Some things that happen in life are so outside the realm of your expectations that even as they are happening, you think to yourself: remember this, remember this, don't forget this.
One such thing happened to me on this crazy ill-planned six month trip I did around Central America with my friend Debbie when we had just graduated from college in the early '90s. Well, she had responsibilities and obligations, and had to leave after a couple of months, and then it was just me and my raggedy collection of never-dry white sweatsocks and entirely too many t-shirts. Month four found me on the beach on the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica, "living" under a tree, my worldly posessions spread out around me on top of my bedsheet, where I also slept. There were a number of sunrises and sunsets spent here, with days consisting of morning walks into town to buy a pineapple empanada, daytime hikes to the waterfall and evening wanders here and there to sip a beer and listen to the surf crash. It was a ragtag group of people at the campsite, including a German guy who said to me (this after a long wait at the telephone office put me in touch with my mother, who told me I'd gotten into law school), "Right, because that's what the world needs, another lawyer." Quick as lightning I responded to him, "No, what it really needs is another German guy living in his tent on the beach for three months." And then I quietly fumed on my sheet.
And how did I know it was time to go? Well, the guy from Washington state had his passport stolen, and the German guy started to lock his tent. Things didn't seem as tranquil as before and one night, as I was sleeping under the shelter that the guys in the campsite had fashioned out of some sticks and my rain poncho, I felt something scuffling near me and I groggily opened my eyes, expecting to be met by assailants, rooting through my posessions, or coming back for something other than my green lowtop converse which had disappeared the day before. Instead, I awoke to find an armadillo scuffling through the campsite, and walking right over my sheet. I felt its weight, and even its hard-edged sharp shell sh-sh-shuffle past me, and I thought to myself, girl-from-Brooklyn-seldom-gone-camping-before: this is a unique situation, don't forget this, don't ever forget this.
And you know what? I haven't.
And then the next day I left and went somewhere else, somewhere with walls. Oh, and a bed.