Looking for Paradise


Querida Mama Tierra,

Tengo que confesarte algo. Es difícil porque, te quiero mucho, pero, pienso que ahora es tiempo para decirte esto:

I’m not really an outdoorsy kind of girl. I’m not quite one to appreciate the silence of an open field, or the calming clicking of crickets at night, or untouched moss growing on the side of an ancient tree. It’s really just not my thing.

I much prefer hearing the sounds of ambulances and speeding taxis as I try to sleep at night, never seeing the stars because of the lights of the skyscrapers (or pollution—not that I’m justifying this), always being surrounded by strangers I will never see again.

Te quiero, es la verdad. Quiero conservarte y tenerte para siempre. I take my canvas bags when to stuff with organic produce at Whole Foods, I recycle, I don’t leave the water running when I brush my teeth, I usually opt for public transportation or even walk! In fact, I’d consider myself a pretty green person.

So don’t tell me I don’t care about you.

But here’s the thing:

On my recent trip to Costa Rica, I realized, that while I absolutely adored snapping photos of Capuchan monkeys inches away from my face, travelling in boats surrounded by crocodiles, and searching for tiny lizards on any flat surface, the wildlife was best appreciated at a safe distance from myself. As fluffy and adorable as those monkeys were, the second they brushed against my hair a horrid shriek escaped from my mouth. As beautiful as the flowers and wildlife were, surrounding me with luscious colors and scents, I could not help but tip-toe around, terrified of a snake or scorpion intruding on my path.

No voy a decir que soy “squeamish”— that’s a wimpy excuse. I’m pretty atrevida- taking dares and exploring as I wish. I remember skipping down the streets of Cusco, never knowing if I’d find my way home again or striding down sidewalks in Harlem, refusing to believe any area to be dangerous.

The thing is, la cosa es, I guess I’m just more of a people person. I love people. I connect with people, I understand people, I see people. On Pandora, in Avatar-land, it’s all about Eywa and the spirits and the connection, but I won’t go there.

The things I take away from my trips around the world- and I learn so many things- is the knowledge about people, their culture, their ways of life. I feel a connection, a bond. Whether I’m tempted to order a Costa Rican brew at Starbuck’s or buy asparagus imported from Peru, I feel like I’m making informed choices, understanding more about the world and where everything comes from and who is responsible for it.

Last week, I found myself at a flea market on the Upper West Side. I dawdled around the copious booths, wondering why exactly I wanted to spend my afternoon at the largest rummage sale ever. Only towards the end of my visit did I stumble upon a woman knitting mittens that looked shockingly like the hat on my head, a hat I purchased in Puno eight months earlier. We chatted in Spanglish about Peru and her upbringing, alpaca wool, her emigration to New York, and her frequent visits to her family in South America.

I have an uncountable amount of gloves at home. I am also living on a college student’s budget AKA no income, no cash, no shopping (well, within reason). I didn’t need another pair of mittens to sit on my winter shelf.

Oh but I did. There was no way I was leaving without those colourful mittens. Although they cost at least twice as much as they would have in their native country, I could not have left those mittens behind. I felt such a bond with this Peruana, a connection of understanding and curiosity and a desire to support her that I knew I had to purchase her knitting.

I walked home in my matching set, confident that yes, New York really does have it all (who knew I would ever find a match to my Peruvian hat?!) and even happier that I still had this link to a culture far from my own.

Para concluir, solo quiero clarificar una cosa: Mama Tierra, te quiero, pero de una distancias segura. Me encanta tus personas, tus culturas, tu diversidad, Pero las arañas y los serpientes no son para mi. Quiero viajar por el mundo, pero el mundo salvaje no es exactamente que estoy buscando. Me gustaría sentir el gusto de los sabores ricos de los platos del mundo, hablar con gente, ver el arte y escuchar la música. Hay tanto que quiero comprender y tengo ganas de hacerlo.

Besos y abrazos,
issa