A Tidy Little Life

Or is it?
Looks can be deceiving.

Sitting poolside in south west Mexico dreaming of buying a wee little apartment. Just a two bedroom in a nice spot. We could leave our house to our grown son or let it out for six months of the year. What a tidy little life we would have now that we are both retired, hubby and I. We would go to the beach every morning to do a bit of yoga. Swim. Eat tons of guacamole and ceviche. The odd margarita. Mmmmm. A tidy, little life.

Ah, but there’s a wrinkle in said plan.

If I’m not absolutely careful with medications, (yes, plural) sleep, sun, frivolity, bloodwork and following up with both medical and psychiatric doctors as well as talk therapy with a social worker. If I’m not on top of this thing, I could easily be poolside talking to an invisible Virgin Mary. You see, mental illness is not tidy. Nor is it little. But, it is life.

I am blessed in many ways and some have told me that I ‘have it all’. If by that you mean waking up out of a dead sleep in the grips of a panic attack with lifelike apparitions about, then, yes. I do have it all. Or being amped up such that sleep is just impossible. Then yes. I do. You see, the amped up aspect means hypo-mania. Hypo-mania is dangerous as it makes me lose my sense of judgment. I also just get downright pushy and annoying.

Let’s touch on another true danger. Suicidal thoughts and plans can occupy my racing mind when hypo-mania settles into my tidy little life. In order to combat the situation I second and third guess everything I do and say. I will often get quiet and sensitive and will overthink even the tiniest of decisions. Should I have a coffee or not. Maybe I should never have coffee again. Ok. Maybe I’ll only have coffee every other day but only if it’s sunny and definitely only if it’s before noon and only if a squirrel is peering at me while she quickly cheeks another nut. And on and on it goes. Yes, shades of Rainman.

From hypo to full on mania is just a step away. Maybe a few sleepless, lonely, frustrating and scary nights. With full on mania I talk to and touch everyone. I call folks at 3 in the morning repeatedly. When talking to complete strangers in the street or in a shop I take hold of their hand and tell them about their life and what to do with it.

The next step after mania is psychosis. Straight-jacket thrown into a rubber room psychosis. Injected with an embarrassing amount of sedative that usually needs repeating to be at all effective. I’ve been psychotic twice. I was unrecognizable even to myself. I escaped the locked psych ward of our area hospital and with a johnny coat flapping, knee socks and Birkenstocks I was running home. It was February. It was dark and minus 20 Celsius but, see, no judgement. Two old ladies encouraged me to get into their warm car then they called 911. I have no idea who they were but they likely saved my life that night.

Folks, if you know someone with mental illness and they are behaving unlike their usual selves, tell someone who loves them or call the cops and ask for a wellness check on them.

When psychosis is in full swing it is in no way tidy. It is in no way little but, it is in every way life.

Two-Weeks in Portugal

We spent two-weeks in Portugal having arrived into Lisbon and then immediately grabbed a taxi to our rented apartment one hour north in a small town called Caldas da Rainha. From the moment we arrived we could feel the happy vibes of Portugal. We immediately found the people to be kind, helpful, and lovely. Almost everyone smokes, but that is the by far the worst of the attributes of this culture, in my opinion.

We took ourselves out for a wee stroll around the area and found a small place to have a bite to eat. The fish soup I ordered was delicious. Afterwards we made our way back to our apartment and it wasn’t long after a hot shower that my eyes were closing indicating the need for some sleep. Well, we fell asleep around 6 pm and did not rise again until 10 am the next day!

This would be the moment we experienced breakfast in Portugal which consisted of a mouth-watering fresher than fresh pastry coupled with a delicious double espresso-type coffee in a small-ish porcelain cup (sorry folks, no plastic-lidded disposable cups in Portugal. In fact we encountered very little use of disposable products at all. Thank heavens. The tap water is perfectly safe too and truthfully, I have always preferred the use of real China, porcelain, ceramic, glass. Everything tastes better that way.) We paid about .85 euro per coffee and .85 euro per pastry. A real bargain was realized as we sat on the cobble-stone patio and savoured the delicious-ness of our first meal after many hours.

After that we headed toward Obidos, a medieval village and World UNESCO site which is incredibly well preserved. A taxi stopped for us and our lovely driver said his name was ‘Cliff’ and channelling dad from me came, ‘my name’s Cliff. Drop over.’ He didn’t get it. Oh well. He chatted away in English as we just marvelled at it all. We spent a few hours climbing up ancient stone steps and along ancient stone walls. We marveled at the ceramics for sale and stepped into and out of little boutiques where not a soul touted us to buy a thing.

So tickled to be a traveller again.

Then, feeling completely wonderful with the day’s experiences, we walked the 5 km back to our little, well equipped apartment.

Obidos

The highlight of the next day was grabbing a taxi and heading out to see Fatima (where it is believed that in 1917 St. Mary appeared to three peasant children.). The area is now a huge and well maintained shrine for the millions of visitors it received annually.

Fatima

Following that, we asked our driver to take us to the beach community of Nazare, which of course was breathtaking. We started with a large view from a cliff overlooking the beach then we walked down to sea level with burning thighs. Later, the same driver came to take us back to our awaiting hot showers and beds.

Nazare
The cliff is where we saw the view from

It was time then to move on to our next little home. We used an Uber to get to Aveiro (the Venice of Portugal) and found our reserved apartment which was all new and gorgeous with a view of the river we would later have a tour of.

I had absolutely loved our previous locations but I think Aveiro had just become my favourite place to stay. (Hubby had brought a small laptop along and we were able to easier make apartment bookings online with certain key filters like distance from centre, air conditioning, wifi and configuration of beds vs bedrooms and bathrooms (as Hubby’s sister was along with us).

The next day we grabbed a taxi and went to see Costa Nova, also nearby. This beach nearly made me cry with it’s beauty. It has a kilometers long perfectly preserved board walk which we traversed for about 8 km or so. It helps to preserve the beach due to keeping folks off the dunes. We also walked the couple of clicks out to the two lighthouses and marveled at the many fish swimming near the sea wall.

Hubby age almost 60. I love this pic of him – he looks so relaxed!
Costa Nova Portugal. Simply stunning.
No cigarette butts on the ground sign

After Aviero, we made our way by train to Porto where we once again found ourselves in a gorgeous 16 foot high ceilinged new apartment with all the bells and whistles to ensure our stay was comfortable.

Porto was extremely gorgeous as it is a city built on a steep hill overlooking the gorgeous Douro River.

There are several bridges leading to Gaia, a twin city with a large monastery watching over all. We walked and walked and walked and ate and ate and ate.. The hilly cobblestone streets were fascinating, colourful and thought-provoking. Most of the housing and apartment buildings had clotheslines outside of windows with colourful clothing flapping in the breeze. We rode on a boat and we crossed the bridge to Gaia. At one point I had a bit of panic attack due to the crowds in the late afternoon but hubby helped to calm me down and we got back to our apartment and then could just relax and let the day slip away.

Porto on foot. Remarkable place!

Our next destination found us in Coimbra which is the home to one of the oldest Universities in Europe, founded in wait for it, 1290. Yikes. Again, built on a hill, we climbed some seriously inclined cobblestone streets in order to get up to the campus and see the view. While walking, I realized that many women wear sneakers, even with nice dresses. This would be due to the challenging surfaces of their streets, I would imagine.

View from bridge Gaia to Porto

If given the opportunity I will certainly return to explore more of this incredible country which completely stole my heart.

Where the Cicadas Sing Like Dirt Bikes

Notice by pool:
“For your safety, please do not feed Iguanas”.

We certainly are not in Canada anymore. We finally managed to get on another trip regardless of COVID-19 and we find ourselves on the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica once again. (We were here in 2004 – twice. Again in 2019 and again now in 2022). We love this little country in which it is so easy to find calm.

Last night at sunset, we walked the dirt laneway to the beach in order to see the colour of the sky. It was gorgeous shades of orange and pink. Just shortly thereafter, the switch flipped and on came the cicadas. Yikes. No kidding, my initial thought was to look for the coming dirt bike and prepare to dive into the ditch.

These guys are LOUD!

One of the truisms of travel is the pleasure of meeting folks who happen to be out and about in the world too. Fanny and her mother were two of those incredible people who most certainly have good messages which will now be in my toolbox going forward. Here are quotes: “if you were bringing something ‘just in case’, leave it at home”. So very true. Fanny said you will be able to buy things wherever you go and, she said, on the Camino de Santiago (a 30-day walk or pilgrimage in Spain) I learned that I would be given something I am missing and she went on to highlight examples of this. The conversation about being provided for totally reminded me of my post Yo Universe! Thanks Again.

Later, the mom added, as we were talking about going into retirement, wanting to travel more and longer and not sure about the house as well as not being in love with the work involved in the yard and snow maintenance. Her answer “hire a gardner and a snow clearing company!” She says it’s better to keep the house. She doesn’t trust condo politics and fees (nor do we) as well as we may not know anyone on the condo board. Also they are small and don’t offer easy access to nature. In your house she says, just open the door and you’re outside. Also, you are in control of your expenses and maintenance bills like when to sink money into a large project – your roof for example. With your own home, when you spend money on something that’s up to you.

***

I have just practised yoga on the dark golden sand of Jaco beach, late afternoon. I did headstands while watching the crashing surf upside down with the odd barefooted beach walkers passing by. We arrived here yesterday by taxi from Samara. We are reluctant to rent a car although many travellers do so. It’s a pleasure to be chauffeured and so we simply enjoy it. Without a rental car, we alleviate the worry of damage to the vehicle, taking the wrong turns, finding gas stations, parking spots and service stations. It just feels a whole lot freer but also a bit more adventurous to travel without a car. And, I have heard the opposite from folks who rent a car. So, as always, it’s up to you.

I am inserting a few tips on what to pack for your travels. I get asked questions about this stuff and so I will insert ideas for you. (WTP= what to pack.) Remembering that travelling without checking a bag can mean decisions need to be made on every item you bring in your carryon luggage. Why not check a bag, you ask? Mainly to not give the airlines a chance to lose your bag which then causes delays and claim headaches. So, planning and judiciousness is key when choosing the items to bring with. Almost like the funny song by Monty Python: Every Sperm is Sacred, well every item going into your carryon is sacred. (And ever frugally, we buy most clothing items second hand.)

Jaco Beach Costa Rica March 2022

What to Pack (WTP): shorts with pockets (!) are great for a beach walk. Ladies, tropical-weight clothes with pockets are something to watch for, especially the coveted zipper pockets. Bathing suit that stays on is best for swimming in the surf and light weight rubber flip flops protect the feet when there are sharp rocks and are ok wet (unlike say, leather sandals).

Just saw a squadron of pelicans float by in formation then breakneck speed diving for their breakfast. It’s hard to tear my eyes away from their precision flying.

Today we arrived to the village of Atenas, Costa Rica which is known for its favourable climate, being in the highlands at 800m above sea level. Of course when I read that elevation my mind flitted back to 1994 when we arrived in Kathmandu, Nepal having flown from Australia where we had been travelling and working on a farm for two months. We had no idea how chilly it would be in Kathmandu and found ourselves wearing woollen toques to bed in the Kathmandu Guesthouse. We had tippy-toed passed the staff of twenty young men wrapped in blankets sleeping on their sides on woven mats in the great room where we had read our novels and swapped stories with other travellers earlier that day. When we eventually made our way to Pokhora, Nepal, at sea level, we sighed at the relative warmth. Much later, after 30 days trekking in the Annapurnas, we found ourselves in the tropics of Royal Chitwan National Park where we fondly remember the entrepreneurs all along the arid dusty roadway selling FREEZING COLD drinks – these were highly sought after by us and were quite the feat to proffer.

I digress. We have a cool bungalow surrounded by majorly huge house plants (grin).

Check out the size of this cactus!

WTP: linen skort with pockets and light cotton tee. Nearly naked sandals are reef brand and I love ‘em!
Man about Puebla (cutie!).

WTP:
Tevas brand sandals that last and last, are light and sporty as well as waterproof. Tropical weight shorts which dry fast and have zipper pockets. Finally, a small daypack with contigo can for water or coffee. Sunglasses on a lanyard for safekeeping.

The biodiversity abounds in this country. Iguanas (which when by the pool, you must not feed apparently – ok, where am I?), birds of all sorts, monkeys, sloth, some sort of raccoon that ambled across our path one evening, geckos, marine life and a gazillion insects. One evening in Samara, a grasshopper the size of a well fed nuthatch flitted into the open-walled dining room and landed then froze on a chair. Ok. I was frozen too except for my hands which were waving and my mouth which was shrieking. A waiter calmly palmed it like it happens all the time and gently released it to the jungle just beyond the non-wall. That was a relief. That thing was huge. I had failed to see the comparable size of myself to it. No wonder he/she froze!

How’s it going?
Traipsing around the town gets tiring. A nice little coffee break is just the ticket.
This guy just walked by our table. Apparently, this is normal in Costa Rica. Isn’t is great?!
Getting to the Liberia airport with windows open, obviously.
Cheers folks. This is one of the local beers. Imperial.

WTP: guys – light weight linen collared, button-up long sleeve shirt. Best to cover up in the tropical sun especially starting from bright white winter skin á la Canada.

So, it was a fabulous trip but you must know that Costa Rica is far! It’s no direct flight to say Cancun or anything. It’s a wonderful place to visit and the people are lovely and kind. Enjoy! We sure did!