There’s a giant toad, bigger than any I’ve ever seen, living outside my front door. An even bigger gecko serenades me every evening from a nearby tree. Dragon fruit plants, papaya and mango trees, and all the fresh vegetables you’ll ever need cover the hilly landscape. And it’s hot, so, so hot.
I am at Nature’s Healing Home, a yoga and healing center outside of San Fernando, that is also a farm, campground, BnB, restaurant and home. There are a few small bungalows and huts scattered around the property, which is owned and run by Prescilla and Richard, my hosts. I am not here as a tourist, but am participating in a work exchange through Helpx, a website that matches travelers with volunteer or work exchange opportunities (post coming soon about this). I receive three wholesome organic meals a day, along with a private room and bath for just $4 and a few hours of work. And there are four dogs to play with!
I start pulling weeds, or helping in any way needed, after our 7:00 breakfast. By 10:00, it’s usually too hot to do any more work., so I spend the rest of the morning soaking in the nature and solitude around me. After lunch, I sometimes have to retreat to my room and point the fan on me for a few hours just to survive. By 5:00, it’s a little cooler and soon after there’s a gorgeous sunset over the South China Sea. It’s eight miles away, but looks so close.
After dinner with my hosts and the two children who live on the farm, I do the other part of my work exchange, which is tutoring McTerry (13) and Alzera (14). These cousins live here at Nature’s Retreat and help out with the chores when they’re not in school. They are both fun to work with and eager to learn.
It has taken some time to adjust to this lifestyle. I really want to be the kind of person who loves gardening, nature, solitude, cold showers, being disconnected from the world, but the heat and the bugs still bother me, and the afternoons with little to do sometimes seem endless. Getting to and from town is no easy task with limited transportation options, but the other day I caught a ride to town and spent a blissful afternoon in an air-conditioned cafe. Why do the comforts of the modern world make me so happy?
On the weekend, McTerry and I explore the beach, after doing our chores of course. And now that I’m in my second week here, I am getting used to the slow pace. In fact, I have a list of things I want to accomplish (blog posts, photo work, taxes, emails to write, planning my next work exchange, etc.) and can’t seem to get much done. Enjoying nature, playing a little volleyball, looking for shells on the beach, washing my clothes by hand, digging in the dirt – it’s all starting to feel right. I’m even enjoying the unpredictability of how I will get to town. Sometimes the wait is 20 minutes, sometimes an hour, sometimes I squeeze into a jeep or motorcycle, or ride on the back of a dump truck. It’s all good.
I know when I return to my regular job and the incredibly hectic schedule, I’ll long for days like this, with nothing to do but listen to the sounds of nature around me. And when I’m not overwhelmed with the heat or swatting mosquitoes, I have moments of peace, no stress and total relaxation. I’ll try to take some of that with me when I leave this paradise.
Even though this is not the Eat, Pray, Love journey that many of my friends hope I’ll experience, I did have a wonderful prayerful encounter last night which I will write about soon.