Anyone who knows me well, knows that I am easy-going, upbeat, and positive UNLESS I am hungry. When my blood sugar gets low, I don’t manage very well. The world seems to tilt on its axis, my stomach starts to feel like it’s eating itself, and I lose all sense of balance and equilibrium. Especially with my mood. While, I try to learn the basic phrases in the language of the places that I travel to, I am learning that one of those basic phrases needs to be, “I need food now!!!” I really should know this by now. One of the first phrases that I learned to say as a child was, “Let me eat.” I usually eat five or six times a day, small portions, because nothing makes me feel worse than the extreme feeling of hunger.
And so it was, on a long Costa Rican hike, that I almost died of hunger. We left on this hike at 4 AM. I think there was something lost in translation right there because I was told this would be a four-hour hike. But somehow, at 1 PM, we were still hiking. Still hiking on the Osa Peninsula, in the middle of nowhere, not a snack in sight. Now, our hotel had provided us with a sack lunch which had consisted of white bread, a jar of peanut butter, a banana, and cookies. That food had been long gone by 8 AM. And the carb overload and strenuous hike had left me in some serious need of protein. All I could think of for the last four hours of the hike was that I had beef jerky back at the hotel, and how delicious that it was going to be once I finally got it. Seriously, imagining this bag of beef jerky was about the only thing preventing me from having a serious meltdown. I was so hungry, I was beginning to wonder what a coati would taste like.
Well, here comes the little problem. The rooms at the hotel that I was staying at actually were tent cabins. So, because of the monstrous little coati who could easily find all food (which I seemed to have a problem doing), we were forced to give all of our food to the hotel kitchen to keep for us for safekeeping. Now, this had been a plan that I hadn’t liked at all. I like to know that there is a snack nearby at all times. And to think that I couldn’t just reach into my backpack when I was hungry did not bode well to me.
So, as we finally arrived back to the hotel, I headed straight to the kitchen to get my beef jerky. Problem. BIG problem. The only chef in the kitchen at that particular time spoke only Spanish. And I only Spanglish. I had given the kitchen two bags of food. How was I going to communicate that I needed them? Well, I did fairly well, but as most people only had one bag of food at the most, he didn’t seem to understand that I had two. He did bring one, but it was full of crackers and more carbs, and my heart and mind were set on having my beef jerky. At this point I was really trying to hold it together, but starting to lose it as my frustration at not being able to communicate melded with my need of protein, of beef, of something sustainable. I munched away on crackers to try to get my blood sugar level back up, but still stood there trying to explain I had another bag.
Finally, I could take more and gestured that I was coming into the storage area to look for myself. He seemed very upset by this, but I was more upset, ridiculously so, but, at this point I was convinced that the staff had eaten all the good stuff that I had packed in the bags, mad for turning over our food, and completely panicked because I had to have this beef jerky, and we were in the middle of nowhere, so it wasn’t like I could just walk to the next store and get more.
We looked everywhere. I had this chef pulling open every cabinet, the freezers, the refrigerators. He was just shaking his head at me the lunatic American who was starving and who had to find her beef jerky. But he really didn’t know what in the world I was looking for.
Finally, I gave up. I was very upset and sitting at the bar shoving crackers into my mouth when the friend I was traveling with came around the corner very excited because someone had finally found a sloth. We had been looking for one the whole time, and finally there was one right at the moment of my beef jerky meltdown!! But, even this news didn’t make me happy, as I angrily explained that the kitchen had “lost” our food, and how I needed beef jerky. Everyone at the hotel was jumping up in excitement and running outside to see the sloth. I personally didn’t know why everyone was rushing, as it wasn’t like it was going to be going anywhere anytime soon. But, my friend, wisely and kindly, decided to walk away from my meltdown and said she was going to go and see the sloth.
I decided to follow along. I was moved by this sloth, this magnificent creature, and it brought me back to the moment. I realized what an amazing place I was in and that even though my beef jerky was missing, that I had some kind of food, and I decided to let it go. I walked back to the kitchen, and the English-speaking bartender was there. I told him my beef jerky story, and he replied, “I love beef jerky. I will find it for you.” And he did!
By the time my friend came back, the bartender and I were sharing a lovely bag of beef jerky, laughing as he poured me a beer, and a rush of warmth flowed through me as I felt grateful for the acceptance of others. I was embarrassed that I had let such a small thing shift my mood, but grateful that we could all laugh about it and let it go. And today? I have learned a little more Spanglish. No ONE gets my beef jerky. And my friend? Well, she now calls me Beef Jerky Girl. And she makes sure I take some along on the hike.
Anyone who has ever traveled falls into these types of experiences. Not knowing the language often gives us hilarious stories to talk about. Here are some of my fellow travelers stories, that you will just love to read as well!