Nearly 15 years ago, I wrote a slew of emails from South America, Central America and Asia. For some reason, my mom printed and saved them. I just found them yesterday and they remind me what a fearless, wild-ass, hippie freak I used to be.
It was nearly 2000. Bill Clinton was still president and September 11th was just another fall day. Y2K was scheduled to end the world but if it had, I wouldn’t have known because I was deep in Bolivia’s Amazon Basin, sleeping in a sweaty tent with bug bites covering my body like chickenpox. My then-boyfriend and I had hiked a Pre-Incan trade route, paved with large, now-slippery stones all the way from the mountains to the Rio Beni. Here’s what I had to say about that:
And because we just hadn’t had enough, we decided to hit the jungle for another four days in Rurrenabaque. We had a delightful guide and saw a few crazy jungle creatures as we were floating down the river on a handmade balsa wood raft, ala Huck Finn…Our guide, Victor Hugo, who was born and raised deep in the jungle, told us he has seen the jaguars hypnotize monkeys in the trees, causing them to fall out and become prey. He and his brothers have trapped jaguars because when you live in the jungle they are higher on the food chain than humans. They routinely drag children off.
Later, we dropped into Central America and earned dive certificates in Honduras. On a tiny caye off the coast of Belize we snorkeled for hours with Blue Tang, Barracuda and Anchovy in warm, turquoise water with pink coral forests. Here’s what I said about that:
Morris Caye is so small it doesn’t even appear named on maps. It’s maybe 300 yards by 150 yards. We slept in a cabana that had seven windows, all of which had views of the Caribbean Sea. We spent our days drinking rum, snorkeling in the coral reefs and fishing from a tiny, leaky, dugout boat.
And one of my personal favorites came from the Himalayas in the Fall of 2000.
“Nepalis are thrilled to see America joining the ranks of the third world in terms of election shenanigans. “Election…America….like Nepal…ha ha ha.” You think you are confused trying to work it out? Try at 16,000 feet in a third world country. Just finished a three-week, 150km trek through the very beautiful Annapurna region of Nepal. We crossed a 17,700 foot pass and are now safely down again. Happily we arrived in Pokhara for the beginning of a nine-day paragliding course (the kind where you jump off hills and mountains with a parachute). We took the first class today and will fly tomorrow. Needless to say, that has us pretty excited.”
I included pictures here because even I feel like I’m making this up. But that little adventurer with the tan feet, strong calves and sand in her hair, is still bouncing around in me. She’s why I believe in micro-finance, education for girls and counter-trafficking efforts. She’s why I’m a feminist and a pacifist and why I just can’t see things in black and white.
But the difference between then and now is I’m no longer the center, the engine of what I do.
Right now, I feel like a rusty 57 Chevy that is slowly being dismantled and restored. It’s painful to feel the really damaged bits torn away and replaced, but it’s worth it because at the heart of the car is a brand new, after-market engine. It’s got a lot more horses and technology I don’t even understand. It’s the same car with the same character, it’s just being cleaned up from the inside out.
So all this makes me wonder, if my steps are ordered by the Lord, as I have chosen to believe they are, surely he ordered them through places like New Delhi and Jakarta and Patagonia.
Why? What was all that for?
It’s an exciting question.