Books

Back to Central America.

You always start to miss something so basic when you don’t have it anymore. You never have problems with it because it’s always there, always working. I’m talking about energy! And then I mean solar energy to do the things which are so basic, such as cooking, washing clothes, charging phone and laptop, that kind of things. 

When these things don’t work well, or not working at all, although there’s plenty of sun, it’s starting to get annoying. It made me grumpy the last week or so. Because I don’t understand why it isn’t working in the midst of summer still. Suddenly you realise how dependent you are of energy. That without, you are also disconnected from the world. I wasn’t online for some days, the batteries were not charging. For some days I had no music, no connection to internet. I told the neighbour though about the problems with the batteries of the solar system. When Dorus will be back tomorrow they can have a look together. Now, I’m charging the devices in a café in the village. I didn’t feel like asking the neighbour, but I know I can and he would be willing to help, but somehow I didn’t…

It’s good to be away for some hours, because since yesterday I’m totally sucked into the book Verloren in de jungle, about two Dutch young women, Kris Kremers and Lisanne Froon, who were lost in the jungle in Panama in 2014. I still remember when I read about it. We were just living a couple of months on Ibiza when I read the news that they never returned from a hike to the jungle.

I could have been these young girls. I also went to Bocas del Toro, the islands just across the border of Costa Rica, I too crossed the bridge from Costa Rica to Panama and showed my passport on this unusual place where borders ended and started. But I haven’t been to Boquete where they got lost. Over the years many wild stories were told about what happened to the two women. So many contradictions. So much unclearness about the timeline. After two months a few body parts of the women were found in the deep jungle and a bag with their phones and camera in it.

Was it a crime or an accident? I’m reading the book now, and it’s so fascinating, but also so incredibly sad. Two journalists tried to fill the gaps and made sense of all the wild and crazy stories about what could have happened to them and so they did profound research, now 6 years later, although they were not able to travel to Boquete due to the pandemic.

Apparently on the internet you can read wild stories and conspiracy theories about this case, for example that they are still alive and are victims of human trafficking, etc. The two Dutch journalists, Marja West and Jurgen Snoeren did a terrific job to reconstruct the events; sometimes repeating the same too much though and their work would be more complete if they could have traveled to Boquete in Panama.

While I’m reading the book, I think of these two friends, who must have been so afraid and desperate. Why did they walk further and further into the jungle? After taking the path they went (which was a clear, not dangerous hike), the area became wild and dangerous, with rivers, big slippery rocks and heights and bridges made of ropes with deep down the strong current of the rivers. They tried to call the emergency number 911 in Panama several times, even the Dutch 112, but no reach.

Friday night I was reading till it was almost 4 in the night. The clock of the e-reader was the only time I had. I was totally lost in the book. It brought me back to my travels in 2003 to Costa Rica and Panama (Bocas del Toro). I went alone. It must have been horrible for my mum. I was 7 years older than the lost women, but I understand for my mum it must have been difficult, especially because I went alone. It was a very special experience for me, I still can think of Costa Rica sometimes and the islands in Panama, the images blurred though. The green jungle, the banana trees, the tropical birds, the sloths in the trees, the howler monkeys, the racoons on the beach. A paradise!

After more and more time has passed, it has become more of a feeling, how I felt back then when I went on my own to Central America. I felt very excited, but also uncomfortable at times. But back then I was more innocent and I think more of an optimist. Now, for example I understand much more how my mother must have felt when she waved me goodbye at Schiphol Airport; back then I didn’t really think about it. And now with the book Verloren in de jungle a lot of memories of that trip appear to the surface. I wouldn’t have missed my travels to Costa Rica and Panama for the world. I remember that I rented a mountain-bike on Bocas del Toro and that I asked in a shop a nice road to go to. I cycled to some beaches and there were hardly any people. I also met a group of English guys on the boat to Bocas.  They were cool guys and relaxed and I met them again to go on a boat trip together where I witnessed wild dolphins for the first time. The dolphins were swimming next to the boat and jumping out of the water. It was just magical. I felt so happy when I saw these beautiful animals jumping around us. I think I even said to one of the guys that it was the best day of my life or something like that.. On the boat also some American young women were present. We met later that evening for a drink. All the Americans I met during that trip were so self-confident,  extravert, talkative and happy. I hated them for this, because they were so different than I.

Yes, the book also reminds me of the openness you feel when you’re visiting other countries. Open to experiences, to people (even if they are the opposite of you), to your surroundings. Travelling like that is a gift. 

Tomorrow Dorus will come home! After his 8 week bicycle tour of seeing friends and family in the Netherlands and France. I am so happy. The last weeks have been a bit difficult. I am capable to be on my own very well, but life is much better together. Living alone can change you, you worry much more on your own. It’s less fun!

But first I need to turn the compost again (shitty and sweaty).

I’m writing this while I’m charging the laptop and my iPhone in the café. They’re almost fully charged. 

Just like myself.

Being lost in the story of the two women, also made me feel a bit lost the last days, without internet connection, no devices – and no music! Nice on one hand. Suddenly you realise you’re never offline for a couple of days. At most one day, but not a whole weekend or more. But being offline for a weekend makes you feel free and it’s important to give yourself that space. Unplug every now and then – with a good book, chocolate and wine. If you have that choice, it liberates.

Con Amor,

Eva 

Image: Angel Silva/Unsplash

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