My (R)evolution, part 5.
Since April 19 of this year Nicaragua, the country where I’ve been living for the past 13 years, is in a state of social unrest and political upheaval that it hadn’t seen for several decades.
For a while I was playing ostrich. I didn’t look at the news, even though I knew more or less what was on it. I didn’t talk that much with friends about the situation on the mainland, as if silence could make the problem go away or at least not seem so serious and big. On our little peaceful island, we were hoping for the best, pretending that we could sit this out.
Basically, I was in denial.
Until I heard about the road blocks. Barricades on most highways were seriously blocking all traffic, affecting the transport of all our supplies.
On Monday the news got to our island that next Saturday the freight boat that brings everything we need, from tomatoes to toilet paper, from peppers to propane, would not be coming.
Now that was news I needed to keep up with…
The freight boat not arriving is nothing completely out of the ordinary. Storms, holidays and even the sinking of one have left us without supplies for a week or two before, and nobody ever went hungry.
But it never storms for weeks or months.
The last Nicaraguan revolution lasted 28 years.
On Tuesday I considered hoarding. I resisted the thought. I did not want to give in to fear.
But on Wednesday the urge to stock up was too strong. I started hoarding.
Only mildly. I have zero tendency for panic. But hoarding I did.
A few extra potatoes and carrots, and a squash, because they keep well. A couple of pounds of dried beans, and some white rice (which I normally never eat). Two packs of pasta (another thing I never buy). Some extra eggs.
An extra pound of tomatoes, another cucumber. There’s only so much that you can keep fresh in this tropical climate.
(My more rational brain-half tells me that those few extra potatoes aren’t going to save my life that isn’t in danger anyway, so what the h*ck am I doing? An odd internal conversation).
There was no way to predict whether these roadblocks would be lifted soon or not. This could easily turn into a serious lack of food supplies in a very short time, since we have no warehouses or wholesalers on our island. The few shops order every week what they need to restock their shelves, and are often half-empty by the end of the week. Imagine no freight boats for two or three weeks.
The fact that I might soon run out of propane for cooking caused me to think about my options: Buy an extra cylinder, investing $50, just to be safe? What if things get so ugly that I’d have to leave the country soon? Those $50 might be wasted.
Get the spare cylinder out of my neighbours’ house who aren’t here but occasionally rent out their house? It might not be possible to replace their tank any time soon, which would mean their house could not be rented out anymore as fully equipped. Would they agree that my daily life comfort is more important than their extra income from rent? I’d have to talk with them first.
Another option would be to start cooking on a little electric hotplate that someone had left with me. I tried it, but it was taking forever to get something to boil, so I dismissed that option for now. (I felt bad about the amount of electricity it would use, which is included in my rent, so my landlord would end up paying for it.)
An electric kettle then maybe? I drink a lot of tea, probably using half of my propane boiling kettles. I decided I would buy one next time I’d go to the store, where I’d seen one a few days ago. (I was hoping no-one else had gotten it first).
It’s funny what an innate instinct hoarding is for humans. I know I wasn’t the only one who reacted in this way. On Tuesday we heard that Bluefields, a town that depends on the same route as our island for their trucks and freight boats with supplies, had run out of propane already and people were queueing in the stores to buy whatever foods were still available.
While normally the supplies that arrive on a Saturday are more than sufficient for a whole week, now, right after the news on Monday about the road blocks and the next boats not coming, on Tuesday the whole city of Bluefields ran out of almost everything. That means everyone must have been hoarding.
On our little island there seemed to be less panic. Fact is, that in Bluefields there had been protests, and police shooting. Someone had been killed by a bullet through his head during a protest march. There, the population had already acquired a heightened level of apprehension about the situation in the country.
Here on our island things were still completely peaceful, which may have been the reason for the lack of panic, the absence of fear. Or maybe just less awareness, who knows.
I felt awkward about my hoarding, and confessed it to a friend or two. They said that they had been thinking the same thing, to stock up.
That made me feel a little less bad about myself. Because while I was hoarding, I was also acutely aware of the fact I was doing it, and that it was a thoroughly selfish behaviour. I felt pretty ashamed about it. Still do.
While only a few weeks ago I selflessly spent a day organising a yard-sale and then put the proceeds towards the purchase of more than 50 cloth bags to distribute amongst the islanders to help our little island move towards a more sustainable future, now I caught myself just thinking about myself, my food, my propane.
It is an odd experience.
Hoarding is in fact a defence mechanism that kicks in out of fear to get pushed out of our comfort zone. When there is a shortage of supplies, we might not get all our favourite foods for a while, which is mildly uncomfortable. If it lasts longer, we’d have to go and work hard to collect all the edible fruits and coconuts, and go fish for some seafood. We might end up just eating beans or cassava. That is more uncomfortable. But we won’t die that easily.
Of course the Universe conspired to push that point home, by burning a transformer in the power lines very close to my house so that we’ve been without electricity for five days.
So far for fully stocking my fridge. So far for wanting an electric kettle. Back to square one.
I got your point, Universe, I have to have faith that I will never lack what I need. Okay. I’ll stick to that then.
No more hoarding.
A great opportunity to practice faith instead of fear, and living in the present moment. We cannot know what will happen tomorrow, so we cannot prepare for it. Might as well use that energy for something else, like writing this story.
(While I’m writing this, I hear the news that two freight boats have arrived. Faith works, it seems).
Reporting from a country in chaos, trying to make sense of my own mind.
This is part 5 in the series My (R)evolution. Missed and episode? Find them all here.