I’m in Ecuador - and writing this in a hammock. Oh lucky me!!
However, by putting my good fortune down to luck devalues the privilege that allows me to wander round the world as I do. I am a white woman, from a comfortable background, and graduated from university (a long time ago) with no debt and plenty of dreams. There’s been a lot of Life since then, of course, but that doesn’t take from the fundamental good fortune of my origins.
I love it here. I have spent hours watching pelicans dive-bombing the sea: they cruise from about two feet above the waves and then rise, only to plummet like rockets. Sometimes they bob up with a full beak, and sit on the sea gulping for a minute or two before taking to the skies again.
There they joined by the frigatebirds, which wheel above the fishermen in their hundreds. Frigatebirds don’t bother to fish for themselves; they wait for a fisherman to throw away a tiddler, or to turn his back, and steal it. And, if one should be successful it is mobbed by all the other frigatebirds who hope to steal it from him. (I’ve also seen them in the Galápagos Islands, where they are much better at fishing for themselves - so this scavenging is an opportunistic behaviour.)
Turn around, and in the garden hummingbirds are searching for nectar. Flycatchers dart among the bushes. Wind rustles the palm leaves. I can smell the sea.
I sit in my hammock and notice all this - and write about it. But if I’d been born here, it is unlikely I’d have travelled further than Guayaquil (Ecuador’s largest city). I’d probably know less about London than you do about Ecuador (that includes those of you who don’t know it’s on the North Pacific coast of South America.). My education would be basic - but my real learning would be in how to keep a family clean and healthy, to look after chickens, maybe (in recent years, since tourism arrived here) learn to make and sell a trinket or two. Keeping the house is a challenge, given the ongoing assaults by ants and cockroaches. If I’ve done well, I might have a washing machine (a twin tub) and television. By now I would have a mobile phone with internet access - and so have some idea how other people live. Life would be even harder in the mountains, or the rainforests of Amazonia.
But writing? How could I find time to write, even if the idea occurred to me?
I won’t give you photographs of little houses. Nor chickens in yards, or scruffy children in hammocks,They are people’s homes and I have no right to plaster them all over the Internet. To do so would be a form of poverty tourism that makes me feel deeply uncomfortable.
I shall, instead, give you a picture of this lovely beach as sunset. But I hope, as you sigh with envy at my good fortune, maybe you can also take a moment to reflect on just how privileged we all are, as writers, to be able to make the time to do something we love.
If you want to read about my last trip to Ecuador, you can find it here.