along the line I let the unpleasant things about nature drive me away from it. Working on a permaculture property where life in all senses is incredibly abundant made me realize that things like bug bites and creepy crawling insects make things like seeing butterflies of all colours from the rainbow and watching the natural defense mechanisms of a tree once its fruit is picked SO worth it.
Rachel, Trevor, and the other volunteer at El Jardin de la Vida Kenji, are total geeks about agriculture and all things growing and I loved learning about the intricacies of the different plants, animals, and insects around the property. They had so much knowledge on what grows well, what plants look like, the differences between North American strains of plants and tropical strains, I was learning so much that has helped me appreciate the sparse nature on the campus of UWaterloo.
What the f*** do we put in our food?!
One of the highlights and transformative moments of my trip was killing one of the 11 free range chickens that roam around the property. My host Trevor helped out with the catching, killing, and preparing the chicken, but mainly walked me through it so that I could do it myself. I know some of you are reading this and cringing, but I really think that if you are a meat eater, at one point in your life, you should kill and eat a creature. I have a video of me killing the chicken which I’ll share if you ask me to because it shows how shaken up I was and I really don’t want to make myself seem like I was this crazy woman of the jungle and took it on like a champ. Before killing the chicken, I asked my hosts if I should expect blood to squirt everywhere when I killed it– they both shrugged and Trevor literally said “I don’t ever remember having to change my clothes after killing a chicken… although I can’t say I’d be particularly bothered if there was chicken blood on my clothes”. My knife skills weren’t at their greatest so I kind of messed up the killing part and blood squirted in my eye and I proceed to freak out about it in the video. Yummy!
I then had to de-feather and de-gut the bird which was actually the most shocking part of the process because MAN THAT CHICKEN DID NOT HAVE MUCH MEAT ON IT and the organs were HUGE and still warm and I accidently sliced the esophagus of the chicken while cleaning it up which revealed the green grass that the chicken was eating minutes before I killed it. All I could think was, “there is no way factory farmed chickens look like this”, because, and I’m not exaggerating when I say, that one chicken breast from the 20 pack at costco was the equivalent to the amount of meat on this wild, free range chicken. They’re actually very lean, very athletic creatures and they’re beautiful. I’m betting that the chickens we eat on a day-to-day basis in North America are so far genetically removed from what a chicken is really supposed to look like- with breasts, and thighs largely enhanced with steroids and a diet that isn’t green at all.
On a less morbid note, the fruit on Ometepe is all organic and fresh since refrigeration isn’t really a thing and the fruit tastes different than what I’m used to, probably because, again, these are naturally occuring and not factory farmed for mass consumption. Upon my return to Canada, everyone remarked on how I lost weight, and I was like “of course I lost weight, I stopped ingesting processed foods and sweat 24/7 for the last two weeks”.
I don’t want to participate in consumerism and capitalist ideals.
I feel like for every point I have on this post, I think, “that was the most impactful thing”, but this is a huge one for me. I was living out of a 50L+5L backpack for two weeks with a few pairs of shorts, tops, and dresses, and the only thing that bothered me about that was that I was beginning to run out of clean underwear. Otherwise, I had my flip-flops, Birkenstocks, and hiking boots, one purse, and one pair of $20 sunglasses that I ended up sitting on and breaking. This was no issue at all which SHOCKED me because I returned to my apartment in Waterloo and was horrified at all of the stuff I have. 3 weeks ago I would have raved and been so proud of my purse collection, my shoe collection, and my make-up shelf. I don’t have any shame in the fact that I really like expensive things and I like nice things, but they are soooooo unnecessary and I feel like its excessive.
There is actually no reason why I need a black leather Gucci crossbody, a Kate Spade black leather crossbody, and a black Coach crossbody purse. The truth is that I could pick up a crossbody from a local artisan’s market and it would serve the same purpose. On my trip, someone stole my UWaterloo Camelback water bottle, and when I told Rachel about it, she said the same thing happened to her once while she was travelling, and then she said, “That’s okay though. You just learn to not become attached to things”. I was mind blown!!!! Is it kind of sad and a little annoying that I lost a $30 water bottle? Yes. Did the plastic water bottle I used for the remainder of my trip serve the same purpose? Also yes.
Here’s are photos of the room I stayed in- you can check out a video here which I can’t upload because despite paying WordPress I can’t upload videos 🙂
I’ve been putting my blood, sweat, and tears into organizing Hack the North, Canada’s biggest hackathon, for the last year and a half of my life, and as much as I love the organization and people, I’ve been seriously questioning how much I even want to be a part of the tech industry, especially on the marketing side of it. It’s all fine and dandy I supposed and no disrespect at all to my fellow techies, but SO much is lost on us because we’re too caught in the SAUCE. Blockchain technology and user-friendly data analytics used to get me aroused and being around people who don’t really care to even know or think about those things for a little while made me realize that I don’t think I really care to even know about these things either.
I saw how the locals lived and what the family unit in Nicaragua is like. The many expats on Ometepe have adopted these minimalist type ideals and values and it was a really great thing to witness. I wish I could convey how beautiful a simple lifestyle is without sounding cheesy and hypocritical (peep me on campus still wearing my purses and RayBans), but it’s something that has really made me think twice about the decisions and values I hold.
Look for love.
In an attempt to experience Ometepe from a different perspective, I downloaded Tinder and started swiping away. I realize that can sound kind of scary to some of you– I’m a solo single female traveller meeting strangers on the internet in a foreign country, but the island is so small that anyone I swiped on, my hosts probably knew, and could do a quick sanity check for me. I found locals and fellow backpackers on the app and it was a great way to see who else was around! All of the boys I met had really interesting and insightful things to say and show me, so in honor of the novel turned Netflix movie “To all the boys I loved”, I will be writing about them in my next post.