"2016 was a shit year" or so says everyone as they jump on the "this year was shit" band wagon. When I ask why every person begins with one of two thoughts. "Donald Trump won the election" and so "many celebrities died." With an 18 month build up of primaries, debates, 24/7 coverage and the growing obsession with all things Trump the American proved how uninformed the American public is. As for celebrity are we so fucking celebrity obsessed that the death of a long list of public figures ruins your year. Do you stare out the window breathing long sighs and don't have the ability to get dressed in the morning or just want to bemoan the year because a musician, athlete, actor or other hero has passed on well you might be a bit celebrity obsessed. The death of a celebrity is certainly horrible for their family and friends and yes some where larger than life. These received a fitting send off but their deaths had ZERO effect on me and how I go through my day.
What do the four people above all have in common? They were at one time over the years friends of mine from high school and they all died this year. They were not alone in the people I knew who passed on. That is my personal reality and why 2016 would be considered a shitty year for me, but then again so would have 2015 and 2014 for the friends I lost in those years. Who knows who will leave in 2017. I shared parts of my life with each of Sandra, Jerry, Michelle and Romeo and their deaths gave my mortality a solid jolt of reality.
How did 2016 treat me? I had highs and lows but 2016 was a fine year personally. I lived in Nicaragua and Mexico and did some traveling in those countries along with Guatemala, El Salvador and Belize. I climbed the highest volcano in Guatemala swam with Nurse Sharks in Belize. My Spanish improved and I am now looking forward to learning Mandarin. Mexico became much more than a scary headline in the news. They were Mayan ruins in Belize, Guatemala and Mexico and the largest Cactus Ecosystem in the world.
I gained valuable in class teaching experience in Tehuacan Mexico and Leon Nicaragua and forged amazing relationships with students of all ages. I felt in control in my classes most days and learned the real value of preparation. I was rewarded with a great send off from the Heslington Language School.
I became a volunteer Volcano guide and climbed 7 different volcanoes 42 times leading over 200 happy hikers from a variety of countries. I tried to learn to surf and failed miserably. Eventually I climbed 9 volcanoes in 2 countries.
I developed better habits for me. I watched very little television, read more books, generally ate healthier and lost 20lbs. I walked ever where I went and distances stopped becoming a factor and a 60 minute walk was generally accepted as normal to me, abnormal to most other people. I live with less, disconnect often and do not turn on my cell phone unless I am actually going to use it.
Not all was a wondrous snow globe of happiness in 2016. Friends died, I had a brutal bout of food poisoning in Mexico that lasted almost two week and began with me puking into a plastic bag on a micro-bus full of wide eyed tourists. I re-injured my left rotator cuff and there were were some brutal days with that and there still are. I was ripped off trying to buy a Mexican chip for my cell phone, buying various bus tickets and found out the loud and smelly way why you should not eat beans every day for dinner.
I missed a flight back to Mexico from Toronto in August, was stranded at a very cold and a bit scary TAPU bus terminal overnight and lived with some of the oddest housemates I could have ever imagined. I was bit by a huge German Sheppard and was a pin cushion for mosquitoes.
2016 started in Nicaragua and finished in Canada. I had so many great experiences and I met new friends who helped me share them. I relearned that a smile and hello goes a long way and to drop my shoulders and relax when I start to put to much pressure on myself for no reason. Every year will be filled with good and bad times, people and situations. It is what you do afterwards that matters. The list of the important people that were a part of this year is as long as it is diverse. You are all in my heart and memories and as was said perfectly to me one time "see ya never!"
So good-bye Latin America and 2016 and hello Asia and 2017. The year like so many other things is just a number.