I’ll be flying back to the US in four days. And I’m afraid. But not for the reasons you’d think. I’m not particularly worried about finding a job or making new friends (I’ve got a lot of experience at doing both) and even though I’m not ecstatic about moving in with the ‘rents again, I know it’ll only be temporary. I’ll survive.
No, what I’m really afraid of is boredom. I know. I haven’t gotten over that one yet. Remember when I was terrified of leaving Tokyo because it would mean going back to the land of strip malls and parking lots? Well, it may be a different year and a different country that I’m leaving, but it’s still the same phobia.
Does anyone else look at these photos and want to immediately and permanently retire to a an iceberg in Antarctica? No? Just me? Well then…
One of the my favorite things about Central America is the random, wild unpredictability of it. I love, for example, that right now there’s a rooster tied to a telephone pole across the street from my hostel. I also love that no one seems to care or even notice that there’s a rooster tied to a telephone poll across the street from my hostel, perhaps most notably the rooster himself.
I love that the buses here are all painted pink, red or green and that the walls inside are decorated with Looney Toon stickers and paintings of Jesus. I love that they blast music at ear-splitting levels and that you never have to worry about going on a long journey without drinks or snacks because every few minutes a vendor will hop on board selling hot cocoa in a plastic bag or boiled cow udder wrapped in banana leafs. You can literally buy anything on a bus. Need a new TV remote control? Or a lime green pen in the shape of a parrot with a whistle on the end of it? How about a pirated High School Musical dvd or an eraser? Hungry for an uncooked potato or cold Chinese noodles in a ziplock baggie? No problema. The bus vendors have it all. Live in Central America and you’ll never need to go shopping for anything ever again.
I also love the element of danger. I’ve been robbed and pick-pocketed, had run-ins with flashers and crazed street dogs…It’s been terrifying but in a way, weirdly awesome too. At a horse festival last weekend, (whereby the entire festival seemed to revolve around drunk men riding horses through the street while drinking whisky and flicking cigarette ash on everyone unlucky enough to be standing nearby) an intoxicated man punched me in the arm with a beer can. The punch wasn’t hard and the beer can had been empty so it didn’t hurt. But it took me by surprise and I reacted by smashing my water bottle into his neck. He fell into a soda cart and the men around me cheered.
I went back to my hostel thinking that well, at least life in Central America wasn’t boring.
Which I worry won’t be the case when I return home. My mom says that I just need to find a substitute hobby. Something challenging and stimulating that will make up for the fact that I’ll soon be (permanently?) among people who’s idea of a interesting time involves a House marathon and a 30 percent off sale at The Body Shop.
“Study a new language,” she suggested. “Take a yoga class.” But what my mom fails to understand is that there’s no substitute for travel. I can study aerospace engineering if I wanted but nothing will ever be as intellectually and emotionally stimulating as full submersion into a foreign culture. Nothing.
And expecting me to be content with trading in the Great Wall of China for the Mandarin classes at the Y is like expecting Christopher Columbus to be happy with trading in his sail boat and the seven seas for a raft and a lap pool. It’s impossible.
Which means that I will bored in the US. Clawing the walls, stir-crazy, prison cell bored. “It’s gonna suck,” goes my daily pep talk to myself. “And you’re gonna hate it. It’s gonna be painful and you are going to be. So. Bored.”
“But,” and here comes the part that I pray is true, “You will get over it. You’ll learn how to be bored. It’ll be a good experience for you.”
Because no one ever died of boredom…right?