13 June 2011

The Growing Traveler's Stink

Wow. I smell really different when I'm clean. 

Let's all take a moment to acknowledge the stink that is beginning to follow me everywhere. It is a stink composed of the usual brand of Backpacker's Stench that appears when one has been traveling a mite too long plus the buttery Scorched Carrot smell of the kitchen, a dash of Eau de Wet Gore-Tex, a splash of These Are My Only Shoes on my feet, and some Burning Driftwood woven through my hair. This soup of smells mixes and intensifies when I am washing all my clothes together in my bathtub. 

You can probably smell me from there. 

Even before I knew what a hippy was, I was one (At five I declared to my stunned kindergarten teacher, "When I grow up, I want to be an activist!"). And it appears that South America is making me even more of one...leaning much farther to the dirty side instead of the well-dressed-but-still-massively-liberal one. It feels comfortable and homey, to know that every one of my articles of clothing is dirty and likely has at least one hole in it. I should really just give in and buy some patchouli to complete the transformation. 

Luckily I am in hippy company, because the dirtiness is likely to only grow once my friends and I begin our whirlwind tour of Chile, Peru, Bolivia, and Argentina after finishing volunteering in this part of Chile. Eighteen teaching days remain, fewer than three weeks...and I am not going to pretend that I am not ready for it to be over. I long for the road. I long for total destabilisation of location and the dizzying punchiness that will inevitably come with 30-hour bus rides. 

People keep pointing out how short of a time they think the six months I am living here is. Perhaps they can't conceive of how much it takes to live on a totally new continent, learning the language al tiro and on the fly, in a profession for which I am not trained and with rather limited resources. But then again, maybe they are right. 

To compensate, I never give myself a rest. I travel every weekend. I speak Spanish as much as I can. I study. I read. I write. I hardly sleep. I am trying to squeeze every last drop out of this experience the way that I try to squeeze out every drop of Miscellaneous Smell from my bathrub laundry. Because of that...I believe I am gaining more experience in these six months than I ever have before in a period of the same length in my life. Unfortunately, as with my laundry, I will never be able to squeeze the experience completely dry. Some drops will have to be left to dry on their own later.

A few more weeks. Time enough to squeeze a little harder and change a little more before hitting the road. For now I am content with the vast changes that have already begun, the sneaky formation and production of a New (Stronger, Hippy-er, and Stinkier) Coleen ready to move on to whatever the next step may reveal itself to be. Now excuse me while I light my Nag Champa to fumegate my drying clothes. 

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