I haul several bags of rocks for Chris’ construction project. A few trips up the steep hill are enough to drench me in sweat. After lunch I take a machete and head across the river to clear the hillslope trail to the main trail. The work begins without a problem, but I hear a buzzing upon clearing some palm fronds from the main trail and feel a prick on my left elbow. Putting two and two together, I run back down the trail away from the sound. The bees here are Africanized, so they pursue me for several hundred feet before I dive into the river to escape them. Fortunately, I only felt the one sting before I made my escape. I decide that I best let the bees settle down, so I return to the cabins. It is pizza night, so Chris fires up the wood burning stove and bakes up 5 pizzas. I have been waiting for this for the entire week and am quite ready given the work that I did today.
I have deeply enjoyed my stay here and wouldn’t mind staying for much longer. Chris’ work has reinvigorated my appreciation for agroforestry systems in conservation planning, as I was somewhat uncertain given the synonymy of different agroforestry systems. Obviously palm oil plantations, which can be considered agroforests, are not the same as Chris’ forest garden, but they are often considered to be tantamount by academics. Seeing the ostensible differences was a great reminder of this fact. Furthermore, I had just begun being comfortable here. I learned the layout of the site, knew my role in the work day, and felt safe. Traveling is a wonderful way to have new experiences and better understand the reality of individuals who live around the world. It helps you to recognize the privilege and benefits in your life, as well as the failures and problems. However, it is also psychologically distressing, at least for individuals who like to be in control, because they are placed into an unknown situation where the brain cannot distinguish from real threats and irrational fears. Some travelers deal with this by ignoring all threats, whereas others, like myself, assume all situations to be risky. Feel something on your shoulder while walking on a rainforest trail? Probably a vine, but it could be a snake. A pinch on your shin? Probably a mosquito, fly or ant, but it could be a kissing bug giving you Chagas disease. Unfortunately, this coping mechanism is mentally exhausting. Chris’ farm was a wonderful because I was able to ignore many travel-related fears and over time, I was able more clearly categorize and separate the reasonable from the unreasonable and focus on the experience itself. Home can be considered an emotional state of security and calm rather than the physical surroundings themselves, but the physical surrounding is inherently tied to that security we feel.