A lesser woman than me would have skipped town following that hideous experience. She would have packed her bags and headed to Cambodia or some other equally exotic country, to some beautiful Zen yoga retreat, where she would make friends with all the local children, only contacting home every few months through a photo, showing her bright eyed and glowing with selfless goodness. In fact I did try to do that, but I couldn’t get out of my lease, or find anywhere in Cambodia with a beauty therapist.
There is a wasp above me. I’m watching him, sure that at any moment he’ll fall into a kamikaze dive towards my face. He looks like a badass. Ants and spiders crawl across the black tarp, meandering around each comparatively giant obstacle, in search of God knows what. A fly lands on the smooth metal of my laptop, so out of place here, and takes just a few tentative steps before he twitches and disappears again. Everything thrives here. Every square metre is full, teeming with minuscule life. The tent is stuffy, green light shining through the thin polyester, so the ambience is as though we are living underwater in a shallow pond. Every so often the tent is rustled by the arms of the wind, as though an invisible being is caressing each side, creating a whirlpool of air outside. All of our clothes are covered in dirt, our huge bags strewn around the raspy sleeping bag nest. I have to cook tonight, vegan. I don’t think I’ve ever made a vegan meal in my life.
It is so different to be here. This place where the toilet is a long drop hidden by plastic sheets, the kitchen some cinderblocks under a tree and the shower a black hose coiled in the sun. It is strange to rub my eyes ruthlessly at the end of a long day, when the sun has set and the full moon is bright enough to cast shadows against the ivy covered ground, and know that there is not a trace of mascara or eye make up to worry about. I haven’t seen my reflection in over a week, and even stranger, I don’t care. I only feel a mild curiosity, a vague hope that I haven’t had a behemoth pimple over that time. It is truly back to basics here, and it makes you realize what you need. Our huge suitcases seem ridiculous and precious, our nice, clean clothes embarrassingly amateur.
These people don’t just live like this for a holiday either, for two weeks before they go back to their under-floor heating and plumbed in bathrooms. They live here forever, come rain, hail or shine. I wonder how long I can handle it, like this. Because although I love it now, and feel elated to be woken by the sun and step outside the tent to a dew covered wonderland, the mist rising off the far trees down in the valley, I wonder if I am truly Zen. Will I still love it in a week or so? Maybe I’ll be pulling my hair out by then, demanding a toaster, flushing toilet and a mattress.