Living in Central America for 8 Weeks: Freedom (Part IV)

Dictionary.com defines freedom as “the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.”

Here are a few truths about me:

I am probably the most liberal person you know, politically and non-politically. In general, I believe everyone should do what they want to do. I don’t believe in being reckless, per se, but even if someone decides to be, then I think even that’s their right. My screensaver says, “You do you. I’ll do me.” This is my mantra.

I don’t believe in having “bosses.” I have a couple of friends who call the person directly over me my “boss.” That’s not odd, I suppose. Most people do. But I always reject the term. In my mind, when I work somewhere, I’m in collaboration. You’re probably over me because you or someone else decided you were the best, most efficient person to organize and disseminate information (this is usually the educational hierarchy). We work together, and I have the freedom to agree to do something or decline doing something, with the onus of consequence on me. This is how I’ve operated at my last four jobs.

I am married to a man who doesn’t ask a lot of questions about my whereabouts. If I leave the house and say, “I’ll be back in four hours,” he doesn’t call me every sixty minutes asking me questions…about anything. When I left last year to visit Panama City Beach by myself, we verbally checked in once a day. I could never be with someone who required more; it would seem a bit naggy to me.

In my non-romantic relationships (e.g., family and friends) I function in similar ways. If you want me to call you every day, I’m not the friend for you. If you want me to reach out every Sunday at 2pm just so you can hear my voice, I’m not the right family member for you. I text when I’m thinking about you (sometimes), and if you cannot text, like my ninety-something-year-old grandmother, then I call…like once a month.

Back to living in Central America…

I outlined reasons we left the country, but I also knew I needed to leave for a change of scenery. Dwight chose the perfect Costa Rican Airbnb in the mountains. I’m more of a beach and metropolitan person, but it was refreshing to wake up, cook food, and sleep surrounded by mountains. And although Panamá City is a metropolis that is a lot like other major cities in the States, it’s not North America. It’s like living in a history lesson with people who are stuck in a colonial time capsule.

I needed to see other people and what they were doing. It was interesting to watch how Costa Ricans got to and from work every day. People rode horses; some walked; others biked; many drove motorcycles. It was cool joining the Ticos’ rhythm and abandoning my own. Though hearing roosters at six in the morning was annoying, I grew used to it. It became a part of my surroundings.

I needed to speak with people different than myself. From first through eleventh grades, I learned Spanish. I didn’t think I was as fluent as I am. It turns out that children who learn a language early on store it together with their native language. I’m not saying I can hold a quick-paced conversation with a Panamanian, but I can certainly understand what the Uber driver is saying, who by the way rated my Spanish as “que bien.” It was fun for me to recall words I thought I’d forgotten, but apparently are stuck in my brain somewhere. Speaking with people in another language challenged me in ways it wouldn’t have at home.

Some people are born to be quiet to demonstrate the value of silence; others are meant to be painters as a way to help us see the world differently. I was born with a natural sense of freedom that requires a certain lifestyle, and I think the result is I get to show people how to be free. This trip has reinforced who I know myself to be.



Living in Central America for 8 Weeks: Patience (Part III)

I’m writing this as we’re headed to Puerto Viejo. We are stuck on the side of a mountain because, according to Waze, something is obstructing the road. We don’t know what or (God-forbid) who it is, but we are forced to sit here.

And I am forced to be patient.

Even though I’m on Claro, Costa Rica’s network, my phone flashes a big E…no signal. I can’t even spend my time mindlessly scrolling social media, something I would’ve done if I were stuck in traffic at home.

As I sit here, I’m wondering if I had to leave the country to learn specific lessons. This is only Day 3 of our trip, but I’ve had to be patient since we first began this journey. On April 12th, our Jet Blue flight was cancelled, and we had to quickly find a new one on United. This required a ton of patience, especially because our flight was scheduled for 6:30a, and I received the alert at 3a.

When we ordered breakfast sandwiches at the airport Starbucks, our eggs were frozen; I had to take them back…twice. Typically, I would’ve gone off on each one of the baristas, but I didn’t. Whether it was the ashwagandha in my new probiotic that kept me calm or the meditation I’d been doing, either way, I exhibited patience.

In both situations, there was little I could do. If we couldn’t find a flight, we would’ve waited until we did. At Starbucks, I couldn’t jump over the counter and make my own breakfast sandwich. Well, I guess I could’ve, but then you would be reading a different kind of post.

I suppose you don’t have to leave the country, but sometimes you do have to engage in different experiences to level up certain skills. For patience, I think you must be put in situations where there are little to no alternatives.

In front of us, there’s a man transporting three kid-sized mattresses on top of his Toyota. He’s gotten out of his car no less than three times—once to remove the side ties holding the mattresses, another to ask the trucker in front of him what’s happened, and another to walk a few cars ahead to see the “obstruction.” Eventually, he stopped getting in and out his car, and instead, illegally drove in the other lane to be ahead of everyone, where he was still stuck.

He is not patient. And I imagine, if I was in my home country, I wouldn’t be either.

But today that doesn’t matter. I’m here. I’m waiting. I’m forced to be patient. I hope to maintain this lesson when I return home. We don’t need distractions. We need patience.

postscript

I could’ve named this article law of allowing, silence, or whatever else. My larger point is that sometimes, we need to leave our comfort zones to learn specific characteristics. For example, when my father died, I developed a deeper level of compassion that had been, up until that point, challenging for me to feel. I couldn’t have learned compassion by simply sitting at home, reading about it, and trying it out with family and friends. I had to be thrust into a situation that required it.

Written 4/16/21 (We’re home now).



Living in Central America for 8 Weeks: Routines and Other Self-Imposed Creations (Part II)

When I’m at home, I have a routine. I do some type of workout four times a week. Afterwards, I write in my gratitude journal, I light incense and meditate, and every so often, I do a tarot card spread. Then, I start my regular workday.

While I was in Central America, I rarely did an organized workout. In Costa Rica, it took two weeks for me to roll my yoga mat out on the upstairs patio and practice some poses. In terms of moving my body, Dwight and did several walking tours and hikes, lasting at least three hours. In Panamá, we took one to three-mile walks around the neighborhood during the week. And I thought to myself: isn’t this exercise? Not to mention, my diet significantly decreased in calories in Costa Rica. This was mainly because we didn’t have immediate access to a grocery store and sometimes underestimated the amount of food we would need for the week.

Instead of writing down five things I was grateful for each day, I started being grateful in the moment. For example, while I was doing yoga, the mountains surrounded me. That was dope, and I was grateful, right then. Oftentimes, I’d stand in the shower and think about how fortunate I was to be able to travel to another country, while maintaining material things back home (e.g., house, cars, etc.).

I didn’t bring any incense because I wasn’t sure I’d be able to light it, and it took me three weeks to pull a tarot card because I didn’t feel the need. Whatever I wanted to know, I intuited it.

Living this way reinforced something a medium told me last year. According to her, my spirit guides said I’m too regimented. They said I don’t need to sit down and meditate and do everything in such an orderly way. This message wasn’t just for me; she said no person needs to schedule time like this. It’s unnecessary. And now, I see what she meant.

This message was affirmed as I listened to a podcaster. She said, “If I don’t meditate in the morning, my day doesn’t go right.” I wondered if this was true. Does her entire twenty-four hours hinge on meditating for fifteen minutes? That’s a lot of pressure.

No doubt, there are times we need to center ourselves and become clear about our intentions in this world or get in touch with whatever deity we praise. But we’ve also created a system that we rely on a bit too much to live life. Consequently, this can cause us to forget to…live life.

While I was away, this idea was further affirmed through a conversation with my sister, who is Muslim. She decided not to celebrate Ramadan this year. She realized she was only doing it because she was Muslim. I saw our conversation as a clear message. Whether you believe in organized religion or not, you can make anything religious and then lean on that thing, the same way you would the teachings of Jesus or Allah.

Should I move my body every day? Of course. Do I have to spend exactly X number of minutes four times a week ensuring I do? I’m not sure. I’m starting to see this as a Western ideal we’ve created because many of us sit around too much. I’m now leaning more toward the idea of moving in ways I enjoy to remain active and mobile. I like riding my bike. I like practicing yoga. Sometimes I should pick up the pace a bit to work up a sweat. But I shouldn’t get myself into a frenzy if I don’t. It’ll be okay.


Monday Notes: 3 Reasons I Didn’t Watch the Derek Chauvin Trial

As I write this, it is Day 10 of the Derek Chauvin trial, I haven’t watched any of it, and I don’t feel guilty, either. Here’s why.

#1 Racial trauma: “Racial trauma refers to the mental and emotional injury caused by encounters with racial bias and crimes.” It can occur directly, such as when people experience racism and microaggressions at the workplace, or it can occur indirectly, such as watching a white person repeatedly be acquitted for murdering a black person during public trials (e.g., George Zimmerman, Darren Wilson, Timothy Loehmann). Racial trauma is real, and I decided ahead of time I had no intention of putting myself through it again.

#2 Who’s being tried? Every time there’s one of these public court cases, it seems as if the unarmed, deceased person is on trial, not the person who committed the crime. With George Zimmerman, there was a discussion of how menacing Trayvon Martin looked with his hoodie, and even though Zimmerman stalked him, there was confusion about who was standing who’s ground. With Darren Wilson, there was talk of Michael Brown selling illegal drugs. Even though I haven’t watched the Chauvin case unfold, I’ve been in the room when newscasters have recapped the day’s events. Apparently, there was a conversation about the drugs found in George Floyd’s body as a rationale for why he died. I can’t. It seems ridiculous to go through these theatrics when the world literally watched how Floyd died.

#3 The outcome: Again, I’m writing this on April 9th, and I don’t know what the outcome is going to be. This makes me afraid and distraught. I fear what will happen should the American court system follow its own historical precedence, which is to acquit the perpetrator (i.e., Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam). Will there be riots if Chauvin is acquitted? Will it be American “business as usual?” Have vaccinated people gone on about their lives with no care for justice and its repercussions? I’m distraught that I even have these thoughts. The fact that I cannot trust the U.S. justice system to be just is disturbing. What does it mean for all of us, who collectively witnessed a murder, where the murderer may not be penalized? I promise you this is a thought that some Black people have had. We are all holding our collective breaths, because we understand what could happen. Conversely, if Chauvin is convicted, what does it mean that the world had to witness one man’s murder just for there to be justice?

All this upsets me, and I can’t expend my emotions in a daily frenzy, worrying about what it all means.


Tomorrow, May 25th is the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder. I’m glad to see that Derek Chauvin was convicted on all three counts: second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. I hope this means we’re turning over a new leaf in the United States, and even though this is an inspirational blog, I’m sad to say I’m not hopeful.