It all started with a drive. A drive consisting of 20 people packed into a fairly impressive 16-seater van. I found myself sandwiched between a frail granny buried under a load of groceries and a teenage boy whose cool demeanor was significantly reduced by the presence of a low-slung fanny pack. We all leaned heavily on each other as the van careened down the windy, mountain road. The driver used his horn generously as he swung in and out of our lane expecting oncoming traffic to clear the way. For the equivalent of $1.25 I was traveling across the Caribbean island of Dominica and I wasn’t dead. Yet.As I attempted to detach my sweaty arm from my neighbors’ I caught sight of the sign for my hotel and uttered a surprisingly timid, “Stop!” The driver, oblivious to his distressed passenger continued down the narrow road until my granny neighbor took pity on me and shouted, “Eh, eh there! The white person wants to get out!” With surprising authority she hollered for him to turn around and drop me off at the hotel’s turnoff. He obliged, mastering the full half-mile drive back in reverse.
The hotel was a 30-minute trek into the rainforest and the reception desk was located inside an abandoned steel cargo container. After check-in I was led further into the forest and was casually informed that the rooms were up in the trees. Literally.
My weathered tree house was furnished with two solid candles for lighting, a composting toilet and a hefty mosquito net. Bedtime came soon after sundown and I found myself lying under the mosquito net eyeing the toilet. It was an impressive beast – wide, white and powerful, and included a handwritten booklet of instructions. Apparently, in addition to feces and a bit of sawdust, the process of decomposing was left up to a nice family of bugs. A hesitant peek told me it was true. Now, I’m usually up for anything, but there was something terrifying about sitting above a mass of what I’m sure are very useful composting bugs. I opted to pee off the deck.
My late night pee was going swimmingly (and bug free) until my left foot shot through the floorboard and I found myself mid-pee with one leg through the deck. It hung helplessly 20 feet up in the air, dramatically alone. With my pants at my ankles, I braced myself and yanked my poor leg to freedom. Skittish and embarrassed, I scurried inside, practically hugging the composting toilet that had seemed so daunting a few minutes prior. I gladly climbed on board, thankful for steady footing and the hardworking compost bugs below me. – Eve Donegan, when not braving the chutes and ladders of the Third World, blogs here and writes for Telluride Style.