Tuesday, 8 April 2014

American Conservation Experience, the beginning

I'm writing these words in the long forgotten form of pen on paper lying on the Tarmac driveway with the soundtrack of car stereos and police sirens, drinking (fatboy) Coca-Cola and absorbing delicious sun-rays while a cool breeze carrying peculiar smells blows my dry, bleached, frizzy curls. Despite being in the same state as slick Silicon Valley, my grasp of technology seems to have been eradicated by this sleepy, slow-paced town, where you can purchase soy underwear and plastic carrier bags are a thing of the past, gluten free, vegan, organic eateries abound and skater/surf shops are so abundant that the notion that perhaps tie-dye is a good look after all slowly seeps into your gooey, melting mind.

Hazy, gluttonous memories ofAustralia (I will write about them one day) are still floating through my head like little starfish and in this laid back town it's easy to sometimes feel like I am back in Bondi rather than a thousand miles away on the opposite side of the world. But then that American accent sends you hurling back as dramatic, movie-style lines and ridiculous cliches that only Americans can pull off become parts of real-life conversations and you have to suppress the urge to laugh that "no one really talks like that" because apparently they actually do. 

After a relatively stress-free flight from Dublin to San Fran watching Fight Club and Frozen I arrived relatively chilled out, with no real expectations. After meeting with the rest of the new volunteers we were driven to our new home along the coastal road as once again our planet's ability to be so beautiful, varied and magnificent totally stunned me.

India's vibrant, colourful cities crawling with life and culture under hazy,hallucinogenic sunsets.. Australia's golden sandy beaches where pure blue water trimmed with white waves crash Ito grassy cliffs.. I wasn't sure what new wider America, a country so omnipresent in our culture and on our screens, could possibly present. As usual, I was wrong. 

The smooth, yet striking green hills, with deep valleys, covered in patterns of sunlight and shadow truly take your breath away. On your opposite side sandy, empty beaches glowed like pristine little places of undiscovered paradise, and silhouetted by the setting sun you'd see the occasional lonely soul standing next to their campervan with a camera, teetering on the edge where the grassy bank meets the sand, as if afraid to ruin the scene by stepping on it.

As we all gazed at the ocean I turned for one moment to look back at the hills, and their stood bold an lonely at the very top of one of these hills, I saw the silhouette of a stag, facing me as if it was staring back. 

Every now and then in your life you just catch a glimpse of a perfect image and before you can even comprehend such beauty the moment has gone and no camera could ever capture or recreate that exact moment for you.

Before I could even get out the words to point out this ridiculously amazing image to anyone the van had driven on and the moment was gone.

Santa Cruz town itself is not so abundant in sweeping sights of natural beauty, but there are lots of little everyday thins that have already made this place feel special.

The beach is quite crowded and fly-swarmed seaweed is scattered around, but then you walk along the pier and there is a whole community of sea lions playing and sunbathing. And yesterday as I looked out at the sea there was a few dolphins about 20 metres in swimming along as they jumped out the water. 

There is quite a big homelessness problem in Santa Cruz and a drug problem attached to it. But then the reason there are so many transients here is partly because it's such a liberal and diverse area where pretty much anything goes. People constantly show a genuine interest in how you are and how your day is going. A concern with fashion and human aesthetics seems to be non existent here and people of all shapes, sizes as backgrounds (and their dogs) wander the streets almost aimlessly, occasionally stopping for some Mexican food or a chilled coffee.

So this is my 'base' for the next eight weeks. The house from the outside is so typically American with grey blue wooden slats and chairs on the front porch where you can watch the peculiar people of the world walk by. Inside is a jumbled assortment of bunk beds, broken crockery and a fridge full of questionable food. As people are constantly arriving and leaving to and from projects, the house is in a perpetual state of transition and anything without a name written on it in permanent marker belongs to everybody and nobody. You are assigned a bed but the second you leave it becomes someone else's place to rest. As a result these unloved items becomes dirty, broken and lost. When we first arrived someone informed us that the house is much worse than any project, just make it through the times you're in the house and you'll be fine on any project. Which is comical as many of the projects are out in back country with no running water or facilities.

Amidst the chaos though, the house is constantly a stream of faces coming and going so you're in no danger of feeling lonely.

So far I've just spent my days lazing on the beach, meandering downtown and going to the 7/11 down the road approximately 7 - 11 times a day for snacking goods.

Tomorrow I leave for my first project. Orientation on Sunday taught me to be prepared for rattle snakes, black widow spiders, lions, bears, ticks, poison oak, dead trees landing on our tents, dehydration, electrical storms, forest fires, and then of course each other as we add to all these potential hazards spades, axes, loppers and chainsaws.

But the peculiar thing is I'm not that scared. I spend most of my life anxious of potential disasters that are so ridiculously unlikely and have to be constantly reassured of how unlikely they are. I think being told so bluntly and honestly that there are many ways to die, my only reaction has been acceptance and resolution that common sense and logical thinking are all I have to rely on. 

So, so long fair world, hopefully in 9 days time I can write about all my adventures, if, of course, I have not been poisoned, bitten, eaten, ripped by claws, given lime disease, been crushed, electrocuted, burnt or impaled...

If the worst should happen, goodbye, and I know it has my name on it but someone can eat my cereal I left in the cupboard.